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Monday, December 31, 2012

Sock Obsessed

I first learned to knit when I was pretty young. My grandmother and mom were determined that I should have curly hair (though my hair has stubbornly stayed straight), so I would spend days at a salon twice a year under smelly curlers. Okay, it was probably more like half a day, but when you're a kid that is an eternity. To keep me busy and my complaints to a minimum, they'd give me something to do. Sometimes it was needlepoint, but more often (or at least that's how it seemed), it was knitting.
My junior year in college I finally decided to let my hair be what it wanted to be--really, really straight. And so ended my relationship with yarn and needles.
I've dallied in knitting a couple of times since. Once was a purse and eyeglass case that were part of a kit I got on clearance at Target. The purse turned out to me more useful as a hat, and I made a couple more hats for the hubby out of nice chunky, quick-to-finish wool blend.

So, a few weeks ago I was cleaning/purging/deep diving in my studio and came across a book I'd bought a couple of years ago: Basic Knitting. That and certain Facebook friends showing off their knitting accomplishments, I decided to give knitting another try. I'm not exactly sure why I decided to try socks, but somehow that seemed like the right project. As many of my fiber friends warned me, knitting socks is REALLY addictive.  You can get really run yarn, it's not a big commitment money or time wise, and everyone needs socks, especially to wear on those cold winter nights when you're sitting by the fire. Knitting. More socks. :)

I started with an excellent tutorial on Silver's Place. My first 2 pairs are worsted wool blends using 4 double-pointed needles.  Click here for that tutorial.

My third pair is from the same pattern, but with Kroy sock yarn. This is one of their "FX" yarns. It is much finer than the worsted, but still makes a very cozy sock.

Next up is my first attempt at a toe-up sock on 2 circular needles.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ruched T from the Fabulous Angela Wolf

I finally made up this pattern a couple of weeks ago, and Central Texas finally got cold enough for me to wear it last week.
I used a lightweight sweater knit in a charcoal heather grey. I'm not sure of the content, but suspect at least some acrylic.

I love this pattern--only 4 pattern pieces regardless of which view you make (front, back, sleeve and collar)
I also like the format of the instructions: a spiral bound book that lays nicely and doesn't take up much room. The instructions are really good with detailed drawings, and information on various ways to finish seams.

Most importantly, I love my new top:

I can't wait to sew up Angela's jeans pattern.

For more information about Angela, check out her site:
Also watch for Angela on sewing events -- she is a great instructor and has lots of great tips and tricks.

Happy Sewing!

PS: I almost forgot about Angela's new clapper. These have gotten hard to find, but are really invaluable for getting nice flat seams. Hers are good quality hardwood.
And here is a video of Angela showing how to use a clapper.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What I Learned at Sewing Camp

One of the great things about ASDP combining our annual conference with ASE was the number of excellent instructors teaching and lecturing. We've had Claire Shaeffer, Susan Kahlje, Angela Wolf and Kenneth King at our conferences in the past, but never all at once.

I wasn't able to complete all my samples in classes (too busy talking--making new friends and catching up with ones I only see once a year), so I'm making sure I do it as soon as possible so I don't forget what I learned.

One of those techniques is a foolproof welt that Kenneth King showed us in his "Cool Tricks" class.
This can be used for pockets or bound buttonholes--just vary the size of ribbon you use. I used grosgrain in this example, but petersham would work better and make a softer welt. You can find his detailed instruction in his book, "Cool Couture".

Lay the ribbon on the wrong side of the welt fabric and stitch 1/8" from the ribbon edge.

Fold one side over the ribbon and stitch between the first two rows of stitching.
Trim close to the stitching line
Repeat for the other side.

Here's what the welt will look like after you've trimmed both sides.

Lay the welt on the fabric piece with all 3 stitchlines facing up.
Stitch 1/4" from the outside edge of the welt.

Cut down the center of the welt. Do not cut the fabric underneath.

Cut the fabric from the wrong side, make long slits towards the corners.

