Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Couple of Knitting Projects

Time keeps passing by, and I realized that I haven't blogged in about a month. I had hoped to have my Crop Moto Jacket in white leather as my next blog post -- but unfortunately, it still isn't done yet. No excuses -- it just isn't done -- but I will finish it!

I do have a couple of knitting projects to share. One is the Chunky Sleeveless Turtleneck, which I was inspired to make after seeing all of the wonderful variations in the Fall 2015 runway shows. I was a huge fan of sleeveless turtlenecks back in the day -- I had a gorgeous cobalt blue cashmere version with a soft cowl neck that I especially loved -- so I was excited to see that the style has come back for Fall.

I used a wonderful yarn by Plymouth called DeAire, which is a chunky 100% merino wool yarn that is so lofty and light -- a pleasure to knit. I used #11 needles, which is smaller than what is called for on the label, and mixed a couple of different stitches. The main body is knit in stockinette stitch; the collar is a 1x1 rib stitch; and the hem bands are a textured stitch that alternates rows of 1x1 rib on the right side and P stitch on the wrong side. The armholes and hems are finished using single crochet.

I knit the front and back separately from the bottom up, and then sewed the shoulders and side seams. Then I picked up the neckline stitches and worked a simple 1x1 rib. To give it a bit of a modern look, I chose to do a high-low hem.

I really love this yarn -- even though it is chunky, it is really light and results in a lofty fabric that feels wonderful. If I had used a larger needle, I think it would have been less structured and more drapey, which wasn't the look I was going for with this design. I definitely want to order more of this yarn!

My second project is a Textured Sweater Coat knit in Tahki Zara 14, a bulky 100% fine merino wool yarn. Again, this is a fabulous yarn that yields great stitch definition. It isn't as lofty and light as the DeAire, but it has a wonderful feel to it.

The color is a silver gray, which is one of my faves. The design is simple -- just a straight style worked in the same textured stitch I used for the turtleneck (above); 1x1 ribbing for the collar; and single crochet edging to finish it off. I encountered one problem, though.

Can you see the color difference in the photo above? Well, all of the skeins were the same color, but -- I didn't notice this at first -- there were two different dye lots. I ended up with about 10 skeins of the lighter shade and 7 skeins of the darker one. I was lucky that I noticed it as I was knitting -- I mean, how can you not, given how obvious it is! -- so I was able to undo it and work out a way to make it a design feature. Lesson learned here -- always check the dye lot numbers before starting a project!

Well, it isn't quite finished yet, as I haven't added any closures. I'm thinking of simple snaps -- hopefully I'll get to it before summer arrives.

Now back to that white leather!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Design Detail: Finishing an Asymmetric Zipper

I think I've made enough moto-style jackets to last quite a while. And in the process, I've had the chance to think about what to do with that exposed zipper tape that needs to be sewn onto the jacket. While one side of the zipper can be neatly enclosed in the body/facing piece, the other side ends up having to be sewn on top of the body.

I guess I'm just picky, but I don't like seeing that exposed tape on top of the fabric without some sort of finishing. It just looks messy to my eye. I first encountered this problem of what to do with that zipper tape when I made my moto jacket with the hand-knit collar below.

Luckily for me, the fabric was a wonderful boiled wool that didn't ravel, so I just cut a strip and sewed it on top of the exposed side of the zipper. It's plain but it works to provide a neat finish.

I used the same finish for my Crop Moto Jacket, except in this case, I folded the raw edge under. This made it a bit bulky, and was really unnecessary for this knit fabric, but I liked the cleaner finish. Note that I ran the zipper right along the princess seam line. I thought about sewing the zipper directly into the seam, but decided against it, as it might get too stiff in the seam line and negatively affect the fit.

For this jacket, I chose a strip of leather as a more decorative finish. I had leather underneath the sleeve zippers, so this was another way to incorporate leather trim.

Other possibilities I might try in the future are decorative woven trims or contrast-color grosgrain ribbons.

For my hand-knit Cabled Moto Jacket, I used a simple crochet edging to finish the zipper.

I hand-sewed the tape to the jacket and then picked up the knit stitches that ran along the zipper tape to add a chain of single crochet. The edging was just wide enough to cover a good amount of the zipper tape.

A lot of possibilities -- just some ideas if you decide to make a garment with an asymmetric zipper!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Crop Moto Jacket: Wearable Muslin Finished

Making my Crop Moto Jacket as a wearable muslin -- before cutting into the white leather -- turned out to be a very educational project.

The pockets didn't make it -- there's already a lot going on with the asymmetric zipper and topstitched princess seams that I thought I would leave it more streamlined. My husband hates it zipped up like this -- keeps mumbling something about Star Trek and making Vulcan hand gestures …

I wore it around town yesterday with just a tank top underneath because the weather here has been an insane 70 degrees F, which is warm for the middle of winter. I even brought out some sandals!

The fabric is a wool/rayon melange that is a beautiful mix of denim blues and white. It is a stable knit, but still a knit, so I should have made some adjustments to account for this, including taking out more ease in certain places. I kept it unlined so I finished the facings and tacked them down. I used a tricot interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply, which worked out beautifully.

