Wednesday, July 30, 2014

McCalls 6966

Mallory helping with sorting the pattern pieces
 I haven't been much of a skirt or dress girl for many years.  I work six days a week in a strictly jeans environment, even though I occasionally go all out with a pair of cargo pants.  Then I generally tend to continue the jeans theme or even jammies on my day off.  So I have to say that I was really glad to see skirts and dresses coming back into style, and have been determined to wear them more this year - even if it is just to the grocery store.
Mallory holding things down in case of a sudden strong wind
I really like the maxi trend and was very happy to see it being worn locally.  McCalls 6966 seemed to fit the bill for a casual maxi with some interest.  It is a pretty basic skirt to put together. I bought a basic polyester striped knit, cheap and cheerful.  The problem for me is that the pattern pieces are so big that I initially laid it out on the floor.  My arthritis soon put up a major argument to that plan, so I then tried to manipulate it one piece at a time on my cutting table.

I used my quilting ruler to align the grainline of the pattern 90 degrees to the stripes on the fabric.  I didn't spend a lot of time trying to match up my chevrons.  The only place to do this was at the side seams because the angle is off to do it on the blocked pieces.

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All in all I am very happy with this skirt. I feel very feminine and comfortable in it. It is perfect for sitting in the sunroom, hanging by the pool or going to the grocery store or Costco. I haven't hemmed it yet because I know it will stretch. I had to recut the waistband by about 8" because it stretched so badly when I serged the top seam. Click on the pic to get a better view of the skinny stripes.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Another NL 6735

I know I made a dedicated post for New Look 6735, but I just had to show off this fabric.  It's one of the fabrics I bought with my coupon from Fabricland.  It is a medium weight knit synthetic of some sort with a bit of lycra.  It feels beautiful to the touch and is a nice weight for a fall/winter top, but what I love most is that colour!  I would call it a burnt orange, but it is absolutely delicious.

I took the time to trace the grainline because (a) I really like this fabric and didn't want to screw it up and (b) because I thought it would be obvious if it is off grain because of the microscopic striping in the knit.  Having said that the striping made it very easy to trace the grainline (actually the cross-grain line) with the use of my lighted magnifying glass.

The other change I made was to shorten the pattern.  Now that I have a coverstitch machine I find I only use a 3/4" hem turned once rather than the 1 1/2" hem allowance on knit patterns.  So I've shortened the pattern by the extra hem allowance as well as some of the length of the tee because I think it was just a little too long (I did lengthen it an inch when I first traced the pattern).  I think the new length looks pretty good here.

I am very happy with this top, except... I didn't put quite enough stretch into the neckband.  It gapes a little bit when I bend over and I can notice it gaping even as I just sit here at the computer.  I think I will rip it out and do it again.  It's definitely a learning curve because each fabric seems to have its own amount of stretch which makes a difference in how long you cut the band.  I will report back.

Ok, I'm back lol.  It took me about 45 minutes to pick out the old neckline - not bad considering it was serged (4 thread) and topstitched.  And I managed not to cut any holes in it!  I cut out about 2 1/4" of the neckline, then sewed it back in with a straight stitch (in case it needed to come out again), then sewed a second stitch line and finally topstitched.
Here's the result:

You really can't tell the difference in the pics, but it fits better.  It doesn't gape when I lean forward.  It has been pressed flat so it will probably gape even less after washing.   Also, the neckband has a more consistent width, which is often a challenge for me.  So in the end it was worth fixing.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


I'm not very happy with two recent tops I've made. Both of them have bust details and both of them look a little... frumpy. When comparing them to my standard tee they definitely left something to be desired. If I can't feel good wearing them I won't wear them. So I pulled out my pattern for NL6735 and started hacking away.

First I decided to have at
New Look 6940.  I began by taking in the sides to match 6735 which meant taking it in by more than an inch each side for a total of 4".  This really helped keep the empire seam where it is supposed to be instead of it riding up.  Then I shortened it by about 4".  I probably should have only chopped off 3" but it's done now and I can live with it.  I think it is much better proportioned.

Then, feeling inspired, I decided to take New Look 6977 in an inch each side, again for a total of 4".  And again, the bust gathers seem to sit better without riding up so much.  Not to mention that I was able to get rid of that nasty underarm bump from trying to fit the sleeve better.  So it seems to me that in order to make these bust features work the tees need to be quite fitted.  Not to mention that I think a fitted tee is more flattering on me.  So hopefully I will get more wear out of these two tops now that I don't feel quite so - frumpy!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Look 6940

Alternative post title: "I Should Learn to Listen to My Mother"

Not the most flattering top I've made
I've made New Look 6940 before although I didn't blog it. Previously I made version B (shown here under the cardigan) which is quite flattering, but wanted to give view C a try with its horizontal and vertical gathers at the bust. Mom thought it looked frumpy. I thought it was a cute little summer top. What could go wrong?

