Overseas Cables!

I’ve recently placed a sewing ban on myself.  From now till Oct. 28th, I shall not sew.  Mostly because, well, we’re hosting the 7th Annual BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) party on the 27th and I don’t want to have to deal with the unholy mess that seems to accompany my sewing bouts.  Pattern pieces hither and yon, ironing board blocking my front door, sewing machine on the coffee table, fabric and scraps and threads everywhere…oh my!  So I put it all away this weekend and won’t be trotting it out till November.  Oh well.

To keep myself occupied in the meantime, I’ve dug out my last unfinished knitting project, the Overseas Cables sweater (well, that’s what I’m calling it, anyhow, thanks to my color scheme and my first attempt at honest-to-goodness cables!).  The pattern is the Alata sweater from Knitty and I started it last spring (I know, who on earth starts a major knitting project in the spring?!).  I wanted to use up some scrap yarn (lots of whole skeins) leftover from a baby knitting project (my first foray into fair isle left me with a LOT of leftover colored yarn, mostly all shades of blue!).

I’ve got about 8 inches knitted up (and I just re-found my cable needle, so I can continue!) and it’s going swimmingly, if I do say so myself!  I’ve decided that the stripes will be as wide as the skein of yarn lasts (they’re all approximately the same size ball, so it should be pretty even).  After the aqua I’m using right now I’ll switch to a dark navy for the waist…should be fun!  I’m really hoping to finish the sweater before next spring…but we’ll see!

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Easy Does It

Let me start by saying: I have sewn myself a clown shirt.

It was unintentional, I assure you.  I set out to make an Alma blouse (one of Sewaholic’s new fall patterns, but if you’re reading a sewing blog, you probably already knew that!).  It looked sweet enough (I have a dearth of “romantic” garments in my closet, and sometimes, I really just feel like I’d like to wear something along those lines, but have nothing…so this blouse could potentially fill that gap!).  And I really liked their Crescent Skirt pattern, so I figured this wouldn’t be super difficult.  Plus (and this is really what sealed the deal), I found this really cute grey fabric with little red mushrooms all over it that seemed like it would make a very cute blouse.

I decided to actually make a proper muslin this time, since for one, I don’t really trust darts (I never seem to get them lined up properly on the first try) and for two, I’m still a bit unsure of my shirt sewing skills, and this one has a collar and facings and sleeves and a side zip oh my.  So a practice run was in order, especially since I knew I’d probably need to add a couple inches.  But in the spirit of making a useful object, I opted to use some stretch poplin in a nice bright turquoise from my stash.  (What’s that?  Using fabric I already own?!?  What what what?!)  I figured the stretch would be nice in case I accidentally made it a touch too small, it might still be salvagable.  Ha.  Not a problem in the slightest, as I’ll explain momentarily.

So I whipped out my trusty measuring tape and measured myself and decided to add a few inches to the largest size.  7 inches in the bust, actually, and 10 around the waist/hips area.  It seemed like a lot to add (considering I only added like 6 inches to the crescent skirt, and that fits pretty loosely (room for tucking in sweaters, I guess?), and these patterns are supposed to account for pear-shaped-ness really well) but I went with it anyhow.

Can anybody spot colossal mistake number one?  You, in the back!  Yes?  Indeed.  I mistook the body measurements on the size guide for finished garment measurements.  So I added waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much width to the pattern pieces.  Which is super unfortunate, because I followed these really awesome instructions from Casey’s Elegant Musings for grading up, which were way better than my usual slash-shoulder-to-hem-method (which usually makes the shoulders and underarms too big), and this post from Colette patterns for unevenly grading just the hips.  I learned so much!  And put it to use!  And was so, so wrong.  Ah, assumptions.

So I graded up the front and the back, and then remembered I also needed to enlarge the collar to fit the slightly wider neckline.  Easy peasy.  Took forever, but I had a Vampire Diaries marathon running in the background, so I didn’t really mind!

