Archive | Projects RSS feed for this section

Why, yes, I *have* made a jumper!

26 Mar

I finished a sweater I’ve been working on for almost two years. It’s from Susan Crawford’s book A Stitch in Time, one of my favorite knitting pattern books, where old sweater patterns of many vintages are reworked for modern yarn weights, clothing size, and with more complete, specific instructions. The one I’ve been working on has the beguiling title of “Have you Made a Jumper Yet?”

So although it sure took me long enough, I can know say with certainty that I most definitely have.

This has been a lot of knitting–and crochet. About half of this is crochet, the lacework panels on waist, sleeves, and around the neck. I’d say it’s about half and half. And on size 3 needles, well, it takes a whole lot of stitching to make fabric, and it’s a fairly loose, flowing design, so there’s a lot of fabric to it.

I love how it turned out. I especially like how the 1920’s flavor came through, it looks properly vintage. I also like the way the yarn (Elsebeth Lavold’s “Silky Wool”) worked up, the varying nature of the crochet and knit together. The crochet is flatter, more stiff, while the knit parts are drapey and luxuriously springy, with more stretch to the fabric. (I converted it from stockinette to moss stitch, and I love the texture of moss stitch in vintage patterns.)
This has been such a major project, and it has been on the needles for so long that I admit, finishing it, I am a bit at a loss. What to knit, next? How can I sit down to watch a movie or television show, with no “Knitted Jumper” to slave away at on teeny tiny needles?  (Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll find something.) 🙂

I do think this has been one of my most intensive knit projects ever. (I call it “knit” even though it’s half crochet. That’s another thing I like about old-fashioned patterns, there’s less of a divide between the two crafts, and they often appear companionably in tandem with one another.)

There are a few more pictures over on my Ravelry page, for knitting-inclined people.

The “Easiest Skirt in the World” ventures out into the world.

22 Mar

Sure, it’s all well and good, when it’s just a crazy zig-zagged fabric in the upholstery store, destined to make over some unwitting beach house deck chair. But when you buy it and bring it home and make clothing out of it, you gotta wonder, “can this upholstery fabric really enjoy civilian life on the street?”

I say, when the sun is out strong in March, and the whole world is blooming unabashedly early, that the answer is decidedly YES:

Shifting Biases

21 Mar

Since I took project photos as I made my silk skirt, I’ll post them, here, with step-by-step directions.

You could use any fabric with a significant nap, directional print, stripe, or texture running along the grain line.  (Note that I didn’t make up this idea, I saw a ready-made garment that had a similar feature.)

1) I started with a basic A-line skirt pattern, which I make as a front plus a back with a size zip. I also usually use a simple waist facing, as well, although on this one I chose an elastic binding for the waistband.  This is a skirt style I have made dozens of times, so I usually just trace one of the many skirts in my closet and make a few adjustments based on how long I want it this year, or whether I need an inch added to or taken in at the waist.

My basic skirt pattern looks like this:

(Curved waist, curved hem, flared from waist to hem but not hugely so.)

2) I cut my pattern in half, and then half again, to make strips. You could make as many strips as you like of your basic skirt shape.

3) I drew new grain lines on each piece, at a 45-degree angle from the vertical, each “slice” alternating in the opposite direction from the one next to it.

4) I used these markings to lay out my new pattern pieces, all the grain lines running in the same direction, and lined up with the grain of the fabric.

I drew my pattern without seam allowances, and then added seam allowances before I cut. Make sure you’ve given yourself not only adequate seam allowances, but also an edge to work with at both the hem and the waist, depending on how you like to do hems and waistbands.

5) Now you put the pieces back together to create a front and a back. I used flat-felled seams to join each segment, and I like these step by step instructions.

6) After sewing all your strips back together, you have a front and back of your basic skirt pattern.

See how the light hits the sheen of each slice of fabric slightly differently?  That’s the variation I was going for, that makes it all worth while.  Now you can just sew your skirt together (right sides together, sew up at the sides, insert a side zipper if that’s your style—you can add pockets, too. Then the waistband and hem. The waist can be a casing with elastic, or a turned-in facing, or I used a fold-over elastic.)

Here you can see how the grain meets up at the seams, creating a nice zigzag effect across the fabric:

The Easiest Skirt in the World (x2)

19 Mar

I’m the queen of cheap and easy sewing projects. If there’s a fun fabric around and I can make it wearable, in garment form, in an hour or less, I’m going to go for it. This weekend I found some fun printed upholstery fabrics at my local shop that suggested immediate and simple fashions with barely any effort required.

