From November 2015

Pencil skirt FAIL

I wanted to make myself another couple of pencil skirts, because I like the look of them and their versatility, so I sewed some up about two weeks ago. I had made the black one a touch too small, so I remeasured myself and made the size I thought I needed.

The two skirts I made, both out of stash fabric, ended up several inches too big. I don’t know how I could measure myself that inaccurately, but it can happen. I suspect it was because I didn’t write the measurements down, and misremembered them. Pencil skirts are a real hassle to alter, so I offered them to friends, but unfortunately, the size didn’t work for anyone that I know. I’ve put them in a donation bag that we’ll be taking to a local centre that is collecting donations for Syrian refugees. At least they won’t be going to waste!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have sufficient brown fabric to make another brown skirt, but the poppy print cotton sateen had enough remaining yardage to make another two skirts, so I remeasured myself today and cut another poppy skirt. I even made sure to try it on when I basted the zipper, to ensure that it would fit (it was perfect). The zipper stuck a little bit at the waistband seam, but I thought “no big deal, I’ll just trim down the seam allowances and everything will be fine”.

broken zipI tried to zip up my skirt after completing the lining, and this is what happened. First, the zipper got stuck in the same place, about 1/4″ above the waistband seam… it wouldn’t go any higher. When I tried the skirt on, the zipper would unzip, but this time, it was STUCK. It wouldn’t unzip, it wouldn’t zip higher. I have no idea what happened to my zipper, because it worked just fine before I sewed the lining into the skirt. I checked to make sure the lining wasn’t caught anywhere. So I did what any frustrated seamstress would do. I tried to convince the zipper to get unstuck. That’s when the zipper teeth burst apart. I tried to fix it, got more frustrated, and ended up tearing the zipper tape. I just can’t cope with tearing it all apart and fussing with it, so the skirt went into the trash. I still have enough fabric to try again.

I think I’m done with this pattern. Between sizing issues and frustration with the zipper (lining up those seams is not much fun, let me tell you), I just can’t say I’m enjoying this pattern anymore. It’s not a bad pattern, I’m just too frustrated to do it again. I’m not too frustrated to make a different pencil skirt though. The next one I’m trying is from Sew Over It, and it doesn’t have a waistband, or even lining, which means it will be much quicker to sew. I can always wear it with a slip if I need to. The only problem is that the pattern is from the UK, so it prints on A4 paper, so before I even buy the pattern, I need to find out what I need to do in order to make it work on letter sized paper. Page scaling isn’t an option, because then the skirt won’t fit.

Blanket for teacherbaby

DSC_4578On Tuesday, my 10 year old son told me that his teacher’s last day before maternity leave is November 26. He said he wanted something for the baby, and asked me to make a blanket. No matter how hard I tried, I could not convince him that a hat would be perfectly acceptable, practical, and most importantly, easy for me to complete before Mrs. C. goes on leave.

No, only a blanket would do! She’s his favourite teacher. He gave me puppy dog eyes. I was done for.

On my way home on Wednesday, I stopped at Michaels to shop for yarn. I had plans to make the Pemberley Blanket, and decided that an Aran weight yarn was close enough, mostly because it was so inexpensive. The yarn I selected was only $2.50 per ball, but at regular price, it was nearly $7. None of the bulky yarns were on sale, so Aran it is!

I don’t normally like knitting with acrylic, but given that baby things get dirty easily and I can’t count on Mrs. C. knowing how to care for woolen knits, acrylic was the way to go. Also, the price was right. I sat down on Wednesday evening to knit, then had second thoughts about the pattern. I had limited time, so did I really want to knit a blanket that would require me to frequently refer back to the pattern? Instead, I decided to knit the Pine Forest Baby Blanket, since it is a two row, seven stitch repeat. I had it memorized by the fourth row.

In the end, I used two and a quarter balls of Loops & Threads Impeccable yarn.

Before killing the acrylic.