Anyhow, I sewed up the shirt following the instructions.  The only hitch was the collar + facings.  I really hate facings.  I’m not 100% sure they’re necessary, and they always seem to want to stick straight up, even if I under-stitch them.  Grrrr.  The darts (even the diamond-shaped ones!) were pretty easy (but I forgot to move the darts over after grading, so they weren’t really in the right place).  I also decided since it was just a muslin, and since the fabric has some stretch, that I would skip the zipper and just sew the side-seams shut.  I’d want some looseness anyhow for wearing so I could, you know, sit down and move and whatnot, so if I couldn’t get into it in stretch poplin without a zipper, I’d have problems when I used my real fabric.  (This was actually a great decision…you’ll see why).

So then I tried the muslin on.  It was miles too big.  A bit short, and a good fistful of extra fabric at each side-seam.  And the shoulders were a bit too wide.  I’m beginning to think I have somewhat narrow shoulders, because I had an extra inch and a half hanging over, and that’s about what I had added during my grading adventures.  But folks, the really distressing part: the collar.  I made view B with the swoopy Peter-pan-ish collar.  But instead of being a dainty little collar, it is HUGE.  Like 4 inches tall at the swoopy bits in the center front.  And on a bright turquoise shirt that’s four miles too wide, it was too much.  It was over the top.  My very helpful husband told me all I needed was a yellow flower that secretly squirted water at people.  So helpful, honey, thanks.

Oh, and the sleeves were really poofy like pretty pretty princess gown sleeves, because the sleeves are a bit gathered at the cap, but the shoulders were too long, so instead of having nicely gathered sleeves, I had comical Cinderella’s ballgown sleeves that stood up an inch or so from the shoulder seam.  And a collar that begged for a trick flower.  Sigh.

I took the side seams in by 2 inches on each side, and the shirt actually fit pretty well in the front then.  The darts were way too far to the sides, though.  I think the back darts could have been a bit deeper as it seemed to have a bunch of extra fabric in the center back, but again, the darts were way off to the sides, so maybe better dart placement would address that.

Here’s a picture of the offending shirt from the front:

And the back:

See what I mean about the collar and the shoulders?  Ack.  But the shirt is comfy.  I think I might make it with the shorter sleeves, though, as I liked it much better without the longer sleeves (plus, I’ll probably end up wearing it under a cardigan for the next several months, anyhow!)

I think I’ll need to re-do my grading though.  I thought about trying to transfer the changes to my existing graded pattern, but that just makes my head hurt.  So I will start over.  Sigh.  But this time, since I took out 8 inches overall (2 inches on each side, front and back, that makes 8 total, right?), I’ll just add maybe 2 inches to the existing pattern and see what that gets me. And of course, I’m going to do another muslin.  I’m a little scared to cut into my “good” fabric till I know I’ve gotten it right.

I also still want to have the curved collar going on, but I might just scale that down so it’s more like an inch at the widest.

10th grade geometry…

I find myself wishing, on a fairly regular basis when I’m on a sewing kick, that when I took geometry in high school, someone would have said “you know, kids, someday these skills you are honing will come in very handy, so pay attention you young slackers!”  Oh, wait, I’m pretty sure they did say that.  Oops.  Well, now I find I wish my geometry skills were a bit more polished than they are, especially since I seem to be doing a lot of grading up these days!  Not that this is terribly germane to the rest of the post, it’s just something that rambles around in my head when I’m sewing…

I made the mistake fabulous decision to visit my local fabric shop on payday and came home with a 2-1/2 yards each of this really spiffy fabric from the shiny new Tula Pink inventory!!

I cannot pick a favorite, and I barely have plans for all of it (dangerous business, this buying fabric without concrete plans for use…that’s the stuff stashes are made of, I fear!).  But I do have plans for the stormy blue swoopy swallow fabric!!  It is soon to be the Sewaholic Crescent Skirt, in fact!

