Some knitting and my first Zinnia

Eek! It’s been over a month since my last post! I’ve been busy getting into the groove of life in my new city. I’ve also been focusing on my dissertation.

I spend lots of time staring at my computer screen while drinking coffee.

Soy latte in Chinatown Coffee Company

Soy latte at the Chinatown Coffee Company. I’m in love with the milk foam heart.

As it gets colder in D.C. (it’s supposed to snow this weekend!), my knitting needles have been clicking away. I made a turquoise hat to wear in the cold at home and to a conference last month in Minnesota. Minn is freezing! My bones were cold… I found a sample of this hat at Looped Yarn Works in Dupont Circle. It was cute and looked easy. The pattern is called 201 Hat found on jessibean’s Ravelry page. It worked up very fast and is comfy to wear.

Freezing with fellow students in Minneapolis.

Freezing with fellow graduate students in Minneapolis.

Then, I made a cowl from some lovely textured yarn a former co-worker gifted to me. I think it was hand-dyed and I suspect it’s rather old. I used the free bulky mobius cowl pattern. I wasn’t able to pull off the mobius cast on this this yarn, but hope to give it a try soon.

Super warm cowl made from gifted yarn.

Super warm cowl made from gifted yarn.

In addition to knitting, I made a Zinnia!

When Colette Patterns came out with this versatile skirt, I knew I wanted to give it a go.

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The fabric cost about $6 a yard on the sale table at Joann’s. It’s synthetic, but I like the colors and the print.

skirt fabric

skirt fabric

I used a non-static liner also purchased at Joann’s. It’s stiff and doesn’t drape well. I was worried about bulking up the hem, so I just did a zig-zag cut on the lining. I’m now in the market for nicer lining fabrics. If you have a good source, please share!

Lining and lazy hem

Lining and lazy hem

I am pretty proud of the button and my invisible zip isn’t too bad, either.

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Can’t even see the zip!

Here’s the finished product. I wore it with a chambray shirt and what my fiance refers to as my “cowgirl boots.” It is a bit western worn like this. For its next wearing, I think I’ll go with a simple brown or white top and brown heels.

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Selfie in my kitchen.

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Here it is from head-to-toe!

This was my first Colette pattern and I will be making others. The directions were very clear and the pattern only required one minor adjustment. I cut a 6 and ended up having to recut the waistband. I think I spaced out my pleats a bit too far apart which caused the waistband to be too short. Luckily, I had extra fabric, so cutting a bigger waistband was no big deal. I sprayed the fabric down with Sullivan’s Fabric Stabilizer which helped with the slippery factor. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the result.

Now, the time is ticking for holiday sewing. I have two projects on the docket and limited time. Anyone else engaging in holiday sewing?

J’adore Miette!

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I finished Tilly’s Miette this weekend and wore it today to lunch with Mom and then to an event at the university. I am thrilled with how it turned out!

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Mom took some glamorous parking lot photos, but the super bright sun makes it tough to see the details on the skirt…

As promised, it was super easy. I didn’t even need to refer to Tilly’s online tutorials. The skirt involved only very straight-forward sewing.

I cut the size 3 and only made adjustments to the length. I’m short, so I cut of about 4 inches from the hem. I used a very light-weight denim I purchased at Joann’s. It’s dark blue and hangs nicely. Today, I discovered it does wrinkle, but it’s not too terrible. I give it high marks for comfort and I adore its versatility. I dressed it up today, but anticipate wearing it with a plain cotton tank and sandals throughout the summer. The wrap-around nature of the skirt means it will always fit, big meals or otherwise (this was tested and proved after lunch today)! Despite the wrap-around design, it held up well in some wind and got my mother’s approval. She referred to it as “appropriate” and “cute.” That’s a thumbs up from Mom! Wahoo!

