Saturday, February 21, 2015

Jeans - miles of topstitching

Most of my days are spent in casual clothes, so I figured I should take the time to make another pair of jeans. I made a pair last year from the pattern by Palmer/Pletsch McCalls 5894.

I am trying to use up fabric from my stash and I had everything for this in house. Natural coloured cotton twill, almost denim weight, poly thread for most of the stitching, nutmeg coloured upholstery thread for top-stitching, even zipper and button were here.
Jeans are a lot of work. I knew this pattern was already tweeked so fitting would be easy. But it always surprises you how a new fabric fits differently than the last, even though they are very similar in weight. So I will make a note on the pattern to raise the centre front waist 3/8" for the next pair.
I love top-stitching, but this did give me some problems. The upholstery thread is twisted of two plies and it tends to shred in the needle as you stitch. So thread breakage was a problem, combined with the fact that I had my needle inserted incorrectly to begin with. I sew on a semi-industrial machine that takes industrial needles. These have a groove in the needle shaft that must be inserted with the groove at the 7 o'clock position. This puts the eye of the needle ever so slightly to the left. It is easy to insert this incorrectly. But this time, I wasn't pushing the needle up far enough. Once I realised what the problem was, things got a lot better. Last Saturday afternoon, there was a lot of frustration over this.
 The coin pocket sitting behind the front slash pockets, edgestitched and top-stitched.

A real fly zipper with facing behind.

The stitching went a little wonky around the bottom of the zipper and I didn't
even try to bar-tack, I knew the thread would just split.
Back pocket stitched and edgestitched; regular thread in the bobbin case.
Finished jeans, with buttonhole and button the last things to do.

A tool I use all the time; a buttonhole chisel. I couldn't cut buttonholes without it now.

No selfies; just the jeans hanging from a newly organized bookshelf.
And a word about our weather. This is Teddy, our 14-year old Lab/Husky mix. He loves the snow, and we have plenty of it this year.
But enough already, we don't know where to put it. We have been getting snow, then rain, then freezing with the sidewalks slippery and very bumpy. The ice is 4-6" thick on the sidewalks. And today, Nick turned the car and hit the snowbank, with an ice block ripping out the parking light. Altogether, it is annoying. Try not to swear! 

After I finished sewing this afternoon, I noticed that my shoulders were all hunched up and tight from the stress of that final top-stitching. I will sew something easier next time. Inspired by all the shirts I am seeing on blogs, (especially on and on   - scroll down to her floral shirt)  I have cut out a princess-seamed shirt from a cotton that was in the stash for probably ten years. I have to admit though that the email notice from did make me relent on the resolve not to purchase more fabric. And I ordered three lengths of cotton shirtings as I feel a shirt-making session coming on.
No affiliation but I can recommend BlackBird Fabrics. She has some really lovely yardage and shipping is very quick and reasonably priced. Given the rate of postage now in Canada, I don't think I could have kept my business going; the shipping costs would have done me in. Glad to know that someone else is filling the gap here in the north.
Stash Count:  2 metres out, 3.5 metres ordered  -  so much for resolve!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Jalie 2795

Another winter storm here on the east coast, so rather than going to aquacise, I went into the sewing room and finished up a hoodie.  The pattern is Jalie 2795 and the fabric is a micro fleece from my stash.  This is one of the Yukon fleeces that I used to sell by mail order and I had forgotten just how nice the micro fleece is.  It feels like velveteen and really doesn't pill like regular fleece.  This is lightweight and will be much like wearing a light sweater.

Everything was here at home for this hoodie, and I am sure I have some drawstrings somewhere. But I may just sew a length of the fleece to insert into the hood casing.

I have seen that some sewers keep track of the fabric they buy and what they sew up. I cannot begin to estimate how much fabric I have in my stash, it is too embarrassing to go there. Keep in mind that, after 9 years of selling fabric online, you wind up with a lot of pieces that you just can't resist, not to mention all the end cuts that just get put into the pile.

However, in January of this year, I bought 4 metres of fabric online (from and so far, I have sewed up 3.5 metres. Already I am losing the battle. I will try better next month.

