Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Forward to 2015

I knitted everyone a modified slouchy hat for the holidays. It took me about three to four days to finish each hat. The last one was completed on Christmas Eve. Here's a picture of my family wearing them on Christmas day. I have yet to knit mine...sigh. That's it for 2014 knitting folks!

I decided that this new year will not be filled with a long list of resolutions. I am tired of pointing out the obvious over and over again. Let's be done with all that silliness shall we?

But a bit of early Spring cleaning is in order. I'm going to make room in my closet and get rid of everything that is ill-fitting and uncomfortable. This includes donating those handmade pieces that I never liked but held onto because I made them. I'm also done with fancy dresses, unless I'm making them for educational purposes. They just don't get worn enough. I go to maybe two fancy parties or less a year, and I don't expect that number to grow anytime soon.

So what's in store for 2015? I'm getting ready for the Edwardian Ball. I have two weeks to measure, cut, and sew two outfits (me and hubby) for this event. I'm leaning toward an Asian Steampunk mash-up. But there's got to be a corset somewhere! Yes...but...I decided that I don't like wearing them, so I may make a comfy "fake" corset to keep me from feeling claustrophobic. Stay tuned...

I'll be going back to the tried-and-true sewing of 2014. Smocks, smocks, and more smocks! I freaking love them. It's like wearing cute scrubs to work, but not. It's a good substitute for a lab coat, because lab coats are too warm (even though they make me look all doctorey...doctorey is not a real word...I stole it from one of my patients who commented on how "doctorey" I looked one day at work).

Fourth quarter SMOCKPALOOZA sewing...

Kokka cotton smock from one of my Japanese pattern books. This is a remake.
Instead of seam binding the neckline, I just added elastic, and it's SUPAH comfy!

Another remake also using Kokka cotton fabric. This one turned out really big, and looks maternity.
I have not worn it yet, because I'm still debating if I want to look preggers or not at work.

Rayon Challis Smock Dress. I lengthened the smock top into a dress. This is the most
comfortable dress ever...and according to my daughter, looks a bit like a hospital gown.
Eh...what does she know about smocks anyway.

Too big again...but I cut the right size for my bust. It was technically a muslin...using some fabric
I got from FABMO. So there's always the possibility of a second, smaller version.
I might be moving at the end of 2015 so clearing out clutter is not going to end after Spring. It's going to be stressful working down my stash. But I have some incentive now to cut into all those beautiful silk pieces I bought from Hong Kong. I picked up a bunch of polyester charmeuse to serve as muslin pieces for the silk-intended projects. My family will be getting some handmade pieces in 2015. I'm cutting back on selfish sewing because my closet can't take it anymore.

Remember how proud I was at having six sewing machines? Here's a question...if I only had room for one sewing machine, and one serger, which one would I choose? What are your machines of choice if there was a fire, and you could only save two?

Happy 2015 sewing everyone!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Trying Out Style Arc

I have a new crush on Style Arc patterns. I picked up four (one was free) over the Summer, and finally dug into them the past couple of weeks. In my pursuit for more comfortable work clothes, I cut into the Peta pants pattern first, and made two pairs. The first was a wearable muslin in a stretch navy jersey, and then a second pair in black ponte. Both sewed up really well, but the pockets were too shallow in the muslin, so I sewed them up, and skipped it on the ponte. (I have a master pocket pattern I downloaded for free from one of the BurdaStyle patterns, and use it for whenever I want a an inserted pocket.) This basic elastic pant pattern can be made into sweats, dressy-casual, and even pajama pants. I didn't take any photos, but here is the pattern. I made mine without the drawstring ankles. There's not a lot of ease, so keep that in mind if you want something loose. I recommend stretch fabrics always. Hips are narrow, which I love, but maybe not so good comfy for others.

After getting my fill of the Peta pants, I started on the muslin for the Carly Jumpsuit. This would be my second jumpsuit. (The first was made from a McCall's pattern out of bright striped terry cloth, and turned into shorts for a swimsuit cover-up. It ended up being too big all over and unflattering. I'm looking for someone to gift that jumpsuit to.)

