Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sixth Blogiversary!

Many bloggers do a "year in review" post somewhere around Dec 31st, but I am always too busy sewing over the holiday break. Besides, the end of August (i.e. early Fall) feels more like a new beginning to me.

So, yes, August 25th, 2015 is my 6th blogiversary! Bear with me while I look back over the last year...

(You can also check out my previous blogiversary posts.)

I have less time to blog than I used to have. In that spirit, this blogiversary post is shorter than my previous posts!


Year in Summary

  • I was featured in the December/January issue of Vogue Patterns Magazine, as their "Star Blogger." That was quite an honor!
  • I finished my first full year as a Britex blogger; I made 5 garments for Britex this year. (Clicking an image takes you to that post.)
  • I made three videos this year! The first two were made with the help of my pal, Sarah Bunje. Then I made one on my own showing the Zirkel magnetic pin cushion. We'll see if I do more of these. The jury is still out. ;)
  • I did a bit of sewing-related travel:
  • I met sewing friends in real life! In particular, a number of folks came to visit me at Google Mountain View:
    • Elizabeth, whom I have known for years on Stitcher's Guild and who is a blogger in her own right, visited from Sweden with her husband and daughter. (She brought along her niece to visit Google, too, but left her toddler son with a relative.) It was so great to meet her in person, though I was definitely a bit distracted as a tour guide. I hope we have another chance to hang out in the future!
    • Mari, of Seamster Patterns, has created some very nice patterns, such as her Rose Hip Tights and her easy-breezy Summercrisp Skirt. She specifically asked to see the Bison wearing the Noogler Hat I made more than a year ago.
    • Michelle Paganini, of Paganoonoo Patterns. Have you seen Michelle's patterns yet? She specializes in creative clothing design that begins with clothing, rather than fabric. Refashioning is hot, it's in, and you should definitely check it out!
  • Started using Instagram.
    I created an Instagram account some time ago, but didn't use it until I started posting pics last February from Puyallup. I then started using it from time to time to post pics I had snapped when window shopping, or when looking at a fashion magazine while at the hairdressers. But I'm now using it more often. Right now I'm participating in a "Sew Photo Hop" - each day throughout the month of August, each participant posts a photo according to a daily theme, like "Secret corner of shame", or "Favorite sewing technique", or "Tiny vs Big". I like how it makes me think! You can follow me on Instagram, if you are so inclined.

    No worries, Instagram will never replace blogging for me, but it serves a purpose. Sometimes I take photos that I'd like to share without the burden of creating an entire post. It's a more "lightweight" way of sharing.

Top 10 Posts

These are my top 10 posts of all time, only two of which are from this year. I wish blogger would tell me the top 10 posts of the last year, but they don't provide that info.


End of Year Number of Posts Number of Followers Number of Subscribers
1 125 130 Was Google Reader in use?
2 107 341 482 (GR)
3 107 505 739 (GR)
4 92 617 996 when GR was retired on 7/1. 611 in Bloglovin.
5 98 695 1136 (Bloglovin)
6 51 737 1561 (Bloglovin)

This year I exceeded 2 million page views on my blog. WOOT! But you can also see that my rate of posting has steadily declined. Oh well. (I do tend to write longer posts than I used to, with more topics, so that's something.)

The Coming Year

What's in store for the coming year?

Mostly, I want to keep pushing the creative envelope. More, more, MORE!

I do have a few projects and activities in store that I am excited about. I haven't yet talked about most of these on the blog.

  • I have made plans to attend Diane Ericson's Design Outside the Lines retreat in Ashland this October. The guest teacher is Carol Lee Shanks and the theme is making a coat. Coats are my favorite things to make and I am really looking forward to my second DOL and my first in Ashland. (Though it's not my first visit to Ashland—I love that town!)
  • I have been hired to teach a workshop next February. In January 2017, it will be almost exactly 2 years since leading my last workshop. I love these challenges, though they can make me bite my nails! I have to start making samples soon.
  • I'm planning to attend Puyallup again. (You can see that I need more vacation to fit everything in!)
  • It looks like I will be visiting Munich for work next April. (Though these things can change...) Can anyone tell me if there are interesting fiberly things to do in Munich or in the surrounding area? Once the work commitment is over, I might travel, but I'd have to travel on my own. Would it make sense to fly to Paris? Spain? Italy? I'm wide open, though I have limited vacation.

Thank you, dear blog readers! Thanks for being part of another great year. Thanks for your support, your feedback and comments, and your creativity! I am truly grateful.

I traditionally do a giveaway to celebrate my blogiversary, but I'm not prepared for that right now—this blogiversary kind snuck up on me. Let me mull it over and maybe I can come up with a good giveaway in the near future.

And, just to leave you with a chuckle... One of my local sewing friends, Lisa M, has been sewing "diapers" for her chickens. She likes to let two of her chickens (who are better behaved than their sisters) visit inside her house from time to time and, thanks to the diapers she has made, it's possible!

