McCall’s 6277: caped crusader

Pattern: McCall’s 6277

Fabric: ITY knit from fabric.com, 2 yards

Notions: thread, clear elastic (in shoulder seams for reinforcement)

Notes: I bought this Laura Ashley patter as soon as it was released, but then I was stymied by what to make it from.  I knew I wanted a nice drape for the cape sleeves.  I almost used a rayon challis, but then I bought a ton of knits from fabric.com and thought “why not?”  I’m really happy with my decision – the dress is light and drapey, exactly as I pictured it in my head!  It isn’t too much of a sack (though I guess it is without the belt) which was my biggest worry with the pattern.

Construction was straightforward, particularly if you’ve ever made a dress with ruffles set into the princess seams (Simplicity 2360, now out of print, is similar, but with smaller ruffles.)  I did not line the dress (I pretty much don’t line anything unless I absolutely have to.)  I chose to do a narrow hem on the neckline and the sleeves (see my tutorial.)  I didn’t bother to finish the armholes – they are entirely hidden by the sleeves, and jersey doesn’t fray.

I cut the higher neckline with the shorter sleeves.  I really like the length of these sleeves on me.  I am 5’8″ and the longer ruffles would have made my arms look like I didn’t have elbows.  If you are shorter than me, or have short arms (mine are long) this will be too long on you.  I recommend just cutting the sleeves down to whatever length makes them hit where mine do – it’s a simple pattern piece.  The length you see is the unhemmed length of the dress.  I don’t always hem jersey, though in this case I may go back and add one (this ITY tended to curl a bit, and you can see that a little on the hemline.)

About the fabric: I love ITY jerseys.  I know not everyone does, but I find them pretty easy to sew with.  This one, however, was not what I would really call ITY.  It has a lighter and silkier texture.   Most of the ITYs I own have 4% lycra, but this one has 8%.  My machine didn’t love sewing it, but I managed with a lengthened zigzag stitch.  Hemming the sleeves was done with a straight stitch for neatness, and because they don’t stretch.  I used a walking foot the entire time, as I always recommend with knits.  Be aware that not all the ITYs at fabric.com are the same – they are all different types, from heavy to light.  I didn’t receive any that I didn’t like, but don’t expect them to all be the same!

I am of the opinion that these sorts of belted sack dresses work best in either a knit or a lightweight silk.  I have several others that I’m planning (Cynthia Rowley has many dresses of the belted sack variety.)  I highly recommend this pattern, with the caveat that you should watch the sleeve length.  I’m very happy with how mine turned out!

 

 

 

 

Shopping adventures

We have a car again, so I can finally get out to Joann’s again.  While I was there, I saw that they had the new (autumn) Simplicity patterns for $1.99.  They aren’t up on the website yet.  I only got one, the new Cynthia Rowley pattern:

It’s for stretch knits only.  View A (blurry in the upper left corner) has a cowl neck, and I think that’s the version I want to try.  I love Cynthia Rowley’s patterns – the dresses I’ve made  from them are among my favorites!  Speaking of that, I also went to TJ Maxx tonight, following a tip I got on the blog to look for workout clothes there.  I had success – a sports bra and two pair of yoga capris.  But what else did I spy?

This is the original Cynthia Rowley dress that Simplicity 2443 is based on!  I’ve made this dress from doubleknit twice: here and here.  It may be my favorite dress.  So naturally I had to try on the original to see how it stacked up!

The short answer is that I prefer mine.  The dress is made of an odd knit – it’s thick but very rubbery, reminds me of thin scuba fabric.  The exposed zip is cute, but I don’t like zippers in knits because they bubble – as this one does when I’m not contorting for a photo.  It wasn’t very well finished on the inside either – the straps aren’t as nice (and I believe they are a bit thinner than the pattern straps.)  I was so excited to find an inspiration garment at a place I could try it on!  I didn’t buy it, but it was only $30… perhaps  your TJ Maxx has it also?

Finally, I’ve finished a dress!  No full body photos yet (tomorrow!) but here is a preview of McCall’s 6277, made in a silky knit fabric (the actual color is brighter… this photo went through a filter.)