There’s no garment more simple to sew than an elastic-waisted skirt, and I’ve found that if I skip the casing and buy elastic that can serve as a waistband, unattended, I can simplify the “simple” even farther. This skirt takes only four seams to make, and requires no measuring.


3/4 yard fabric of choice

1 yard (or waist measurement length) 2 1/2″ wide elastic



1) zigzag the top edge of your fabric

2) cut the elastic to be just long enough to fit around your waist and sit comfortably, slightly stretched, at just the height you want to wear your skirt.

3) fold the elastic in half and mark the center with a pin. Then fold each half in half, and mark each quarter point with a pin. Fold each segment in half once more, and pin for each 1/8 point. Then, repeat the same process along the top edge of your fabric.

4) You will now have the same number of pins in both your elastic and along the top edge of your fabric. Pin the elastic to the top edge of your fabric, overlapping the zigzagged edge by 1/2″, and matching up elastic pins to fabric pins.  Because your fabric is longer than the elastic, the fabric will bunch up between each pin.

5) Sew both layers together, stretching the elastic so that it goes through your sewing machine smoothly right on top of the fabric beneath it. Sew close to the edge of the elastic. The stretch will created a “gather” in the fabric.

This is what it looks like, front and back, when you have finished:


If you have trouble holding the elastic stretched while sewing, you can also run two rows of straight stitches along the zigzagged edge of the fabric (no backtracking) and gather it, first, and then pin it to the elastic, already gathered. Pin, and sew that in place.

6) Sew the side seam: with right sides together, pin the ends of the elastic together, and the sides of the fabric. Sew a 1/2″ seam across the ends of the elastic and all the way along the fabric. I sew back and forth across the ends of the elastic several times, to secure it strongly.  Press seam open.

7) Try on your skirt. Trim your skirt to the desired length, and hem it. I turn up and press a narrow edge along the bottom of the skirt (1/4″) and then turn up and press another 1/4″, folding the raw edge inside. I use the blind-hem setting on my sewing machine to stitch it in place. You can also just top-stitch it. Press seam.

In addition to being easy, depending on the fabrics you find, these can also be really cheap. I paid less than $10 for each of the skirts pictured here.


I also feel I was a little influenced, this day, shopping, by the fact that the Anthropologie catalog came in the mail that morning. I might have been slightly more in the mood for “spring prints” as I embarked, because of the layered patterns and textures I saw there.

After a long, long, wait: Cream Silk

18 Mar

I don’t have much of a fabric stash, particularly not considering how long I’ve been sewing. I usually buy fabric intended for specific projects, even if my intention arises right there on the spot. I buy fabric with a specific garment in mind, even if I don’t yet know the pattern.

Which is what I did nearly 15 years ago, when I bought two pieces of dupioni silk, one a very pale tan and one a blush pink, with pintucks.  I thought I’d make either a simple skirt or a shift dress, something smooth and straight, and then a little pink bolero jacket  to wear over it.  And that’s exactly what I continued thinking, for years and years, every time I saw the fabric on its shelf (or packed it into a box and moved it from one house to another). I couldn’t decide if it should be just a skirt, or a full dress. And I couldn’t decide which specific pattern to use to make it, either way…and so I didn’t make anything.

Until this week, when I decided the reason I couldn’t decide between a skirt and a dress was because I actually wanted both. And that I had enough fabric to pull it off, in a way.

I made skirt with just bit of texture, and a simple shell top, so that they could be worn together or separate, and used with other garments for infinite layering possibilities.

I used my basic A-line skirt pattern and divided into sections and cut it cross-grain, so that the slub and texture of the dupioni catches the light with just enough variation to give the simple shape some slight variation.

You can see that “shifting biases” effect best in this picture from my workroom. The sunlight outdoors floods out the variation in shading from the fabric’s nap. Also, you can see here that I finished the waistband very simply, with just a row of fold-over velvet elastic. The skirt has a side zip, and then the elastic smooths it off at the top. (I haven’t cut into the pink, yet, but I know just what I’m going to do with that, now, too!)

I used my “Wear the Shift” dress pattern for the top, and simply cut it off at the waist for a basic, sleeveless sheath-style blouse.  I think the two pieces together work well as a background when I want to feature hand-knitted layers.

This is my “Sophia” cardigan, from one of my very favorite pattern books, French Girl Knits. Which actually makes this yet another “head to toe handmade” outfit…a thing I am finding more common, these days, three months into this project.