It's official! Now I've seen everything!

(Thanks to JillyBe—her chicken pics were better than mine!)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Asymmetric Hole-y Top - McCalls 7194

A month or so ago I acquired a fabulous fabric from Marcy Tilton. This novelty fabric, made from polyester and spandex if I recall, contains almost more holes than fabric:

Marcy had the fabric in two colorways: black and bone, or navy and bone. Mine is the black and bone.

Once the fabric arrived, I was in a bit of a quandary.

What to do with it?

Dither, dither, dither...

I had an idea on how I wanted to use it, but I didn't have a pattern that had the lines I wanted. I spent some time altering a pattern to fit my vision.

A niggling voice made me doubt myself, so I abandoned that idea.

I then remembered a high-end boutique cardigan I purchased maybe 6 years ago. I've always wanted to trace it off and I thought it might be very interesting made up in this fabric, so I spent some time tracing it off.

I thought better of it, so I put the tracing away...

I then decided that I wanted to use a new-ish McCalls pattern, but I didn't own it. I had to wait for a sale to order it.

By the time it arrived, I had my doubts. I decided to mull it over a bit longer...

I saw another Butterick pattern and thought, that one might work! But I didn't own that one, either.

It was then that I decided that enough was enough!

I forged ahead with the McCalls pattern, which, by the way, was almost identical to the first pattern that I altered.

See, after playing with the fabric, I decided that I wanted to use it on the bias. Not on the true bias, but on a bias angle. (True bias is 45°.) I wanted an angled, asymmetric hem, and I wanted to put the hem of the top directly on the selvedge of the fabric. So a 45° angle would have created a hemline that was too angled.

The pattern that I ended up using, McCalls 7194, view C, had almost all of the features that I wanted. The features that it didn't have were easy to change.

Alterations and Modifications

  • I didn't want to do an FBA in this fabric, and this pattern is described as "close fitting", so I had to size up substantially so that there would be enough fabric to go around my bust. I cut an XXL (24-26), instead of my usual L (16-18). The finished bust measurement for the XXL is 49". My full bust is 45", but the fabric is less stretchy on the bias, so I wanted some extra room.
  • I omitted the cowl collar and finished the neckline with a doubled knit binding. I cut a 3" wide cross-grain strip of black stretch jersey (which I think contains some wool). I folded it to 1-1/2" and stitched the raw edges to the front with a 3/8" seam allowance. I then folded the doubled edge to the back of the neckline and hand stitched it in place, encasing the raw edges. I like the chunky 4-layer binding that resulted. It makes for a nice juxtaposition with the airy fabric. I didn't otherwise change the shape of the neckline.
  • I omitted the contrast band at the hem.
  • I wanted a hem with more of an angle, so I added 5" to the long side of the hem, tapered to nothing on the short side.
  • As mentioned, I cut the angled front and back, and the straight-of-grain sleeves, so that all hems were directly on the selvedge. As a result, I left the hems "raw".
  • I spent considerable time finessing the fit of the side seams. I tapered in about 4" at the waist (1" at each s/s) and I tapered the hip on the short side seam.
  • I narrowed the shoulders by 1". (Typical for me.)
  • The pattern comes with two sleeve lengths. I used the shorter length, but the finished sleeve is almost full length on me, so the longer length is long indeed.
After taking these pics, I felt ready to go clubbing. Except it was 9am on a Sunday, so instead I went to the grocery store.

Awwwwww, it's a kitty kat watch!

Late breaking addition!

Several comments asked how I handled sewing the hole-y fabric. For example, here is Martha's query:

Great job! And it looks terrific on you. How did you handle the side seams? Recently I made a shrug for my granddaughter out of a very open weave fabric, similar to this. It wanted to ravel away where ever I cut it. I hand-bound the edges but kept thinking there had to be a better way. So I am anxious to know how you handled this.

I should have addressed this before. Marcy said the following when selling the fabric. (Thanks to Margy for this visual record!)

I do have some Totally Stable, but I decided that I would first see how it worked to just sew it up. It just so happens that I have this in-process pic, which I posted to Instagram while at the machine.

As you can see, I sewed the seams using my conventional machine. I found that I could sew the fabric without any stabilizer. It did not ravel - the open holes don't ravel. I did find that it helped to sew the seams slowly as the top thread on the machine broke several times when I didn't slow down. I'm not sure if the breaking thread was due to the open areas, or due to a slight tough ridge around the open holes, or something else. I did not pull or tug the fabric through the machine.

After sewing, I pressed the seams open and then serged them. Here is a close up of a finished seam, where you can see the thread of the sewing machine inside two of the holes. You can also see the selvedge at the wrist which folds back on itself, just a bit. If this becomes an issue over time, I will machine sew it.

Thanks for your feedback and comments!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Presto Top


Presto Top

This pattern is brilliant!

