January 31, 2011

Hmm...this does not bode well.

First of all, to answer a couple of comments on the last post: Thank you! The back actually isn't as complicated as it looks, aside from the strap assembly--it's basically a lot of gathering. And yes, Gail, I was already planning on doing a hand-picked zipper. (Both the pattern and the class specifically call for it.) But thank you for the suggestion regardless!

Moving on...

I spent the afternoon and evening with my best friend, who happens to be an avid crocheter and is completely thrilled that I'm attempting a yarn craft. So, of course, I worked on knitting while she crocheted and we chatted and watched a few episodes of Doctor Who and such. Which led me to this....
It took me several failed attempts, a demonstration from my mom, and several more failed attempts to get this started. The good news is, once I got a few rows into the ribbing, the double-pointed needle thing got a LOT easier, and I was actually able to make some decent progress tonight.

The bad news is, I think I may have to start over anyway--it's hard to tell from the angle of the picture (best I could do while wearing it), but this thing is huge around my super-skinny wrist. So I suspect that doing the called-for increases at the hand area will just make this entire thing annoyingly loose overall. And since it is knitted in the round, I'm thinking I won't really know where a row begins if I only partially rip it out. :-(

I'm thinking that my best bet would be to try decreasing the amount of stitches some after the ribbing--these are meant to be long fingerless gloves, and the ribbing is a pretty good circumference for my forearm (despite the fact that I also realized I was supposed to do the ribbing one needle size down. Oops.) So I don't want to decrease the overall number of stitches right from the beginning.

Any thoughts from the knitters who might be reading this?

On the plus side, I have figured a couple of things out with this:
  • I now know how to actually get the double-pointed needles to work. At least, once it's started.
  • I also know I can make ribbing without too many headaches.
  • I think I've figured that I like working with bamboo needles a lot more than I like aluminum ones. I tried both this afternoon, and the stitches just slide off of the metal far too easily, which meant I kept dropping lots of stitches. I was having the same problem with the single-pointed needles, and ended up using the bamboo for almost the entire scarf and the entire dishcloth. So that's good to know, right?
  • And I know I like the way this yarn looks knitted up!
So at least I can chalk this up to good practice...especially if I have to rewrite this pattern to fit as I go! Though Cassie and I were chatting and she thinks I do have a bit of an advantage over her when she was first learning crochet-- even though the abbreviations are still all practically Greek to me, at least I know how to follow a pattern, thanks to a couple decades' worth of practice in sewing! (And that also makes me a lot more comfortable with the idea of having to change it.... I just wish that didn't involve starting from scratch!)

January 29, 2011

LBD progress (mostly)

As of yesterday, I think I have the bodice done, other than installing the zipper. I'm not entirely certain...I'm having a bit of paranoia that with all of the layering from the 2 layers of outer fabric, the underlining and the lining, it's not going to fit once I put the zipper in. So I think my next step is going to be to baste that in before I sew the skirt on, just to double-check the fit. Hopefully it'll be fine, but I'd rather know if I have to let it out now while it's relatively easier to fix.

Anyway, here's where it stands:
As it turns out, since I was a bit worried about the ruching in the front, it lays better when the back is closed up. So I didn't have to redo that. (Though I still wish it would work a little better at the top there....)


....and the back. The straps connecting the back to the halter lay better on me than the dummy. This is just pinned closed for now, obviously. But at least now I have some visible progress! And I suspect that adding the skirt will go fairly quickly, although I may need to work on the lining a bit. Since I ended up having to use some of that to underline the skirt as well, the lining is probably going to be several inches shorter than the actual skirt, and so I think I'm going to have to find a creative way to extend that. I'll probably be going to Joann's tomorrow to see if they have some kind of wide trim I can use.

In other news, I finished my second knitting project last night! This is one of the "Dirty Girl Washcloths" from The Chicks With Sticks Guide To Knitting. So I think I've got the purl thing down decently, as well as switching from knit to purl--a lot easier now that I know that you have to flip the yarn over the needle a different way to switch it! (I was trying to figure it out on my own one night and kept ending up with two stitches instead of one.)

I'm playing around with learning how to do a basic increase now, because the next thing I want to tackle is these handwarmers. But not with their yarn, because, you know, wool and I don't get along. So I'm going to be using this Serenity Chunky Weight yarn in Forest. Hopefully it'll turn out ok-- I actually have to figure out gauge for this one. And how to knit in the round on double-pointed needles. Oh yeah, this will be interesting.