Whew…

I’ve had a crazy week!  My friend who was moving has been farewell partied, packed, and is now in  Washington DC.  Another friend got married this weekend in a beautiful ceremony.  I was involved in the music (and she’s a fellow soprano, so there was a lot of music!)

My in-laws came down for a bit, and we toured Homearama (the new homes showcase.)  This year it was in a crazy development.  It contains houses that are designed to look like the houses in my neighborhood (ie grand victorians) but for twice as much money as one would cost in my neighborhood (and a good 30 minutes from downtown.)  My friend who runs one of the local preservation organizations called it “Historic done by Disney,” and the comparison was apt.  I would never want to live there, but it was curious to see.  And I am certainly glad to see the idea of creating neighborhoods like mine, but I wish they didn’t also have that odd isolationist aspect to them.  I know perfectly well that there are odd and crazy people where I live (along with really rich people) but I like it that way – I would hate to only be around people like me!

I have done zero crafting.  It’s too hot to stay in my sewing room (tomorrow’s temp: 100 degrees, and that’s without the humidity factored in.)  I did take advantage of the sale on knits Fabric.com had last week.  I bought entirely too much knit fabric, but it was so cheap – and it’s all nice quality too!  These are mostly ITY knits or what Fabric.com calls “starlet knit,” which is basically ITY (poly/lycra jersey.)  I find this sort of fabric comfortable in both summer and winter – it’s not like old polyesters!

The purple leopard is a doubleknit, and the green/black swirl print on the bottom row is what they call “silky knit,” and what I call “stretchy woven charmeuse.”  I don’t think it’s like a knit.  I plan to use it to make one of the Vogue patterns I have that call for charmeuse.  I’m happy with all these, but you should be aware that not all the ity knits fabric.com sells are the same weight – some are light and others heavy!

I’ve been trying out different things for my exercise plan.  As my husband said “You don’t do anything halfway, do you?”  Nope.  If I’m going to do something, I’m going to be good at it, darn it!  I’ve taken a few pilates classes, based on your recommendations.  I really love it!  It reminds me of ballet class, and it doesn’t have the spiritual aspect of yoga, which to be honest is not really my thing.   I’ve also tried some workout videos (also from your recs) through my Netflix plan.  I don’t feel nearly as silly doing them as I thought, though we don’t have the largest living room ever (my piano lives in the actual living room, and we use a loft area instead.)  I’ve also been using the elliptical machines at the gym, with a killer workout mix I made on my ipod.  Marc got me a dependent ID, which entitles my to work out at the student center gym, the hospital/medical campus gym, and the faculty/staff gym.  At $60 a year (plus a $45 fee every semester for group classes) it’s very cost effective.  It isn’t fancy or anything, but it’s working so far.  I’m waiting to see how crowed it is during the regular school year (though I mainly use the hospital and off campus gyms anyway… we don’t have a university parking permit, as Marc bikes or rides the bus to work.)

My current dilemma involves workout clothing – it’s expensive, and I’m thinking of making my own.  Does anyone have any patterns/fabric sources to recommend to me?  I’m a total newbie to that sort of clothing!

Vogue 1179

Pattern: Vogue 1179, a DKNY design

Fabric: ITY Jersey from fabric.com (sold out) 2 yards

Notes:

I decided to make this dress on a whim, inspired by Carolyn’s beautiful version.  I think this may be the fastest dress pattern I’ve made – I spent maybe 2 hours on it yesterday before going out (including cutting) and then perhaps an hour this afternoon after church!  The pattern consists of only three pieces – front, back, and cowl neck.

I was really nervous about how this would look on me – I typically avoid dresses without some sort of a waist seam, as I like waist definition as a rule.  In fact, my wadder last week (McCalls 6347, which I do not recommend at all) failed because it was semi fitted and had no waist seam.  It just looked dumpy on me.  This dress though?  I’m thrilled with it!  I cut a size 6 in the shoulders and upper chest, and blended to an 8 from the waist down.    I would ordinarily cut a larger size (between a 10 and 12 usually) but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t too overwhelming, and the measurements  on the pattern checked out.

This dress is even pretty flattering from the side and back (for a dress that is essentially a pleated sack!)  The only thing I might caution is to watch out for the pleats if you are on the large busted size – the dress pretty much hangs down from them, and I had to make sure to wear a non padded bra or it looked odd.

