Sunday, August 29, 2010


I started this 'little' project as both a stash buster and a mindless knit for movie watching. I had been at Michaels and they had Red Heart Strata on sale, and it seems identical to James Brett Marble. I'd used the marble before and really liked it, but really felt it was NOT a DK yarn like the label suggests. The RH Strata had a more realistic gauge on it. I had one ball of the Marble in the blues so I bought one ball of the RH. I planned to alternate balls for the different sections; that didn't quite happen.
It starts off with an obscene length of garter stitch, 6 sts wide. I did the first tie, got going on the triangle shape, and decided after a fair ways along that it was at the wrong gauge for the yarn. I think I ripped back to the end of the tie. While finishing at the other end, I think I remembered that there had been gauge issues and instead of knitting the same number of garter ridges I had to measure instead (I don't think the difference in gauge is noticeable). It's called Judy's Grandmother's Baby Sweater
and is from the book "Greetings From Knit Cafe". A quick stroll through my blog revealed that I posted about getting this book from the library, Jan 2008. So, it took me a little over 2 1/2 years to get it made. And into the gift stash box it goes!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Not Perfect...

If anyone follows "The FlyLady" you know the expression "Housework not done perfectly still blesses the family". It's a way of getting rid of the perfectionism that paralyzes many people from even trying.
Today, I was scanning my Yahoo groups, and one is devoted to a lace designer. Someone posted they had finished a shawl of their own design, for a new granddaughter. I clicked to see the pictures on Flickr. Something just didn't look right in a couple pictures, then I came to a close up. I could see immediately that there was major errors in the middle row of three rows of a large pinecone design. Not just a forgotten yarn over, but each pinecone in the row was wrong. It's very obvious as it's a large scale pattern, and the first and last row are correct (I don't mean row 1 and 3 of the pattern, I mean rows 1 and 3 of whole motifs, each motif is probably 24 rows). This might not have shown up during knitting, due to the large number of sts on the needles and the nature of lace, but wow, it shows up in the blocked product.
I would be so heartbroken to see this during blocking. I don't think I could post the pictures to a group with over 3000 members. I see errors in my knitting all the time, and it is a challenge deciding what I can live with and what I can't; I often use Rob as my judge.

However, the grandbaby won't be able to spot these errors. Knitting done imperfectly still blesses the receiver. Knit on.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Empire Strikes Back (Part 3)

I measured myself, measured the triangle, stared at the first two dresses...and drew a new curve on my pattern piece. The printed piece here is actually for another bodice in the pattern set, but they all have the same bottom curve. Wow, when they say patterns are made for B cup, I could have gone smaller, and done the 'squish them in' look, but I wanted some definition and support.
And here it is! I'm really happy with it! I do see that the skirt pulls up in the middle of the bodice seam and the ribbon (not sewn down) emphasizes this as it's straight across. I really wanted to use the ribbon. A little history now. This fabric is the same fabric as the very first dress, but in a different colour. I had bought about 1.5m and sliced it down the length, then stitched the ends together, and made a really long ring sling. I liked the length, but it was a little slippery. Later on, I took one of the pieces and using this ribbon, made a bathing suit wrap for the cruise. However, once wet, it was cold and icky (it's a 'washable rayon'). And it looked odd. So, the two pieces sat around just waiting. I bought some FOE (fold over elastic) in turquoise, thinking I might make a shirt like I've done before, or a dress. But Meg got it and cut it into a couple pieces. I probably could have used it across the back instead of making an 'invisible casing'. I thought I might use the ribbon for the straps, but after reading the sundress tutorial, and seeing how it improved the fit and look of the test dresses, I assumed it would work for this one too. I won't wear the ribbon again, unless I sew it into the seams and tie it behind me (maybe if I lose some weight).

I did lower the top of the bodice, as per Lucy's instructions, and I think it could go lower, although then it'd have to be lower in the middle too, and I don't know how low I could go and still be modest. I think, with the well fitting cups, that I could probably go quite a bit lower. I guess not every dress has to be suitable for a family reunion, LOL. I just didn't want to give any old men a heart attack. However, the bodice does make me look rather large. But, then again, I guess I actually am!
I do need to do some finishing to the seam allowances, and hem the beige roses dress. I spent yesterday tidying up my sewing room though, and I'm sort of 'sewn out' for the time being. It really bothers my neck. And while I would LOVE to make a few more summer dresses (I love wearing a dress as it's more forgiving of my weight increase and I have been really desperate for clothes this summer), really, how much more summer is there?

