Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What to do when your sewing machine craps out on you.

At the behest of my sister, I am writing a new blog post. The photo-taking hangs me up, and I've been pregnant since April and just haven't felt like it. At the best of times I have a hard time taking pics. Throw in a couple of months of morning sickness, a stupid-busy August and a broken machine...


For the last month my machine has been back and forth to the doctor 4 times, and it's still there now awaiting a part that I'm told will take forever to come in. What's wrong with it, you ask?
After 4 years, the Kenmore I treated myself to decided to stop working when I was only buttonholes away from finishing a shirt for B.

Damn you machine!! Damn you to hell! (fist shake)

The first guy I took it to had no idea what was wrong with it and gave it back to me after a week. Next, I took it in to another place for servicing where they gave it the once over and I had it back after another week. I used it for maybe a day and it was on the fritz again. Back it went (servicing is on warranty) where after another week, I was told it was a bent needle. Really? Hmmm.... This time it lasted as long as it took to finish B's shirt and then promptly started to form delightful thread nests on the underside of my fabric – same problem as before. 

So I took it back again—this time after watching many more videos online to try and self-diagnose. Turns out, the reason the Kenmore I bought has so many great features at such an affordable price is because Janome (the makers of the new Kenmore's) decided in their infinite wisdom to make the hook (part which holds the top loading bobbin assembly) out of plastic. A scratched hook=thread nest. And the part is difficult to get apparently. Balls. 
So... what did I do all those days of the week without my machine??

1. Finally make 4 tote bags for baby gifts that have been in the queue for at least a year.

2. Make 3 pairs of maternity work out shorts using up stash remnants

3. Buy more fabric! I splurged more than I ever splurged before (aided by the lovely and talented Taryn of on some fabric for some leggings in brown scuba and delicious brown stretch suede (accurately named "butter soft".... it feels like a puppy's head) using previously made McCalls 6404

4. Finish up crochet baby gift

5. Another crochet baby gift – blanket using up stash yarn.

6. Buy more fabric! Another knit top using a copy of an old top (see below)

7. Copy rtw jeans to make maternity jeans from stash fabric

8. Copy worn out tunic top and cut out fabric from stash

9. Cut out Zsalya top (cut a couple of inches longer for maternity)

I managed to complete a couple of other simple projects using my back up machine and the serger:
Ratty old shirt copied and altered for maternity.

Vintage maternity tunic in plaid flannel – cut on bias. I lowered the neckline and applied the neck facing to the right side. This pattern includes pockets, but I'll leave out if I make it again. They aren't really necessary.

Aside from sewing, I also got inspired by the pinterest gremlin to weave a rug for the baby room out of old t-shirts.

My husband (realist) thought I was nuts when I said I was going to do this. My mother (diy-enabler) bought me the materials – I get these compulsions honestly folks. The instructions I used are found here.

The left over t-shirt yarn will be made into a basket. Pattern here.
Mine will not look this nice as I'm using cut up t-shirts instead of yarn – and I wasn't very careful when cutting up the shirts.

I also bought some springy black poly crepe for culottes (pattern #McCalls 6169 – actually found in the skirts section on their website) with maternity panel. I hate wearing skirts so I'm excited to try this skirt-forgery.

View C with a possible length alteration

As I wait for my machine to get repaired, I've resurrected my old machine (formerly my grandmother's – it's like sewing with a jet engine and sounds like a SanFrancisco trolly car dinging away), borrowed my mom's machine and am serging when I can. In the meantime, I'm researching what to replace my plastic-hooked disappointment with. There's a Brother dealer in town that's been recommended to me. Any opinions?

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I just celebrated my 40th birthday two weeks ago. I had a girls night out, a movie night with my husband, sister and brother-in-law, and another movie/dinner date with my husband—more of a birth-week(s) celebration – which is how I like it.

I had grand plans to finish sewing something for the ladies night out, and almost did finish a top (Ugly-see below), but then decided that it was the perfect opportunity to wear my Giselle, and I'm glad I did as I don't often have an opportunity to wear it, and it's a great eating dress!

The Good.

The top I finally did finish is jut the top 2/3 of the Giselle (by Kate and Rose Patterns). I had some sheer-ish crinkle poly that I picked up on a whim a year ago in my stash that I had earmarked for this project. I'm glad that I finally got around to it because I'm very happy with the way it turned out.

I used two layers on the front bust and midriff, and one for everything else. (I guess you would technically call this underlining?) I just put the two layers wrong sides together, basted the edges and treated them as one for the rest of the construction. The fabric is so flimsy that is worked out well. I followed the rest of the construction instructions as they were written. I even machine stitched the bias binding. I normally hand sew for more control, but I really didn't need to this time. Thank you stay stitching.

