Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Sewing with Knits

Swing Tee (cotton knit) with Pencil Pants (ponte)
This is not my first choice for sewing. Knits are simultaneously intimidating and mind-numbing, IMO. I guess that says something about me. I love linen - so predictable, so obedient, just right for little details. But sometimes I find myself sewing with knits.

I subscribe to Sew Confident! which is an annual subscription service from the Sewing Workshop (TSW). As I've said before, I am a Sewing Workshop groupie. I have been since some time back in the 90s when I found this weird pattern called the cocoon coat in my local fabric shop. It was back when I really did have a local fabric shop about 3 miles from my home.

But I digress. It seems that knit garments form a significant portion of the Sew Confident! repertoire for 2018. I have fought this, as in making the Picasso top out of a woven fabric even though knits are recommended. It worked but when I finally made it out of a knit, I loved that one best.

The most recent edition of Sew Confident! includes modifications to the Swing Tee which was introduced in the January 2018 edition. I had skipped over that pattern for a variety of reasons including the fact that I have several basic tee patterns I like OK. When I saw the modifications, I decided I needed to make the original Swing Tee. So here it is.

And, yes, I love it.

My first Swing Tee goes perfectly with my first pair of Pencil Pants, another pattern I ignored initially. I knew I'd make the Pencil Pants eventually. At first I thought they were too similar to the Helix pants which I've used over and over again. However they have a slightly different shape - more narrow at the ankle - and I like the waistband finish much better.

Helix pants: uses wide elastic that is not covered, smooths nicely when worn
The waistband finish on the Helix wears beautifully but it's a bit of a pain to install. The waistband finish on the Pencil Pants is easier to finish, I think, and I like where it sits on my so-called waistline. These are made with a beefy navy blue ponte. I made them a little too large so I'll take them up before I fill them out!

Pencil Pants: elastic enclosed like a yoga pant, also smooths when worn
I have to admit that the Swing Tee is also quite nice. I like the tunic length, as well as the fit at the shoulders. I changed the neckline from a basic crew to a bateau neckline. I used the neckline in the Picasso top to create that. I lengthened the sleeves, one of the changes in the current issue of Sew Confident!

Because I chose a horizontal cotton stripe, I also changed the hemline. It is a lovely curve, but I wanted my stripes to go straight across. I added one pocket near the hem and a patch at the back shoulder. Horizontal stripes may not be my best look, but I've always loved a simple nautical navy and white stripe (*).

I'm happy with this!

* I think I'll open the side seams to create deep vents. Then I can angle the corner at a 45 degree angle which may be more slimming and less jarring than a curved hem. There's always time re-sew.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Two More Picasso Tops

I now have the Picasso Pants and Top pattern from the Sewing Workshop (TSW) out of my system. I've made the top 3 times and the pants once. I don't see any more tops in my immediate future, but who knows? These surprised me. I do definitely see more pants in my future, but possibly not until spring.

In summary, my first version of the top was made from a tablecloth - cotton damask.

And my second one looked like a tablecloth, though made from cotton prints. I have already taken it apart to use in other projects.

My third and favorite one is made with rayon jersey knit, plus some striped accents. This is a bit ironic because I was reluctant to make a knit version even though the pattern envelope requires it. The woven versions are of necessity size Mediums and the knit one is size Small, and I think the size XS might also fit in knits. It is designed as a big boxy top, and I like that a lot!

Above I'm wearing the knit version of the Picasso top with my favorite knit pants (the Helix pattern from TSW). I have made those a number of times just because I like the look. Making them is fast and easy.  Below I'm wearing the Picasso top (in knits) and pants (in rayon crepe), which is a pretty close approximation of the intentions for this pattern.

Now I do think the whole Picasso look is cute. And I will happily wear this ensemble and feel good. And I know the slimmer Helix pants create a more flattering silhouette. Just a little note to self.

I made the same changes to the neckline as in my previous Picasso tops, this time using a bias strip of striped knit. It's not matched at the shoulder seams but the up side is that the shoulder seams are nice and flat. And it was a sweet opportunity for a little sashiko.