I guess the first problem is a fitting problem. It seems that tops with a detail focus at the bustline generally are too short on me. This is a perfect example; if I'm not constantly pulling it down the top rides up over my bust as it's starting to here. The second problem is that the soft draping on the front that I thought would be good to hide my tummy ended up just looking - oh, I don't know, frumpy?

About the only redeeming quality of this top is the centre seam in the back that gives a nice shape in spite of the loose front.

So I don't know. It looks cute on other versions I've seen but the best feeling I can muster up for it is "meh". I definitely feel I look better in a more fitted tee.

It's not too bad under a cardigan. I may try adding some sleeves to see if that improves it. Otherwise this one goes into the pile of "lessons learned". Sigh.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Any Monte Python fans out there?  Anyway, I was prewashing a couple of lengths of my new fabric when I suddenly heard a whole lot of banging and bouncing and general wreckage coming from my laundry room last night.  I RAN down there and found this...

Everything from the top of the machine had been thrown on the floor and the rubber door seal was all twisted.  Now I've played this game before.  My last front loading washer died when my son overloaded it with about 20 pairs of jeans and tried to run it regardless.  It didn't end well.

The first thing I did was look up the warranty information.  I had purchased the five year extended warranty - yay!  But it expires... last January.  Boo!

I was going to bite the bullet and call in a serviceperson but thought I've got nothing to lose and it is probably a loose spring (from previous experience).  A google search quickly gave me the info I needed to break into this bad boy, usually the most intimidating part of fixing appliances.  With the cover off I quickly saw the loose spring

I wasn't strong enough to hold up the drum and stretch the spring to put it back into its slot, and Jeff won't be down to help me for a week and a half (sometimes long distance relationships suck, even after 20 years) - WAY to long to go without doing laundry (or pre-washing fabric) so I remembered the words of an old journeyman who I worked under as an apprentice - work smarter, not harder.  I tried to think of what I had in the house strong enough to do what I needed.  I ended up folding a wire coathanger in half (it was too long otherwise), hooking the double ends over the hook end of the spring and putting a prybar through the other end of the coathanger.  This gave me a means of pulling the spring up with both hands - doubling my strength against this spring and drum.

Very quickly (I was amazed how quickly!) I popped that spring hook right back into its slot.  Woohoo!  And the rubber seal?  Tadaa!

Right back to normal.  Of course I put another load in (including a length of fabric to be pre-washed lol) and all is well in my universe.  Whew!  Jacqui 1, appliance gremlins 0.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New Look 6107 - And A New Name

Yes, that's a new name at the top of the blog.  I've never been very enthusiastic about the old name, it was just a space filler.  I tried to think of something more appropriate to what my blog is about.  Yes, it's about sewing.  But it's also about knitting, my garden, my pets, vacations, or anything else that has nothing to do with work.  And that's the key - it's about my time away from work: off the clock.

Now with that out of the way, let's talk about New Look 6107.  I stopped in at the fabric store yesterday to get some swimsuit elastic and a button for the beige cardigan.  This stretch denim was calling my name and a meter ended up coming home with me.  I've been wanting a casual summer skirt and I figured this fabric would fit the bill.

I am quite happy with all of the New Look patterns I have tried, and this one was no exception.  The instructions were easy to follow and my size fit right out of the envelope.  I did change the zipper design.  The pattern calls for a lapped zipper, but I think I prefer the look of a centred zipper.
I turned the hem 3/8" an sewed it down, then turned it another 1/2" and topstitched.  This stretch denim was unraveling so I serged the seam edges to finish them.  Of course I did this - again - after sewing the skirt together.  WHEN will I remember to finish the edges before assembly?!  At least I remember to turn off the knife on the serger this time.
Incidentally the beige cardigan looks AMAZING with this skirt!  So I was thinking I should make a new top to go with it.  I have this newly acquired blue ponte knit that I think would look good with the colours in the skirt.  I've got about 1 1/2 meters so I could make a 3/4 sleeve tee, but I already have blue tees in various sleeve lengths that would go with the skirt and I'm itching to try something completely different.