Back view

Back view

After making Miette and the Mathilde blouse, I’ve started watching Tilly on The Great British Sewing Bee. There has been some kidding around on the web about Team Patrick (eh… not my type), but I am a big Tilly fan. I love the fact she’s willing to take risks and seems to bounce right back when things don’t go exactly as planned. After all, it’s just clothing… The show isn’t airing in the U.S., but I’ve found it on YouTube and can’t wait to watch her and all the other contestants in tomorrow night’s installment.

Tilly- if you happen to read this- keep the patterns coming! I could really use a pair of shorts (hint…hint…).

Bad hair day with wind that made it worse, but you get the idea...

Bad hair day with wind that made it worse, but you get the idea…

A University of Florida baby blanket & Tilly’s new pattern

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My latest baby blanket draped over my office chair. Try to ignore the stacks of paper on the floor!

After the Mathilde blouse, I pulled together another football baby blanket. I made this one for a good friend’s pregnant sister-in-law. The pattern and directions are from Jessica’s blog, Happy Together. The only changes I made were widening the white lace bits to a full inch. I felt they were a little too narrow on the first football blanket I created.

I have decided on a policy of strictly selfish sewing, but my friend asked very nicely and offered to cover my costs. When she told me the expectant parents are fellow Gators, I caved…

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I’m fairly certain it is my solemn duty as a University of Florida graduate to make sure future Gators are immediately surrounded by orange and blue. Duty fulfilled.

In other news…

Tilly has read my mind. I was staring into my closet this weekend after finishing my Mathilde blouse and pondering my next sewing project. I decided a simple and versatile skirt should be next. Maybe something in khaki or denim I can wear all summer and well into fall.

Have you seen Tilly’s new pattern? She read my mind! Her Miette pattern is exactly what I need. I’m not a big fan of pockets (I just don’t need extra fabric in that area…) but, I adore the pocketless version. Although, I haven’t purchased the pattern yet, my car inexplicably pulled into the fabric store parking lot on as I ran some errands this evening. I left the store with this:

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The color is really off in this photo. It’s a dark blue denim. It’s not quite as light as chambray, but it’s close. I didn’t want anything too stiff and I think this will drape nicely. Mysteriously, the exact amount required to make Miette landed in my shopping bag… Hmmm… it appears construction on my Miette will commence soon!

Well, at least the cat likes it…

My sparkly brown herringbone skirt (New Look 0119) did not go well. It’s too short, too tight, the side seam under the zipper is crooked, the hem is wavy, and the interfacing at the waistband is crooked. In other words, if it could be wrong, it is.

It doesn't look so bad when it's not on me.

It doesn’t look so bad when it’s not on me.

My cat, however, approves.

Millie enjoyed rolling around on the disastrous skirt.

Millie enjoyed rolling around on the disastrous skirt.

I realized I was in trouble with this skirt when the size I cut out and sewed turned out to be about two sizes too big on me. I tried to slim it down, but I’m curvy and the waist/hip ratio adjustments needed were too complicated for my current sewing skills. You don’t want to know how many seams I ripped out…

Despite the ultimate fail of this skirt, I am not counting it as a complete loss. I practiced some important sewing skills:

  1. Darts. -Sewing a straight vertical line is way harder than I thought.
  2. Installing a zipper. -This was by far, the most frustrating and time consuming part of the skirt. I learned there is no compatible invisible zipper foot for my machine (not even the generic Coats and Clark foot works), so I ended up having to install a visible zipper.
  3. Working with thin synthetic fabric. -Nightmare! It shows off lumps I didn’t know I possess. I have a bit more of this, but I’m not using it again without a lining or something underneath to make it a bit less clingy in all the wrong places.
  4. Applying interfacing- This is not as complicated as I had anticipated. I’m pretty sure my difficulties in application were due to the slinkiness of the fabric. I think the interfacing would have worked really well on something less temperamental.

Due to the multitude of problems, I will not be wearing the skirt in public or private… um… ever. And, no photos of me in the skirt will be posted. It makes my bum look bumpy and my waist look huge. I don’t need that sort of image floating around the web for posterity. 