Crazy me...but I decided to use some crushed velvet I picked up on sale at Harts Fabrics. Crazy because I've never sewn with velvet before. I decided that it wasn't that bad...BUT...I really needed to adjust the ease in the pattern, meaning, I needed to make it slightly bigger to allow for thicker fabric. Notice the welt pockets? I skipped those in velvet, but might attempt it on the next version which will be in rayon. I might get really ambitious and draft up some sleeves too.

Here is my muslin pinned to my dressform. I can't fit pants on the form. I could not get a really good photo, and no matter what angle, the velvet looks like colors from dachshund. But it's really a nice dark chocolate. Without the added ease, it feels and looks a bit small. Sigh. But wearable I guess. Someone a size smaller than me would love this jumpsuit. The suggested fabric for this pattern is a light, drapey rayon or the like.

My favorite thing about Style Arc Patterns is the paper. No weak tissue! Instead, sturdy white paper that's easy to read and stable for cutting. What makes the patterns really unique is how they are designed for industrial sewing like ready-to-wear and not necessarily home sewing. I got one size and not multiple sizes into one pattern. I was disappointed at first, but given that cutting and sewing is now more precise, I really don't mind the trade off. All the elastic casing, bias binding strips, and other little pieces just fit. No frills, no stress. Love it. 

Digging into a complex designer pattern requires some long Zen hours. My brain can't wrap itself around those projects often (my last being that linen bubble dress which caused me lots of undue stress). When I was in school, the design philosophy was "keep it simple." The simpler the design, the simpler the pattern, the simpler the pattern the faster the cutting and sewing, and more profits. Style Arc patterns (so far) seem well-executed for my sewing personality.  

With Christmas in less than a week, things are getting pretty nuts around my house. I have the week off (YAH!), but only to give me more time to knit and sew...but my big cut off is this Sunday afternoon when I pick up my eldest son from the airport.  

Until we sew again...Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Oh...That Darn Vest!

I'm glad that my last post were of beautiful knitted garments by Louisa Harding. It's a great way to leave one's blog for nearly three months.  Who's going to be sick of looking at Ms. Harding's handiwork?  Not me.  Speaking of her patterns, remember that vest I've been knitting?  Well I finally finished it. It is mostly the same as the pattern, except I decided to make it longer, but I forgot to buy more yarn. I ran out of yarn for the neck and armholes and substituted it with some scrap ivory cashmere I had lying around. The knitted the neckline, but then I started to run out of my scrap yarn, and decided that crocheting a trim into the armhole would use less yarn. EXCEPT, I don't really know how to crochet. So I just made something up based on what little I do know, and came up with this final product. (It's amazing how my brain works when I'm desperate to finish something.)

I wore this yesterday to lunch with a turtleneck, and it actually looked better on me than the dressform. Now, that's a first. It is a bit potato-sacky-like I know. I did have a lot of problems with sizing from the pattern, requiring me to restart the pattern several times. Argh!

I think the crochet turned out okay, but it's not stiff enough to keep the armhole from turning in. Sigh.
I'm still self-reflecting when it comes to all my crafting, and I'll probably never stop. I've learned a few things about myself this past month:
  • I don't like making muslins out of muslin. I'd rather use an inexpensive fabric, and if it turns out, I already have something finished! (But if I have to do major marking, I still use standard muslin.)
  • I love bias taping garments, and have considered dyeing my own silk bias tape, especially now that I discovered Dharma Trading Company.  But did you sewists who are not quilters know that Liberty of London has its own line of bias tape? But sadly, buying a strip of Liberty London is just as expensive at about $8-10 a yard. So I've decided to pass for now.
  • I have always loved rayon challis, and to my surprise, it's mostly I bought some really inexpensive challis from Denver Fabrics, almost at the price of muslin, and I'm just going to make things out of that yardage for a while (but be warned that Rayon Challis is much stretchy and slippery). Also, polyester is much more sophisticated than back in the 70s, and a polyester charmeuse is a decent substitute for silk when making a muslin, and drapes a whole heck of a lot better. 
  • I have never liked wearing skirts with waistbands, which is why I love bias tape, and my new goal is to make waistbands out of the grosgrain ribbon I bought in Hong Kong. 
  • I have always loved Sashiko quilting, and I'm not even a quilter
So what else have I been doing with my time? If you've read this far down on my blog, I might as well share that I've been setting up my acupuncture clinic, and putting my sewing skills to good use. For the past year I've been studying to take the board exam, and passed in September, and then my life got super busy, and my fashion sewing was put on the back burner.