I normally don’t like knitting with acrylic yarn. Call me a yarn snob if you will, but I don’t like how stiff the yarn is while working with it, or how it feels knitted up. The stiffness never seems to go away. This photo shows the finished blanket. While the lace is visible and open, rather than crumpled and closed like it would be if I’d used wool, it is also very bumpy and stiff. Not the nicest to have against a baby’s delicate skin. Normally, you’d block any knitted item, but you technically cannot block acrylic, because it doesn’t behave like wool does. It simply springs back to its original shape, and still feels stiff and bumpy.

After killing the acrylic.

This is when the magic of “killing” acrylic yarn comes in. The trick is to use a lot of hot steam to slightly melt the acrylic fibers. Acrylic yarn is technically plastic, so you have to be really careful when doing this for two reasons. One, you don’t want to melt the yarn onto your iron. Two, there’s no going back. If you mess up, you can’t just steam it back to the shape you want it to be. This is fine for my blanket, because I wanted it bigger and more stretched out, but in a garment, you need to be accurate when killing your acrylic. You can see the difference between the before and after photos. In the second photo, the lace is opened up, and flat. It even looks softer. Unfortunately, you can’t feel the difference, but I’d happily wrap a baby in this blanket now, since the yarn has lost its stiffness and itchiness after being killed. The blanket grew by about a third in the process, which is great, because it’ll be useful for longer than if I hadn’t killed the acrylic.

This was my first go at killing acrylic. If you want to read more about it, there are loads of tutorials about it, but this is the one I used. Does this mean I’ll use more acrylic in my knitting? Probably not often, because it makes my wrists ache, but for baby gifts, I’d be willing to do so again. Just don’t ask me to knit a 600 yard blanket in less than a week.

I hope Mrs. C. likes the blanket. My Ravelry project page is here.

Completed Minoru

DSC_4559 I finished my Minoru jacket last week, and have worn it every day since completing it. It has been difficult to get pictures of it though, given that it is dark by the time my husband gets home from work, so we took advantage of this morning’s beautiful weather to walk the dog near the river and get pictures of my jacket.

I didn’t change anything about finishing the jacket, other than making the interior pocket an inch deeper, to accommodate my phone, and serging the raw edges inside the collar, as the edges remain exposed inside of the collar and I didn’t want them to fray over time.

I’m quite pleased with the finished jacket, and wore it for the first time last Friday. It’s a very comfortable jacket – it doesn’t bind at the arms, it’s roomy enough in the bust, and has a really flattering silhouette. It even saw rain on Saturday, and I stayed nice and dry. There’s also plenty of room to wear my down underlayer with it in the winter, so there’s no need to buy a separate winter coat this year.

DSC_4563Would I make this jacket again? Absolutely. I think it makes a fantastic all-purpose jacket. It’s sporty enough for walking the dog and light hiking, but stylish enough to wear around the city or on your daily commute.

There are a few things that I’d do differently next time, however. The side seam pockets are a little too far to the back, thanks to the elastic at the waist, which pulls them away from the front. On my next Minoru, I’ll take the time to do the welt pockets I discussed previously but decided not to do.

The hood is really big. In fact, I don’t like it all that much. I’d make a different style of hood altogether the next time I make this jacket. The hood has a seam down the center, but I find that a hood that has three pieces fits better, and I’d draft my own hood in that style the next time around.

I’d also consider doing a tie belt next time I make this jacket, instead of the elastic waist. It gives you a bit more comfort when switching warm layers underneath the jacket, as it might be a touch snug with my heavier down layer.

Much as the elastic cuffs were a pain in the rear end, I’d leave them as is, because they look nice, and are comfortable to wear.

My pockets need some tweaking, as every time I take my hands out of them, the pocket lining pops out. Tacking them to the hem of the jacket will fix that problem though. I also didn’t make the bottom outside seam high enough when I sewed them, as the pockets aren’t really a secure spot to keep things. When I crouch to pick up after my dog, sometimes stuff falls out of my pocket (such as my phone, the day I didn’t put it back in the interior pocket).