When I placed the skirt on the rug to snap a picture, Millie was instantly enamored. Despite its flaws, she thought the skirt was great. There was much rolling around on the skirt and purring. A brief nap on the skirt followed.

Millie cleaned her paws and then dozed off on the skirt immediately after it's completion.

Millie cleaned her paws and then dozed off on the skirt immediately after it’s completion.

Not one to dwell on my failings, I got right back on that sewing machine and successfully finished a knit project this weekend. More to come about that later…

New Look 0119 progress & spring fabric

New Look 0119 Progress

“Easy!” “2-Hour” -Lies!

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Maybe an experienced seamstress can knock this skirt out in 2 hours, but a novice like me requires a lot more time to get it done. I am way more than 2 hours in and this is what I’ve produced so far:

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Sorry about the bad evening light.

It looks skirt-like, but certainly not finished.

My progress has been slow. I decided to create a wearable muslin for this project after finding lovely brown suiting fabric for about $4 a yard on sale at Joann’s. The fabric is easy to pull stitches out of and not too slinky and stretchy. Since this is only my second time using a commercial pattern and first time completing several of the sewing tasks required, I’ve been taking my time, consulting online tutorials when I get stuck and reading pertinent sections of the Colette Sewing Handbook for basic how-to’s.

Sewing this skirt has resulted in a lot of “firsts”:

  1. I created darts!
  2. I adjusted a commercial pattern to fit me.
  3. I inserted a zipper. (sort of…)
  4. I bought interfacing! (I haven’t used it yet, but will in the next step of construction.)

These “firsts” are not going smoothly.

Oh darn darts!- I created lots and lots of darts… I had a tough time sewing a straight diagonal line the first ten times and got my money’s worth out of my new seam ripper. 

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Finally- fairly straight and symmetrical darts.

The sizing was way off. I measured myself using the instructions in the Colette Sewing Handbook before purchasing the pattern. According to the measurements on the package, I should be a size 14, however, when I made up the skirt in that size it was way too big. I had to scale it down to a size 8. (Of course, this required dart removal and repositioning. Darn darts!) I also had to shorten the length as it fell unflatteringly long on my short frame.

The zipper is so far the most challenging and frustrating part of the skirt. The pattern calls for a traditional zipper with a fabric flap sewn to hide the zip. I decided to go rogue and insert an invisible zipper instead. I purchased a Coats and Clark 7 inch zip and the brand’s invisible zipper foot. Unfortunately, the zipper foot is really flimsy and doesn’t fit my machine. Initially, I thought I was doing something wrong, but after some searching online, it appears that it simply isn’t compatible with my sewing machine. I decided to try to insert the zipper with a regular zipper foot. I was able to do it, but it looks messy.

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This simply won’t do.

I hope to purchase an invisible zipper foot while I’m out running errands tomorrow so I can fix my wonky zipper and finish the skirt.  Assuming I can get a foot, I should be able to complete the skirt in the evening. I’d love to wear it to class this week.

Spring Fabric

Before I realized I had a zipper foot problem, I stopped by Joann’s to pick up some fabric for the patterns I purchased over the holiday break. I love their new Hampton Collection and purchased the following:

IMG_0437This fabric is gauzy and sheer. You can’t really see it here- there are little iridescent circles in the white stripes of the fabric that catch the light. It’s just a hit of sparkle. I don’t have a pattern in mind for this one yet, but I’m sure I’ll be able to find something soon.

IMG_0438I love this geometric print. It’s a cotton blend with just enough stiffness to the fabric to make it feel properly preppy. I’m thinking it will make a beautiful short-sleeved blouse.