I'm thinking about using it to make view E (top row right side shown in brown) of New Look 6808.  I know this pattern is for woven fabrics, but I think I could get away with making it in a ponte knit.  I would change the bust darts to an eased dart like in my tee pattern, and I would eliminate the vertical darts and adjust at the side seams.  I could probably even leave the side zip out to make it a pullover.  And I think the ponte would be sturdy enough to carry off that collar.  What do you think?  Should I go for it?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What's That Fabric?

I ALWAYS prewash my fabrics before sewing them.  I think this makes a lot of sense so that I don't literally wash away a lot of hard work through shrinkage or other laundry nastiness.  But the cardigan above?  Did NOT get prewashed.

I have been having trouble sleeping and was up sewing from 3am until 9am making the first cardigan and tank top.  I had plans to go to the Bluesfest that evening and hadn't yet decided what to wear.  The forcast was for hot earlier in the evening (80's) and then cooling right off (mid 60's) so I knew I wanted to bring a cardigan or something, but the one I had just made seemed to much of a fall fabric for a summer festival.  On the other hand I had this brand new stash of knits including the beige that screamed "make me into a cardigan!" at me.  I decided I needed a nap more than I needed a new cardigan so I went to lie down.  When I got up I panicked and decided I REALLY need this new cardigan - immediately!  So I did lol.  This puppy took me about three hours including cutting out.  That has to be a personal record.

This fabric is from my online order that doesn't have any information about the knits.  So how do I wash it without ruining it?

I did a fabric search at other online fabric venders for "designer knit" fabrics.  There were a few fabrics that looked pretty much the same but that doesn't really mean anything.  So next I did a burn test.

I decided to do both the beige and the winter white fabric because they seemed to be the same.  The fabric curled in the heat of the flame and then burned and kept burning until there was none left to burn.  The bit of fabric left here is because I put the flame out on that piece.  You are supposed to notice the smell, and to me out of the options given it smelled slightly chemically.  Finally you look at the ash.  In this case it was an irregular hard black mass.  It would crush to powder under pressure.  So it doesn't fall entirely into one category but the best I can figure is it is either acrylic or acetate.  Next I decided to wash a swatch.

I rinsed both pieces with hot tap water and threw them in the dryer in a nylon bag on medium heat.  There was no shrinkage whatsoever and they came out looking like when they went in!  When you look at the pic look at where the swatches are to the gridlines because I don't have the pics exactly the same size.  I then checked a fabric care guide and decided this fabric is probably acrylic.

So long story short, it looks like my cardigan (and whatever else I make from this fabric) will be easy breezy to take care of.  Another win for me! :)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Fitted Cardigan and Sleeveless Tee - Modified New Look 6735

The busy pattern of the fabric makes it hard to see the details of this outfit, but trust me when I say that it looks fabulous in real life.  I have wanted to replicate Angela Wolf's twin sets but haven't been able to find a pattern for a cardigan that fits like hers. Jalie has a couple but one has huge built in pockets and the other has pleats.  I just want clean lines.  Angela says she is hoping to release a pattern at some point but I am too impatient to wait so I came up with my own.  Or rather, I modified New Look 6735.

I used the tee pattern (a tried and true pattern for me) for the sleeveless top and cut off the 5/8" seam allowances at the sleeve openings.  I then took off a further 5/8" from the top half of the sleeve openings.  I finished them with banding the same as the neckline.

The cardigan in this pattern is pretty big and mostly shapeless, using a belt to bring it in at the waist.  The sleeves are a bit wider than I wanted, presumably to accommodate sleeves underneath.  I can see a need for this pattern in a heavier fabric for warmth, but I was looking for a twin set look using a thin knit.  I want the sleeves to fit well enough that I can push them up to my elbows and they stay put, and I want a sleek silhouette.  I think I have succeeded and ended up with a definitely wearable muslin.

I didn't use the belt or buttons but left the front to hang straight.  I assembled the shoulder seams and the front plackets and then basted the seam lines for the sleeves and bodice sides.  After trying it on and pinning I decided to make my new seam allowances 1 1/2" rather than 5/8".  I also added contouring from the pattern piece for the tee.  The result?  I am loving it!  It is exactly what I was looking for.  Go me!

Worn over New Look 6940
I was so happy with this cardigan that I had to make another out of the beige knit from my online fabric order.  It is easier to seen the lines on this one.  I can see this cardigan getting a lot of use.  Not only does it present a long, sleek look but it hides a wealth of sins - that show up as middle aged spread lol.

While this cardigan was intended to be worn over a sleeveless top or dress, it works just fine with the cap sleeves of the tees I have made from this pattern (version on left), and it can even pass with the 3/4 sleeve (version on right) although there is a bit of bulk there.

