Thursday, March 23, 2017

A sweater vest

Yippee, a finished sweater!

What do you think?
 



Pattern: Cable Panel Vest by Lion Brand Yarn (free!!)
Yarn: Mission Falls 1824 Wool (discontinued) - 9 skeins used
Size: M/L
Needles used: US 6 (4 mm) and US 7 (4.5 mm)

This was a really great pattern and well written for a beginner to follow.

I bought this yarn years ago from a local (to me then) yarn store that has since closed (sad). I think I bought all they had, which was 9 skeins. I knew at the time that this would only be enough for a vest, which is what I always envisioned making. Unfortunately the yarn turned out to be troublesome. There were knotted joins in every ball. Every single ball. That was annoying because that meant twice as many ends to weave in and more yarn used. On top of that I occasionally encountered breakage in one of the four plies - I don't know whether the yarn was defective or if moths got to it (though I see no dead or alive moths or moth pieces), so sometimes I had to stop and cut the yarn and start again. I was worried that I'd run out yarn but fortunately I had just enough. Whew! And now that the sweater is done I see that the yarn is pilling already. Oh well, I still like it and hope to get a lot of wear out of it.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pajama party

I believe I have enough flannel pajamas to last me a while now.



I used Kwik Sew 2811, since I had good luck with it in the past. The first time I used it was in 2003 and those pajamas are threadbare so it was definitely time to retire them and make some new ones. I don't know about you, but I find it much harder to part with something I've made than with something I've bought.

I started out intending to make one pair, using the cat print flannel, but discovered that I didn't have enough fabric to make a long sleeved top. This was in November and I wanted them "now" so rather than order some fabric on line, which could take a few weeks to be shipped to my APO in Germany, I looked for flannel locally. It wasn't easy! Fortunately I found some coordinating turquoise and bought more than I needed for a long sleeved top, intending to use the pink cat print as an accent to coordinate with the cat print pants I'd already cut out and sewn up. As luck would have it, the flannel sold here in Germany is wide - the US-bought flannel from my stash was only 44 inches wide and the German flannel was about 54 inches - so I had enough for long pants as well. Then, since I had enough pink cat print for a short sleeved top, I figured, why not? Now I have mix and match flannel pajamas to last me a long time.



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Seven muslins later...

It shouldn't be this hard...and yes, I'm a perfectionist. My goal was to make a simple top to wear under a suit jacket for a job interview. After spending hours in the store trying on every pair of black pants in my size, I had no energy or patience left for tops. I was just glad that I found some pants that fit. They needed to be hemmed, but they fit.

I searched through my pattern library and decided to make View C of Simplicity 2552, or rather the version of it published in the German magazine, Meine Nähmode.


I traced the pattern using my usual "pear shape body" alteration of transitioning from a smaller size at the top to a larger one below. That type of alteration is usually all I need when working with knits. But for wovens I anticipated that I'd need to do a "full bust adjust" (FBA). I've done an FBA before, with limited success, and unfortunately I haven't worn the garment since (maybe not because of the FBA). I tried again last summer but discovered more problems to correct on the pattern and gave up before cutting out my fabric.

I was determined this time not to give up. I needed a top to wear. But just in case, I did have a top in my closet that could do. Just in case.

So here is the saga of the seven muslins:

Muslin #1 was cut from the traced pattern just to confirm that I'd need an FBA and it did. But how much to add? I measured my bust and found I was 1 inch larger than the size I cut out, so I did 1/2" FBA and cut out muslin #2. Well, only the front. The back of the muslin was fine (almost...I did one adjustment at the back upper neck). I should title this blog post "7 muslins of the front and 1 of the back." Muslin #2 was still too snug across the front and had the tell-tale drag lines above and below the bust, indicating that there wasn't enough fabric there. Back to the cutting table. I know muslin #3 had a bigger FBA but from then until about muslin #6, I don't remember what I did, just that it wasn't working. I had to retrace the pattern a couple of times because my cut up copies could only be untaped and retaped a few times. One problem I had is that as I made the FBA larger, the darts got bigger. At one point my muslin fit if I took in the center front. This was discouraging and not right. I made an FBA to add fabric and then I have to take fabric away? Yes, the muslin fit OK if I took in the center front, but the darts were huge. So I dug out muslin #2 and tried a different approach. I had originally thought my bust point was in the right location on the pattern, but I was wrong. It was lower. I resewed the darts on muslin #2 to be lower and it fit better, still too snug, but better than it had been. I retraced the pattern, guessed on the FBA and tried on muslin #6. Almost. More FBA and some tweaking to the front neckline and muslin #7 was a winner!!! Yay!!!