I’m pretty happy with this jacket, considering it was my first time sewing this type of outerwear. Am I 100% happy? No, but I’d say I’m 90% happy, which is more than I can say for anything I’d buy off the rack! I’ll get a lot of use out of this jacket, and when it is time, I’ll definitely make another.

View all of my Minoru Jacket posts here.


High Light Quilt – Finished

DSC_4551-001 Remember my post about the quilt I was making for our bedroom? It’s finally finished!

My sister in law has a home-based long-arm quilting business, and because of the size of the quilt, I asked her to quilt it for me. This quilt is massive! I knew there was no way I could ever possibly quilt it on my machine without hating every minute of it, so having it done on a long-arm was the way to go. She quilted it with a series of leaves, in pale yellow thread. I’m really pleased with the quilting, and there’s no way I’d have been able to do it myself.
DSC_4552She gave me the finished quilt in October, but because other projects were a priority, I let it sit for a while. I spent a few hours on Sunday binding it, and threw it in the washer today. Thank goodness for glue basting, or I’d have lost a lot of blood thanks to all of the pins I would have needed! I’m really pleased with my quilt, and love how it looks on the bed. It’s so much better than the boring Ikea duvet we had on it previously.

Minoru, part VIII, waist casing, zipper and cuffs

DSC_4538 I made the casing for the waist elastic today.

First, I measured the width of the marked area, which is 2 1/4″. The elastic is 2″, so this doesn’t give much room for error. Next, I measured the length of the marked area, which on the size 16 is 33″ from end to end. I decided to use the knitted mesh that I used for my pockets, so that I wouldn’t have added bulk because of folding over raw edges. I cut a piece that was 33″ long by 2 3/4″ wide. This gives you 1/4″ on either side as a seam allowance.

Next, you need to pin it along the marked line where the waist elastic will go. Pin ON the line, rather than across it. This will prevent extra pin holes in your fabric that will require sealing later. Sew into place along the marked lines. If you’re using a stretchy fabric like I am, feel free to stretch it a little as you sew. You’re putting elastic in the casing, and stretching it a bit will cut down on the bulk when you’re done. I ended up with a little extra at the ends, which I’ll trim off.

If you have seam tape, use it to seal your casing seams. I am nearly out, so I’m using liquid seam sealant. I’m saving the last piece of tape for the zipper. The inside isn’t pretty, but it will be hidden by the lining, so I honestly don’t care.

When you reach the point where you insert the elastic, you’ll have to remember to seal the ends after you pull the elastic to fit your waist. You don’t need to do this part quite yet though.

After the waist casing was finished, I started on my zipper. I did everything according to the directions in the sewalong.

DSC_4539I also followed the instructions for the sewalong when I attached the cuffs. I must have stabbed myself at least a dozen times on this step, because the elastic is so stiff and hard to work with. There MUST be a better way to attach them than the way it’s done in the sewalong step, because this was the least enjoyable part of constructing the jacket so far. In the end, I cut my elastic at 10″ instead of 11″, which is what the pattern called for, because that would have made the cuffs too loose. I’m happy with how the cuffs look, but they were a huge pain to sew. On future jackets, I might try doing a different cuff, because I have no desire to ever do this to myself again. Granted, the stiffness of my fabric contributed to the difficulty I had, but I don’t think they’d be trouble-free in a lighter fabric either.


Minoru, part VII, the collar, pockets & sleeves

DSC_4536There’s a rainfall warning for today – we’re expecting 50-70mm of rain in the city. What a perfect day to spend inside, sewing a rain jacket! I’m excited, because today I get to start making it look like a jacket! First, I had to sew the collar to the neckline of the jacket. Remember my comments on using heavier thread to do the gathering stitches? It won’t gather at all, because of the rubbery backing on the fabric. I ended up doing small pleats instead, facing the shoulder seams, which is better anyway, because they’re not as bulky as gathers. The nice thing is that because this reduces the bulk, I was able to seam seal the collar after topstitching. Look at that nice zipper with its reflective tape! Fancy!