I cut the first tier of the dress minus about two inches and after trying it on, I found it a bit on the short side so I just cut a 4" strip the circumference of the bottom, folded it in half, attached it and topstitched the seam up towards the top. Easiest hemming ever.

After wearing this top for a whole day, I maybe should have interfaced the midriff as it kind-of collapses. Not a big deal, just something to remember for next time – depending on the fabric I use. I remember that I did interface that area on my dress and it wears really well.

I love this top. There is no gaping AT ALL at the neck. It's a deep v, but I didn't have any wardrobe malfunctions all day. Really, this is a lovely pattern that I recommend. I'm sure I'll make it again. I'd like to try it in a knit.

The Bad. 

Ugh! I'm so disappointed. I've made this top successfully a few times. It's a free pattern from Cation Designs. In previous makes I'd broadened the upper back but this time I really noticed that I need to lower the arm hole 3/4-1". My other makes somehow came out wearable (even a much-worn favorite in my wardrobe), but this one did not. My sister has anther new top folks! I didn't loose much as all fabrics came from my stash and were all from second hand sources so really – just a day of sewing.

I made a couple of other changes like adding a 2" folded band to the sleeve (again, to avoid time consuming baby hems), and the small 1m pice of fabric came up a bit short when cutting out the front and back so I added some textured sheer black triangle panels to the sides.

The Ugly.

This was going to serve as both a fit muslin and a possibly a birthday top. I know the fabric is screams: "Fresh Prince of Bel Air!!!", but there's something inside of me that believes that somehow there's an appropriate usage for all fabrics and colour combinations in existence.  Sometimes you can't polish a terd. The black also ran after washing. Blerg.

I thought Butterick 6209 had some potential.
I have a wedding to go to in August and I thought it would be easy and comfortable to eat and dance in (but especially eat). It turns out its super gapy at the neck. I had a client meeting the day I wore my muslin to work and I think I must have flashed my bra about a thousand times during the course of the meeting. I have no problems with low cut (check out the Giselle above), but if I want to make this for real, I'm going to have to tack some shit down. 
That being said, this is an interesting pattern. I like the seams at the back, and there's no darts and no closures people! 

I cut out a 12, but blended to a 14 at the back armhole to accommodate a broad upper back. The fit was very good with this adjustment, though I'd have to recheck it if I make the sleeved-version. Everything fit together well, and the instructions for the neckline were good. I feel like there's got to be a better way of assembling this part though that doesn't involve as much hands sewing. Cutting it short for a top version left me with a stupid looking flare at the bottom hem so I took that in quite a bit (maybe 4" total) blending to nothing at the armpit seam.

Will I attempt this as a dress? Despite the gape, Yes. I've already bought fabric. I think I need to do a forward shoulder adjustment as the top slid to the back which made for constant fiddling. This may help with my neckline-gape problem too. I'm going to add small cap sleeves to my version.  After an exhaustive search at Fabricland for the suggested fabrics, I found some crinkle cotton in earthy green and cream (not on the suggested fabrics list) that will make it possible for my dress to do double duty (casual and dressy) depending on what accessories I wear with it. The drape will work and after washing, it's looking like I won't even have to iron it very much. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Everything in life is free, apparently.

We got robbed. Again.
When we first moved into our house about 5 years ago we came home from a 20 min trip to sign up for a class to find that our house had been broken into. Silly us, we didn't have our alarm system hooked up yet, but you can bet your ass it didn't take us long to do so after that. They got the tv, camera, laptop and case, and the ipod and made a bit of a mess. Thank goodness for insurance. 

This time we got off easier. They broke into our car (thankfully, not breaking any windows – what nice robbers!), nabbed a couple of fm-tuners and the garage door-opener and then grabbed B's bike and a couple of bags of cans going to recycling from the garage (we were parking on the street because we're using the garage to paint baseboards). 

All in all, it could have been worse. Here we are at the scene of the crime:

How cool is my new blazer?

It's popped-collar-cool. 
And pretty much free! The fabric was from a friend and I had thread in my stash—a super easy and quick project.

It's nice to have pictures so I can see where to tweak things in my next attempt (if there is one...probably). The sleeve length could be shortened by about 3/4". 

All of my other changes (detailed in my last post) worked out well, and although i got a pretty good fit in the back, it's still a bit tight when driving so I may make another adjustment there, adding maybe another half inch. 