The Rise of the Empire (Part 2)

I didn't have any other fabric I wanted to possibly 'waste' making muslins, so Meg and I went to Value Village to search for sheets and fabric to use. I got this 2 yard piece, with original Wal-Mart tag on it...from 1997. It totally reminded me of the wallpaper at my parents home in 1997.

I found the sketch for the top from the teen book, so I decided to try it, just to see how the mechanics of it worked. You use a triangle based on your cup size, and then hack off the bottom corners based also on your cup size. I decided to err on the side of caution (and my larger boob) and go with a DD cup!! Oy.

The flat area at the bottom gets gathered. This pulls the short angled parts downwards into line with the flat area. Wow, that really got my brain rolling. Along with finding a forum where another lady had a similar issue and was told she needed more curvature along the bottom.I did much googling and found out that the type of skirt I wanted had 'godets' not gores. This would mean 4-6 panels, with triangles at the bottom. I thought this was going to be a great way to make the narrow fabric be wider and 'swishier'. However, there are a lot of seams...each eating away at some fabric....I was happy with the construction, however, the cups didn't offer enough coverage on the sides, but they did lay flat on the chest! And lets not talk about how the skirt portion fits. I could pull it up quite a bit and find it's "sweet spot" but that made the skirt too short!

I was energized to re-draft the bodice of the original pattern, with more curvature. I didn't have time or fabric to make another test dress, so I was just going to use intuition!

The Evolution of the Empire

First, yes, I do still knit. I just cast off a shawl this morning!

I wanted to go into some detail about the why and how of my recent sewing craze. When I first started sewing, in 2005, I had hoped at some point to be able to sew my own clothes, considering I was a hard to fit size. After my breast reduction in 2007, I was a 'normal' size for awhile, but still wanted to sew clothes. I started with some kid pajama pants and moved on to a dress for me, labelled "easy". I sewed a second version for a Christmas party even though I wasn't totally happy with the first one.

Even though I made the size for me (actually I might have made it a bit smaller cause I couldn't see how this style of dress would need something like 4" of ease). However, it just didn't have the coverage over the chest like the package showed, and it didn't lay flat on my chest.I moved onto a few other sewing projects but I was hesitant to make anything more for me, especially tops. And, I seemed to be ...ummm...growing. Recently, I felt that my skills were improving enough to try again. I decided to make a top using the same pattern. I drafted a slightly larger size, and altered the back so there wouldn't be a zipper.At first, I was happy, but really, it just didn't 'cup' me enough and didn't have the coverage. Plus, I HATE tieing things behind my neck. I gave it to my mom. As I mentioned a few posts ago, while we have the same chest size, we do not have the same bra size. It fit her fine.

I had a teen sewing book from the library and there was a cute empire waist summer top in it, with instructions how to draft your own pattern. They gave numbers for up to a C cup, but I figured I could try following the idea and upsize. I drew a sketch before I returned the book but when I went to actually try it out, I couldn't find the sketch. So I returned to my original pattern, and started a 'muslin' using an old sheet.I used the sewing techniques from the dresses I just made for the girls, but this made it hard to tell exactly how the dress was going to look until quite a bit had actually been done. I dress the pieces larger where I thought I needed it, but I wasn't sure what to do with the bottom curve. Trying it on showed that while I could get the right coverage and fit, the pieces would not be sewn straight along the original seam line. I just didn't have enough hands to hold it, pin it, mark it, etc. I knew that something was still not quite right.

I moved on to a different bodice from the same pattern set; this one is one piece, which I thought might be easier to fit. It is supposed to be much lower cut in the middle, but I wanted some modesty for this dress (family reunion). I knew, after finally finding a tutorial for a cross-over, empire waist sundress (on page 10 of the google results), that I needed more length to cover the bust and tuck underneath. However, I knew I didn't want the extra length at the side seams, so it got added to the top of the bodice. Lucy kept saying it was "too big" which she meant that it came up too high on my chest:I could see that it was pulling at the base of the V neck so I needed more width. I was pretty much happy with it though. So I got a better fabric--some blah beige quilter's cotton I had bought off Cheapcycle. It's rose blooms, actually. I didn't like how it looked in the middle (the skirt seam goes straight across, but the bodice seems to dip in), but I was pretty happy, although it was still not 'cupping' me. I wanted to be able to go braless, and not have elastic under the bust, which would gather the skirt and make it look like a maternity dress (even though I have a permanently maternity shaped body). There were some issues with the skirt. The fabric is only 44" wide!For ease of adding photos, I'm just going to start another entry for the rest of the story!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sew Quick!