I did made reversible flannel blankets for my treatment table with matching pillowcases. I couldn't find exactly what I needed at the store, and flannel sheets were too big and too thin, so I made them myself. I quilted the two pieces of flannel together to add weight, and just serged the edges. I didn't bother to bind them to save time and money. I picked two balanced colors but made one side more girly, and the other more generic...but I don't think my patients really care about which side they're using. I just prefer the contrast. I really like these blankets, and might make some for myself and use them on the couch.

All the fabric was on sale at Joann's.

I also made two curtains for a section of the bookshelf (sorry no photos). The curtains hide all my gear and keeps the room looking tidy. I love spring curtain rods for this purpose.  Then there was a trip to Michael's to purchase actual craft supplies, for a custom sign for my treatment room door (the other side is identical, and reads: "Healing in Session." The fabric were scraps from FABM

Happy crafting!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fall into Winter Knitting Wishlist

If you didn't know already, jewel tones are in fashion this Fall and Holiday season, which includes luxurious furs dyed in these same colors.  Louisa Harding Luzia yarn, which is 80 percent viscose and 20 percent nylon knits into fur. I am completely fascinated by this yarn. But I really want to know how this feels on my skin. I'm not a lover of synthetics. Fellow knitters, please chime in!!!

I was thinking of making one of these shrugs for this year's holiday party.  If anyone else decides to make the above shrug, I found an errata for it on You can find the errata from Louisa Harding herself HERE.

I have been squandering my last couple of mornings looking at online knitting patterns, and drooling over these latest designs. What is it about those UK designers that I love so much? Louisa Harding patterns depict the many faces of romance. It's difficult to describe until you look at her patterns. Do a Google search, and you'll know what I mean or maybe you're already a fan, and in that case, please feel free to answer my most important difficult are those patterns? They look too fancy to be easy. Even though I'm tackling my first LH pattern, I have many on my wishlist that scare me.

Like I mentioned...look at the fur and trim colors on the runway. Since I'm primarily a sewists, I am seriously thinking of knitting my own fur trim. Anyone done this before? I would love to see your work. Here are examples of this season's fur and trim from Anna Sui...

The unfortunate thing however, like my Rowan fetish, there are too many books to collect, and yarn prices are at a premium. Then there's the yarn collection that I swore I would never turn into an embarrassing hoard, and it isn't...if one could look past two average box full or one big box full. It's all how one looks at life. Positive or negative? Half yarn-box full or half yarn-box empty?

Happy knitting!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Wimberry Update and Craft Supplies

My Wimberry vest by Louisa Harding is almost at its halfway point.  Maybe I shouldn't speak too soon since I'm about to start the shoulder and collar shaping.  I've been utilizing the life-line yarn at every new section, and I'm glad I did.  I had to unravel my work once,  but without losing a bulk of good stitches.  One of my G+ members from the East Bay gave me this great hint.  (Thanks Solonge!)  The back is knitted exactly like the front, so I'll be able to choose between the better looking half for the front of the sweater.  (If you look closely at the bottom of the lace, I've knitted a pink stitch marker right into the pattern.  I'll have to remember to break that off before I wear the vest. Oops!)  

This weekend, I was on the hunt for an outdoor grilling tool at my local Japanese market...which also happens to be right next door to our local Daiso store.  So of course, I had to go there too.  Daiso is a Japanese dollar store filled with little no-name home goods, and stationery supplies. They also have some unexpected items like craft and sewing supplies.  Besides picking up my usual supply of notebooks, I also found lingerie elastic, lace-trimmed cotton webbing, and a pack of cut felt in various shades of pink...all for $1.50 each.  