It looks like I may have almost too much fabric there at this point, so maybe I'll just increase the width on the lining.  

The sleeves hang really nicely, the shoulder seams are in the perfect position, and the shoulder darts are perfect for my "sit-all-day-at-a-computer" posture.

Squinty McSquinterton


Monday, April 20, 2015

I really hate cutting on the floor.

Renos are a ridiculously slow process, especially when you do them yourself. On the upside though, I replaced all of the plug-ins and light switches myself and now I feel like a pro. The carpet is in and we were supposed to start on the trim/baseboards this past weekend but there was a sticking door to fix that took most of our (my dad's) time and then we had to make a supply run.

As for sewing, I couldn't wait any longer for my sewing area to be put to rights. I had some new patterns come in the mail after everything else was packed away and I've been salivating at them for weeks. My sewing set-up isn't ideal at the moment, so it took some time to set up and I had to cut out on the floor (I can't believe I used to do that all the time – talk a bout a back ache!), but this first project isn't overly complicated so it went fairly quickly. 

First up: McCalls 6711 (the jacket)

It's a simple little jacket with no closures (calls for a hook and I which I won't be using, because... why???). 

I used this book to double check what size to use and if I needed to make any obvious adjustments. 
All of my measurements were matching up to the size 12 pretty much so I went with that (even though going by the pattern envelope I was closer to a size 14. Joi Mahon also has a Craftsy class on fitting that takes you through her unique fitting process.
My fabric is free from a friend who was destashing. It's a bright turquoise polyester (sounds terrible) with a sheen on the right side (really terrible) and I chose it because I was intending it to be a muslin (no kidding)—a shiny bright blue jacket didn't seem like something I would need in my closet. But, after basting everything together the fit was pretty great, even across back, so I decided to make it up for reals using the "wrong" side without the sheen. As luck would have it, I also found perfectly matching lining, also from the same friend's destashing gift. Plus, if Kristy can rock a bright blue blazer, so can I. 

My changes: 

1. Increased the width across the upper back by 3/4" splitting it between the back arm scythe and the sleeve.

2. Decreased the width of the upper chest by shaving a scant 1/4" off the front arm scythe blending out to the original seamline at the shoulder and underarm. The jacket fits exactly like the picture without doing this, but you can see that there's some extra fabric there (circled) on the model and I wanted to eliminated a little of that if I could.  

I Made both changes to both the fashion fabric and lining. 

Because this jacket is meant to be casual ie: not very tailored, I didn't get too fussy with the fit in the back. This decision may come back to bite me in the ass once it's done and I realize that I did need a sway back adjustment, but finger's crossed... 

Lucinda took this jacket to the next level by tailoring the crap out of it. Her's is beautiful, but not the look I'm going for in a casual spring/summer throw-on-and-go blazer so I'm going to stick to the given instructions as far as interfacing and tailoring (or lack thereof) goes. Plus the popped up convertible collar is what attracted me to this pattern in the first place so I don't want to loose it.

So far I've put together the shell and the lining except for the side seams and then I'm going to bag the lining using this tutorial by Grainline Studios. I should be able to finish it tonight—a very quick project. Photos and review coming soon.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Purl Soho Pullover Sweater

Well, it's done and I've already worn it a couple of times. I'm wearing it right now actually, and I'm very happy with it. 

This first set of photos taken in front of my door were done before it was even washed, and you can see that it doesn't really require blocking – I'm guessing because it's knit in the round??

As I think I mentioned in my last post, this pattern was free when I signed up for their mailing list. They have some sewing implements on their site as well if knitting is't your thing. 

There is a small bit of shaping in the back courtesy of a couple of shortrows up at the neck. I'm not sure if I did it correctly, but it's black yarn and I can barley tell which is front and back as it is. 

This second series of photos was taken by my dad at my mom's art show.
Same camera as the first two photos in this post, but the lighting is much better. 
Dad somehow has the magic touch with photography.

Mom has been taking art classes through the University of 
Saskatchewan for the last couple of years.

This is her piece titled "Feeding Frenzy"

One more for the road. I haven't quite mastered the art of the time delay on my camera yet. Here you can see my temporary sewing space in the upstairs of the house. TV trays do not make a great sewing table. And you can also see progress on the princess Leia costume! 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

In lieu of sewing

My basement sewing lair is still packed up because of renovations. Though I've set up a temporary sewing station upstairs, I'm not allowing myself to sew anything new before I finish the princess Leia costume a friend asked me to make. It's not hard, but I keep procrastinating because I don't want to screw up.