Déjà Vu

13 Mar

Fabric shopping.
My eye is caught by a bright green lacy Indian cotton eyelet, with border scallops.  It’s available in about 40 colors. Many of them are beautiful colors, tan, rose, deep red, brown, navy– but my eye keeps going back to that green. Why? It’s not a color that looks great on me…but the color makes me happy. It’s bright, and cheery. I impulse buy 1 1/2 yards–it’s not expensive, and “I can make a skirt out of that.” (That’s my default fabric buying excuse. I can always easily make and wear one more skirt.)

Plus, if I make a skirt out of that, I’ll wear it with some other color that looks better on my skin, next to my face. (Yes. I rationalize. But that green!)

At home, I pin the fabric to my dummy. (I’m calling her “Long Tall Sally”, because that’s the song that popped into my head one day when I walked into my sewing room and saw her standing there.)

It looks good, but looking at it, I realize that I’ve been down this path, before. Why, yes–I might have been seduced by citrus green fabric with an embroidered scalloped border design, before, in my sewing lifetime. Even, before, thought the same thought: “I can make a skirt out of that!”

And indeed, it turns out, I can, and I already did.

(vintage “handmade mess” sewing project, circa 2000.)

Why, look at that.

Apparently, it is a color for which I have a lifelong affinity, particularly when there are little stitched-on leaves and flowers. And my go-to solution is to put it in a skirt, where it won’t be next to my face.  So I’m rethinking my plans for this fabric. How many scalloped-edged, lacy green skirts does a person need?  (Stay tuned to find out what becomes of this year’s length of lace…)

Uniquely Me

9 Mar

Thinking about The New Butterick Dressmaker‘s formula for making a dress form (“on which you can try your clothes as you make them”), I found two commercially available dressmaker’s dummies that function this way, today. One is the “Fabulous Fit”, where one starts with a smaller-sized dress form and builds it up with “contoured pads” (which beats 1927’s “tissue paper, cotton rags, or wadding”, in my opinion). The other is the “Uniquely You”, which has two components, a polyurethane foam body that comes in various sizes, and then a canvas cover, much like the 1927 Butterick guide’s “close-fitting lining reaching down to the hips, cut from unbleached muslin, natural-colored linen, duck or similar material of firm, strong quality so that it will not stretch.”  Basically, just like in the 1927, the “Uniquely You” has you fit this linen lining very closely to your body, and then pull it over the foam base, where instead of wadding and rags, the pressure of the foam fills it out. The “Fabulous Fit” does much the same thing, with their own patented contours.
Either way, one results with a form the same shape and dimensions of your body, and either way, it sounds like the system has been helpfully standardized for the modern era. The Fabulous Fit is available in sizes up to a 43 1/2″ hip, where the Uniquely You is in sizes up to 51″.   Since there is also a considerable cost difference between the two, I went with the “Uniquely You” for my first trial at a custom-fitted dress form.

It arrived very quickly!  I’ve read about the…um, supremely curvacious form of these foam bodies, before squishing into their canvas linings, and I was looking forward to checking it out in person.  Happily, shipping was incredibly fast, and my “mini-me” did not disappoint.

Er, wait, it’s full sized…so I can’t call it a “mini-me”. “Headless, armless me” perhaps?   The feminine, limbless but soon-to-be-well-dressed body that has begun occupying my sewing room. It probably needs a name.

Customizing it is a quite interesting project in its own right. The instructions warn that the fitting process is quite different from fitting a regular garment, so follow the instructions “no matter how much experience you have had as a dressmaker.” I’m okay with starting from basic steps, so I think this might become quite fun.

Continue reading

Let there be trousers

4 Mar

After playing around with my odd, tight-yet-baggy, marker-ridden muslin pants some more, I decided to return to my green pants (Butterick 6833). They fit well enough to wear out in the world, after all. I decided to use those as an already-started “muslin” to  experiment with.  I was intrigued by Connie Crawford’s “flat tush adjustment”, which is about 1000x simpler than comparable “flat butt adjustments” found here and there on the internet. It seemed like a good place to start, and if it didn’t work, I could easily rip out the seam and return the pants to their previous shape.

I liked it.

And so I proceeded to sew an entirely new pair of pants, using the same pattern, that one adjustment, and adding a partial lining (to reduce visible panty line, and to protect my delicate flesh from the hard metal teeth of the side zipper.)

They look like this:

Although I may just be the last woman in the developed world to discover my pants don’t fit, and trying to make pants that do might be a bit of a sewing-blog cliche, I’m posting all different views of my new trousers, anyway, toward getting better at making them fit.

Continue reading