I did not use the instructions, as I didn’t need them, but I do know that I constructed the cowl differently.  I basted the cowl WS together, and then sewed both sides of the cowl to the neckline.  I felt no need to hide that seam, as the instructions ask, because you can’t see it anyway.  I also changed the armholes – the instructions called for putting clear elastic in them to stabilize, but I just did a baby hem.  My knit is lightweight, so it worked out.

This fabric was part of a batch of ITY knits I bought from fabric.com earlier this year.  I’ve almost used them up – it’s time to get more!  I really love ITY knits, though the quality varies.  My machine sews them well, and they have a lovely drape that you don’t always get from cotton or rayon knits.  This particular piece of fabric has a crazy print, so I’m glad I was able to find a pattern that doesn’t require breaking the print in half.  In fact, I totally recommend this pattern for this sort of fabric.

I took exactly the hem called for.  Four inches seems like an awfully deep hem, but it helps to control the volume on the bottom of the dress.  I topstitched the hem down with a single row of stitching, and you really don’t notice it in this print at all.

I would definitely make this dress again, and I recommend the pattern.  Sometimes it’s nice to try something new!  One thing I’m working on right now is making clothes that are practical for me.  I find that I wear my knit dresses more often than anything else.  I have to dress up all the time, but I usually am singing or playing when that happens – and either way I need to be able to breathe and move!    I’m actually almost out of knits, so I’m planning an order!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New to me

New Camera

The photo drought is over!  I had just decided that I couldn’t afford a camera (we had a major car repair this month) when my Mom decided she wasn’t using her old Dslr, and offered it to me in indefinite loan for my birthday yesterday.  She used to be a photographer, so her things are nicer than I would buy for myself.  It’s a Nikon D2H -it isn’t a new camera (and hasn’t been since 2004!) but it’s a huge upgrade from my old point and shoot.  I’ve spent a great deal of time experimenting with the lenses and settings, so I hope you don’t mind me indulging in a little show and tell (starting, of course, with photos of the cat.)
Angry cat
I love this photo of Sarah Jane, because it captures her adorable crankiness perfectly!  This photo is not retouched at all – I can’t believe how much difference it makes to have control over the settings.
Closeup

I used a 50 mm lens for these shots.  I’m not so good with the other lens yet, but I love this one!  This is a closeup of the fabric of my Kirra sweater in progress.  Isn’t the combo of sparkle and texture lovely?  I’m really enjoying this knit, even though it is a bit repetitive.

 

Legos!

My husband is a bit of Lego maniac – we have them all over the house!  I’m finding them great for practicing on, and then he gets nice photos of his sets to post online.

I am very excited to be back with photos.  Thanks to everyone for your input on my fitness discoveries.  I’m taking your advice and trying different things out – this weekend, I’m going to go try a beginner  Zumba class, and tomorrow Marc and I plan to explore on our bikes (yes, I own a bike, but I haven’t ridden it much since college… as I am with a car for the next month it seems a good time to pick up the habit again!)  I also found out that since my husband works at a university, I am entitled to use their facilities for $20 a semester.  I’m not convinced I want to work out with college students, but I think it will suffice until we recover from the financial blow of the car repairs, at least in the summer when most of them are gone!

I have not had a good sewing week – I tried to make a dress, and instead made a terrible wadder that I tried to relegate to a nightgown, only to find it too ugly to even work for that!  Hopefully I will be back on track soon – right now I’m so busy that I haven’t even had time to decide what to make next – perhaps a knit dress from Vogue 1179?  It looks easy to make and wear, and right now I am all about the easy.

Fall patterns

Yesterday the heat index in Louisville reached 118 degrees.  Now  look – I love hot weather.  I don’t even mind the southern humidity, which people around here always complain about.  But!  My car died on the highway yesterday afternoon (a failed temperature gauge caused some major engine damage, and I will be carless for several weeks.)  Standing on the side of the road, with the heat from the pavement turning my legs red, I realized that it was about time for me to start looking forward to fall.  Luckily, when I arrived home the new Vogue patterns were up on the website!  Here are my Vogue picks for fall, plus a few new Simplicities.