The princess and side seams are mock flat felled -- they are stitched with the usual seam allowance and one side is trimmed down. The other seam allowance is pressed over the trimmed one (on the wrong side) and topstitched down from the right side. The edges of this fabric do not ravel so this method was good choice. Unfortunately, the nature of the fabric makes it difficult to see the topstitching, despite using thicker topstitching thread.

For the zipper, rather than stitching it into the princess seam, I lined the teeth up right against the seam and added a finished 1-inch strip along the other side. I think this allows the princess seam to remain flat and smooth and gives the zipper a clean look.

This was the first time I used my new serger for a garment project! It was very exciting -- I was absolutely giddy at times! The serging is not perfect, but I'm sure I'll figure it all out as I progress. This is such a great way to finish an unlined jacket -- I'm not sure I can go back to bias binding finishes!

Another first for me with this project was using the blind hem function on my machine. Yes, I'll admit it, I have never used this function. I tried the blind hem on my old mechanical machine years ago, and it was an utter failure, so I never attempted it again. This time, it worked out pretty well, and I was so pleased to see that it worked -- more giddy moments! It is finicky to get the "bites" of fabric just right, but luckily for me, this fabric hides everything.

While this wearable muslin turned out well and I had fun wearing it yesterday, I am planning to make a few adjustments before going to leather. I am going to lower the center back a bit and decrease the slope from back to front. I felt like the back was a bit too short, so adding a bit will make it perfect. I am also going to shorten the sleeves and narrow them a bit -- I think it will look more streamlined that way.

I had some trouble with the amount of ease at cross front and cross back. In my woven muslin, the fit was good, but I noticed that in this version, there seemed to be a bit more excess in this area. The fit improved when I zipped it up all the way, but I don't plan to wear it zipped up. Even though this is a stable knit, perhaps there was some stretching that occurred -- not sure about this. I may take out a bit of the ease and move forward with that.

Overall, I like how this turned out and, with a few minor adjustments, will be moving on to leather!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Crop Moto Jacket: In Progress

When I mentioned the idea for a white leather jacket to a friend of mine, her reaction was, "that would be so cool -- very Kardashian!" At which point I cringed and began to wonder how to dye the leather into some other color -- preferably one that would not have that particular association. Well, I've gotten over it because I saw a very cool white Yigal jacket in NYC, so I've been working on making my own version.

Here's the wonderful white leather, which is still in its current form of a long, pleated skirt with matching sash.

Yes, there is a lot of yardage here to play with. The label says it is a Michael Kors skirt from I. Magnin -- it is very well made, so I'm kind of sad about cutting it up. I think that's why I rarely re-make things -- I have trouble taking apart what someone spent time making. For this one, I may be able to salvage the top part of the skirt if I get creative with pattern placement -- I tried it on and it would be really cute as a shorter skirt.

The style is very simple. I drafted straight shoulder princess seams, an asymmetric neckline that dipped down in front, and elbow-length, set-in sleeves. The only tricky part was figuring out the most flattering length for the jacket. I decided to go with waist-length at CB and curve it lower so it is longer at CF. I made a couple of muslins in muslin fabric to see if I liked the details and the fit. Here is my wearable muslin, which I made using a wool/rayon fabric. It has a good weight to it that mimics the leather, but it is a stable knit, so it has stretch that the leather won't have. The set-in sleeves look a bit weird because I hand-basted them in place just to check for fit.

The color actually consists of shades of beautiful denim-y blue mottled with white -- the photo is a bit washed out. I decided to adjust the collar so it isn't exactly moto-style. I kept the collar on the right side wide, but narrowed the other side so that when the jacket is zipped, there would be less bulk in front. The collar in the photo below is just hand-basted in place to see if I like the look.

I still need to consider pockets and where to place them. I'm not a big pocket person but I feel like it would be nice to have a couple of pockets in front. For this wearable muslin, I think patch pockets would be best because it won't be lined, but for my final leather version, I may go the traditional route with zippered welts.

Now I'm just thinking about what type of contrast fabric to use for the collar and CF facings -- the parts that will peek out when the jacket is unzipped. I know it is more traditional to use the same leather, but it seems more fun to use something different. The inspiration jacket used a knit jersey, which is an interesting idea as well. I like the combination of white + pale gray for spring, so I'm considering some sort of gray-colored fabric. Any suggestions would be welcome!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Random Threads: Pleats, Leather, Fence and a Sneak Peek

Inspiration: Pleat Detail on a Coat Lining
I saw this wonderful photo on Pinterest and had to save it for future reference. I love the use of pleats at the bottom of this coat lining -- what a beautiful and interesting detail!

Future Project: White Leather Jacket
Last year, I attended a sewing blogger gathering, where Laura Mae of Lilacs and Lace generously gave away a gorgeous white leather skirt + matching sash. It is a very 80s/90s piece -- long, with a wide elastic waist and generous pleats all around. There's quite a bit of yardage, so I thought it might be fun to make a leather jacket. I saw this one in the Yigal Azrouel store in New York City, and would love to make a jacket inspired by it. I love the short sleeves, wide collar and asymmetric zip. Thank you, Laura Mae!