One day, earlier in this excruciatingly hot and humid summer, my brother stopped by to drop some things off. He was wearing a 'thing' around his neck that he ran under some cold water to chill it, and said he got it from "Tilley's Endurables". Rob (my husband), had been complaining about how hot and sweaty the commuter train is in the afternoons and needed something to cool him down. I did some googling, and found that Tilley's sells "Cobber Neck Wrap". I realized quickly that I could probably make one for much less than $20. But what to fill it with? They use tiny beads that when soaked in water (hot or cold), swell up enormously and as long as the fabric is still wet, will feel cold (or hot) for hours. Eventually, they can dry up again, and be re-used. I was stumped as to the filler, until I found the answer from an unusual source.

The machine knitting groups I'm in are hosted through Yahoo! Groups, and you have a choice of getting each message as a separate email, or getting a day's worth of messages in one neat and tidy, organized, "digest". For most groups, I'm now on digest (this really curbed my need to answer questions as soon as someone asked one, as now, often the answer has already been given by the time I read it). One complaint with these groups is that a subject will meander away from the original heading, but the subject line is still the original topic. So, if someone posts about their Brother machine, I don't read any of the messages, but then some day I might be scanning through the digest on the way to another message, and something might catch my eye. That's what happened here. In a subject I had not been following, the talk turned to neck coolers! The writer posted that she bought these crystals at the garden center. They're for mixing with the dirt so it holds water longer. Bingo!
Immediately, I gathered up the children and headed on a crystal hunt. We cruised "Man Row" (Canadian Tire, Sport Check, Staples, Home Depot and Lowes all within a few blocks), but got too hot and hungry to make it all the way to Lowe's. The next day I went to Michaels' and forgot to take my flyer coupon for 40% off. Of course, they had something that seemed the same, but intended for fake flower arranging "Cracked Ice". I bought it, even without the coupon, because for $9.99 it seemed it would last a long time and I was tired.
Of course, I had to Google to see if there were instructions on how to actually sew them, and then I found all kinds of links to the crystals. One woman even took apart disposable diapers to get the crystals! Because mine were not the same product, I decided to soak them in water first, and fill the coolers this way so I'd know just how much to put in.

When I searched my stash for "manly" fabrics, all I could find was a brown cotton gauze with a subtle embroidery. I cut it to the size suggested, sewed, and filled. We tried it for a day, and it felt rather heavy. Then I made one with quilter's cotton, to the same measurements. I quickly realized that the cotton gauze had stretched out it's crinkleness as the crystals grew! So, it had surgery and I removed probably half the crystals. Rob tried it on the train and said he felt better, but he was still sweating like crazy (the cooler lays against the carotid artery and cools the blood heading to your brain, so you stay clear headed, but can't really lower your body temperature overall).I dug down deeper in the bin and found the blue print, and the flowered one was a remnant from the fabric store (I was very disappointed that they had barely any quilter cotton remnants! This was the only one!). The pink and black one is to match Lucy's dress. The black one with beige stitching was to go with a dress I haven't yet posted about. I made all of these (except the pink and black one) plus three more, out of the one package of "Cracked Ice". It wasn't all wine and roses though, I did have an issue with trying to dry out the the oven...

Then, we were tree shopping, and went to the Lowe's I hadn't gone to in my initial search. I quick stroll through the houseplant section, and guess what I found? The "real" crystals, for $3. Although I don't predict a need for another 10 neck coolers, I had to stock up with another package!For all but the last one, I made closed tubes so I wouldn't have to finish the raw edges. I decided to do Lucy's differently, so it'd be more like a scarf with her new dress. I placed the tube seam in the middle (instead of the edge), so the tails could open up. My edge finishing sucks. But it's cute. The kids aren't really into them though. Rob also doesn't take his anymore. He also won't even take a water bottle! But I did get him to move to the lower level of the two level train, LOL!