 

Clockwise, from top left:

Vogue 1257, DKNY – This dress looks like a wrap, but it’s not – I love mock wrap dresses, as there is no chance of wardrobe malfunction, but you get the flattering style.

1255, Rebecca Taylor – The website claims this is a dress.  I’m pretty sure it’s a tunic, but that may just be my modesty talking again.  It would look great over jeggings!  Takes a ton of fabric though, and I am pretty sure all those ruffles in a light fabric would make me crazy… but I like the looks of it!

1256, Badgley Mischka – Another mock wrap.  I’m unlikely to make this, as I don’t find the open shoulder look to be my thing, but I think it would look fabulous on!

1258, Vena Cava - The ties are cute!  I might make the skirt a bit more full, and I’m not sure about the sleeves.

Tracy Reese – The last two dresses are both by Tracy Reese, and I plan to make them both!  Her designs are full of great details, and these look stylish without being too bare.

Simplicity 2145This is obviously meant to be a copy of the Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement dress.  I love it, and I plan to make it from an ity or matte jersey.  The pattern calls for mostly wovens, but knits are way down on the list of fabrics you can use.  I’m pretty sure the original was silk jersey.

Simplicity 2154I love the vintage patterns, and this has great style.  I wouldn’t wear it all at once, but the blouse and cardigan look great!

Mccall 6408A nice variation on the waterfall jackets that have been popular lately.  I love the belt!  I didn’t care for McCall’s early fall pattern, except for this one.  I think they look kind of young, which is fine, as young sewers need patterns, but it’s not my look.

Simplicity 2150 - I love jackets, but I find them frustrating –  they never fit, and they pull/tug etc all over the place. This one, without a closure, looks great to throw on over dresses!

 

 

Aiming for healthy

I know my posting is a bit sparse right now, but I do hate to post without photos.  I also just found out that one of my very best friends has accepted a job in another state and will be moving away at the end of the month.  I’ve had two other very close friends leave for other cities in the past two years, and I’ve been feeling rather blue.  I don’t find it terribly easy to make friends – I’m both introverted and picky, a deadly combination I find!

When I quit my day job (two and a half years ago now) I was at a real low point.    Since that point, I’ve made a real effort to put myself out there, making new friends and taking control of my life.  It is important to allow myself to be who I am, rather than playing a role (something that is very easy for creative types I find, especially those of us who also act!)  As a result, I feel like I’m coping better with the bad news than I would have then, but I am still terribly sad that my friend will no longer be a part of my daily life.

So that’s what’s going on with me… sadness, but then life is full of change – my life now is so different from what I could have imagined five years ago, and I would not trade it for anything!

I would like to continue today on the issues I brought up a few weeks ago (in  sewing and body image.)  One thing that many commenters brought up was the concept of focusing on being healthy, rather than being thin.  I will confess that I was intrigued with the idea – could staying active really help me to feel better about myself?

A little background: I have always been terribly sports phobic.  I was never at all athletic, and I am absolutely the worst person to choose for a team – not only am I clumsy, but I also lack the competitive drive sports seems to bring out, and I really don’t care if I win or not.  I endured a lot of bullying in grade school, when we had to take gym nearly every day.  I remember one group of girls, in the 8th grade or so, who would regularly threaten me if I didn’t seem to be trying hard enough in that day’s sport.   Gym teachers would often call me out for being bad at things, including one memorable day in high school when the entire class got to do push-ups for an hour because I couldn’t do one properly.  Needless to say, the minute I graduated I stepped away from the gym and never went back.

I obviously have no interest in watching sports, though for some reason people will persist in trying to discuss them with me (this is much worse for my poor husband, who doesn’t care about them, but reads the scores anyway in order to have something to talk about to other men!)  So for me, the idea of exercise has always been tied up in all these issues.

When I read your lovely responses and stories, I started to consider the idea of exercise for myself.  Not competing, and not playing any actual sports, but getting out and being active (which is, after all, good for you!)  I live in a very walkable neighborhood (built before cars, there are double wide sidewalks for miles, and lots of other pedestrians… I do hate isolated walks.)  I decided that one day I would take a walk for no reason at all.  As it turned out, I really enjoyed that, so the next day I walked further, and read a bit online about how to safely pick up the pace.  I convinced my husband to join in on some evenings, and now I’m doing an hour a day, five days a week.  And you know what?  You were all right.  It does help me to feel better about myself, as I see that I can do these things!