Grab the end of the welts, matching the folded edges. Push the welts through the slit, raw edges first.
Repeat for the other end.


Check out Kenneth King's website for more information on his custom work, articles and books. If you get a chance to take a class from him, go for it. He's a great and entertaining instructor.
Many thanks to Kenneth for approving this post!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Home again, home again, Jiggity Jig!

I arrived back home a few hours ago, and though I am happy to be back with my hubby and fur babies, I had a really wonderful time in Novi, MI.
This year was an experiment for ASDP, and though there were definitely some bumps and drama, there were definitely advantages for our group to mingle with vendors and attendees at the American Sewing Expo.

Mechiel Whitmore, Kathy Levy,
Claire Shaeffer and me!
Some highlights: 2 day master class with Claire Shaeffer on techniques for Chanel-inspired jackets (as well as a great piece of fabric that she brought back from Linton Tweeds--lower right)

Fabric shopping at Haberman Fabrics (Nanette Lepore open work wool plaid--upper right)

2 workshops with Kenneth King on couture techniques.

GORGEOUS French boucle that Mom bought me as a birthday present from Helen Haughey at Mendel-Goldberg.

Having 3 outfits in the fashion show, 2 that were finalists in the "Innovative Lace" Challenge with Threads Magazine.
My very good friend Kathy Levy WINNING "Most Innovative Technique" in that challenge.

Seeing friends from ASDP and

Jennifer Stern, J. Stern Designs
Brenda Breitenmoser
Rae Cumbie, Fit For Art Patterns

Angela Wolf, Angela Wolf Pattern Collection
Finally meeting Angela Wolf in person after being friends on Facebook for a couple of years, and attending her excellent lecture on jean techniques (my construction methods will change dramatically thanks to her!)
Keep an eye out for my review of her Ruched T pattern.
I can't wait for her jeans pattern to come out!

And that's just a preview. More details and photos to come soon!

Happy Sewing,

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Headed to Novi, MI!

I had hoped to have the next installment of the collared shirt posted by now, but a couple of distractions came up in the past few weeks.

One was an emergency dye job for an Austin designer, which is now done. (Whew!)

The other is that 2 of my entries for the 2012 Threads Magazine "Innovative Lace" challenge were chosen as finalists. I am incredibly honored to be a finalist and overwhelmed that 2 were selected. The quality of work that comes out of ASDP (Association of Sewing and Design Professionals) is stellar, and the standards are very high. BUT that means I have 2 outfits that need to be modeled in the fashion show next month, both of which will be examined meticulously by some of the best sewists in the country. (I don't even like my mother to look inside my garments.) So now the old "80/20" rule kicks in, since what seemed perfectly acceptable when I only needed to photograph the outfits now seems like a complete hack job. I was looking at one item the other night and thought "what shoddy work, who the heck did this?" Oh crap, I did. And now I've decided that one garment needs to be made over completely.
I have just over a month, other items that also need attention, and this pesky thing called a "full-time job" that apparently I must show up for on a regular basis if I'd like to keep payment the mortgage and keep up my fabric habit. Oh, and dogs that expect food daily and cuddles. ;)

If you're interested in knowing more about this challenge and where the fashion show will take place, check out American Sewing Expo and Association of Sewing and Design Professionals.

Happy Sewing!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why I Sew

When working with a student a few months ago who seemed to have a lot of angst about sewing, I wondered why she's even doing it. I didn't see any indication that she enjoyed a single aspect of sewing.
So that made me think about all the reasons why I sew, and here's what I came up with:

I love the challenge.
I like puzzles, and sewing is a sort of puzzle. All the pieces have to fit together. Sometimes they don't quite fit, then you have something to figure out.

The world goes away. When I'm immersed in a project, I don't think about anything else. Years ago I went to a seminar with Shakti Gawain. She talked about meditation as something that consumed your consciousness--that doing anything that you focus on so much that you don't have room in your brain for anything else is a form of meditation. That's what happens when I'm alone in my studio.