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I haven't been able to find the dress pattern that I had been using to make the girls' dresses (and they were at the top of the size range anyway), so the three of us went shopping to find a new pattern. Now, normally, I try not to take the two girls anywhere together. And, I would normally choose from just the patterns that were on sale. But this was going to be an exception. Wow, it was hard to find a pattern that met ALL our requirements--in particular--something that I felt I could actually sew! This pattern is Kwik Sew 3674, view B, but without a contrasting panel at the bottom.Meg chose a wild orange flower print, a very light weight woven cotton (I don't know the 'proper' names for all the different cottons). I lined the bust with off-white bastite on the advice of the fabric cutter, and I was glad she pointed it out because it was what I needed for other projects too. For Meg, I cut the top as a size 10! and I think they both got size 7 skirts but Lucy's I eased out to a size 8 for her tush :) Lucy's top was a 7, I think.
Most of the dress went together great! I cut out the pieces for each dress, then put all the stuff I needed to sew them in two Ziploc bags and took them with us when I went to my parents. However, I never got around to even attempting to sew them. But once I got home, I did Meg's a bit at a time and I think it took 3 days, and Lucy's I had done in one evening and the next day. The hardest part was getting the elastic in the casings...I had a crappy safety pin. I might do it the "diaper way" next time--tack the ends down on the one layer, then top stitch the layers to form the casings.Lucy's dress is an unusual quilter's cotton. She "doesn't do" flowers, pink, cute, or "weird polka dots". I was hoping to get them in co-ordinating fabrics, but oh well. LOL. They are both a smidge too big in the bust, causing some gaping when they move around, but they are cute dresses. I hope to make the other view someday, although Lucy thinks it's too pouffy. While Meg loves anything I make for her, Lucy is another story!
I'm glad I made these because it's similiar to the dress/top I've been trying to make for myself but constructed a little differently, and SO much easier! I learned alot making these!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sew, I've Been Thinking

Haa Haa.
Been doing lots of thinking about my ill-fitting top/dress. My mom and I have about the same chest circumference. But we can't wear the same clothes. I've written before about how my front chest is larger than my back width. I can accommodate that in many pattern, but this one is so different, it's been stumping me. I thought about doing a "draping", basically laying the fabric on me and drawing/cutting how I want it. That would work better if I had a girl friend that could help out instead of a husband, LOL. But I also want a real, reproducible pattern.

When I cut out the new top, I saw that the chest/neck line was the same for all, and only the side seam and a bit under the arm changed for different sizes. The amount that gets gathered at the bottom of the cup, and the space it gets gathered into, stays the same for all sizes. And, since most patterns are sized for a B cup chest (and I am not a B cup!), just extending the side seam is not going to be the solution! Doh!
Some how I have to figure out how much fabric I need to cut, and how much to gather it. I know the bottom of the cups, when overlapped, have to fit to the top of the bodice. I'm just not sure how much to cut for the cups. I could try draping.
I'm also thinking I might use a dart for the lining layer as I felt the two layers gathered and sewn to the bodice made for a bulky seam allowance.

I've been getting kid/teen sewing books from the library. Some of the stuff has been cheezy (finger puppets and simple tote bags), but some of it has actually been really good--helpful info and good patterns which you fit to yourself. One of the books has a top like I'm doing (the green one on the cover), but the cups sit above the bodice, so the back seems a little low. They tell you how to create the pattern up to a C cup, and I wonder if that means they don't think teens come in larger sizes (although the skirts went larger), or if a larger size shouldn't wear this style?
I've also just finished sewing two dresses for the girls that have overlapping cups with a separate back piece. There's three pieces of elastic to rouch the back, and then one piece that goes all the way around, under the cups (LOL. They are not cups at these sizes!). They turned out really good (although I had major issues with inserting the three strips of elastic, due to a faulty safety pin), and I think between all these patterns, I should be able to come up with SOMETHING!
Stay tuned, and I hope to post pictures of the girls' dresses very soon (Lucy wore her's to daycamp today!).

Sunday, August 01, 2010


A few years ago, I made New Look 6557 to wear on a cruise. I had some fitting issues then and I've been wanting to re-work it (please look at my links). I cut a larger size based on the differences between the sizes and that I needed one size bigger than the largest size. It's still not fitting like the picture on the package. Instead of the cross over pieces laying flat on my chest wall, they pull out (I've stitched it together) so it's like a V-neck. I'm going to re-shape the pieces so there's a bit more coverage, but I still don't know what to do where it overlaps. Should they be closer together? Further apart? Further apart and then the overlap needs to get tucked under a girl. I thought of cutting it a bit larger and gathering it to fit between the same notches on the body. I don't need to extend the side seams, I need more? in the middle.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!!
Edit to add: I solved the fit issues of this top and the original dress by giving them to my mom. They fit her beautifully. Now I HAVE to sew again for myself! LOL.