Daiso also has a small section of knitting supplies.  My current project needs to hold more stitches than my little Hiya Hiya holders can accommodate. So what should I find at Daiso for $1.50? Two large metal stitch holders. Love them.

If you live in California or Washington and haven't shopped at a Daiso, get over there!  Find Daiso Store locations by continent HERE.  Happy knitting!

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Kill-Me-Now Last Summer Dress

In California, Summer doesn't really end after Labor Day.  For example, it was 90 degrees outside over the weekend.  I was hoping to have finished the Donna Karan dress by August 31st so I could wear it on my First Date Anniversary.  But I ran into a major hemming glitch.  Here it is completed a couple of days late on September 2nd.  Better late than never...TA-DA!

Fabric: linen from Mood Fabrics.
Lining: 100% cotton from Dharma Trading.

Back of Dress, where my pleat lined up at the bodice edge, but turned out different from the photo.
Vogue 1175 Discontinued
I cut a size 16 from the pattern.
If you have this pattern sitting in your stash and wondering about the sewing process, I might be able to help you.  I took the challenge of tackling this dress because to this day, I have never made a Donna Karan or DKNY pattern (from Vogue) that did not frustrate the hell out of me. This dress is no exception. So after reading this post you might have second thoughts about making this pattern in the recommended way. The good news is, it's not impossible.

The PROS: The dress is really adorable, and I love, love, love the trapeze shape and bubble hem. The pocket placements make the dress especially flirty.  Who doesn't love pockets right?

Here are the CONS to the dress with some photos:

1. The neckline is too low. Fixing it would require some major pattern alteration, and then having to redraft the lining.  This would not be a bad idea since the lining pattern does not match the dress neckline.

Notice how the center panel sits lower than the neckline pleats. If you look at the original pattern, you'll see that there is a horizontal space at the neckline, and it isn't really a sharp v-neck.  

To remedy this, I made a double pleat to bring the neckline down to the center panel.  This is the result after I added the extra pleat. Notice there is still a gap between the v-points of the neckline? This gap is correct.


Now take a look at the neckline of the lining.  Notice how it's a sharp point?   Well, I could have cut deep notches at the point to shape it, but I didn't want to risk it being off.

Lining has a sharp v-neck.
Then...I stitched the front panel shut so the neckline matched. It actually looks okay. I figured after I matched and stitched it, I could create a less sharp curve, to avoid bulk.

Before sewing together right sides together.
Completed neckline turned inside out.  I made a sweet swoop at the v-point.
I recommend stay stitching here. You can see the second pleat clearly now.
2. The rest of the lining pattern sucked. It's as if the lining was designed for some other dress, and it got mixed up in production.
  • The lining is likely too short in length for most people of an average height. If you're petite, it will barely be long enough to cover your thighs. I am 5'3" and it was almost too short for my taste. It would be a mini dress for someone taller.
  • The lining hem circumference is smaller than the main dress hem circumference. This is a bubble dress, where you sew the dress hem to the lining hem, and then flip it. The shorter lining is supposed to roll the main dress inward creating a poof effect.  If the hems don't poof period.
I added an additional two inch panel to each side in order to create a wider circumference.  Drafting a wider side panel would also have done the trick. When I made the muslin, I did not make the lining, only the outside dress. So I didn't anticipate all these problems. My bad. 

Additional panel was added to the back of the original side panel.
3. Not all the parts of the dress pattern really align...even if you match all the circles, squares, darts, etc...  There will still be problems.  Like the shoulder straps are weird...the underarm cut seams low, and did I mention the cleavage? This dress works great if someone has an A bust cup or smaller, and wears pasties and maybe even doublestick tape for more insurance.  For me...I'm going to wear t-shirt or camisole under this dress and treat it like a jumper.

I had my daughter help me fit the straps, then I had to trim it, and play around 
with the widths so they matched. I handstitched the shoulder straps. I know, 
there's a stitch showing, but I really had to secure that edge. I might redo it later.
This is the center panel, where the bottom pleated panel is connected to. But this panel does not fit the bottom.
I also added fusible interfacing to this piece to stabilize it. Surprisingly, there was no lining cut for it, and 
my fabric was very thin and unstable.  I think this was a critical addition. 