January 26, 2011

Every snow cloud has a silver lining.

And mine was that the school I teach band at got dismissed before I had to leave my house, leaving me time to sew that I would not have had otherwise!

I took a break from the LBD today. I needed one...I'm getting frustrated with the slooooooooow progress. It actually feels like I'm making more visible progress on my current knitting project, and that's just sad. So I decided to deal with a UFO that was sitting on the table so I can rethread the serger for the Pendrell Blouse, now that the sewalong is actually at the point of sewing. Remember this Anthropologie shirt I liked? Well, here's my version....

There's definitely things that could have gone better with it. The main thing was that I didn't get a whole lot of gathering in the lower section, because I just didn't have enough fabric to pull it off. And it probably would have been better with a somewhat lighterweight, drapier knit. I chose to go with this one for the warmth factor, though, because thin knits in winter means I'd never, ever be able to actually wear it. So I angled the lower portion more to compensate.

I think this one looks more flattering on me than Donna, actually. (Good thing!) Though I still may end up taking it in a bit on the sides, because I feel like it looks kind of big on me.

The other thing was that I decided to take the easy way out and just finished all of the edges with the rolled hem on my serger. Honestly, the sleeves would not have been long enough to finish them any other way, which I'll have to remember the next time I try to use the Lydia pattern (which is what this one is based on.) I should have known they wouldn't be....

So, there. I am feeling better about my sewing again, now that I know I can say that at least I finished one project in the course of this entire month. Especially since it's looking like I may have to rip out all of the handwork I did on the dress yesterday and change some things. Sigh.

January 22, 2011

Slow show

My plan for today was to hole up in my bedroom (the warmest room in the house) and sew all day. Which was a success. I worked from approximately 10:30 this morning to about 15 minutes ago, with breaks for meals and making several cups of tea to try and appease the sore throat I've been fighting all week. And this is pretty much all I have to show for it:

That is one half of the bodice. To be fair, I do have the lining ready to sew into the second half. And there was a LOT of hand-sewing involved in this. And a lot of ripping out. The process went something like this: Sew the seam. Rip out the basting that holds the underlining to the fabric on both sides and the two pieces together from when I was fitting this. Repeat on the lining. (Plus I had to add more thread tracing on the lining anyway so I could see what I was doing.)

And then for the seams I needed to sew the lining to, I needed to catch-stitch everything to the underlining. Which in this case, was the neckline, the armhole and the upper back for both sides. And then stitch the lining in by hand, except I can't finish that yet because I still need to add the straps and allow enough room for sewing in the zipper. (Which I hope I can find, because I seem to have misplaced it somewhere in the process of dissecting the dress enough for machine sewing. Grr.)

So I only had time to stitch in one of those lining pieces, in the end. But it looks really nice going right up to the edge like that, doesn't it?

I think this project is becoming a HUGE learning experience. So I'm not sorry I'm doing it. I think I'll be able to use the underlining technique again, and this is giving me plenty of practice to improve my hand-sewing skills! But I am starting to get a bit anxious to get this together, just because it's kind of crazy that it's taken me this many hours of prep work to get just one piece of the dress not quite done. I can understand why couture pieces are so expensive now. (And if I ever put this much work into any one dress again after this, there had better be an amazing guy and a marriage license waiting for me at the end of it!)

Also, thanks for all the encouragement on my last post! I have plans to start on a new project to work on my purling skills--nothing major, just a dishcloth. But as requested, I will continue to show my progress in learning this new skill.

January 21, 2011

Success!

I finished my scarf today! Not my first one, since I had a disaster attempt back in college. There's really nothing very exciting about this scarf, since it's entirely knit stitch and made out of some worsted-weight acrylic yarn that could probably be found at any craft store. Except that it's the first scarf I ever made that actually worked. It has the same amount of stitches at the beginning that it does at the end, it didn't get wider or narrower, and I only had to rip stuff out once.

A closer-up view of the yarn-this is probably closer to the actual color. It has this one strand of variegated shinier fiber, which I like.

Since I like to name my projects, I'm going to call it my "Winter Winds" scarf, after this song, because the album it came off of ended up being my favorite musical find of last year. And the title is highly appropriate, since this is meant to keep those out. And they just look like they're having a lot of fun in the video.

Next step: learn how to purl. And maybe put the stitches on the needle myself this time. Though I think I'll try it on something smaller. Like a dishcloth.

But not yet. Since it's supposed to be insanely cold tomorrow and I have no plans to go outside of the house, tomorrow is going to be a massive sewing day on the black dress!

