Friday, June 23, 2017

New Look 6209 -- Sheath Dress

One can never go wrong with an animal print, that's what I say. Well, sometimes things can go wrong, but in this case, I'm happy with the outcome. This is a sheath dress from New Look 6209. My fabric is a stretchy woven cotton blend. The print is reversible -- one side is black with tan "spots" and the other side is tan with black spots. I decided to do a vague sort of color blocking by using the black background for the top yoke and the side sections. The color transition isn't that obvious, which surprised me.

The stretchy fabric is nice because it allows for a closer fit and I even got away with omitting the back zipper. I cut the pattern a little bit larger to start, especially around the waist area, and I ended up doing a lot of trimming to size it just right. I adjusted each of the seams bit by bit until I got the fit I wanted. This pattern is really good for doing that. The center front panel also has two small horizontal bust darts which I've never seen before. Those two little create a really good fit at the bust line. I think it's a great basic sheath pattern. It doesn't call for a lining, but I didn't need it with this medium weight fabric.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Vacay Photos from Miami, Miami Beach and the Florida Keys

I thought I'd share a few photos from my recent vacation to Miami, Miami Beach, and the Florida Keys. Miami and Miami Beach is a large metropolitan area that's difficult to drive in even with a GPS, but it has a certain edgy, artsy, worldly vibe. The Florida Keys, and especially Key West, definitely have their own form of laid back charm.

This first photo shows the front of the Wolfsonian Museum in Miami Beach, which is a design museum. The murals are left over from an exhibit of Dutch design.

Here's a classic scene of the beach in South Beach, Miami Beach.

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Miami is Little Havana. It's a thriving area with great art galleries and colorful chicken sculptures everywhere.

Back at Miami Beach, we checked out the very impressive Holocaust Memorial.

The next five photos are scenes from the Everglades National Park, including my arm with some sort of giant colorful cricket.

We had lunch at the lovely Morada Bay Beach Cafe in the heart of Islamorada Keys.

This photo is of a funky shop with arts and crafts on Islamorada Keys.

This is a view of the harbor from our hotel room at the Margaritaville Resort and Marina on Key West.

The Hemingway House on Key West has tons of six-toed cats. The cats have their own staff.

There are also wild chickens everywhere on Key West.

Here's a cruise ship coming in for a landing. The view is from Fort Zachary Taylor State Park beach.

A colorful shop building in Key West.

We stayed one night on Key Largo. This is the sunset from our hotel beach.

Back in Miami, we checked out the arts district with its galleries and this great outdoor public art.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sewing: V1530 - Dress for Spring and Summer

This is Vogue Patterns V1530. I love this dress with all its subtle detalils, although it took a bit of fussing to get the fit right. First off, I love the fabric, which are two different colors of this stretch cotton/linen chambray that I got from denverfabrics.com This is the yellow/pink color and this is the olive/black color. I'd buy more of this stuff if they had other colors available. I bought them on a whim because I'm always on the lookout for a good cotton/linen blend. They turned out to be great fabrics with a soft hand, great texture and weight, with the perfect amount of stretch for a woven. Also, the two colors looked great together. Winning!

I made quite a bit of small adjustments for the fit. I'm not including the photo here, but I did make the blouse version version to get an idea of the fit. The pattern says it is loose-fitting, which was fine for the blouse, but too loose for a stretch woven dress. I added these slanted front darts, some back darts, and took in the back seam a bit. I knew the slanted side seams would be difficult to adjust when completed with the trim so I sewed them with a basting stitch and tried on just the dress body without the yoke to check the fit and then re-sewed with the trim. It turns out I didn't need to adjust those seams because the darts were good enough.I trimmed away about 3/4" from the capped sleeves because they covered too much of my upper arms and seemed too large.

The details that I love most are the front hole, the slanted side seams, and the cross-over back yoke pieces. The upper yoke back required more adjustment that I thought it would. Having two back yoke pieces made it easier to fit after I narrowed the back seam a bit, but I still couldn't get as perfect and smooth a fit as I would have liked.

Here's a photo of the inside of the top front section. The pattern instruction for making the hole was far to complicated for me. What I did was wait until the yoke was complete and then sewed the hole with a piece of facing on the outside front. I then cut the hole and turned the facing to the inside. I machine edge-stitched the hole instead of the hand stitching method in the pattern. Also, you can see that I used a wide facing piece for the top of the dress body instead of a half-lining. My fabric is thick enough not to require lining, and it's hard to find a suitable stretchy lining. A lot of folks use tricot lining but I've never liked it's slimy texture and it never feels good against the skin in hot weather. And one final note -- I just sewed my side seam bands in place and did not use any of the fusing techniques in the pattern.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Kakasu Shawl

This is the Kakasu Shawl pattern. I'm not a big fan of shawl knitting, since I don't really like to wear them. However, this one is more of a capelet style which I think I can deal with. Also, I bought some Rowan kidsilk haze yarn on sale at 50% off and I've always wanted to knit some kind of project using kidsilk haze. It's a pain to knit with, but I sort of got used to it. I tried about 4 different types of needles before finding a circular one that I liked with just the right amount of smoothness in the wood along with a smooth join to the cord. It still took longer to knit than other garments with the same amount of yarn.