I’ve even taken the step of visiting a few gyms, with the thought that once it gets cold I won’t be walking (I do not handle cold well!)  Some of them I didn’t like – they seemed full of the types who taunted me back in school, and had a very meat market sort of feel.   I found one that has people of a variety of ages and shapes, which seems focused on lifelong health rather than strictly losing weight or bulking up muscles (neither of which are my goal.)  I took a few of the dance oriented fitness classes, and those are really fun for me.  While I was never athletic, I have always loved to dance (I used to dance in musicals all the time!)  I mean, I’m not a super great dancer, but I can keep up.  I’m planning to join this gym in a few months, and I’m very excited about that.  Right now my goal is to just keep walking (I can’t jog, as I do have some joint issues.)

I think I’ve carried around those old fears and taunts for too long.  I don’t have to like watching sports to do this for myself!  It doesn’t make me part of the sports culture.  They are not one and the same.  I really wonder about the way that physical education is taught in the US.  It seems like there isn’t much focus on building healthy habits for life.  So many of my friends have similar stories, of taunting and exercise as punishment.  (As an aside, I also don’t recall getting much nutrition in health class either, as it was taught by the gym teachers in my school, and consisted mostly of scary videos.)

Thanks (as always!) for your lovely comments – as you can see, I do read them and take them to heart!  I’ll be back soon with crafting content – I’ve been knitting on Kirra, which has the widest back piece (at 54″, including sleeves) that I’ve ever knit – it’s quite  a lot of ribbing!

month of skirts: Skirt #2

Pattern: Simplicity 2413

Fabric: pale blue chambray, from the Lisette fabric collection at Joann’s

Notes:

I am now resorting to blurry cell-phone photos.  I promise to take some better photos once I buy a new camera, but I wanted to review this pattern while I could still remember what I did!  I had previously the skirt from view A of this pattern, which I like quite a bit.  This skirt uses the same pocket pieces, but all the others are different (my skirt has no pockets.)  I was interested in the high waist, and what looked like an easy project.

I remembered measuring the waistband for this skirt on my first make and thinking it must be wrong.  There are no waist measurements printed, a serious oversight in a skirt pattern!  I usually make a size 10 for the waist of a garment, occasionally a 12 (I don’t like a binding waistband.)  On this skirt I actually had to add length to the band, giving me around a size 14.  So be aware – the waist on this thing runs smaller than your average pattern!  It’s easy enough to fix, as the band is just a rectangle.  The other view of the pattern had pretty normal sizing, so I don’t know what was up with that.

I did not make the waist stay, and I didn’t interface.  This fabric is pretty non-stretchy, and with the band folded and slipstitched in place it’s got plenty of weight.  I trimmed 4 inches off the hemline.  I wanted to like the longer length, but I found that the chambray didn’t drape well.  In addition, I started worrying about a chambray skirt midway through – there are several local religious groups that seem to call for ladies wearing long chambray skirts, and I didn’t want anyone to ask questions, as when you wear skirts everyday you are already suspect.  I’m pretty sure that at this length I’m safe!

Overall I am pleased.  Here are my pros and cons:

Pros:

-I like the general silhouette

-the length works with heels or flats

-Should match lots of different colors.

Cons:

-Weird sizing

- the directions were rather overly complicated – I didn’t use them.

This project took two days, from cutting to wearing.  It was very quick, but then I didn’t use the pockets, and I made up the waist treatment on my own.  Recommended for those who enjoy a high waistline!

 

 

 

Two finishes: Anais and Beignet

I finally managed to get photos of my most recent projects – luckily they go well together!  I’ll talk about the skirt first, and put the sweater pattern review at the end of the post.

Pattern: Beignet from Colette patterns

Fabric: Rayon/poly/lycra blend, purchased from Gorgeous Fabrics

Notions: 12 7/8″ buttons

I first made this pattern in January 2010.  I loved that version, but to be totally honest it was never that comfortable.  The twill fabric didn’t have any give to it, and it wrinkled really easily.  I decided to make this pattern again, correcting some of the newbie mistakes I made in the original.  I chose to use a stretch woven, and I am a believer in them now!  This skirt is really comfortable – not at all like the other, and making me feel better about the concept of pencil skirts in general!