Image from here.

Repaired: Backyard Fence (Thanks to a Referral from a Fellow Sewing Blogger!)
Recently, I needed to have some minor repair work done on my backyard fence -- it had actually been damaged for a couple of months, so the whole thing had been weighing on my mind for a while. The job was too small for a fencing company, so I called Beth of SunnyGal Studio -- a friend I met through blogging who happens to live in my area -- to see if she had any suggestions. Luckily for me, she referred me to a wonderful local contractor who did a great job of patching up the damage. Sewing bloggers are the greatest -- thank you, Beth!

Lantern Coat: Sneak Peek
And finally, here's a sneak peek of a project I've been working on.

I've been playing around with different fabrics and textures, so for this coat, I've combined a mid-weight felted wool with a taffeta. Because the fabric weights are quite different, I decided to use fusible interfacing and underline the taffeta pieces with some scrap cotton flannel (pre-washed and pre-shrunk). I have to confess -- I was lazy because I didn't hand-baste the flannel, but it ended up working out ok. I have some time this weekend to work on it, so we'll see how it goes!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

First Project of 2015: Taffeta Band Jacket

First of all, I would like to thank you for writing such thoughtful comments to my last post. I very much appreciate all of the sentiments and, moving forward, will endeavor to not let negativity have an impact. Life is too short for that!

Now back to sewing. Here's my first sewn project for 2015 -- my Taffeta Band Jacket. The turtleneck looks a bit ratty, but the jacket was fun to wear out for Sunday brunch.

The main fabric is a plain black woolen and the yoke, hem band and center back trim are a stretch poly taffeta that Shams used for her beautiful textured vest. I had the opportunity to see her in-progress vest and loved the texture and shine of the taffeta -- and thought it would be a great contrast to a matte wool fabric. The lining is a black Bemberg rayon.

This pattern is a rerun from 2012 -- a new version of my Crocodile Jacket from Burda's February 2012 issue. The style number is 101 and it is a petite-sized pattern. The original version has become my fave go-to jacket -- I've worn it so many times because it is easy to grab and go; makes any outfit look more polished; and is really comfortable to wear. All the hallmarks of a go-to jacket.

This was the only time I wore the jacket and skirt together -- too matchy-matchy out in the real world.

For my new version, I drafted a back yoke piece and a wide hem band. I also shortened the sleeves to 3/4 length. I really like the shoulder seam, which comes forward so it is visible in the front. However, I forgot to take this into account when I was sewing in the sleeves. Needless to say, it took 3 tries to get the sleeves set in correctly!

I also played around with adding a bit of leftover trim from my stash. I think it distracts from the band and makes it look a bit too fancy, so I decided to keep it off. Black is such a difficult color to photograph -- I'm sorry for the washed out photo below.

This was the first time I block-fused a jacket. I've generally used hand-basted silk organza to underline wool jackets, but for this one, I thought I would try using a mid-weight interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. I like the result and will definitely use the technique again -- much faster than hand-basting and the drape and feel of the fabric was still very nice after fusing.

One problem I had with this jacket was the taffeta hem band. It is a bit lightweight, even though I interfaced the band, so it would have been better if I had used the wool fabric (interfaced) for the facing, with the taffeta on the outside only. I'm also not sure about the vertical band I included at CB. I thought it would be a nice detail to break up the horizontal lines, but I'm not in love with it.

Overall, I really like this pattern and will definitely use it again. I like how it is a great basic that can be tweaked to create different styles. It would have been cool to add wide taffeta bands for the sleeve hems; add vertical taffeta bands along the center fronts; or even change the basic bust darts into french darts, gathers or pleats. The possibilities are endless when the base pattern is so well drafted.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Ready for 2015

It has been so impressive to read the year-end reviews being posted these last few days -- the sewing community had a very productive 2014. I wasn't nearly as prolific this past year, especially compared to all of you! It seemed like it took me a long time to make each piece, so I ended up with fewer finished garments than I would have liked. It also felt like a low-sewing-mojo kind of year -- one of those transitional times when it took some effort to get excited and motivated about a project.

I think this was because, for the first time in my life, I was struck with an "I'm feeling old" mindset -- fleeting thoughts that a bit of Botox wouldn't be such a bad idea; the realization that age discrimination really does exist and is tolerated; and that the notion of "feeling invisible" in our youth-obsessed society is something I have now come to understand. I never thought I would get here, but it really hit me in 2014. Believe it or not, one factor that actually contributed to this mindset has been some of the views expressed within the sewing community -- the marked differences between sewists who are older and those who are younger. I actually don't completely identify with either camp -- I'm not particularly adept at social media and I wasn't lucky enough to have a family member teach me how to sew "properly"-- but it was the fact that this divide exists that made this Gen X-er feel kind of old.

Well, a new year is for new beginnings, so here's to moving beyond the negativity and getting on with living life and appreciating every moment. Here's one of my fave garments of 2014 -- the pink cape! -- modeled in New York City over the Christmas holiday. Happy 2015!