My version has a different look and feel from the pattern's version. My yarn gives it a much more ethereal look and I don't have stripes to show off the wedges. Since I don't have stripes, I added some eyelets at the last row of each wedge to show off the shape. At the bottom edge, I slipped the first stitch on every row to give it a smoother finish. At the neckline, I added a neckband in garter stitch that is folded over to the inside for a double thickness. You can't see them in the photos, but I also added a few beads to the neckband. Finally, I added 8 rows of garter stitch at the start and finish to form borders for the front edges.

Here's a photo of the shawl laying flat. It's not a full circle, but it's close.

I'm quite happy with the finished product. It's remarkably warm and I think I can wear this as a cover-up with dressier clothing.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sewing: Vogue V9114 Skirt

This is the skirt version of Vogue Patterns V9114, sewn in a light-medium weight cotton fabric. I quite like this skirt. It's very comfy to wear and reminds me of something that would appear in a period piece show, although I'm not exactly sure what era it fits into. The pattern is really easy to sew up. One large pattern piece is used for both the front and back pieces of the skirt. There's a waistband piece used to encase some elastic, and some ties that are sewn onto the inside. Those ties are what give the skirt the folds and the shaping. I did make one small change. The pattern has the side bottom parts of the skirt coming to sharp triangular points and that just looked too long and draggy on me. I cut off the tips of the triangles so the bottom sections are trapezoidal and don't hang as low. I also shortened mine by about 1.5 inches, but that's normal for me since I'm relatively short.

All in all, it's a fun skirt to wear. There is quite a bit of fabric at the bottom, so if you're going to make it, I would suggest using a fairly light weight fabric. Otherwise, I think the skirt would just be too heavy both in how it feels and how it looks.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Sewing: Linen top

This is a linen top made from a highly modified Vogue Pattern V1247, which is now out of print.

I've sewn this pattern probably 10 times by now because I really liked the tops I made but I tweaked the pattern every time to make it more wearable or easier to sew. I think I've achieved the final version -- the pattern has been modified so much that every piece has been re-drafted and I also have fewer pieces. Here's what I remember as all the changes I've made:

  • I got tired of the cuffs so I removed then and shortened the quasi-sleeves which are just an extension of the bodice.
  • I raised and narrowed the neckline a bit.
  • The original pattern has three pieces for the lower front bodice and I changed it to just one slightly curved piece. This makes it much easier to sew and I never liked the bias aspect of the center lower piece. The curving of my new piece makes it flare out a bit.
  • I like the draping of the top but it was always a bit too baggy so I added 2 darts to my new lower front piece and 2 corresponding pleats to the upper front bodice. This brings in the front fullness just a bit.
  • I shortened the length a bit.
  • I use bias tape to finish off the sleeve openings, the neckline and the bottom. The front and side seams are sewn as french seams.
This should be a really nice top for summer. I bought the linen from Fabrix in San Francisco, and it's a really lightweight fabric with a moderately crisp feel.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sigma Tee

This is the Sigma Tee from summer Knitscene 2011. I used Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy, which is one of my favorite yarns for summer tops. It's very durable and comfortable in warmer weather. I wanted to add some interest to the body of the sweater so I did two rows of dropped double yarn-overs near the hem. The dropped stitch effect is not the same look as the opening from the dropped stitches at the raglan, but I liked the idea of a similar look that adds to the casual style of the sweater.

The neckline finishing is a double layer ribbed section that folds in on the inside and is sewed down at the neckline. That wasn't the original plan. I originally wanted some sort of ribbed collar that folds outward and flares out some, sort of like a narrow mini cowl neckline, but that just wasn't working so I turned the extra fabric to the inside and sewed it down.

This pattern had been in my queue for a while, and I liked it because of those raglan dropped stitches. However, after knitting it, those dropped stitches were a big problem because they caused the raglan area to stretch and grow. It was fine when I first tried on the sweater, but as time went on and the dropped stitches "settled", the underarm upper bust area got bigger and saggier and the sweater gave this look of ginormous bags hanging from my armpits. Not attractive at all. My theory is that the dropped stitches are loose and don't give any body to that area of the sweater. It might have been better with a woolen yarn, but it doesn't work with the plant fiber yarns that can stretch a garment even in the best of circumstances. I tried several fixes and the final solution was to use a crochet hook to add a series of slip stitches all along the purl bumps on the inside to all the stitches that are just outside of the dropped stitches. This tightened everything up and also prevents any further stretching. It's not perfect, but the underarm bags are much smaller andI think they look worse in the photos than in person.

The rest of the sweater has a slightly loose fit that drapes well. Let's hope the raglan area stays put so that I can get some wear out it!