I love the process. and that there is a process.
I really do love that there is a rhythm to sewing, that there are certain steps you always do in order, starting with washing the fabric. No matter how accomplished a sewist is, they still have to cut the fabric before they sew it.

I always know when I'm done. I test software for a living, and with testing, you are never done (and wouldn't know if you ever were done.) I think this is one of the reasons that I've spent more time and energy on sewing since I got back into technology.

I love the sensual nature of (most) fabric. Fabric is sensual, as that is affects all your senses. The tactile part is pretty obvious, but I love the smell of steamed wool, the crisp snap of a high quality cotton, the swish of taffeta and the smooth coolness of silk satin. I do NOT like working with polyester. Go ahead, call me a fabric snob, I just don't like it.

I get great, well-fitting clothes out of the deal.
Of all the things you can do with your time, how many past times result in something you need anyway? Especially these days when it's next to impossible to find anything made well enough to last more than a few months, or in fabric nice enough that you'd want it to last, even if you're able to pay top dollar, sewing gives you the chance to make what you want, make it out of good quality fabric, make with higher quality, and make it fit well.

So, if you're reading this, I'd love to hear why YOU sew (or why you're thinking about it.) Please share!!


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Collared Shirt, Lesson 1

The Collared Shirt, Lesson 1 -- Front Placket

I started this series back in 2010, but I'm going to start over since I never followed through the last time and I've realized that many folks need more details and more photos to understand the construction steps.

I will assume the reader has a basic understanding of sewing terms and some experience sewing clothing. Please do not hesitate to post questions, though, if I've used a term you don't understand or you need more details.
This class is all about the sewing steps of the shirt, so you'll need to pick out the size, cut out all the pieces and apply interfacing on your own.

The pattern: Kwik Sew 2849 -- Princess seam blouse 

Why I chose this pattern:

I really don't like side seam bust darts on shirts. Princess seams just seem more refined and more flattering on a wider range of bodies.
I also like the 1/4" seam allowances which require very little trimming. This does mean you need to be accurate when cutting out and sewing since you don't have much 'wiggle room'.

What you'll need for this lesson:

Left and right front shirt pieces with interfacing fused or basted in place
Straight edge ruler
Washable marking pencil/pen/chalk
Edge Stitch Foot (#10/C/D for Bernina owners) also called 'stitch in the ditch' or edge-joining foot.
Shirt front pattern piece

Let's get started!

Mark, fold and press.
I find it's much easier to mark a line to match the cut edge to instead of a line to fold on.
 I call this a "fold-to" line.



1. Measure the distance between the front edge and the first fold line on the pattern (1 3/8").

2. DOUBLE this measurement (2 3/4")

3. Lay the RIGHT front piece right side down.

4. Mark a line on the WRONG side of the fabric 2-3/4" from the cut edge.

5. Fold the fabric (wrong sides together) so the front edge lines up with the mark you just made.

6. Press well.

7. Measure the distance from the first fold line to the second fold line (2-1/4")

8. Double this measurement (4-1/2")

9. Mark a line on the WRONG side of the fabric 4-1/2" FROM THE FOLDED EDGE.

10. Fold the fabric so the folded edge lines up with this new mark.
(You'll now have two folds == 3 layers of fabric)

11. Press well.

12. Mark 1-1/8" from the new fold. You'll use this mark in the next section.

1. Repeat steps 1 - 6 above.

2. Open the fold and mark 1/2" from the CUT edge.

3. Fold so the cut edge lines up with the mark.

4.  Press well.

5. Fold first fold again and press well.

Sew the front plackets.


1. Put the edge stitch foot on your machine.

2. Make sure the needle is the center position.

3. Line up the blade on the foot with your mark and sew the front placket.

4. Fold the facing back towards the front edge.
5. Press well.


1. Move the needle to the right (How far depends on your machine and sewing accuracy--you might want to practice first).

2. Line up the blade on the foot with inside fold and sew the front placket.

AND YOU ARE DONE! (with lesson 1, at least :)  )

Next up: Princess Seams