Meanwhile there is still a dye pot simmering on the stove, this time with pokeberries. I've printed with pokeberries before but this is my first foray into dyeing with them. I simmered and strained the juice from it. Now a piece of silk noil and another piece of cotton sateen are brewing. I'm realizing I need to be more careful in my handling of this stuff that seems to grow everywhere here in the southern states of the US.

Recent foraging: black walnuts, magnolia pods, pokeberries, queen ann's lace
It is intriguing that pokeweed is both poisonous and edible. The leaves are edible in early spring before the stalk becomes purple. The berries that are growing now can be used to make jelly, once the seeds are removed. That being said, I must be more careful in my handling of the stuff (another note to self). But the color is so seductive. Maybe the dye will be rewarding too.

I'm also ready to do some more avocado dyeing. Here is a shot of them with my new toy - a macro lens for my phone camera.

Some days it feels like there is almost too much fun stuff to do. Does that happen to you?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Vogue 9081 - Dipped Again

Vogue 9081 is a dress pattern designed by Marcy Tilton, maybe two years old. I first made it in a bright orange linen. Yes, what was I thinking.

In its next iteration I eliminated the lower band, making it a tunic. Still too bright though, so I dipped it in black walnut juice. Over time it has seemed to continue to fade just a little to this:

So I dipped it again. I had kept a bucket of black walnut juice from fall 2017 in the garage. It had developed a white glaze over the year but after I removed that, it was still potent for dyeing and this is the result:

This color is the best so far, I think. I'm letting it cure a bit before washing it thoroughly and so I may lose a little color still. But it's almost time to collect black walnuts again so I'll have a fresh supply soon.

Meanwhile I'm experimenting with avocado skins and seeds based on Botanical Colour at Your Fingertips by Rebecca Desnos on rayon challis. It is certainly not dramatic but I do like the soft pink I got with the skins. You can see how subtle the results are below. And the process is multi-stepped over multiple days.

white rayon challis dyed with avocado skins, rinsed and dried (on left)

But I'm not easily diverted so right now I have another piece of rayon challis in the pot with juice from the seeds. It looks so pretty now but will no doubt be more subtle when it is finished and dried.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Picasso Top and Pants

The Picasso Top and Pants pattern is the latest from the Sewing Workshop. When they sent out an email teaser, I was instantly enamored. The pants are cropped with lantern shaped legs, similar I think to one of the blog posts on their site. I have long admired that remake of their Trio pants but never got around to following their directions for modifying the pattern. At this point in my sewing life, I know I would much rather follow a pattern than draft one. So, thanks for drafting these pants, TSW!

The pants have the TSW signature waistline that is elasticized with a flat front. I first encountered this waist treatment in their Plaza pants that I've made many times. It has the comfort of an elastic waistband but places no bulk over the tummy. Their instructions still have you omit the elastic from the flat part but I've found I like it better if I extend the elastic all the way around, using the elastic in the flat part as a stiff interfacing. It only requires a vertical stitch through the elastic on either side of the front band. Without the elastic to support the waistband, my pants are prone to fold over there. It is not pretty.

The fabric is a chocolate rayon crepe - very drapey - ordered from Stone Mountain and Daughter. Rayon is not my favorite fabric but it works here as it has great drape and is light weight. It's still summer here in the southeastern USA. And this brown will wear beautifully on through the fall.

During the hot summer months, I am drawn to loose pants that are cropped like these. It is so much better than shorts on me! And they feel great.

The top is also interesting. I like the asymmetry in the front and the cute little pocket. I've started adding a single pocket to many of my older garments. And aren't those square arm holes great?

So far I've only made a toile or muslin of the top. I often skip this step as I cannot stand to waste the fabric. I did skip that step with the pants but I took careful measurements and traced my size onto tracing paper rather than cutting into the original pattern tissue. They fit perfectly. Yep. I was lucky.