When I saw another blogger (Art Attack) make up this top and post it to Pattern Review, I scurried over to Savage Coco to buy it. I am not a huge fan of PDF patterns—all that cutting and taping—but, in this case, it was totally worth it!

This pattern is reminiscent of my very favorite knit top pattern, The TeaGarden Tee (originally an Issey Miyake design), which I have made at least 13 times. (In fact, I'm wearing one as I write this post.) But the Presto top is more updated: it features set in sleeves with no gussets or bulk under the arm. It has a neckline very similar to the TeaGarden, which covers a bit of the neck, but also features a center front seam with a V as deep, or as shallow, as you want.

In addition, the Presto top uses two layers of fashion fabric in the front, so it's an excellent use for those thin knits that you don't know what to do with. (You can use two layers on the back if you'd like, but I did not.)

If you use a droopy knit, like my rayon lycra knit, it softly bunches at the neck. I find it pleasing. If you use a knit with a bit more body, such as some sweater knits, you can fold the neckline for a shawl collar effect.

Finally, once you understand how it goes together, it's wicked fast to sew.

Best of all, it flatters both the uber busty and the normal busted.

So I made two!

I have only two quibbles with the pattern:

  • It's only graded to an XL, which is designed for a 44" to 48" bust. The XL pattern measures 44" at the bust, so it's designed with zero-to-negative ease. (I like negative ease in my knit tops.) My bust is 48", so I made the XL with no adjustments and it fit my bust well with no FBA required. If you want more ease than 44" provides, you'll have to grade it up.
  • The pattern instructions include no diagrams or pics. The construction is unusual (it reminds me a bit of Christine Jonson's V-Neck Tee), but I had to read the instructions several times before I figured out how to put it together. Once I understood it, it was quite simple.

I made the pattern exactly as designed, with a single modification—I removed 1" from the shoulders. This is typical for me in all patterns. Also, I typically remove excess fabric at the hipline (because I have small hips for my bust size), but I did not for either of these tops. I thought I might like it with a bit more fabric at the hips - maybe it would look "swingy" and balance the bust.

Nope. It just makes me look larger than I am. When I make this top again (and I WILL), I will remove the excess fabric from the hipline. But that is due to my shape, and not a problem with the pattern.

The pattern has three-quarter length sleeves. I quite like this length, but it would be easy to lengthen the sleeves or add bands for additional length.

I LOVE this pattern! (And, in case you wondered, I paid for it.)

Zirkel Pin Magnet

Have you seen the Zirkel pin magnet yet? My friend Susi brought it to my attention, so I ordered a red one. (I've seen it in red, white, and black.)

It's kinda fun, so I made a little video to show you how it works. Yeah, I know... I'm not that gifted at making videos. ;)

The best feature of this video is that it's about a minute long...

I've been using this magnetic pincushion for about a week and would only add: if you often pick up and move your pincushion, this one is a bit awkward with all of those pins sticking out over the edge. Other than that, I'm happy with it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cross-Dyed Linen Jacket with Bias Fringe

Hi, it's Shams from Communing with Fabric with another garment made from a lovely Britex fabric!

When Britex asked me to choose one of their linen fabrics, I was drawn to their Cross-dyed Turquoise Linen.

Note: This fabric is difficult to photograph. In real life, it seems less saturated to my eye than shown in this photo, but it looks more sky blue in some of my photos than in real life. In any case, it's a lovely color and you can always order a swatch!

I am a huge fan of linen that is woven with one color in the warp direction, and another in the weft. With linen, this effect is generally referred to as a cross dye (though it's actually cross woven, but it's referred to as cross dye) and I love the resulting visual texture.

Earlier this spring, I made a jacket using cross-dyed linen and the Tessuti Silva jacket pattern. This pattern is suited for linen and features a raw bias edging. The concept is that, with time and washing, the bias edge gently frays. But I am an impatient sort, so I fray the edge manually using a low-tech tool—my thumbnails!

I like the effect, but it does take awhile. For this jacket, I timed how long it took to fray the outer edge of the jacket: 3 hours and 17 minutes. I neglected to time my fraying of the sleeve hems, which probably took another half hour.

It created a lot of lint!

But the effect is totally worth it!

I made a few other changes. My last version of this pattern had no pockets and I like pockets! I made a patch pocket, but when I pinned it to the front of the jacket, it made the jacket hang awkwardly. I decided to center the pocket over the side seam, which worked great!

I had small pieces of canvas that had been stenciled and painted by Miles Frode. I purchased these from Diane Ericson last spring at Puyallup Sew Expo.

I cut several rectangles from the canvas and trimmed them with the beautiful selvedge from the linen. I embellished the back, the pocket, and the right front edge with these pieces.
Finally, I closed the jacket using large snaps that I covered with scraps of turquoise lining.

I now have another great linen jacket for the warm weather, on those rare occasions that I leave San Francisco to go somewhere warm!

Thanks to Britex for the fabric!

And welcome to Kirby, the cutest pug puppy EVER!