All told I ended up with these pattern alterations:

  1. Cut one size for shoulder/neckline/armscye, grading out to next size below
  2. Lowered dart
  3. FBA
  4. Added 3 inches to the hem
  5. Removed from front neckline (I used the slash and rotate technique described in the this youtube video)
  6. Removed from back neckline - since this had a center back seam, I took in what I needed to at the neck and blended it into the center back seam by drawing a curved line, which works for me since I have a little hump back there anyway (too much sitting at the computer!
  7. Eliminated the zipper. The pattern calls for a side zipper but I was delighted to find that I could easily put the muslin on with no zipper. I hate side zippers anyway - they don't help me put a garment on at all, so what good are they? 
Now some pictures:
Ready to cut out



Me, with matching phone and hanger coming out of my head. A bit wrinkly because I wore it to my interview and also, it's hard to photograph yourself. 
The fabric is a rayon that I purchased a long, long, long time ago. Lets just say that at the time you could bring liquids on airplanes and greet your traveling loved ones at their gate. I bought this fabric at Louise Cutting's store in Orlando, Florida (long since closed) and probably spent what I thought at the time was a lot of money for fabric. Although I had planned to use a Louise Cutting pattern to make a top out of it, the fabric instead lived for years folded up, packed in a plastic container, weighed down by other fabrics. Then it was packed into my suitcase (or a USPS flat rate box) and traveled thousands of miles to Germany where it again spent some time folded and packed into a plastic container. I washed it in cold water, hung it up to dry, ironed it, and it came out great! Nice fabric! I can only hope all the other fabric in my stash behaves as well when I finally get around to sewing it.

Sewing up the pattern was pretty straight forward, except for the facing. Since my pattern came from a German magazine, my instructions were of course in German. My German sewing vocabulary has improved, and they reprint the illustrations (but very small) from the Simplicity instructions, but I still needed help with the facings. Youtube to the rescue again.


So I like the top. It fits. I'll probably use the pattern again, but with a few more changes. The neckline is a little too square for me and tad too high. Also, despite adding 3 inches to the pattern, I'd like it a bit longer. I sewed a 1 inch hem on this - I don't know what the pattern calls for. 

And the job interview? It went well. Hopefully I'll know something in a few weeks.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A completed crochet project

I finished my first crocheted clothing item: a scarf.

 
 
A nice project for when I had a cold and couldn't go skiing.
Pattern: Wonderfluff Cowl from Knitpicks.com (free pattern!)
Yarn: Wonderfluff yarn from Knitpicks.com -  70% Baby Alpaca , 7% Merino Wool , 23% Nylon
Colorway: 1 skein of Atlantic Heather (blue) and 1 skein of Wellies Heather (black)
Crochet hook: 10 mm
 
My two skeins were free with Knitpicks orders last fall as a promotion for the yarn, which is new. The yarn is super soft with whisps of fiber in it, almost like a mohair. Since I had two different colors, I decided I'd just make a bold, two-tone look and crocheted with one skein until it ran out and then picked up with the other one. 
 
I'm a beginner at crochet. Two years ago I picked up a book to make Amigurumi (Japanese crocheted animals and toy figures) and I've made about six or seven of them since then. I recently crocheted a basket, which I haven't photographed yet, and I made a hat, but I frogged it because it came out too small. Eventually I want to learn to read charts so I can make some doilies and snowflake ornaments. This scarf was quite easy and a great beginner project.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Guest slippers

My latest knitting project are slippers for guests to wear when they visit us at our alpine place. I used a free pattern I found on ravelry.com: non-felted-slippers by Yuko Nakamura Designs. (you may need to have a ravelry account to view it).


 
The slippers are knit flat and then seamed from the back of the heal and down the center of the sole. Really simple! The gauge the pattern calls for is 13 stitches per 10 cm (or 4 inches), which is a bulky type yarn on size 10-11 needles. The pattern is written for one size - ladies' medium, about a European size 38-39 which is about a US size 7-8, but  you can fiddle with the numbers to make them larger or smaller.
 
