26 February, 2015

Kay and her amazing knitting machine

Kay the Sewing Lawyer and I enjoyed an afternoon together this week chez elle (thank you, Kay), and I came away just blown away by her new toy, the Passat knitting machine.

Being a total sci and tech nerd, I love to see excellent engineering in action.  The inventiveness and engineering that goes into the idea of knitting by machine, and then getting this idea translated into a piece of technology suitable for a home environment footprint is pretty staggering.  My hat off to the Swiss that made this toy, and, I found out once I got home, are STILL making it, now computerized as are so many of our everyday use items:  sewing machines... sergers....

Kay's machine dates from the 1980s, so it's strictly manual, and not even electric.  As I understand it, all stitch and tension changes are done by  turning just four dials on the two green panels of the travelling head, and all knitting is done by pushing the head, using the handle on the front panel, back and forth across the bed.

In an eyeblink - a minute, no more - Kay knitted up a "little" example of about 40 x 4 cm for me, in a thick double stitch.  Pretty amazing, I thought - but then she showed me this swatch:

This was done using two very thin yarns, but in all cases except the very top and bottom bands, the stitching oops my slip is showing, knitting, is so complex that you get a very lofty, thick, doubleknit, in gorgeous patterns.  I love the idea of a thick knit using thin yarn, because it results in such a springy, air-trapping, warm cloth.

Way to go, Kay - methinks it's time to rename yourself as the "Knitting and Sewing Lawyer"?

21 February, 2015

Experiment! Triangle drape dress, take one.

I'm trying to shift my sewing to a

more adventurous, more exploratory  mode.  I've plenty of jackets now, so it's time.

For a long time now I've been interested in draping.  My first self-drafted attempt is this super-easy triangle dress from Studio Faro.

Triangle?  The pattern piece is actually a pentahedron (or a tetrahedron if you ignore the neckline) - a bit of geometric pedantry here, sorry!

The tape lies along CF, but this is completely misleading,
In a knit, the side lies on SG fold
In a woven, the side is on a bias fold


and the look of the finished product isn't triangular either:

Since I'm short, I drafted my pattern piece narrower and shorter than suggested.  I was a bit worried that all that fabric would overwhelm me if it went far below my knees. So, it's short - a tad above my comfort zone. But despite that, it does have that interesting bit of draping over the hips, which was the whole idea in the first place.   

How did it work out?  Pretty well for a first try.  A bit of trial and error was in order with the shoulder seaming, to make the peekaboo effect visible, and to make the "armscye" of the shoulder seam comfortably wide for my arm.

How do I feel about it?  I like it!  It'll be a great beach cover-up, and perfect for a walk along the shore, be it in southern California or somewhere overlooking the Mediterranean...

....and it's absolutely perfect for a bit of GWN summer fun when the temps rise to a balmy -5C: Our white beaches are to die for.... and the "sand" sticks together so well....

All in all, a perfect experiment.  I bought 2 m of a lightweight poly knit for this experiment, and have enough left over for either a conventional slip-on dress or a long sleeved tee.  I'm already planning the next iteration.  The pattern piece has been widened about 7 cm along the shoulder seam and lengthened by 10 cm. At first I though of bias-cut silk chiffon, but have since reconsidered, and will attempt it in a simple rayon knit.  So stay tuned!

Experiment! Cole Porter's marvellous nod to all scientists, rendered beautifully by Kevin Kline in the 2004 film De-Lovely: 

14 February, 2015

Black matelasse skirt suit: it's the bomb!

Back to regular programming!  Whew - those itty bitty little booties really took me out of my comfort zone.

My black wool matelasse (wool-nylon blend from Mood), outfit is done, done, and done.  You already saw the blouse I made to go with it. The fabric is super interesting - not nearly as wooly as a wool bouclé, but not smooth like a rayon-poly or cotton matelasse or jacquard. It's a solid black, but the shiny parts reflect light, making them appear greyer in photos, which creates tons of texture. It looks flocked, but isn't:  that texture is created by thick wooly threads woven right in.

I chose Vogue 7975, as  I'd just "revised" my red bouclé  Chanel jacket, so the pattern was at hand.  I'd used it twice before, for the red Chanel, and also my brown-shot-with-blue-and-gold cashmere one.  This time, I was determined to see if I could finally and once for all  make it my own, turn it into a TNT straight out of the envelope.  