I chose to make this skirt pretty plain – no belt loops, sash, or lining.  I used self-fabric interfacing, because I didn’t want to lose the stretchy properties of the fabric.  I cut a size 6, but I ended up taking it in a bit, ending with around a size 4, give or take.

The thing that surprises me the most is how flattering it is.  I have always avoided pencil skirts, afraid of emphasizing the imbalance between top and bottom.  It may be the black effect, but I don’t think this does that at all!  It just goes to show that it’s worth trying different silhouettes.  It also shows that, as always, the voice inside your head whispering how terrible you will look in something… well, it may not be super accurate, is all I’m suggesting.  After I finished this I avoided trying it on for days because I was sort of convinced it would be awful.  I liked it so much that I immediately wore it out to dinner!

Now onto the other half of the outfit…

Pattern: Anais by Kim Hargreaves, from her book “Breeze”

Yarn: Cascade Ultra pima, 2.5 skeins

Needles: US 5 and 6

Size:  34

Notes:  I feel like this took ages, but the actual knitting time was short.  I am very easily distracted lately, and I do like to let my hands rest sometimes!  I love this sweater.  It’s exactly what I wanted – the color is rich, it stretches to fit without distorting the pattern, and it went together very easily.

I’m a big fan of Kim Hargreaves, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned about a thousand times – I think her patterns are classic yet full of pretty details.  This sweater will not date, unlike, say, the five swing style sweaters I made a few years ago!  The stitch pattern was easily memorized – after the second repeat I only had to check for shapings.

Yarn:  Love it.  Seriously, I have knit with a lot of cotton, and this is my favorite one.  It’s got a beautiful sheen, it doesn’t pill or split, and it’s soft to the touch.  The price was great for the yardage – something like $9 for 220 yards.   It didn’t hurt my hands, which is an accomplishment for cotton!  I also think it would work well for crochet, as it didn’t split, twist, or otherwise behave oddly.  I used it to seam the sweater up with no trouble at all.  I washed the sweater on the handwash cycle in my frontloader, and blocked it flat.  No pilling at all.  I wouldn’t throw it in the dryer or anything, but it isn’t super delicate.

Alterations:  The back piece is actually from the size 32.  I switched to a larger size for the front and sleeves.  I know Kim’s patterns well enough to know that I need  a larger size in the sleeves than in the back.  I also wanted to make sure that the front buttonband wouldn’t gape.  To that end, I knit both buttonbands plain, and then machine sewed my buttonholes.  Here they are:

The white stuff is leftover stabilizer, as this photo is pre-blocking.  The thread is machine embroidery thread, because it was shiny and matched the yarn.  Here is what I did, in case anyone is curious:

1. I knit an extra swatch of buttonband to practice on – you don’t want to make mistakes on your finished sweater!
2. I pinned wash away stabilizer (solvy) to both the front and back.  I measured my button and marked a buttonhole that was the length of my button plus 1/4″ (this may vary of course!)

3. I reduced the presser foot pressure to almost nothing, and sewed the buttonhole using my buttonhole foot at the automatic setting on my machine.

4. I sliced the hole open using my buttonhole chisel.

I checked that the buttonhole was the right side, and then did the same process on the actual sweater.  I followed with a good dose of fray check just to be sure!

They look nice, and they are secure.  I did cut the buttonhole threads on one hole, and had to hand satin-stitch around it to fix the error.  I would  use scissors next time for greater control.  My machine handled the knit fabric ok, though I did have to encourage the feed dogs just a bit (this is an issue with my machine on all thick fabrics, so I was expecting that.)  I read a few sources that recommended sewing the buttonhole twice for extra security.  I would love to do that, but I cannot for the life of me get the buttonhole in the same exact spot twice.

Would I do it again?  Yes, for this sort of fitted cardigan.  I hate gaping bands, and this fixed the problem.  I would not do it on a loose sweater, or anything that isn’t going to be closed all the time, as it was (no lie) a  whole lot of trouble, and no small amount of terror!

In conclusion, both patterns are recommended, and I’m thrilled with both of my new garments!