Here are my specifics for the slippers from left to right:
 
Green
Yarn: Schachenmayr Boston (70 % acrylic and 30% wool)
Needle size: 10.5 US
Size: Ladies' medium
Amount: 1 skein (60 yards) per slipper
 
Navy blue/white
Yarn: Schachenmayer Boston (70% acrylic and 30% wool)
Needle size: 10.5 US
Size: Man's
Amount: 1 skein (60 yards) per slipper + a little bit of similar weight yarn for the last 2 rows +bind off
 
For the man's size I adjusted the pattern to make it larger. I explain the changes I made on my ravelry page
 
Light blue/red
Yarn: Schachenmayer Lova Fan (67% acrylic and 30% wool)
Needle size: 10.5 US
Size: Ladies' medium
Amount: about 2/3 of a skein per slipper
 
 
The slippers are really comfortable but I worried about people slipping on the wood stairs in them, so I sewed on little patches of ultra-suede at the toe and heel.
 

It's funny that I had this ultra suede for a long time and finally found a use for it. The ultra suede came from Nancy's Notions as a pack of 5 inch square samples of the colors they sold. I probably bought them with the thought I could use them as bits of trim or as a bound button hole or two. I never did. But one square cut into four pieces was the perfect size for these slippers and the colors matched ok as well. I do like it when stuff that I saved finally is used but it's a bad habit to save things "just in case"!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ending my obsession with Burda magazine

I've been getting Burda magazine for a long time, but I stopped subscribing to it after I moved to Germany because the magazines often arrived at my APO postal box late or damaged and one issue didn't show up at all. Instead I buy the individual issues from the news stand. Even though my German is still not very good, buying Burda in German has helped my skills, and I like getting the "real" Burda with its ads and additional articles and product reviews that are sometimes excluded from the translated editions. And the easy-pullout section with the instructions and patterns and mini-pics of the styles is a great storage-saver...if I ever get around to disposing of the magazine part.

But things change. Burda has changed over the years. I've changed. Sometimes it takes a while to recognize when you're doing something because it's routine and not because it's the best thing to do. Buying a magazine every month isn't a big thing when you can afford it, but one magazine quickly turns into 12, which turns into 200. I bought my first Burda in 1999 and was hooked. I had a subscription to it for the next 13 years and eagerly looked forward to it every month. And sometimes I made clothes from the patterns.

I've written about my Burda (and other European pattern magazine) stash on my blog more than a few times: 11/2015, 8/2016, 1/2014, 4/2008 were the notable ones. It's clear I'm obsessed with order, having spent a lot of time organizing my magazines and creating a database of the content using OneNote. I know I spend more time organizing them than I do sewing from them. And therein lies part of the problem.

Like the tenants before us who left us with a dirty apartment but a closet full of cleaning supplies, just because you buy something doesn't automatically mean you'll use it. And buying it doesn't magically make it happen! I have to trace the pattern, cut out the fabric and sew it together to create what I desire from the pages of the magazines and getting to step one is apparently as difficult as opening the top to the Mr. Clean was for the previous tenants.

The other issue is that what Burda is offering in their magazine no longer suits me or is very different than what I already have in my pattern stash. A sneak preview of the upcoming March issue on this Ukrainian is what's making me finally decide to break my 17 year streak. I don't wear off-the-shoulder or flouncy-sleeved things and the dresses, jackets and pants are repeats of many before them. There's a very low chance that I'll sew anything from this issue.

It appears I'm not alone in deciding that Burda no longer is THE sewing pattern magazine that I must get every month. Renee of Miss Celie's Pants has come to a similar conclusion after renewal of her subscription came up - and judging from the many comments on her blog, she's not in the minority. It seems that most sewers of Burda patterns would rather purchase individual PDF patterns from the Burdastyle website than pay for a yearly subscription for the magazine. And at $90/year vs. $6 per downloaded pattern, who can blame them?

I hope that the April edition of Burda is better. I can make room for it if it is, but if it isn't I will leave it on the news stand shelf. I need to make more room in my life for sewing, not collecting magazines.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Cow-themed bean bag chairs

No cows were hurt in the making of these bean bag chairs.



Our little chalet apartment needed a little more seating for our visitors to be comfortable, particularly when there are children. I thought bean bags would be a great idea and my husband agreed but added that they should be out of cow skin, in keeping with the French/Swiss alpine theme. I think he really meant cow skin too, but I knew that would be too stiff for bean bag chairs and very expensive too. I found a much better alternative - a fabric called "Udder Madness." It's upholstery weight but soft, washable (by hand), and worked perfectly for these bags.

I used Burda 8373 and made the smaller size


That's a lot of bean bag fill!
I bought the bean bag fill from Amazon Germany because I figured local delivery would fare better than having it sent to my APO, plus package delivery to APO in November-December is bogged down due to Christmas. But I know that Amazon in the US sells fill also, just from a different supplier.