And now to get through the next storm. And I thought somehow we might get to skip winter this year.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sewaholic Renfrew Tee

Having bought this pattern about a year ago, I finally cut it out and sewed it up. Lots of good reviews for this pattern. My fabric is a single knit jersey, cotton and lycra blend. I am sewing from the stash, as I really need to downsize my fabric and pattern collection.

I found the neckline to be very well done. It lays nice and flat and the proportion of band to neckline is perfect.  My only quibble is that these patterns are drafted for a young body, and at my age, I find the neckline too low.  The skin on the upper chest doesn't have that youthful appearance any longer.  I finished the first version and then raised the neckline for a second one. 

In order to keep the proportion the same as the original pattern, I measured the neck seamline on the pattern, then measured the neck band, eliminating all seam allowances. I found the neck band was 2 1/2" shorter than the neck seamline.  So once I had redrawn the neck on the pattern (brought it about 1" higher on the front and about 1/2" higher at the center back, plus extended the shoulder line about 1/4" closer to the neck, I then simply took off the proportional difference on the band.  I think I may extend that shoulder seam a little more, to bring the neckline in closer before cutting out a second version.  It might be a good idea to compare it with  another pattern that has a higher neckline.

Tasia, the designer, has made this pattern for first-time sewers I think. She has added a bottom band and a sleeve band or cuff, so that you don't have to fiddle with top-stitching a hem, something that can make newbies to knits rather nervous.

I made the pattern as per directions, but on the next one, I will eliminate the bottom band and the cuffs, as I find this makes the tee look like a sweatshirt. I will simply make sure I have enough length and then turn up 1" and top-stitch in place.

This is in the queue for another time, as I now have plans to sew up a hoodie with some lovely micro fleece that I found in my stash. Even have the thread and zipper for this, so no need to head to the store to buy any notions.

The winter storm that has hit our city might have inspired the next project.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Knitting Progress

I began this sweater in March of 2013 and it has taken me this long to finish it.  From the picture in the magazine, I thought it was a fairly simple pattern. But once I began knitting, I found that I simply could not commit the pattern to memory, so I was forced to continually read the directions to make sure that I was doing it right. 

After finishing the back and fronts, I packed it away. I couldn't face two sleeves with the same pattern. But this fall, while recovering from a second hip replacement surgery, I bit the bullet and dug it out.  I was determined to finish it, as it really is lovely and the wool, the colour, the pattern were everything I would want in an aran cardigan. It took a long time to complete, but it was well worth it.

Knowing that it was going to be a snug fit for me, I finished it as a gift for a daughter. She doesn't know about it yet, and I will mail it to her this week with a bottle of Eucalan.  Along with strict orders on how to wash hand-knit sweaters. I have reservations about knitting for others, because people who don't knit or sew are not usually aware of the care that must be taken with certain items.  I will even offer to wash this for her whenever I visit, so that it will be last a long time.

The collar is really lovely, nice and high. It makes this sweater into a jacket really and it will probably be too warm to wear indoors.  Where she lives, the fall and spring weather will be perfect for this kind of sweater.

The pattern was from Knit Simple Winter 2012 and most of the patterns are simple, just not this one!

This is the sweater as pictured in the magazine. I will ask my daughter to send me a photo of her in the cardigan when she gets it. I am pretty sure it will fit her. I do hope she likes it. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Apple Green Sweater

Long time no posts here, but that doesn't mean I haven't been sewing or knitting!  I completed this sweater about a month ago. It took me forever to knit this, and I know where the mistakes are. But I figured that no one but me would know they were there, and I found this pattern so much work that there was no way I could bring myself to undo a few inches to correct the mistake once I spotted it.

One thing wrong with this pattern, there are no instructions for buttonholes and the designer says to simply slip the buttons through the spaces in the right front.  But the spaces are not big enough. So these buttons are purely decorative. I might sew some snaps behind them if I wish to close the sweater.

This pattern is really good. I love the look of the cables with the seed stitch inside the cables. Seed stitch everywhere, even in the ribbing. And for once, my tension must have been spot on, because this fits perfectly. I often don't have that kind of success with my knitting. In fact, the next sweater cast on is definitely too small and I think it might be a present for my daughter who would love to have an Aran cardigan.

The pattern is Plaits and Links by Kathy Zimmerman and you can read about it at this link on Ravelry. I knit it with my favourite yarn, Cascade 220, a 100% pure wool. 