Other than that, I've been keeping myself busy with this:
There have been a LOT of babies born to friends of mine in the last year. My go-to gift has been a hand made stuffed toy with an accompanying book. I found the Edward's Menagerie book on our trip to Portland and figured that I'd get my money's worth (because of all the babies... so many babies). It's a beautiful book and the makes are basic enough for someone who is an occasional crocheter like myself. And they are ridiculously cute and pretty quick to make. So far I've made the cat, giraffe and just started the bunny—one ear took me 25 min this morning to give you an idea of time.

I've also tried to get back into knitting a little starting with the craftsy class for the Not So Itty Bitty Giraffe. To be honest, I found the class a little lacking. It would have been better to have short you-tube videos of the handful of key points in the pattern where one might need assistance. It seemed to me that there was a lot of chit chat/filler that made me glad I got the class on sale. The pattern itself is great and the end result is adorable. There were some tips Susan gave throughout the class that were very helpful and that translate to the making of other soft toys.


My next knitting venture took me to Elijah the elephant. I enjoyed the results of the construction on this one, ie: knitting (grafting??) directly onto already completed portions of the toy instead of sewing together individual pieces. I had never done this before, and it wasn't particularly easy, but managed it because of the great pictures and explanations included in the instructions. I had also never attempted short rows before this make. I'm still not sure if I was successful. I watched most of a free craftsy class on the subject (excellent instructor) but I need to practice that particular technique.


My most favourite new make is my second attempt at a knitted sweater. It's the Purl Soho Pullover and the pattern was free for signing up for their newsletter. My first sweater attempt was a complete frickin' disaster so I was hoping that this simpler sweater would be easy and successful. I'm using Impecable yarn in "charcoal tweed": 
It's really black with rainbow flecks. I seem to have a problem with only buying rainbow-variegated yarn.
I consider this a baby step into the world of knitting with only one colour. I have two pairs of coloured jeans planned to go with this sweater when I get my sewing space back. 

Last night, I got to the end of the shoulder shaping and realized that my counting was off by two stitches. Lesson learned: COUNT STITCHES REGULARLY!! Erin, you dummy.
I don't think I'm going to rip out more than one row to get back on track. I still have 3 decrease rows and one regular knit row and I can fudge it. The damn yarn is black and I can't see where I screwed up so no one else will. It was also touch and go when attaching the sleeves (the instructions still don't make sense to me), but I relied on common sense and what I could remember from the learn-to-knit class I took a couple of years ago.

There was one very helpful review I found which helped me decide to make this. Susan's make looks so nice I was convinced that this sweater wouldn't be a waste of time for me. 

A friend gave me a whole swack of fabric and yarn she didn't want anymore that included a couple of sock yarns. Guess what I'll be trying next?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Deer & Doe Plantain

I'm in search of tride and true (tnt) patterns for all the basic pieces in my closet.
I've got a button-down that's pretty close, some magical shorts that I've copied that fit no matter how much I weigh that I'm translating into jeans, and now i'm close to having a t-shirt tnt of my very own.

Plantain is a free pattern from Deer & Doe (as I'm sure you well know unless you are new to the sewing blogosphere). It's has a different shape than what you might be used to (ie: it can look a little maternity), and I wasn't sure about it myself, but it sure is easy to wear! Besides, taking in side seams is an easy alteration that can change the shape to whatever floats your boat. Plus it has cute little elbow patches that I have yet to try.

I made some small changes to affect the fit for myself, and after looking at my pictures I'm going to need to make some more changes.

On my muslin (not shown), I cut a 38 and graded to a 40 at the hip according to my measurements. In this version, I used a 38 throughout and like the amount of ease much better.

My changes:
1. forward shoulder 1/2". Finally a t-shirt that isn't sliding back all the time!
2. raised neckline to the smallest size – perfect. Changed the length of the binding to correspond with this change.
3. I can't remember if I made a broad back adjustment (all sewing packed away), but I'll check when I'm able. I suspect that I did.
4. took out the sleeve at the bicep and elbow. It was a little tight and uncomfortable in this jersey.

From drag lines the pics, it looks like I also need to:

1. sloping shoulder adjustment and lower the arm hole accordingly
2. swayback adjustment. I usually don't bother but it looks like shit and I should really figure that shit out. Any suggestions on how to do this?

This pattern fit my shoulder to bust area much better than the Sewaholic Renfrew that everyone has had so much success with. I think the Sewaholic block is not right for me, though the Minoru jacket is still a favorite. I've tried a couple of other no-name t-shirt patterns, but so far this one is the best for me.

Pattern review is here.