Friday, January 09, 2015

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: The Year of Making, in Review (long)

I apologize for the lapse in blogging. It's been a long time, hasn’t it?

For the past year or so my projects have mostly been long-term involving a ton of problem solving. Blogging before the problems were solved seemed counter-productive. By the time they were and the projects were completed, I was off and running with the next item on the agenda. So, here is a brief run-down of my making activities in 2014, in no particular order:

The home brewers out there will appreciate the stir plate I made for yeast propagation. I made it with instructions I found online. The case is a plexiglass memento box from Hobby Lobby, computer fan from Best Buy, electronics/rare earth magnets from my local independent hardware store and Radio Shack. Funky bits came from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.


There has also been a lot of sewing happening.

Katherine Tilton V8691 tunic

I was able to make use of stash fabric. The gray knit was from a past sale at Hancock’s intended for a turtleneck I think. The green gauzy knit was found at a boutique fabric store in Fort Collins in 2011.

Vogue V8888 robe, view B

Modifications include fit, fabrication adjustments for a heavier fabric that called for, as well as contrasting collar, cuffs, and added piping. The robe is a dream to wear on cold mornings/evenings, and fits quite well. Fabric purchased at Sarah’s in Lawrence.

Sew Easy Pajama Pants by Cindy Taylor Oates

Modifications for fit. The pattern booklet I link to above appears to be slightly different from the one I purchased, which also includes a pattern for pajama shorts. I imagine the fabrication of the one I made is similar. Fabric purchased at Sarah’s in Lawrence.

Simplicity 2594 top, view B

I made this pattern twice. The first was casual summer top out of Swiss dot purchased at Hancock’s. (Yes, it clearly needs to be ironed, but it’s December so I have zero plans to pull it out of the closet again until June. By then it would need to be ironed again. Waste of time, I say.) The second was a dressier version out of crisp linen purchased at Sarah’s. Modifications for fit, and I lengthened the dressier version.

Here’s one I did write about back in March: Vogue 1061 by Sandra Betzina

This was modified for fit. It’s not clear in the photo, but if you refer to the pattern page I linked to, you’ll see some lovely seamed details on the back. It was this project that spurred me to purchase a serger (love it!).  While I haven’t actually tried it on these seven months later, I’m fairly certain it will require major alterations if I hope to wear it this winter. I have, eh hem, changed a bit in 2014 - in the best way possible.

There has also been progress on the knitting front.

This project was originally the #02 Man’s Turtleneck by Melissa Mathay from Knit Simple Magazine, Fall 2006 - and I suppose it still is, but I heavily modified it. The pattern originally called for a bulky weight yarn, but the yarn seen here (James C. Brett Marble DK) is a much smaller gauge. Therefore, to get everything to work, I had to recalculate everything from cable pattern to sleeve increases. The sweater fits like a dream, and is what the recipient wanted. It occupied several years of my time, but it was a terrific learning experience! 

The other project I finished was much simpler.

This is the Magic Rib Scarf worked in Cascade Eco Duo. It was a quick project to knit (about two weekends, one of which included 12 hours round trip in a car).

My final project for 2014 is a joint project with my husband, creating a custom double-decker cat bed for a cat with some peculiar sleeping preferences. We’ll refer to it as Cat Bed 2.0. 

Interior hammock is fleece. Exterior cushion is topped with fun fur. Bottom is fabric from my stash. The floor of upper cushion is a removable sheet of Lexan - both shatterproof and transparent to allow easy viewing of interior occupants.

In cooking news, I began the year by taking an online course through edX called “Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science.”  That gave me a much better idea of the reasoning behind various cooking techniques, and when and when not to apply them. For my final project I created my own recipe for soft dinner rolls through experimentation and observation of several variables, including hydration, fermentation cycles, protein and carbohydrate content, etc.

I also purchased a second pressure cooker - this one a pressure cooker as opposed to the larger pressure cooker/canner that I already had - that I use for preparing beans to entrees. 

That’s it! I’ve got many more projects in the works. Looking forward to an exciting 2015!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

FO: Vogue 1061 by Sandra Betzina, or The Extreme Sport of Crafting Cautiously

Since I never found time to post the progress on the V1061 knit hooded tunic by Sandra Betzina, while it was in progress, here’s a look back:

The pattern, as described on the envelope, is a “Close-fitted, wrapped tunic has asymmetrical fronts with ties, two-piece dolman sleeves with elasticized gathers on overarm sleeve seam, with or without hood, multiple back panels forming seaming detail and flared hemline and stitched hems.” Pants were also part of the pattern, though I chose not to sew them. Knit pants aren’t my “thang.”