Plaits and Links

As for sewing, I have made capris, a blouse, a jacket, and am currently working on a cotton shirtdress. However, I find as so many others do, that if you blog, that is less time for sewing.  And I would rather be sewing.  TTFN. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sweater Blocking

I am posting these photos because they might be useful to someone else. I knit my first sweater when I was 12 years old and can't remember much about it except the colour and that our Labrador retreiver pup chewed a corner of it while we were out. He jumped up and grabbed it from on top of the washing machine. I don't recall if I even got to wear it before he destroyed it. No wonder I didn't knit again for quite a few years. Then I recall knitting another sweater when I was 18 years old, a gift for a girl who gave me a drive to school every day. She was thrilled and I am still amazed that it actually fit her and looked good. It was an Aran pullover with a turtleneck and I recall she wore it with suede mini skirts which were all the rage then. (not that I wore them!)

Despite the fact that I did quite a bit of knitting, I knew nothing about the process of blocking. My mother, who was a prolific knitter, never blocked anything. I remember her pressing pieces before sewing them together and her sweaters were always beautiful. She only knit with acrylic yarn however, and I think she missed out on the beauty of real wool yarn.

Thank goodness for the internet, because knitting magazines are sorely lacking on how to block your knitted pieces before sewing them together. 

The last few sweaters I have knit, I have pinned in place onto a styrofoam board which I covered with 1/4" gingham. I figured that the gingham would help me to line things up and it works very well for this. You still require a tape measure to get the finished dimensions correct, but then you can just use the squares to pin everything where it should be. After pinning the pieces to the board, I then misted them thoroughly with a plant mister until they were damp all over and then I left them to dry. This took several days.

But another visit to the internet and an alternate method was discovered on YouTube. Soak the sweater pieces in the sink in cool water, squeeze out the water, roll the piece up in a towel and squeeze out the excess water. Using wool, this works beautifully - the piece will be damp but not soaking and then you simply pin it in place to the measurements given in the pattern for the size you knit. And wait for it to dry. This latest sweater has taken about one day to dry. 

The back and one front pinned to dry
I began by pinning the back and one front because that was all that would fit on the board. Then when the back was dry, I removed it and pinned the other front piece. So easy to get it to match the other front as they are side by side. Once these are dry, I will do the same with the two sleeves. Then it will be ready to sew together and all that is left to do is pick up stitches around the neckline and work some ribbing there.

This sweater is far from perfect; some mistakes I undid and corrected; others I just let them go, thinking that if anyone is close enough to see the mistakes, they will have to be someone I know very well. And they will also have to be a knitter. The chances of both of those happening are extremely slim.

The front pieces side by side, the one on the right is already dry, the one on the left has just been pinned to the board and will be dry by tomorrow.

The essential tools for blocking: your pattern with the finished measurements (stretch the sweater out to measure to those numbers), tape measure and pins.

And yes, so original, I made the sweater in the same colour as the one in the pattern book. The yarn I used was Cascade 220, 100% wool, I love this yarn and it knits easily without splitting and shows stitch definition well. I have already cast on another Aran pattern, I really love cables.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Slow going

It's been quite a while since I posted anything on this blog. Since I keep it primarily as a record for myself of things I have made, I am sure that it is not earth-shattering to anyone.

I am always in need of knit tops and I recalled a top I had years ago that I really loved. An old Kwik Sew pattern #1803, long since discontinued, and requiring an extra inch on the side seams, it still works. Basically a button-front sweater, the pattern can be made in most knits. I used a black cotton/lycra jersey from the stash. The only difficulty I had was with the curling edges on the single knit. Wherever possible, I serged the seams together as this controlled the curling.

Just goes to show that old patterns can be worth their weight in gold. I am going to keep this one in circulation; with warmer weather coming, the short-sleeve version will be perfect.

Besides sewing, (I also made some RTL pants in grey from a McCalls pattern) I have been knitting. Still working on the apple green aran cardigan. This may be rated average difficulty on Ravelry, but I would rate it much more difficult. I have had to undo many rows as I made numerous mistakes in the pattern. They may have not been noticeable to others, but they were enough to bother me. The back, sleeves and left front are now done; I am nearing the end of the right front and am so anxious to start something new and something quicker.

Hopefully it won't be two months before I post another finished project.