Saturday, April 30, 2011

Coverstitch or Blind hem machine?

I need want a new toy. I thought I wanted a coverstitch machine, and the lady at my quirky little Eunice Farmer fabric store almost had me convinced to get a BabyLock a few weeks ago. Now I'm not so sure.

What's the difference between a blind hem machine and a coverstitch machine? I basically want the ability to make clean finished hems on knits (the double-needle version without using two machines), and I'd also like to be able to add some of those fancy external seams on knit shirts that are all over my ready-to-wear clothes.

To see an example of the fancy seams, check out this jacket from Lululemon. If you look at the detailed picture, you can see what I mean. Maybe I could replicate the look just by topstitching on my sewing machine? I've convinced myself I'd sew more for my boys if I could make knits that have those details.

Any insight y'all could give me would be awesome, as I'm totally clueless when it comes to anything outside of a serger or sewing machine. Let's face it, the serger is a mysterious creature to me, too, but we've developed a happy little friendship despite the fact that I never change her needles.

Also in the news around here, I've found a new source of inspiration. My next door neighbor is a bench scientist at Wash U. His lab has some sort of sister-school-lab in Sweden, and this year there is a young couple from Sweden doing a rotation here.

The wife, Elin, is one of the most chic women I have ever met. The first time I saw her was at a barbecue, where she was wearing an adorable shift dress in the most outrageous red and purple zebra stripe I've ever seen. Somehow, instead of looking garish, it was phenomenal. The next time we met, she was wearing black leggings under a taupe silk tunic/dress with military details like gold buttons and epaulets on the shoulders. Even their baby girl dresses better than I do.

Oh, and before I forget? She's pregnant. So she probably looks even more pulled together when she's not pregnant. Anyway, I've decided to try to track down Swedish fashion resources as inspiration because I am completely dismayed at my frumpy closet. I've spent the last few weeks pulling out my summer things and putting away winter, and it disgusts me.

I'm dressing so casually I think I've have to dress up to go to yoga class (not that I do that, but if I did). I only wear pants or shorts. My tees are overworn and overwashed. My work clothes are OK, not phenomenal by any means, but it's the casual clothing that's embarassing.

I have a stack of darling silks just ready to make up, so I'm going to work on my plans while I wait for my sewing machine to come back from the shop. {sound of fingers drumming on desk} Where is that machine already?!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Christian Dior

It was raining this afternoon when I picked my kids up from school. What to do? Why, stop at TJMaxx, of course. The real reason was that I have to go to Denver for another meeting this week and I feel sorely lacking in anything to wear. So I was hoping to come upon something lovely to take with me. Didn't happen.

What did happen, was I lucked upon this blouse. A Christian Dior blouse. For $399.99.

To clarify, this is the TJMaxx that carries high end designer labels. Chloe, Gucci, Prada, etc. I got a beautiful Gucci bag there a few years ago that is still my daily handbag.

This blouse caught my eye for one reason alone - the price tag. Four hundred dollars, for a white cotton short-sleeved blouse. I inspected it inside and out, trying to determine what could have possibly been worth the original price tag of $750 and I'm sorry to say I came up empty-handed.

It's white cotton, albeit a very fine cotton with a lovely hand. It has a banded collar and an open placket that closes at a very cute, refined bow. It has a skirted bottom section that's simply gathered. The most detailed part of the entire blouse are some well-placed tucks in the front placket that form fullness for the bust.

To be fair, I did not try this on. Maybe once I did I'd be awed by the fit and have a moment whereby angels sing on high and I suddenly support the price tag. I doubt it.

Instead, what I have is inspiration! I love some of the details on this blouse, so I've added it to my already too long To-Do list, and I hope to get started just as soon as I get back from Denver. Again.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

the Francophile giveaway - Marie Claire Idees magazines

Onward and upward with the de-cluttering giveaways. For the last few years I've subscribed to the lovely magazine from France, Marie Claire Idees. It really is a wonderland of creative inspiration. Check out these covered buttons, they're embroidered!

From skincare to decorating to sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery, and cooking, this magazine covers it all. In the back of each issue is a glossary of patterns and instructions on how to make each of the projects. I know I've received more than five issues, but thanks to my stellar organizing skills I can only find five issues.

This giveaway is for five issues of Marie Claire Idees magazine, namely Nos. 76, 77, 78, 83 and 84 (now I know what's missing, eh?).

I'll ship them anywhere in the world. To enter, just leave a comment (with your email if it's not included on your Blogger profile), and the winner will be chosen on Friday, April 29 at 5:00 p.m. CST by Good luck!

And just in case you missed it, I'm also giving away four knitting books, so check this post for details.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Do you knit? Do you want a knitting book? Then this is the giveaway for you.

Le sigh. We have reached the point in every spring when my husband and I vehemently agree we can no longer live in this house, and we agree that we will sell it and move to a more appropriate house forthwith.

At which point I feverishly set about decluttering, organizing, cleaning and stressing. In the past, which of course will NOT be this year, things very rapidly fall apart after this point aannnnnd we're still in this house.