IMG_0436The last fabric I purchased today is extremely simple and (dare I suggest it- boring). It’s a stretchy black jersey. I have a specific project in mind for this and I can’t wait to get started. I’ve never worked with knits, so this should be interesting…

I also took home a bias tape maker and twin needle (for the knit fabric). Sewing is getting expensive! I look forward to the day when I have all the supplies I need and only have to worry about purchasing fabric.

Since the cost of sewing is quickly adding up, I ‘ve decided that I’m not going to make any clothing purchases this spring. I’ll make whatever  garments I want and keep up with trends by making the items I would normally buy. I love to shop, so this will be a big change for me. I hope my “couture” can live up to my expectations!

Mad about plaid: A second puffy skirt

I’ve been obsessed with plaid this fall. It’s everywhere and I want it all!

Here are some of my favorites:

1. From Etsy

2. From L.L. Bean

3. From Refinery 29

4. My favorite from J. Crew

Obviously, my next sewing project had to involve plaid. A quick trip to Joann Fabrics and a rummage through the sale table produced a lovely navy plaid for $4 a yard. I decided to make the puffy skirt again using the plaid fabric. Here’s the result:

In my new skirt.

In my new skirt.

After making the puffy skirt once before, it was a lot easier to pull off a second time. I made a few adjustments from the first version. First, I slimmed it down by two inches to lessen the puffy factor. Second, I increased the top ruffle from 1/4 inch wide to 1/2 inch. It made the ruffle a bit more noticeable. I wanted it to peek out over a belt. Increasing the ruffle at the top made it a bit shorter with which I was fine. Third, I finished all the inside seams with a french hem. There will be no washing machine unraveling happening with this skirt.

I’m pleased as punch with the way it turned out. I wore it to lunch with my mom this afternoon and out running Christmas errands. It was comfortable and even earned some compliments from store clerks. (They may just have been trying to sell me something, but I’ll take it regardless.) I think I’m slowly getting the hang of this sewing thing.

Puffy skirt update

I am happy to report the brown corduroy skirt survived the washing machine! There were, however, a few problems…

First, the unfinished inside seams were, as I feared, problematic.

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The elastic casing on the inside of the waistband started to unravel on one side.

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A knotted thread mess.

It wasn’t a complete disaster, but I needed to do some damage control. I pulled out my sewing machine and read through the manual to figure out how to do a zigzag stitch. I made the adjustments the manual said I needed to in order to create the zigzag.

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Attempting a zigzag stitch for the first time.

A few minutes later… a finished seam!

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I think I did this right…

The unraveling at the waist was a bit more problematic. I fixed it, but the stitching arches up where it became unraveled. As long as I wear the skirt with a mid-width belt, the wonky stitching should be covered up and no one will know it’s not perfect.

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Sorry for this blown out picture- snapping photos at night is tricky. You can see where the waistband curves up in order to fix the fraying edge.

This definitely taught me the importance of taking the time to finish my inside seams. Making this skirt made me aware that fraying on future projects may be an issue, so I picked up pinking shears last weekend. Going forward I will always finish inside seams in clothing, but for small non-apparel projects that I don’t want to unravel, I think pinking shears will do the job.

My new pinking shears!

My new pinking shears!

Despite the mending the skirt required post-washing machine, I’m still pretty thrilled with it. I fully expected to pull pieces out of the machine rather than a still-complete skirt with a few fraying seams. I continue to consider the brown puffy skirt a success.

Obviously, this project has taught me that I have sooo much more to learn about sewing. Today, in an effort to continue figuring it all out, I signed up for an online sewing course. Home Ec Online is an online sewing course that includes a multitude of tutorials and tips for people like me who are just starting out. I found it via a Google search and am hoping that it will be as good as it looks. It appears to offer a lot of content for the $50 I plunked down via PayPal today. Hopefully, I will have access to the course soon. I really can’t get involved in any big sewing projects for another week- I’m eyeball deep in end-of-the-semester craziness. Once my final papers and grades are turned in, my course registration should be complete and I’ll be able to get started. I’m excited to continue learning!

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