Cutting and fitting on this pattern is extremely complex, because the original pattern tissue is a complicated nest of lines for sizes A-J. But I needed to use one set of lines at the shoulder, and another at the bust and midline, and if I guessed wrong, I would have lost the original pattern to redraft it. So I began by tracing most of the pieces on white gift wrap tissue, making the expected pattern adjustments there as I drew.

I had always planned to first cut the fabric out of a knit muslin before I went to my final fabric, but Kathy, sewing guru and co-owner of my LFS, suggested I use a woven muslin as a step even before the knit muslin.

As cut and made adjustments, I decided to identify the right and wrong side of the muslin fabric (which has no right or wrong side), as well as identify which pattern piece it was, by using letter blocks and a stamp pad. Then, as I continued to modify, a new pattern piece would be marked with an A or B, or C, and so on. Easy to identify the most recent one. I also took copious notes - where I lengthened or broadened, etc.

Once that was done, I cut it out of the knit muslin, purchased because it was both cheap, and approximately the weight of my final fabric. More adjustments were necessary there, like the bust dart placement, because woven fabric simply doesn't fall the way knit fabric does. Satisfied, I then went to the final fabric.

I purchased a serger to complete this project, and I’m glad I did. But never having used a serger before, or seen someone else use one, I hadn’t realized the differences. The one I chose - a Brother 1034D. That is a fine machine, but it only does an overlock stitch. In the finishing of the hems and cuffs, I could have used a serger that makes cover stitches. This means either an additional serger, or a very expensive one. I sort of had a make it work moment on my regular machine, but Kathy (LFS sewing guru) said I can use a double needle in my machine.

It worked like a charm. I’ve heard some people advise using wooly nylon in the bobbin, but Sarah (also owner of the LFS) says that should only be used in sergers because the wooly nylon is abrasive and bad for the life of a regular machine. Sewing the knit muslin first, gave me to practice on the serger, too.

 Note that I've sort of labeled the nearly-identical back panels by using pins - the number of pins in each piece matches the pattern number. Keeping track of right and wrong side of the fabric was also important, given how close they are in tone.

The trickiest part may have been sewing the elastic in the elephant sleeves, because I needed to keep it stretched as I sewed, and I was sewing along a curved edge.

After the shirt was finished, I decided to swing by my tailor’s shop to see what her thoughts were on the fit. She thought it was good, but suggested I take 5" off either side of the side seams, for a total of 20" hem circumference. Doing that would allow the sides to fall straight, rather than billowing out. Kathy also suggested I do the same. Apparently, if I had chosen a lighter weight fabric, it would have fallen that way naturally.

That may have been excellent advice, but it seemed a bit extreme, and I didn’t like how it would have altered the back seaming/butt area. So I went with 3" on either side of the seam, for a total of 12".

 I’m extremely happy with the fit. It feels good to wear, and it looks good on me. Any project that ends with me looking forward to the next sewing project is a winner in my book!

Original pattern tissue with complicated nest of cut lines for sizes A-J.

So, I decided to tile together white gift wrap tissue, and trace my first-best-guess on to it, then use this tissue to cut the first muslin.

Though a muslin out of woven fabric won’t have the same behavior as a knit fabric, Kathy strongly recommended that I take a first pass in fabric out of woven muslin so I don’t wreck my knit muslin. Because I can go back to the store and buy bolt after bolt of woven muslin. It’s an utterly replaceable product. But the knit muslin? Finding a cheap knit fabric in approximately the same weight as my final fabric? It may not be precious in terms of price, but certainly in rarity.

I get the pattern pieces as close to the shaping as I can to fit well. And then - and only then - do I cut out of the knit fabric muslin.

Once that’s perfected, then I can cut out of my final fabric.

Finished Object: Hanging Shoes

This is an old, apparently half-finished post that I found in my drafts folder. This project is from 2012.

Inspired by an opportunity to participate in a sanctioned yarn bombing event outside a nearby art museum, and a bag of free (and gloriously hideous) acrylic yarn to select from, I cast on this month for the Hanging Shoe project from Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti.

This turned out to be a very quick knit, though it was slowed undocumented errata in the directions. Really, if anyone *at all* had read through the instructions as written, they would have found and fixed these mistakes before going to press.

For example, the instep directions leave off with "ending with a RS row," and next line begins "Row 1 [RS]: K2tog, k to end, 20 st." What happened to the WS row? Also, I chose to do the optional letter chart on the sole, but the soles are worked in garter stitch and I think the initial would have come out better if the chart portion were worked in stockinette.