'What's wrong with the house?' you ask. Eh, this is a sewing blog which means I try my best not to swear and bore you with details about heating and cooling systems or water drainage. Let's just say it's not for me. I bought it as a single lady and things have changed.

Anyhoodle, I spent the better part of yesterday and today attacking my home office. I work out of my house, so this was quite a daunting task. Mixed in with sixteen hundred power cords to various computer gadgets I no longer own was a wealth of books that I am no longer interested in moving to the next house reading.

Don't get me wrong, I love me some books. I buy sewing books just so's I can look at them. And no too long ago I bought knitting books for that very same reason.

I can knit. I can, really. I just don't. One of these days (today! I vow it is today!) I will realize that and stop buying knitting books.

So, my OCD clutter problem is your gain. I am hereby giving away four lovely knitting books (along with a photo of one of the darling projects that lured me into buying it).

Itty Bitty Nursery by Susan B. Anderson (hardback)

easy baby knits by Claire Montgomerie (softback)

Modern Top-Down Knitting by Kristina McGowan (hardback)

Stitch 'n Bitch by Debbie Stoller (softback)

If you would like to be the new owner of one of these lovelies, just leave a comment as an entry by Friday, April 29 at 5:00 p.m. CST. If you have a preference for which book you'd like, let me know that in your comments. If your email is not linked to your blogger profile, please leave it so I can get a hold of you.

I'll ship these anywhere (just not to my new house), so international entries are perfectly fine.

Good luck!

I'm not supposed to be sewing while I'm organizing so my machine is conveniently at the shop. Stay tuned, I may get inspired to give away something else tomorrow (when I tackle my sewing stash).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Vogue 1250 - the easiest Donna Karan dress, ever

I had to fly to Denver for the day yesterday (I live in St. Louis), and happened to find myself parked next to a Joann's on my way to my lunch appointment. Well, looky here, the Vogue patterns were on sale for $3.99 and me with an hour to kill...what to do, what to do.

You know what I found out? Reading through pattern instructions is an awesome way to kill time on a plane. I picked up eight of the new ones that I'd been eyeballing, and by the time I got home last night I was super excited to start Vogue 1250, a cowl-neck Donna Karan dress pattern for knits.

This past winter I bought one of my favorite fabrics ever online, a black and cream Theory knit from Emma One Sock. It was $20 a yard, probably one of the most expensive fabrics I've ever ordered! When it got here, though, it was worth every penny. It feels like heaven and I love the graphic sweater print.

As soon as I saw Vogue 1250, I knew it would be perfect for this fabric. It also helped that the lovely and talented Carolyn made this same pattern this week in a black and white print, so I knew it would work.

The pattern does not disapoint. I cut a straight 14, adding an inch at the waistline and 1/2" at the hem because that's all the fabric I had. I also extended the cowl by about 1/2" but there is easily room to add 3" or more to make sure that baby stays tucked down while you're wearing it.

I ended up tacking the cowl in the center front to make sure it won't flip. You can't even see seams in this fabric, so I knew a few tacking stitches wouldn't show.

The worst part about the whole project was my own serger. The seams were rippling, the stitches were packed together, the whole experience was frustrating me! It was literally almost the very end (of the very short five-step patterns) when I realized I'm a complete idiot. The tension setting bar had been pulled down (two guesses who did that) and it was set to ripple! So the serger is happily doing exactly what I asked it to do, and I was all boo-hooing my ripply seam over my butt.

After I adjusted it and fixed the offending seams, I was much happier and the dress looks better.

I think this is a super versatile pattern because in a solid you can appreciate the seaming and lines, and in a print there aren't too many construction details to break up the pattern. Also, in a sweater and boots it's totally practical for winter-ish weather too. Don't get me wrong, I don't expose my legs in the dead of winter, but there are plenty of weeks before and after that to wear this.

The fit is pretty good. If only I could come to grips with the fact that my bottom half is a 16, not a 14, I think it would look better. Oh, well, live and learn.

What would a blog post of mine be without the resident co-dependent dog joining in the fun?

Next up on the cutting table, a pair of camel tropical wool trousers for work. I'm going to tweak Simplicity 2700 again and get it right this time, if it kills me. Also? I'm determined to add a tuxedo stripe down the side, don't ask me why. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the Crissy Snow top

I could also call this top "Here Comes Some Cleavage."

A while back I spent an entire evening scouring the vintage pattern offerings on Etsy and eBay, looking for something that I could make out of knit. My daily (non-working) uniform tends to be jeans or shorts and knit tops, but my sewing patterns were kind of lacking in the knit tops arena.

I came away from that with this beauty, Simplicity 7836, circa 1976. My initial plans were to make it into a mini-dress this summer.

Then I found a cute little pink and gray knit in the bargain section at Hancock's that totally reminded me of the whacky prints I find at Anthro, and I decided to make this pattern up in a top for my vacation next week.