Having said all of that, I took a bit more time with the top. I began in my typical it's-only-fabric pants-on-fire manner. I usually cut a size M in this pattern line, but I started thinking about how this was probably oversized and I could cut a small. I was so cocky that I cut right into the pattern tissue on the size S lines.

I almost cut out the shirt using this interesting and expensive piece of fabric I purchased from Cutting Line Designs in March. It's a cotton-linen blend, a minimalist design by Yoshiko Jinzenji, and just the right weight for a top.

I washed and dried the fabric. I began to imagine how I might lay out the pattern pieces to take advantage of the placement of the markings on the fabric. And then I happened to glance at the suggested fabrics for the top. Knits with 2- or 4-way stretch. What?!?

Sure enough, a tissue fitting revealed that a size S would be too small, at least in the lower sleeves. The lower sleeves are probably drafted with negative ease to make it easy to push up the knit sleeves to 3/4 length. Of course, there is no such thing as negative ease with a woven fabric. 


I dug through the stash and found an old cotton jacquard tablecloth to use as a toile. Then I graded the pattern tissue out to a size M. Cutting and constructing the toile was quick. I'm quite pleased with the fit. The shoulder seams fit me perfectly. The sleeves are probably a little short but I'll likely roll them up anyway. 

I am now looking forward to making the top in real fabric. The table cloth is OK but a little heavy for a top. 

I'll make the next one with my re-graded size Medium. I learned I need to make a minor change in the finish of the neckline. The neckline has a sharp curve at each shoulder, making it difficult, even with a bias strip, to create a smooth finish. Next time, I'll finish the front neckline and the back neckline before sewing the shoulder seams. I find that often works best on a boat neckline like this one. In fact I think that's what I'll do even with a knit. 

My neckline is finished with a bias strip of quilt cotton. It looks smooth here but it tends to pop up at the sharp curve.
So will I make a muslin with the next new pattern? Hmmm... Probably not.

Friday, August 3, 2018


Huipil - #inspiredbyFrida #dresslikeFridaSAL
Huipilthe most common traditional garment worn by indigenous women from central Mexico to Central America

It's a simple shape for a topper - just rectangles, perfect for narrow fabrics created on backstrap looms. And I've made this shape before, not realizing it had such an exotic name - Huipil. The Huipil has been revisited by many sewists of late due to an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. There is a sew-along underway described here and seen here. I love seeing all the variations in this simple piece.

Here is my very first Huipil. This was before I made the connection to Frida. I still wear these PJs. The top is the simplest shape possible. I cut two squares and seamed them to make shoulder seams. I left a space in the middle large enough for my head. This is a knit so it was easy to just stitch the shoulder seam open to finish the neckline. I placed pockets strategically.

And I've lost this cute top:

Both were blogged here.

This time, I did make one pattern piece: the shape for the neckline - a 5x12 rectangular opening. I used another favorite top - the Cottage shirt - to make rough guesses at my preferred width and length - roughly 30x30.

Using remnants and small pieces from stash, I inadvertently took it from simple to slightly challenging to frustrating.

Because of the small pieces, I decided I did not want to just cut a hole for the neckline. Instead I built up the 12x5 opening as I went.

This meant 2 steps forward, one step back, because I designed it as I made it. You can see in the picture above that, at one time, I had a strip of red print running across the front and the back of the shirt. I hated it - made my shoulders look so sloped!

And of course I obsessed over how to finish the interior. I did not want to use the serger because I was afraid it would add bulk to an otherwise light-weight garment.

Last but not least, that square in the front is a very dense weave cotton. I think it must have a weird finish to it. Both my machine needle and my hand-sewing needle became noticeably dull as I sewed. But I do love that print - so worth it!

I love the deep hems on the Cottage shirt and so wanted to duplicate that here. To do this, I added a deep facing with the small Souleiado red print. It's only slightly visible.

As I was finishing some of the handwork last night, I was thinking - I'll never wear this. Then I put it on just now and I love how it feels. It's a perfect hot-weather top.

Maybe I'll make another one.