The instructions suggest weighting the shoe with chestnuts and using pine cones as stuffing. Instead, I used snack bags of sand taped to the cardboard insole. For stuffing I used a coffee-stained skein of acrylic (my own) that was otherwise heading to the trash bin - cutting it in half and stuffing each toe. for the ankle, I used a plastic shopping bag and paper. In that way the paper was semi-protected from the rain.

Links to photos taken at the event can be found on the facebook page.

Friday, December 27, 2013

More Better

The latest extreme cold snap finally inspired us to research options for insulating our garage doors, which are thin metal metal panels - no air space, no insulation whatsoever. In the winter the garage becomes an icebox, and by extension so do the connecting rooms: adjacent dining room, and office spaces over the garage.


And after, using the Owens Corning Garage Door Insulation Kit.

It took roughly 1 1/2 hours to do each door, which included time to clear the garage and find a place to trim the insulation to size where it wouldn't be laying in a puddle of snow/ice melt. We found the kits at Home Depot for about $55 per door.

So far I'm pleased with the results. The doors rattle less when opening/closing, and it does seem to already be keeping the garage warmer, but I'll now for sure in a few days when we get another cold snap. My hope is that it will cut down on energy bills and pay for itself within a few heating/cooling seasons. We'll see.

As expected, our trip to Home Depot was far from satisfying. In addition to buying these panels, we made a second trip to pick up some plywood to finish a basement shelving project. 95% of the non-furniture grade 2' x 4' sheets of plywood (which still cost about $13 each) were so warped they were completely unusable. I brought this to the attention of an employee. She just blinked at me and said, "that's how they come." Interesting. I had thought they were warped because they were shipped and stored improperly, but apparently Home Depot buys warped plywood to sell to its customers. Or... maybe this is more evidence that they staff their stores with nincompoops.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Finished Object, Plus a Start

The finished object I’d like to share today is largely a repair job.

 A half dozen years ago I bought a vintage wool coat at a thrift store. It and others were destined to be cut up into strips to be made into a rug. But I decided I liked this one coat too much to do anything but wear it. It was warm, comfortable, and roomy enough to wear medium to light-weight sweaters underneath.

Other than some wear on the cuffs, the outer wool shell was in great shape. The lining was another story altogether. The fabric was literally ripping apart, particularly at stress points such as the underarm and pockets. Sewing and re-sewing those points gave the lining a few extra years of life, but at year 5 (and finding yet-another tag warning me of the poor garment condition when I picked it up from my dry cleanerr), I knew I needed to either discard the coat, or replace the lining. I opted for the second.

Though it was “just” a lining replacement, this was a skill-builder for me. This marks the first time I’ve created a new garment (or in this case a new garment lining) using an existing garment as a pattern. Because the old lining needed to come out anyway, I cut along the seam lines, and used those pieces with seam allowance added back in to create new pattern pieces.

I'm sure there is a way to machine sew the lining to the cuff of the outer shell, but that’s a big spatial and order-of-tasks puzzle. After messing with it for a few minutes, I realized that it would be much quicker to machine sew the lining to the shell body, and afterward hand-tack the sleeve lining to the shell cuff.

With temps in the upper 70s and 80s and winter still a few months off, it may seem like an odd time to have put this to the top of my sewing queue, but I had planned to do this last winter and in the blink of an eye it went from “cool” to “cold” and frankly it seemed more important to wear the coat in s shabby form than be without it as well as have the increased pressure on outcome and time management while figuring out how to accomplish the repair.

The project is complete, but not without a few issues. Somehow the pleat at the center back of the lining isn’t at the center back of the shell, even though the shoulder seams do line up. Hmmmm. I also folded the pleat wrong because I’d intended the seam to be hidden inside the pleat not exposed at the leading edge. And the lining hem hits the hem of the garment 1/4" off at each side of the opening. None of these problems do I consider to be worth dwelling on, as they will be invisible the vast majority of the time.  More importantly, I bought this coat about 5-10 more years of wear for about $15 dollars in supplies and my time. WIN!

 Next up in the sewing pile is the most ambitious fitted sewing project of my life: Vogue 1061 Today's Fit by Sandra Betzina.

Vogue patterns are almost always ambitious. This one, a hooded long-sleeved tunic with a side tie closure, is constructed from 11 pieces. All sizes are included in the pattern, which means there are nine different lines to keep track of on every single pattern piece. More importantly, I need to determine which lines to use for different fit areas on the garment because I’m not a single size gal.