We turned an empty laundry container into a funnel.
Filling the bags is definitely a 2-person job. Even with our "funnel", we still managed to spill some pellets...well a bunch of pellets. And getting the last bit out of the bag was even more fun. It's impossible to get all of the pellets out due to static electricity but we tried. I mention it in my review below, but in case you don't read that far, I used 430 liters to fill both bags, so about 215 liters in each.

The bags were a hit! The kids lounged on them to watch XBox during the day and the adults lounged in them at night to watch movies.

If I made them again, I would probably skip making bottom piece out of vinyl because in use the bags seldom ended up with the circular bottom on the floor. The kids often squooshed the bags into a teardrop shape with the side of the bag on the floor and the bottom of the bag perpendicular to the floor, so having the vinyl didn't serve any purpose.

Here's my full review, with details on sewing and filling the bags (same as my review on Patternreview):

Pattern Description:
Burda 8373
Bean bag chair with zipper opening, outer pocket and handle

Pattern Sizing:
Large: 139 cm x 92 cm and Small: 100 cm x 71 cm
I made two of the small size.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes!

Were the instructions easy to follow?
I sewed it up without really needing to read the instructions but I did use the pictures to see that I should top stitch the outer cover. I bought my pattern in Germany and despite there being English on the outer envelope and on the pattern pieces, the instructions were in German and seven other languages but not English!

Using the pattern, you cut 6 identical side pieces, a large bottom circle and a top circle as well as a rectangular pattern piece for a handle and a pattern piece for a pocket.
The pattern includes 1 cm (3/8 in) seam allowances, which is fine for the muslin or lighter weight fabric lining, but if your outer fabric frays or is very thick you might want to make slightly larger seam allowances. The 1 cm is ok for the seams but was pretty tight for putting in the zipper.
You actually make two of everything - one is the lining to contain the bean bag filler and one is the outer cover.

I sewed the lining first, which I recommend so that you get a good idea of how everything goes together before you deal with your potentially bulkier outer cover fabric.

For the lining, which was out of muslin, I used my serger for construction so the seam allowances would be contained. The pattern instructions say to leave an opening in the lining for the bean bag filler and then stitch it closed after filling it, but I chose to put in a zipper, so for that seam I used the regular sewing machine. For the outer fabric I used my regular sewing machine so that I could top stitch.

I sewed the side pieces together in pairs first and put the zipper in on one of the pairs. This made it easier to put the zipper in and also to do the top stitching on either side of the seam on the outer cover.

For the circles, I used a quilting ruler with 60 degree lines on it to mark the circles evenly into 6 pieces so that I could stitch them on evenly.

I omitted the pocket, but did sew on the handle. After attaching the handle, I worried that it would rip the outer fabric at the stitching line, so I reinforced that area by stitching with a zig-zag to a bit of extra fabric on the inside. I think that will help better distribute the stress in those areas.

Finally, a note about filler. The pattern doesn't give you any help in determining how much filler to use. It's generally sold by the liter. I bought 430 liters of filler from which to fill both bags (from a source in Germany through amazon.de). I was worried it wouldn't be enough but it turned out to be maybe a little too much, which is ok because over time the little pellets get squashed.
       
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
You could make your own pattern for a bean bag, but I liked the proportions of this bag and by using this purchased pattern I didn't have to think too much or worry about my calculations being off. Some bean bags, including purchased ones, don't have a separate lining bag but I liked that this pattern suggests that you make a one.

Fabric Used:
The inner lining is muslin, purchased from IKEA.

The outer cover is a fabulous upholstery weight fabric called "Udder Madness" - it feels and looks like cow hide but is 100% polyester and can be hand washed. It was very easy to work with and took stitches well. I used a size 100 denim needle, stitch length of 3 for seams and 3.5 for top stitching. The fabric didn't fray and is soft and pliable enough for use as a bean bag, a feature which also made it easy to manipulate while sewing.

I used vinyl for the bottom round piece to make it more durable and also because I thought the nap of the cow print might interfere with moving the bean bag around.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I omitted the pocket from the outer cover and added a zipper to the inner lining.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I've already had a (non-sewing) friend ask if I'd make more. The danger of being able to sew. Considering that each large bean bag takes 5 1/2 yards of fabric (for each bag, so 11 including the lining) and the small takes 3 1/4 yards for each bag, depending on the choice of outer fabrics, these could be pricey bags. But it's a great way to make some statement bean bag chairs!

Conclusion:
Easy pattern and the resulting bean bag has a nice sit-able shape to it. Although I intended to make these bean bags for children, the small size, with enough filling, is still suitable for an adult to sit in.