January 20, 2011

Nothing to show, but...

...I do have some things to tell.

#1: The Little Black Dress. I ended up turning the pleats into darts, and it looks much better. But I can't show it now because I didn't think to take pictures before finishing re-marking it and then deconstructing it for the real sewing. (Once I get the lining pieces cut out, that is. Which may or may not happen tomorrow.)

#2: The knitting thing. I'm still working on that same scarf. Though I think I probably got several inches done today, since I spent the better part of The Return of the King working on it today--movies with epic battle scenes are horrible ones to cut things out to! I'm hoping it'll be long enough soon, because I think I'm ready to move on to something else...

#3 I didn't bother taking pictures since I already showed something nearly identical, but I did make a second pair of those boot stuffer things this evening.

#4: I've also done my first full-bust adjustment! I'm doing the Pendrell Blouse Sew-along, which thankfully is moving along slowly enough that I've been able to work on that and the LBD at the same time. (In fact, other than double-checking my measurements, I really didn't have to do a thing until post #6!) I also have that cut out as of last night, so I may have something to actually show before too long.

January 17, 2011

progress update

Hey, look, a dress! Though this isn't finished by any means--far from it, in fact. This is just the completely hand-basted together version that I'm tweaking the fit on. I think I'm pretty close, although I'm having some issues in the chest area. And a bit in the waist as well. And to answer the comment that Cheryl Designs made in the last post for the muslin, yes, I do have the bra issue figured out. (Getting it to stay up, however, seems to be another issue entirely....stupid expensive strapless bra that apparently isn't working as well as it did even two months ago!)

Regarding that fitting issue--with a little help from Donna, this is what those pleats are doing. Ugh. Not a flattering side view at all. So I'm trying to figure out if I'd be better off doing stitched down pleats, or darts, or other more complicated tweaks. Hopefully Susan (the class instructor) will have an answer for me on that soon.


In other news, the scarf is coming along. Somewhat. I ended up having to rip about an inch and a half out yesterday because I discovered that somehow, I knitted a hole into it. I'm not really sure how. It is gone now, but I haven't recovered all the ground I'd previously made last night. Maybe I'll catch up a bit tonight--I'm somewhat under the weather so I'm skipping rock climbing. Also, my mother is a bad influence, because she's the one who pointed out what ended up being my first knitting book purchase when the two of us were out at Joann's yesterday. (I did not buy fabric. Just $.99 patterns. Because I need to use up that ginormous stash somehow!) Obviously, I can't make anything in this book any time soon, but this will serve as good motivation for me to actually keep working at it, because I really love several of the patterns!

Such as this one...
(The "Aethelwyne" mittens)

....and this one (the "Blackthorn" gloves--yes, those are corset-laced on top!)

And also this one (the "Tapisserie" arm warmers.) As well as several others in there. Guess I'd better keep chipping away at that scarf so I can at least move on to purl stitch, and getting one step closer to being able to actually make one of these! (Or several....after all, cold hands is a constant issue for me, especially this time of year!)

January 15, 2011

Drat.

I've spent hours and hours over the last 3 days basting all of my underlining to the outer fabric of the dress. And a big chunk of today getting the bodice all basted together.

I have to admit, the underlining process has been rather a pain. I guess I didn't really know how to handle silk organza, because it kept shifting around on me, and half of the time, the marks had disappeared before I actually got to the basting. (For the record, this was using tracing wheels and chalky pencils and that sort of thing, not disappearing markers.) If it hadn't been for that, I think it would have been ok--the crepe de chine on the skirt went much more smoothly.

Unfortunately, I can't show any pictures right now, because I basted in the zipper (into the wrong seam, because I guess it's just that kind of day), and the bodice is HUGE on me. I'm going to have to take it in all over, I think. And then re-mark all of the seams.

But I guess it's better to know now, while it's only hand-basting and easier to fix, right?

(This dress had better look really good in the end. Because right now I'm kind of frustrated with it. Can you tell?)

January 11, 2011

I like big boots and I cannot lie...

(Sorry...couldn't resist the pun.)

Anywhoo...still no word from the instructor about that muslin, so I went ahead and did a quickie project.