I bought the fabric for this over two years ago, and actually had the bizarre plan to knit this up in two weeks so I could wear it on a fall business trip to Canada. That clearly didn't happen, as you can see from the uncut pattern tissue, and uncut fabric.

The final fabric is a deep red heavy knit, but given the complexities noted above I decided I should make a muslin out of an inexpensive similar weight knit fabric. That beauty will be made in Pepto-Bismol pink. Awesome!


If all goes as planned, I hope to at least lay out a plan of attack with a first attempt at the math today. Cutting will come on a later day. With it being a heavy knit, this tunic is a late fall/winter garment. I have all the time in the world to proceed with care and caution.

Friday, September 13, 2013

An Actual Finished Object

This is the final project for a Craftsy fitting class, using the class-supplied Very Easy Vogue V8815 view B. The class is a video online. I followed the video step by step, using my measurements to customize the package pattern. I got it looking pretty good in the waist and bust, but I’m a difficult fit at the shoulders, and the armscye seemed way too big - both issues that I couldn’t seem to communicate to my online instructor using still images.

I began with using an expensive final fabric, but my fitting issues were such that I sought the advice of the owner of my local fabric store. Apparently she agreed because she literally cut the shirt off of me, leaving a boob hanging out. Thankfully, I had tucked a T-shirt in my sewing bag as I was leaving the house.

I left the fabric store with a destroyed shirt, suggestions for altering, and a bolt of muslin. I returned a week later, then every day after that for about 1 1/2 weeks, until we had the muslin looking close to perfection.

When that was approved, I purchased a few yards of this fabric, a Morris & Company by Barbara Brackman for moda print.

When we finished the muslin fit, we still hadn't worked out the sleeves, so I came in wearing the carefully cut and basted shell in my fashion fabric, with two options for sleeves basted in the armscyes. When the owner of the shop saw the fit of the entire thing, she immediately felt that I had too much fabric in the upper part of the chest and that I should reduce by about 1 1/2", and alter the sleeve cap accordingly.

She also wanted me to reduce ease around the entire body, but this I refused to do because the closure is a back zipper, and the shirt currently has sufficient ease that I can dress and undress myself. If it were tighter, I don't think that would be possible.

I chose not to follow her advice on the upper chest because if I had made that adjustment, I couldn't go back. If that turned out to have been a mistake, I would have had to scrap this version and buy more fabric in a different print. I also was dealing with fit adjustment fatigue, wasn't sure I would have time to make an entirely new version and be able to wear it this season, and I was concerned that if I reduced that ease in the front, it would look out of balance with the rest of the ease of the shirt. (She also wanted me to choose the tighter of the two sleeve cap options, but the other one felt a bit tight so I ignored that advice as well.) I should add, I really really did appreciate all the time and attention my LFS owner gave me. With her help I was able to overcome a significant number of issues.

When it comes down to it, this pattern or style of shirt isn’t one I would have chosen for myself. But, it will make a slightly dressier option than polo shirts for early fall days. And I will apply what I've learned to subsequent projects. One adjustment I made that wasn't for fit but for preference, was to drop the peplum seam from the pattern’s raised waist to a more natural waist.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Finished Object

I recently completed two sewing projects that have been in my “to-do” pile since 2011 when my recently widowed MIL opened her husband’s closet for all to take what they wanted.

Grandchildren picked cowboy boots and a hat, various leisure wear shirts, etc. When everyone else had chosen, I stuck my head in and picked two shirts for a hair-brained plan to remake them into aprons.

Two years later, by the time I finally allow myself to bring them to the top of the list, it turns out my thing had become a thing. (If there are a thousand similar ideas depicted on Pinterest, it is a thing.)

Apron #1:
Green and plaid green shirt prior to transformation:

 and post-transformation.

 Pattern is adapted from Simplicity 4282 Vintage Aprons View E. Contrast fabric on upper apron is Fresh Air by Chez Moi for Moda. Collar is permanently attached at front neck, but an elastic extension on back of neck allows for slipping over the head.

Apron #2:
Hawaiian print shirt prior to transformation:

 and post transformation.

Followed patterns and instructions of the Retro Fun: Vintage Style Apron, though I don’t think the pattern was edited well and would probably follow it less rigidly next time. For example, it called for “extra wide bias tape” without specifying the actual width. I went for the widest option, but in retrospect the apron in their photo appears to use 1/2 inch instead of my 7/8 inch. The smaller width would have been easier to work around corners, etc. Contrast fabric is Collage by Carrie Bloomston for Such Designs, Scratch Pattern 36531.