Hah!  Does the phrase "hoist by her own petard" (see bottom of post for the ultimate example) say anything to you?  Influenced by a friend (yes I'm looking at YOU, you know who you are!!!), I decided to make a petite alteration above the bust. It's a salutary tale of two different bodies: for her, a perfect move. For me, not so great. What it did was make the armscye tight, and I had to enlarge it back to its original size.  I'm slowly coming to the realization that the correct petite alteration for me - I do need it, since I'm a shortie - is just below the armscye, across the back to the side seam and tapering to nothing at the bust point.  N-e-e-e-e-xt time.....

Successful alterations, anyone?  I wanted a working and visible sleeve vent, so split the upper sleeve in half.  I also wondered about Claire Shaeffer's new Chanel jacket variation, V8804, in which she places the front upper sleeve on a slight bias.  So I did that too: 

I don't think that made any functional difference to the sleeve, but then again, it did no harm either. In a typical even patterned or tweedy fabric it would offer a nice bias textural variation, but in this fabric it was invisible. 

To modernize the jacket a tad and distance myself from the suspicion that I used home dec fabric (quel horreur!), I used leather-look snaps on the sleeve vents plus one at CF waistline:  

Look Ma, no buttonholes!  But quite a bit of laborious hand sewing instead.... 

The skirt is the double-vented, princess seamed V7937 (yes, again).
A good black skirt is a perfect basic, wearable with anything and everything.

One more thing?  Did you notice the collar on my jacket?  But.... V7975 doesn't have one.  Right.  The collar's a bit of an afterthought.  Originally, the jacket was meant to be collarless, with Chanel-like trim.  Midway through construction I decided the fabric pattern wouldn't lend itself to trim, being already very busy. So, I grabbed the collar from my fave Chanel-like pattern, New Look 6516.  And added self fabric front facings instead of lining to the edge.  Done!

All told, 2.5 yards of fabric, 3 yards of silk charmeuse (jacket lining and matching blouse), 0.75 m of black rayon lining for the skirt, all from the stash. For a change and a softer silhouette, I omitted shoulder pads this time.

And here, as promised, is the ultimate of being hoist by your own petard, the final few seconds of Dr. Strangelove (Or How I Learned to Love The Bomb), with the voice of the incomparable Dame Vera Lynn:

This clip gives you the whole "Kong Rides the Bomb" final segment of the movie, with a very young James "The Amazing Voice" Earl Jones at the controls, instantly recognizable once he speaks. 

12 February, 2015

Revisions 1: red bouclé jacket

The last few times I tried to wear my red bouclé Chanel jacket, I had to abandon the inclination.  I shrunk a little in the last few years, and was simply swimming in it.

So recently I took the time to "revise" it.  I took off the trim, removed the front zip, opened the lining, and then took it in - a lot.  The key alteration was taking in the upper shoulder princess lines above the bust point.  The pattern is drafted for a bust whose fullness seems to begin right at the shoulder - I kid you not. My body has a definite hollow between the clavicle and the bust, so without alterations there was quite a lot of pooching of fabric in that area.  I was happy to wrestle that issue into submission and transfer the change - once and for all - onto the pattern pieces.  I also removed a lot from the waist at each of the seams - front, side, and back, taking in the sides all the way to the hip.

Then I put it all back together.

For comparison, here's a collage of the first look, with the original hooks, before I replaced them with a zip:

Driven by my desire for change, I removed all the armscye trim and moved the secondary little pockets to their conventional Chanel locations.  Without the trim, the shoulder line suddenly seems much wider, doesn't it?

The nice thing about this revision?  not only do I have a jacket that fits me better, but the zipper tape is correctly concealed beneath the lining.  Shames me to admit it, but I was too lazy to open the lining when I replaced the hooks with zipper in the first place.  Much happier now.

10 February, 2015

Booties for baby

Wow I can't believe I actually made these.  This utterly charming pattern is by Misusu, a lovely and generous person whose work typically focuses on the youngest amongst us, but who has also recently made available a very interesting blouse pattern (more on that below).

This downloadable pattern comes with several sizes already pre-drawn, which will allow your crafting prowess to keep up with the growing infant. Using some cotton remnants, I made the size 10 (10 cm long sole), which is about 3 months size.  The instructions that come with the pattern are great - the only change I made is to attach the back tab to the outer part of the bootie before sewing the inner and outer ones together. This makes it easier to turn and sew that last seam line smoothly.

Now, about the blouse?  Audrey had made it recently, and it was her discussion and very pretty result that led me to its pattern, which in turn led me to the booties.  The blouse looks like something I'd love to make;  even more, I love the opportunity to draft the pattern from scratch based on the dimensions Misusu gives, again, in downloadable form. What a great idea! it saves printing all these pages to tape together, and makes us stretch our abilities just a tad.

Thank you, Misusu, for your very real contributions to our sewing.

05 February, 2015

We're having a baby!