I had to stray from the sewalong again, because I am adding pockets. I decided not to do welt pockets, because of the placement of the waist gathers. Therefore, I used the tutorial that Tasia linked to here. No pictures, as that’s all covered in the tutorial. I did, however, make my pockets a little deeper than the tutorial.

DSC_4535Once I’d finished the side seams, I sealed the sleeve seams, but since I was starting to run short on seam tape, I didn’t seal the body side seams. I topstitched the side seams, but not the underarm seams, because the stiffness of the fabric would have made it really difficult. I’ll use liquid seam sealer on the body side seams. I trimmed all of the seams to 1/4″ before sealing.

My next post will detail how I will make the casing for the elastic, since I don’t plan on following the pattern instructions for that step. I can’t do anything else on the outer jacket right now, because my liquid seam sealer needs at least 8 hours to cure, so I’m going to sew the lining and baste the remaining reflective tape to the front zipper.

Minoru, part VI, the collar

DSC_4523 My husband took the boy to swimming lessons after dinner, so I got back to work on my Minoru! The next step is the zipper in the collar. I’ve done zippers like this in bags before, so I knew the technique, but for those of you who aren’t familiar, Tasia’s instructions are very good. This is another instance of having to divert from the instructions because of the nature of my fabric. The instructions tell you to pin horizontally along the stitching lines (marked in red) but I’m trying to avoid making extra holes in my fabric, so I pinned inside the lines, since that section will be folded inside.

DSC_4524 Stitch around the marked lines. TAKE YOUR TIME. This opening should be as even and straight as possible, becasuse you’re going to see any mistakes that you make. In my case, I reduced the speed on my machine, so that I wasn’t tempted to rush through it. My fabric is really unforgiving, so it’s better to take it slow. Make sure to use a shorter stitch length at the corners. This reduces the chance of fraying when you snip into the corners. When you cut down the middle of the channel you sewed, try to cut as close to the center as possible. It’ll make pressing it later easier, and reduce wonkiness at the opening. You want to make sure that everything is as straight and even as possible. Stop about 1/4″ from the end, then snip diagonally into the corner as far as you can, making certain not to snip through your stitching. If you don’t snip far enough, the outside will pucker. The opening is curved to match the collar, but you could easily make it straight, which would actually make it easier to sew the zipper in.

DSC_4527 The next step is the zipper. I decided to use some of my reflective piping at the zipper opening. First, I tried pinning it in the opening, but soon became frustrated and dissatisfied, because the piping was uneven. I also realized that pinning the zipper in was going to be really challenging, because I wouldn’t be able to baste the piping in.

My solution was to baste the piping to the zipper tape. This allowed me to ensure that the piping was straight to the zipper teeth, and it worked like a charm.

DSC_4528 Here’s the finished zipper. You can purchase zippers with reflective edges like this, but Dressew didn’t have any, so I made my own! I think that reflective elements on rainwear is extremely important, especially as the days get shorter. I am thinking about putting a reflective strip along either side of my front zipper as well. The piping is from Peak Fabrics, and it’s a flat piping. If you wanted a corded piping, you could easily thread cording through the piping using a darning needle. I like the reduced bulk of the flat piping, however. My fabric isn’t that stiff, but if I’m putting piping on my zippers, the last thing I need is to make my already stiff outerwear zippers even stiffer by adding piping with cording to them. I couldn’t find any closed-end zippers in the right length to match my separating zipper for the front of the jacket, so I had to use a separating zipper for my hood.

DSC_4529 The next step is to sew the zipper into the opening. Again, Tasia’s sewalong instructions are very helpful if you’ve never done a zipper like this before. I carefully pressed the opening, making sure that the lining wasn’t peeking out, then started pinning. The trouble was, the zipper is straight, and adding the piping made it less flexible, so I took out the pins and lined everything up on my machine and winged it. I guess I like to live dangerously, with my unforgiving fabric! It worked really well, and I’m satisfied with the results.