I really do like my big tall boots. I started wearing them somewhere in the vicinity of the end of high school/beginning of college, and they've been my go-to winter shoe ever since. And I have to buy some pretty pricey ones in order to fit my oddly-sized feet (note to shoe manufacturers: extra-wide feet does not automatically equal extra-wide calves), so I pretty much literally wear them until they fall apart. (Actually, the first pair I got, I still have even though there's holes in the sole of the heel-- I've used them as my pirate costume boots with a little help from some self-stitched gaiters, and also as riding boots one summer that I took lessons, between my two years of grad school.) So this is to help them last a little longer, because they flop over at the ankles when I put them back in the closet after a day.

I got the idea from a recent post at Craft Apple, and it was really simple to sew--basically just an open-ended tube that's stuffed and tied. And everything was stuff I had on hand: the fabric was from my scrap bin that I put together in last week's organization binge, the cording was left over from lacing up the back of one of my Lord of the Rings-inspired costumes, and the stuffing actually busted an entire piece from my stash! I had almost a yard of this canary-colored fleece that I think was given to me for free, because I can't think of any reason I would have bought it. And I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. So I chopped the entire piece into smaller bits and used that to stuff these. It might sound kind of wasteful, but in a way it was actually pretty practical--if I ever need to clean these since they're inside my shoes, I can just untie the bags, dump all the stuffing into a mesh laundry bag and it's completely machine-washable. And like I said, I couldn't think of anything I'd actually sew out of it anyway. So there.One yard down, a thousand to go. Or something like that.

I'll make a second set at some point-- I have brown boots that are even older than these and also need some love. And I think I have just enough of the batik print left for a second pair. So I just need to figure out what to stuff it with. Maybe that yard of royal blue fleece that I'm also not sure what to do with...

Almost there!

So here's the muslin for my little black dress now. Not entirely what it's going to look like, since the armhole curves aren't quite tucking in with the ginormous seam allowances, and the midriff part is going to have a gathered piece over top of it. Plus the skirt was only pinned up roughly when I took the pics. (I stuck it on Donna and marked it/chopped it to a more reasonable length afterward.) But I think the fit is pretty good now! I'm amazed that I had to do so little to the bodice, actually--had to do a bit of tweaking where it hit the midriff to get it to stop gapping, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the neckline was pretty much perfect as it was. I thought for sure I'd have to raise it, but as long as it's not gapping, it's good.

And these back straps are pretty awesome, actually. I really like that. (Please ignore the unsightly blob in the bottom of the picture-- as you can see, I was resting it on my shoulder to take the picture in the mirror, and obviously I somewhat missed.)

So that's where things stand on my dress now-- I'm waiting to get the go-ahead from the class instructor before I move on to phase 2, which is going to be making this muslin into a pattern/marking everything on the underlining/ basting all of that to the actual fabric. As soon as I figure out which side of the fabric I actually want to use--there's a matte side and a more shiny side to it. (I'd take pictures, but you know, black fabric never shows up right.) I'm actually thinking the matte side just so I can more easily make it work with the dress it up/dress it down thing, but I do love shiny things... And I also need to figure out just what, exactly, I'm going to underline the skirt with. I'm not sure it will have the right drape if I use the silk organza, but I'm also not sure I have enough of the silk crepe de chine that I got for the lining to use that.

The cotton/silk blend washed up wonderfully--it's SO soft to the touch! I think I'm going to end up with some leftovers from it, because even though when I laid out the pattern on the muslin to estimate the yardage, and didn't attach the lower piece of the long skirt, I didn't realize that the skirt was going to be quite so long as is. So I ended up chopping at least 8 or 9 inches off of the muslin! I'm hoping that maybe I have enough left over to make myself some kind of sleeveless blouse from the rest, because I suspect it would be wonderful to wear in the summer!

I just may have to do some kind of quickie project this afternoon, though, because I have some time to sew and I don't want to waste it on waiting!

January 8, 2011

I think maybe I have too much fabric.

My big project for this week has not actually involved sewing-- I spent several hours throughout the week and the majority of today measuring, sorting, re-folding and cutting samples of every piece of fabric I have. (Meaning actual yardage, not the biggish scraps that are too big to throw away but too small to bother recording.) Grand tally: 8 overflowing bins of fabric (not even including the stuff I got for the little black dress class, which was washed and dried this afternoon and is now sitting on the sewing machine table), 2 big bins full of clothes to refashion, one bin of muslin and old bedsheets to use as muslin, one bin of larger remnants and one bin of smaller scraps that are still too big to throw away. So that's 13 bins full of stuff. Wow. I didn't think it was that bad.