Yessss!!! Laugh at me, do.  Of course I'll not be the one to give birth. I'll be the wicked step-grandmother; I've been practicing for the role for well over half of my SD's lives, as their wicked stepmom.  So I'll be a very good evil (ok, maybe not totally evil), wicked old granny, mwahahahah!  I'm already dusting off my copy of the Brothers Grimm, as a refresher of the frightening magic and very pc-uncorrect tricks that ugly old hags are expected to perform on all the yummy, delicious, trusting, naive youth who happen to stumble into their clutches. The best and most complete version is "Household Tales of the Brothers Grimm", which has all 200 tales and 10 legends. You can read these delightfully wicked little pieces online.  Trust me, there's not a whiff of boring old saccharine Disney in any of them! And when you finish the Grimm offering, you can move on to peruse the remaining 45,999 books at the Gutenberg Project, (https://www.gutenberg.org/).  If you could read just one book per day, it'll take you only 126 years to get through the entire collection. But that's only if you're able to read in every language on offer; if you're limited, like most of us, to only three or four languages, you may be able to whittle the time to oh, maybe just a little over 100 years.

The other great thing about the Gutenberg Project? it has a small collection of sheet music. Once you've browsed through that, move on to the Petrucci Music Library:  300,000 scores!  Now that's just the thing to soothe the savage beast after the all wickedness awoken by those German fairy tales.

I'm feeling very sentimental about this little impending arrival.  My youngest is the last of a large gaggle of kids and cousins of his generation, a Benjamin of our extended family in the truest sense of the Old Testament allusion.  It seems in no time flat he's gone from a squiggly little moppet to an independent young man who turns wheelies on snowpack and likes to discuss physics - today, heat transfer equations - with his mother (I kid you not).  What's 16 years?  An eyeblink.  The Voyager spacecraft - both of them - have been out there, telling us ever more about the outer solar system and beyond, for nearly 40 years. And they're still talking. The New Horizons spaceship has been flying towards Pluto for 9 years, just so it can take better pictures of it, our last, littlest, demoted to dwarf status itty bitty planet, than can the Hubble with its ultra expensive corrective specs. After 9 years, it's almost there:  what's 200 million kilometers between friends?! Poor little Pluto will reveal its pouting face to the cameras in July, right around the same time that the new little one we're anticipating will face the lens and flash of our own.

Being a practical sort of wicked grandma to be, I already made the little tyke a blankie. Well, actually, I made two.  I like making these for the new arrivals - and have been ever since my own kids became more than just a twinkle in their father's eyes. I'm persuaded that this is a form of practice towards a quilt that keeps hinting at its existence somewhere in  my retirement (if I ever get there...).

Here are  two of my youngsters with one of the smaller blankets I made.  The blanket reflects my love of things tartan, being a Nova Scotia tartan in cotton flannel, and my other love of strong contrasts, here the surprising association of blue and red - hence the red poly fleece.  I bound it in shiny satin ribbon to offer some tactile and visual stimulation to my tiny boy.

Did you know that Canada and each of its provinces and territories has a tartan pattern?  It's the heritage of our early Scottish immigration!   I made several tartan-inspired blankets and sheets for him around that time.  The largest of the lot, at 1 x 1.5m, in a nice New Brunswick tartan, remains the topper on his bed to this day.

I went with conventional baby-themed colours this time, because that's what was available - I don't stash baby stuff supplies.  Both blankets are a sandwich of soft poly fleece on one side and a cotton or cotton blend flannel on the other, prewashed/predried in hot water/hot dryer before assembly.  I decided not to bind the blankets, but sewed the layers together right sides together, flipped them out through a small opening, and then topstitched around the edge with a small, tight zigzag to flatten it, favouring the stretchier fleece a little towards the cotton side.

The smaller blanket is a meter square, with one corner cut away and used to create a hood at the opposite end.  For a very little tyke, that makes for a nice warm swaddling configuration, with the infant's head under the little hoodie:

But, you know, they don't stay swaddled for long!  Within a year or so, they begin to run around and make us believe they're Superbaby, or a Magician, and then such a blanket becomes the perfect no-hands, no potentially lethal ties, magical cape:  

He's pouting because I told him he'll have to give it back. Such a bad mom I am.
The second blanket, at 1.5 x 1.5 m, is more of a  play area/picnic rug/big bed item.

Because of its larger area, I quilted the two layers together to prevent sliding and bunching. I also added a bunch of scrap fabrics and ribbons to one edge to encourage the developing youngster to explore the limits of his blankie-verse. Today, a ribbon;  tomorrow, who knows, a new galaxy? And why not?  The Andromeda is only a couple million light years away.