DSC_4530The final step for the hood and collar is to sew the hood into the collar zipper. Make sure that the right sides are both up when you stick the hood through. The raw edge of the hood will be on the inside of the collar. Also, make sure that the edge of the collar with the double notch at the center is the upper edge. The sewalong step for this can be found here.

That’s all for now! The next step will be the side seams, including pockets.

Minoru, part V, the hood

When last we left my Minoru jacket, I’d cut everything out and finished sewing and sealing my sleeve seams. I wasn’t able to get any sewing done on Wednesday, so I’m back at it today.

As I mentioned in my last post, I jumped ahead and sewed the exterior hood, but it’s not finished – I am lining my hood, so that’s where I’m picking up today. The hood isn’t meant to be lined, but I don’t want to leave my coated exterior fabric unlined, because it doesn’t feel nice on the inside. Therefore, I’m straying from the tutorial.

DSC_4518I sewed the center seam, topstitched and sealed it on Tuesday, and left it at that point. Today, I sewed the lining. The hood opening is meant to be sewn with a 1/2″ hem, folded over twice. I don’t need to do this, because I’m lining mine. I don’t want the lining to show on the edge, so I’m trimmed 1/2″ from the front of my lining. This gives me enough for a seam allowance, and for 1/2″ to be folded over inside of the hood. When I constructed my lining, I serged the raw edge, since Bemberg lining frays easily, and topstitched the seam allowance so that it doesn’t stick up and make the hood look wonky.

To sew the lining into the hood, you simply line up the front edges and sew a 5/8″ seam. I pressed it with a 1/2″ self-facing, with the hood turned in to ensure that the lining doesn’t show at the opening.

DSC_4520Because this fabric doesn’t hold a crease easily, I topstitched the front edge of the hood, catching the seam allowance, but not the lining. I can’t seal this stitching, but it is so close to the edge of the hood that it doesn’t really matter. The last thing you need to do before setting the lined hood aside is to baste the bottom edge. This will make sewing the hood into the collar easier. Once the hood is done, set it aside until after your collar zipper is completed. The hood will be sewn into the collar, where it can be rolled up and stowed when you don’t need it.

DSC_4513The other step I completed today was running gathering threads along the top of the jacket. The pattern instructions don’t specify where to do so, which was frustrating, but the sewalong clarified this step. There are circular markings on the fronts and back of the jacket – this is where you start and stop the gathering stitches. Because I was concerned about regular sewing thread breaking when I pull the gathers (since my fabric is a bit grabby thanks to the rubbery coating), I used heavy duty thread for the gathering stitches. Always run two rows of gathering stitches, as I’ve done here – it ensures that your gathers sit straight when you sew the seam, as well as giving you an extra thread to pull in the event that your thread DOES break while pulling your gathers.

My next post will be sewing the collar zipper.

Minoru, part IV, sleeves, seam sealing, and hood.

Here goes something! The pattern, and sewalong (which I’m using as instructions, since the pattern instructions aren’t all that detailed and lack clarity) say to sew the sleeves to the back first, so that’s what I did. I will be jumping around a little, but for the most part, I’m following the tutorial.

Remember when I said I was going to put my reflective piping on the sleeve seams? It’s not going to work, because the piping is cut on the straight grain, and doesn’t like to go around curves. Queue Hazel grumbling about spending money on notions she can’t even use. Such is life, not everything can go perfectly, right? That doesn’t mean I’m not using ANY of the piping though. It does, however, mean that I’m not using most of it. I am going to try to put piping along the edges of the collar, as well as the edges of the hood zipper. There’s really nowhere else to put piping, since this jacket doesn’t have back seams.I’m disappointed, but I don’t want to put the whole project on hold while I buy new piping.

DSC_4509As for the sewing, as you can see, I’ve carefully pinned inside my seam allowance. The nice thing about pinning like this is that you can sew with the pins in place, rather than having to take them out as you come to them, because the needle doesn’t have to go over the pins. I know some people sew over pins, but I’ve had too many bad experiences doing so. If you hit the pin just right, you end up with a mangled pin. If not, you dull your needle faster, or break it. I can’t afford to take chances with this jacket!