As you can can't see, this top is awesome if you really like a looooow cut. Next time I'll bring the front up an inch, and probably the back too. I played with the idea of raising the shoulder seams, but I liked where the interesting yoke seaming hit and didn't want that any higher. So, cleavage it is. {Please excuse rumpled appearance. Spent the evening with my boys in the Chick-Fil-A playzone.}

The pattern was a size 12, which is at least one size smaller than what I normally cut, but considering knits in the seventies didn't stretch too far, I thought it would be ok. It fits remarkably well in the shoulders/bust area, just a small amount of gaping in the back that I could fix by using some clear elastic in the seam allowance. Luckily the fit is so good when I bend over there is no flashing.

I ommitted the center back zipper and cut it on the fold instead. Also, I wanted a little bit of fullness in the back as well as the front, so I basically cut the bottom skirt as a big square, and gathered the center section a little to match the back yoke.

I think it's actually kinda cute, and fairly current-looking. Either that, or I've totally gone off the vintage-pattern deep end. I hope not, I have a second vintage seventies pattern on the work table now and just inherited a box of kicky patterns from my mother-in-law. Yeehaw!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lunar cycles top - an Anthro knockoff in progress

I swear I'm not the queen of knockoffs, it's just that lately there have been quite a few things I've seen in stores (usually Anthropologie) that I think would be super easy to make.

Take the Lunar Cycles top, for instance. When I saw it in the store in February, I fell instantly in love. I was born in '72 and have a strong hippie streak running through my closet.

Despite its +$100 price tag, I brought it home with me.

Behold, the Lunar Cycles top. No longer available online or in stores because it was crazy popular. And behold the giant brown dog licking my feet as I posed for self-timed pictures. "Ruby! Don't lick off my self-tanner!"

Then I set about making another Lunar Cycles top, this time out of a black wavy patterned cotton eyelet I found at Joann's because you can never have too many Lunar Cycles tops, and if I have to type the words Lunar Cycles again I might shoot somebody.

Honestly, I'm just eh about my knockoff. I haven't quite gotten the elastic right in the front and back, the sleeves are a few inches too long, the bodice doesn't fit quite as snugly as the original, and I'm not loving the black.

Other than that, it's a total winner.

Sorry for the craptastic photos. Our kitchen is the only bright room in the house but morning sun isn't kind to the lighting. And I had just gotten out of the shower. I would have taken the pics on Lydia, but this top shows much better on a human with arms.

I will continue to tweak this top as I think I just may end up liking it after all, and oh by the way? I just realized I was wearing it backwards in these pictures. Oops. Remind me to install a tag, ok?

I've already started on a new knit top to take with me to Florida. It looks like my mojie may be making a comeback after all!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I need help.

I have a bit of a problem. I'm hoping someone out there can help me.

With their entire stock 20% off recently, I knew I had to order this lovely charcoal gray silk piece from Fabric Mart.

When it arrived home, it was love at first sight. The stripes are horizontal and because they're made with contrast stitches, they add a very dimensional feeling to the fabric. I just think it's super cool.

I usually launder my silks before working with them but this piece had a fairly delicate feel to it, almost like I could break it if I tried. So instead of laundering it in my new machine (whole 'nother post on learning how to love a new washing machine coming up), I decided to treat it like I would a nice piece of interfacing, and just soak it in hot water and then hang it to dry.

Well, this is what happened when I did that. Holy cow. The "white" stitching isn't white, thank goodness, because the gray ran as though I had added RIT dye to the tub. I added salt to try to lock the color, but I don't think it did anything. Eventually I ran a cold rinse, and even that didn't run clear. It's still dripping dark gray water on my drying line.

So what would you do? Forge ahead and make the blouse I'm planning, but be sure to dry clean this piece every time? Or wash it in the machine and hope the color stops running? Is there a better way to lock the color without damaging the silk?

I imagine the hot water did the pre-shrinking trick, now I just need to figure out what to do about the color. I don't want to have a charcoal gray torso after wearing this thing!


It's official, friends. I have lost my sewing mojo. I started two projects this past week, after hemming and hawing forEVER about what to make next, and both were tossed onto the UFO pile in disgust.

First up, a replica of Anthro's Intersecting Angles cardigan. It snowed seven inches here last weekend, and during my extreme hissy fit over that bit of bad news, I decided to make a warm stripey cardi. It just didn't quite work out that way. The body and sleeves are put together, but I'm not happy with the collar.

Turning instead to something I might be able to take with me on vacation, I made a mock-up of the Lunar Cycles top, also an Anthro offering (but no longer even pictured on the website?). I bought the original, so there was little I had to do except trace off the sections.

And guess what? I hate it. I made my knockoff out of black cotton eyelet and it's just not the same. I might finish it and give it away, or it might languish in the UFO bucket until I like it again.

The funniest part of all this was this morning, when I went down to the sweatshop to clean it up. My youngest son (he's three) came flying down after me and asked me to sew something.

"You sit here and sew, mommy, and I'll do the vackaboom."

"I can't sew right now, Grif, I can't find my mojo. Can't sew with no mojo."

"Oh. Mooojieeee! Where are you???!! Mooooojieeeeeee!"

So I obliged him, and started sewing up the beanbag chair covers I promised my mother-in-law sometime around Christmas. Oh, well, no time like four months past, right? I hope my mojo (and energy) comes back soon. I'm exhausted and ready for some fun.