And look!  Now I have something to wear with my graduation dress! This one is definitely a keeper.

Online Fabric Shopping

Edited July 16, 2014:  
My credit card refund was process the other day and today I received a package in the mail with two lengths of fabric, one black and one grey as requested.  My guess is that Sherri of Michaels's Fabrics hand picked them herself because they are absolutely gorgeous.  I am flabbergasted by the amazing customer service I've received from these folks.  They went well above and beyond what would be expected to correct a simple oversight.  I can't recommend them enough and I look forward to doing business with them again. 

I want to clarify this post right off the bat - there was a problem with my order but Michael and Sherri at Michael's Fabrics have bent over backwards to make it right for me.  I would definitely do business with them again.

Yes, I am easily persuaded.  I read about a lot of folks ordering fabric online and have tried to stay away because of shipping costs.  I finally decided to bite the bullet and ordered a special package of knits from Michael's Fabrics in Baltimore, Maryland.  In case you can't read it the ad says:

We just purchased a grouping of knits from a high fashion designer. We have 2-4 yards cuts, assorted colors and assorted quality. These are lovely quality knits. We are selling these knits in bundles -- 20, 30, 40, 50 yards and up. They are $4.75/yard. The bundles are assorted colors and assorted quality. We are unable to fill special requests for the bundles. We only have a very limited amount of yardage available.

Well.  I decided to try a 20 yard package and hope for the best with my "surprise package".  The shipping was incredibly fast.  They shipped it on Tuesday and I had it at my doorstep on Thursday.  That is unheard of.  

I opened the package and found five lengths of various coloured knits.  The first thing I thought was that the beige knit would make a fabulous cardigan (I was right!).  The beige and the winter white are both a fine, drapey knit.  The red and the navy are slightly heavier knits and the royal blue is a ponte knit.  There is no fabric information with these, but I knew that ahead of time from speaking with Michael when I placed my order.  Next I took each piece and measured it.  I found a small sticker on each piece that stated the yardage (the larger papers in the pic are my measurements).  The Royal blue piece in front was only five feet long - short a full 12".  Not good.  Then I did the math and realized I am short overall by about 4 yards.  Really not good!

I called the store right away and spoke with Michael.  He couldn't have been more apologetic and it was obvious that he was sincere in wanting to make it right.  Then his partner Sherri called me right back.  She, too, was very apologetic and offered not only a generous refund but will also be shipping additional fabric even though I said that is not necessary.  I have to say that I don't often come across customer service this good.  I do understand that oversights can happen and I am willing to let them fix this.  

Because this is the first time I have ever bought fabric online my first instinct was to be totally put off by the whole experience, but after speaking with Michael and Sherri I feel that I would have no problem buying from them again.  I will update this post once this matter is completely resolved.

Now I just have to decide what to make with the rest of these fabrics!

New Look 6977

I decided it was time to try out a new tee.  I have been having so much success with New Look 6735 that it's hard to switch over to something untried.  I wanted to try this particular pattern because I thought the raglan sleeve would be a good opportunity to use up some scraps from previous tees, so technically this tee is a freebee.  My final verdict?  Meh.

I think the gathers in the front should be lower - centered over the bustline instead of running to the neckline.  IF I were to make it again I may just leave those out entirely and redraft the neckline.

The raglan sleeves are too big and gapey (is that a word?).  This is a common complaint of this pattern at Pattern Review.  I tried to compensate by sewing a vee into the underarm seam similar to the dart at the neckline.  This resulted in a wierd bulge underneath that remains hidden as long as I don't raise my arms for anything.  Sigh.  On her version my mom tried to compensate by adjusting the top seam of the sleave.  The top looks better but it still left a lot of gapiness at the underarm (sorry Mom!).

Me and my twin ;)
Finally, the tee just doesn't fit as well as 6735.  I don't know if it is because there is no centre back seam in 6977 but the pattern just doesn't seem as well fitted.  It is possible I may make a mash-up of the two tees at some point, we will see, but I'm really not feeling motivated to make another 6977 as it is.


New Look 6735 - The Dedicated Post

I have decided to put up a dedicated post for New Look 6735.  Because I have made so many versions of it, it really doesn't require a new post every time I make one.  This will make it easy for me to track my projects with this pattern.  I have made this up now as the 3/4 sleeve tee, the cap sleeve tee, a sleeveless version and the cardigan (although heavily modified).  The fact that I have certainly got my money's worth out of this pattern makes the cheap bastard in me very happy!  So here we go (with newest versions on top):

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