Needless to say, I think I could probably easily go for the next 3 years at least without buying fabric and still have plenty left to sew. I've gotta use some of this up. In fact, since it's still early enough in the year that I haven't actually sewed anything other than my dress muslin (still in progress-- I was hoping to do more with it today, but I think that's going to have to wait for tomorrow), I just might try and keep track to see just how much I can use up this year. If I could knock out at least an entire bin's worth of stuff and manage to not add to it, that would be pretty great.

And thanks for all the feedback on my last post! There were good points on both sides. At the moment, I'm giving knitting a go, namely because my mom could show me how to do it and get it started for me. Plus with a sister-in-law and two close friends who crochet, figured it might be good to do something else! (Particularly since Julia and Cassie both seem to like crocheting things for me as gifts.) So I'm borrowing a set of Mom's knitting needles and using a ball of yarn from her stash. So far, I'm at around 20" of a knit-stitch-only scarf, and it looks like it's staying about the same width. Which is a huge improvement over my last knitting attempt, which was somewhere in the vicinity of college and resulted in a scarf that was at least twice as wide at the end I finished than the end I started with. (No pictures yet, since I don't have time to take them, and it's not really that exciting-looking at the moment.) I've also discovered that knitting works way better than reading when I'm on the exercise bike here--it's a recumbent one, meaning an actual chair with pedals in front, and it's easier for me to do the knitting than to try to hold the book steady enough to actually read the words.

But if this actually takes, I'm really going to try to stick with only purchasing yarn for projects as I actually need them. Because I don't need any more bins of stuff.

Edit, 1/26: Just for the heck of it (and morbid curiosity), I just added up the numbers. According to my notebook, I was in possession of approximately 273 yards of fabric. That number isn't entirely accurate now, since I've cut up several yards since then for the LBD and a few other things. But, WOW. I wonder if it would be a reasonable goal to try to knock at least a hundred yards off of this list? Because that's kind of ridiculous! (At least I didn't actually buy all of it...there was a pretty big chunk added from the free stuff I got just before Christmas.)

January 5, 2011

A little thinking is a dangerous thing...

Assuming that the annual war between winter weather and my social life doesn't recommence, I'm going to be spending the evening on Friday hanging out with my sis-in-law, a mutual friend and some of her friends for a crafty night. And I've been scrambling for something to do--I've found that jewelry and scrapbooks require hauling too much stuff, and I don't always have handwork to do on my sewing projects.

I'm doing something unheard of...I'm seriously wondering whether I need to give knitting or crocheting another chance. Just to have something for crafting on the go. Because this is always an issue when those situations come up.

I know a lot of you out there do both... any recommendations on which one, if any, I should attempt again? I know knitting only has two stitches and crochet has a lot, but my crocheting friends tell me knitting is harder to learn. I will gladly take any feedback you all have!

January 3, 2011

Oooh, look at the pretties!

I am sewing. In fact, I spent most of today and most of Friday sewing. But Friday was a long, tedious pile of thread-tracing on every single muslin pattern piece that I have for the Little Black Dress class, and today was a far less tedious run of stitching said muslin together. So I do have a complete dress muslin....
As you can see, it needs a lot of tweaking, since many parts of it are just hanging off of me. On the plus side, I think the neckline is actually the perfect depth, which is pretty amazing because I thought for sure I'd have to make it higher. But it doesn't look too low-cut at all.

However, this is not exciting sewing to be examining right now, so I'm going to show off my latest additions to my fabric stash instead!

This is what I got for Christmas. Everything, except for the leafy print in the lower left-hand corner, is a knit. (I think the leaf print, which is kind of a suedeclothy-microfiber sort of thing, is actually going to be the hardest one to figure out what to do with it--I'm thinking maybe a skirt. Though I'm not totally sold on it. Hopefully something good, because I like that print a lot!) Oh, serger, how I miss you.... I wish the shop would call me and tell me how long it is until I can have you back and functional...

I also got some free fabric recently--the sister of someone from church recently moved to the area and passed a lot of fabric on to her, so she gave it to my mom, and my mom let me raid it for things that would not work in quilts. The best score, hands-down, was this black and white embroidered cotton. (There's also a dark brown pinstripey thing (with a subtle hint of glitter in the stripe) and some embroidered dyed-looking linen-looking stuff. And there were several other pieces as well, but since those were pretty much solids, these were the highlights.

All the more reason for me to tackle reorganizing and cataloging my stash! But not tonight...tonight, I go to attempt to burn off some cookies on the rock wall. And hopefully get home in time for my little black dress class chat. In fact, I should leave for that, um, now...