I made the bottom ruffle wider because when I made the muslin, it was too narrow after I basted the pleats. I ended up cutting it on the fold which added the seam allowance. It still fell short about an inch...the result was the pucker. I was able to ease in the pucker by hand stitching this area.
Pucker gone after I eased the bottom ruffle to the center panel. 

The rest of the lining did not match up completely either. I had to hand stitch most of the lining, plus the hem in order to ease everything together. I used a slip stitch for the hem.  

Starting to piece the lining together. Before I discovered the hem problem. The lining is sewn right sides together
with the main dress and then turned inside out. The shoulder straps are left unattached for this purpose.

Here the lining has been flipped.

Side and back view of the lining.
After reading all you still want to make it?  If I made it again, I might draft a new lining and a front bodice so the neckline and arm syce could be brought up.  At this point, they don't match up anyway.  The other option is skipping the lining completely or by adding a lining to the base ruffle piece. I think this would actually work better.  One could also replace the lining by adding a petticoat underskirt, which would give a similar shape but sans the bubble effect.

Here are more photos I took as I pieced this dress together.

Back skirt after I pinned the tucks together. It's upside down in the photo, which is how I worked on it.

Back bodice attached to skirt.

My fabric was very thin and unstable. I added an interlining of silk habotai to keep it from stretching.
But I think fusible interfacing like how I secured the front center panel worked better.
Back of the dress with the front bodice and pockets added to the side. 
Notice how the dress curves from the base of the pocket to the hem. 
Now look at the lining back below and see how it does not match.

Original lining front and side panels before I added the extra four inches to the side. 
Back lining panel was too small, at the top where it needed to be stitched to the back bodice, 
and the width. I hand stitched this panel in order to avoid puckering.
I stabbed myself with my Juki machine needle while working on the final hem of the dress.  Don't worry the machine wasn't running at the time so it did not go through my finger (thank God). It was a superficial wound but went in pretty deep at the space between the base of my pinky nail and finger. So it bled a lot and hurt like hell. 

My owie.

My husband rushed to the store for a First Aid remedy. Such a sweetie.

Happy Sewing!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Give Up Knitting?

Of course I'm kidding...but seriously folks, I think I'm knitting-challenged.  Maybe that's putting it mildly. I wish all patterns were written for people like me. Step-by-step instructions, that tell me exactly what might happen if I forget to do something, and reminds me to count my stitches often. All patterns basically assume that I know how to knit fairly well, and that I will be able to figure things out when a stitch gets dropped, or when I suddenly find myself with too many or too few.

Enter my newest project...

Wimberry Vest Pattern from Little Cake by Louisa Harding.
My recent discovery of Louisa Harding patterns...many, many that I am drooling over. But at the same time dreading because almost every piece has some kind of lace knit involved. I abhor and LOVE lace patterns. They are the worst to unravel and fix when it comes to errors, and I have plenty. I suppose it's about time I drag my butt over to the yarn store and find myself a teacher who will save me from knitting hell.

This Wimberry vest pattern was published back in 2010 from a pattern book entitled Little Cake. Even though it's four years old, I think all the projects still look fresh and timeless. I do want to say that the slow start of this project was not entirely my fault. There are some real guage issues that I'm not taking responsibility for. I have purchased the exact Louisa Harding yarn, even the same color, and had it shipped all the way from Canada. I've tested the gauge and it measured out correctly. After knitting the little loop bottom for the tenth time, it came out too large every time. Not by a by six inches larger than the extra-large size. It was literally off the charts!

I found on Ravelry that I need to use smaller needles. I am now using a 3.5mm for the lace, which is about .5 smaller than what is originally indicated and based on the size chart, I am still three inches too wide from my intended size.  Argh!  What does this mean? It means that at the rate I'm going, the vest will still be two sizes too big when I'm done.  I'm asking myself, maybe this pattern only works in size extra small? Hmmm...back to the drawing board or give up on this pattern and try something else. After a week of not getting past the first 10 rows...I'm thinking the later.  Stay tuned.