After sewing the seams, the sewalong says to top stitch the seam allowance toward the sleeve. I didn’t trim my seams until after topstitching, which made it easier, because I didn’t have to worry about trimming perfectly.

DSC_4510Once the topstitching was done, I took my jacket to the ironing board to apply the seam sealing tape. I’ve never used this product before, and unfortunately, there were no instructions included with it. I found this page, which was helpful, because it discusses the different types of seam sealing tape, and how to use each. My seam tape is transparent. Once I determined which side was the right side to lay on the fabric (the smooth, shiny side), I applied it to the seams. What a process! Because my seams are a bit curved, it meant doing it an inch or two at a time, so that I sealed all of the stitching. I ended up having to go over each seam with my iron several times, because some places didn’t fully seal the first time around, but I’m satisfied with how it all turned out.

Just don’t do what I did, and turn your iron up just a little bit, thinking that it’ll make the seam tape stick better. You’ll glue your pressing cloth to the seam tape, like I did. Now I need a new pressing cloth. Mine was getting a bit manky anyway, but it melted the waterproofing layer on the underside of the fabric as well. It’s all good in the end, because I swore a little, turned my iron down, and put a new piece of seam tape over top of the spot I melted. The fabric itself didn’t melt, so no real harm done. Lesson learned!

I don’t think I’ll be able to seam seal where the gathered parts of the jacket are, which is unfortunate. I don’t have any of the liquid seam sealer, and the tape simply isn’t going to work. I’ll see if I can pick up some of the liquid product next time I’m out, since I don’t need it immediately.

At this point, I’ve got the sleeves sewn to the front and back pieces, and the center of the hood sewn. All seams have been topstitched and sealed. That’s enough for today!

Minoru, part III, in which I cut my fabrics

DSC_4502Since I’m satisfied with my muslin, aside from adding a little extra room in the bust, I went ahead and cut my fabrics today. The top fabric is the lovely teal Bemberg lining that I got at half price. I have extra, since I bought more than I needed, which is nice, because you never know when you are going to need lining. There’s enough left over to make another pencil skirt. The brown and black fabric on the bottom is my waterproof fabric, which I purchased from Peak Fabrics. It’s a two layer breatheable fabric, which means it won’t let moisture in, but it will let moisture out. As I mentioned previously, I bought the last of this fabric, and was worried about not having enough.

DSC_4503After walking the dog, I made a pot of coffee and started laying things out. I started with the lining, because honestly, pinning into my waterproof fabric made me a little anxious. There’s no room for error when you’re working with waterproof fabric, because every hole you make in the fabric is a place that will let water in, which defeats the purpose of sewing with this type of fabric!

Once my lining was cut out, I laid out my outer shell pieces. Surprisingly, I have quite a decent amount leftover. Not enough to make another garment, but enough that I could have been a bit more generous with my layout.

As you can see in the photo, I pinned very close to the edges of the pattern pieces. This pattern is sewn with a 5/8″ seam allowance, so I pinned within the seam allowance to make sure that I didn’t make any holes in the exposed fabric. When I sew, I will have to keep this in mind. It will make pinning the gathers rather challenging, but I’ll get through it.

I decided not to make welt pockets on my jacket. Why? Because of the waistband elastic. I would have had to place the pockets uncomfortably low in order to make the welt pockets look nice, since I didn’t want them in the gathers of the waist elastic. I am going to skip the zippers on the pockets, because I’m making them nice and deep, and I can put my keys in the inside pocket, so they won’t get lost.

The only pieces I haven’t cut out yet are the casing for the elastic and the inside flap to keep rain from coming through the zipper. I’m going to use the facing piece to cut it, since it will give me the right length, but I haven’t worked out how wide I need it to be yet. The elastic casing will be cut out of nylon mesh lining, which I’m also using for my pockets. This will reduce bulk at the waist. I could use the lining fabric, but I think the mesh will be easier to work with.

Okay, enough talk. I’m off to sew!