I decided to add about 8 inches to the skirt.  I found an excellent tutorial that Patty has whipped up over at the Snug Bug and basically followed it to a tee (and I agree, you probably don’t need to grade up the skirt, just gather less…but I did it anyway because, you know, if I can complicate life somehow, why not?!).  The folks over at Sewaholic also have a super helpful series of sew-along posts for this pattern!  I have learned so much just reading through those (like french seams for pockets…I’ve looked at the diagrams for french seams in my ancient reader’s digest sewing book and always come away very daunted and a bit confused, so I’ve never done french seams…but the sew-along post makes them super clear and they really don’t look that hard!)  Unfortunately, I had already sewn my seams when I found the bits about french seams, but I foresee them in my future…a lot…because I really hate the look of raw edges inside a garment…even if they’re supposedly “finished” with a zigzag.  And I’m too lazy/cheap to finish them all with bias tape binding.  But next time, Gadget…french seams!!

Progress on the skirt has been a bit slow since I started it at the end of the weekend and have worked on it in bits and pieces on weeknight evenings (always following the “no sewing after 10pm” rule!).  So here are some progress pics!  I’ve got the skirt sewn together except for the back seam, and the waistband is attached to the skirt.  Next up is the zipper and the waistband facing!  I’m a little nervous about the zipper (I have yet to install one I really love, but if this one turns out as promised, it’ll be great.  And if not, I suppose I can handsew it in place instead).

Santa’s Little Sweatshop…

…or, What I’ve Been Up To Since My Last Post.

Yup, it’s that time of year again…retail season.  The season opener went off with a bang as usual (and some early morning pepper spray, too, I hear tell…’tis the seasoning, I guess).  I’m happy to say that I had bought all my gift-making materials by the time the Friday that Shall Not Be Named rolled around (yes, that’s what it’s known as in our house…you try working retail sometime and see what you call Black Friday)!!

This year, we have decided that we have more free time than common sense, and are thus MAKING all* of our holiday gifts.  We usually do a round of Irish cream and holiday cookies, but now we’ve added toys, clothing, scarves, and various other things to our collective to-do list.  Which has turned our living room into a veritable sweat shop…seriously, everyone but the cat has been manning sewing machines and knitting needles and hot glue guns.  It’s been magical.  But because these are gifts for, you know, people I know in real life, I can’t show you pictures (yet!) of all our labors.

Sad for you, because they’re pretty awesome.  I do have a big big reveal-y type post planned for after the holidays, though, so stay tuned for that.  And I’ll be chronicling my attempts to make proper caramel candies in a few days, so keep your eyes peeled for that, too!

*OK, not all…some people are far too difficult and my skillz are far too inadequate to meet in the middle on a decent gift that they’ll actually, you know, like and/or use…so I will be venturing out on the hunt at least once this retail season.

Sorbetto Tank

If that doesn’t sound like a militant ice cream flavor, I don’t know what does!!  But actually, this is a tank top pattern with a charming little box pleat down the front that I found (though a convoluted click-o-rama involving many many fashion and sewing blogs) on Colette Patterns’ blog…and it’s a free pattern download, to boot!

(photo via http://www.coletterie.com)

So I downloaded it as fast as I could and printed it off.  It’s sized to an 18, but after looking at their size guide and  tracing and cutting out my pattern, I decided it seemed a little small (and it’s not a stretch fabric, so not a lot of wiggle room if I misjudge), so I debated whether I ought to make it as shown, or if I should resort to the googles and figure out how to grade it up.  Since I don’t have a huge fabric stash, I decided to make a muslin out of some cheap cotton I found at JoAnn’s, then tweak as needed, and then make the final in my super cute fabric (it’s green with little orange flowers…how adorable is that going to be!?!?!).  Two tanks for the price of one (sort of), and I get to learn to make darts!!  Darts!

So that was last Monday, and here it is, Monday again and I’ve made, let’s see…ummmm, zero progress.  Oops!  Teach me to have a full time job and spend the weekend canning my overflowing CSA box instead of sewing!

Tonight we’re off to the King Tut exhibit at the science museum (mummies!!!), so hopefully when we get home I can at least get the musliny bits cut out.