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LA Bound

I’m headed to the city of angels! My 40th birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks and hubby and I are headed to to LA for a little chill time away from the daily grind. Any LA folks out there reading this?  What should be on my list of things to do/ see?  Any sewing meetups going on I should know about? Let me know:)

Mar 9

Mind the Gap

Dixie is a genius! She came up with this title for my little sewing plan (sorry Oona, Shirts and Ladders was a close second:) I was describing the plan as put forth in my last post and canvassing for names at the recent meetup of our sewing group and it was the first thing out of her mouth. Not only does it describe what I’m doing - filling the gaps in my wardrobe - but it’s also a fun nod to my English roots. My husband would get quite a kick every time he was on the tube in London and he’d hear them say “Mind the Gap” when the doors opened.  Yes, he’s easily amused:)

In addition, I can look at the each garment as a stop along a tube line.  Some lines run in parallel for a few stops and so some items that I make will go with more than one previous garment. However some lines are on totally different sides of the city but they still have at least one station/ garment on either side of them that coordinate.  Now I’m gonna have to brush off my Illustrator skills and come up with a little graphic that looks like the London tube map with a different garment for each station:) Hmmm, let’s see if I can squeeze that in with all the sewing that’s been going on.

I’ve actually been sewing up a storm lately and, Susan and Dixie came over for brunch today (mmmm, kedgeree by me and coffee cake by Susan), so I got Susan to bring her good camera so we could do a little photo shoot of all these outfits.  I’ll break them down into a few posts so that this doesn’t end up being the longest post ever:)

First up, a blue pencil skirt to go with that black Archer from last time.

Can you tell I’m happy?

So cool having a real camera to take photos with. Susan was a dear and took literally hundreds. The weather really cooperated today as it was overcast but bright - the light was perfect.

This is a self drafted pattern using the instructions in Design it Yourself Clothes by Cal Patch. I did this about a year ago and now have a pretty good skirt block which I’ve manipulated in a couple of ways to make slightly different skirts. The only thing that I changed about the method described in the book was to use separate measurements for the front and back at waist and hip.  The book has you take your hip measurement then divide that in two and use that half measurement for both the front and the back pieces. Well, that wasn’t really gonna work for me as I am obviously well endowed in the booty area. Otherwise the instructions work great and someday I’ll get around to doing the other blocks from this book, but again, taking separate measurements for front and back.

The fabric is a bright blue wool, kind of a light coat weight that I got at a fabric swap over Christmas. It has good body for a shape like this and sewed really well.  I lined the skirt with some black lining fabric from the stash (left over from a long ago project) so this was pretty much a free skirt.  I also used some petersham ribbon sandwiched between the wool and lining to stabilise the waist. The closure is an invisible zip in the back. 

Here are the mug shots:

Looks like I could probably do with updating my block to accommodate a little post Christmas tummy bulge (amazing how long that tends to linger:)  And yes, the eagle eyed among you will notice that the above top is not the Archer. It’s the next garment station on the line and will be in the next post.

And just because we were having fun with the action shots:

So thanks Susan, for taking the hundreds of shots. Hope the kedgeree was worth it:)

Filling the Holes

I’m not very good at planning what to sew next. I seem to have a thousand ideas in my head (and a correspondingly big fabric and pattern stash) but sometimes I just can’t seem to just pick one and go for it.  And then, once I’ve chosen a project and have merrily sewn and finished, I often find that I’ve created another dreaded closet orphan.

There have been many ideas recently on how to go about coming up with a plan. I’m especially loving reading Colleterie’s Wardrobe Architect Series right now. But to tell you the truth, whilst I can see the sense behind this idea, I’m really just too lazy to actually go this in-depth into planning.  Pinning down my style seems to be an excercise in herding cats as I seem to like all sorts of things and my mood changes really often so a lot of the Wardrobe Architect exercises  just seem like a lot of hard work to me. Yes, a very bratty attitude, I know :P

It’s so obvious to me that I really do need to fill the holes in my wardrobe. So many times I go in there in the morning and think that I’d like to wear a particular piece, but I really don’t have that perfect other thing that I need to go with it. And yet, I don’t ever make a note of what that perfect thing is and set about planning to sew it - Insert forehead slap here.  So I thought I’d make that part of a mini plan for me. 

1. Identify that missing piece. When I get that thought in my head (“I really could use a black T-shirt to go with my new skirt”, for example), then put this on a list of things to make, the “Missing Links”. Bonus points if that perfect thing will actually go with a couple more existing things in the wardrobe.

2. Actually make that piece. Duh…

3. Your next piece that you make should either be another from the missing links list or should be a piece that goes with the last thing you made.

4. If you made something that goes with the last thing you made then report on item one’s usefulness in your closet when you blog about item two.  That way you get to actually see if item one really did fill the hole.

5. Repeat as necessary until you have the perfect wardrobe of coordinating outfits or you die, whichever comes first:)

6. Oh, and of course, leave yourself some wiggle room for “Squirrel" moments. A girl’s gotta have fun sometimes and the new and shiny will always appeal.  As long as I then make something else to go with this then it should slot into the plan.

Sounds sensible right? Well let’s see if I can actually stick with this one. I think I’ll have enough wiggle room that my inner rebel won’t completely freak out.  

So I started with a plain black Archer. All winter, I kept thinking that I needed a black button down to layer under sweaters. A little boring I know but I have a few brightly coloured sweaters that needed a plain base.  I had the perfect rayon challis in the stash. Not sure where I got it from though it’s not been marinating too long.

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I’ve made this one a couple of times before, so not much more to add but I have noticed a couple of fitting issues on this one that I’ll probably try to fix on the next one. I don’t know if it’s the plain fabric of this one that meant I noticed the issues or if I’d always known about them and am only now being bothered by them. Not to say I won’t wear the hell out of this one but on the next I’ll probably add a little more ease through the hips, increase the depth of the collar a little and do a forward shoulder adjustment.

I did try out a new machine foot on this one. Don’t know why I’d never tried it before as this foot came with my machine, but I pulled out the blindstitch hem foot and used it to do all the edgestitching (I know there is an edgestitich foot available for my machine but this is what I had). OMG, why had I not tried it before?  My stubbornness coming out again, I’m afraid. I was able to do the most perfect edgestitching I’ve ever done with very little effort.  I liked it so much I might actually have to go out and buy the real edgestitching foot.  Here’s a closeup of the collar and stand to show how close and even I was able to get. Apologies if it’s hard to make out. Black thread on black and all that.image

 The only thing I did different on this shirt was to use the cut on button stand on both sides then fold them to the outside so they looked like sewn on stands.

Next up on this mini plan is a cobalt blue pencil skirt that goes with this black archer really well. It’s actually already made; I just need to photograph it so there might be hope for this plan after all:)

What should I call the plan? The Missing Links? Shirts and Ladders?

Silk Bomber Happiness

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Happy face!

Yay, it’s finished, and I don’t care if it is frosting and I might not have very much in my closet to go with it. I think I’m just going to have to build a mini-wardrobe around this piece because it just makes me happy.

After my fitting issues and subsequent adjustments the rest of this jacket went together pretty easily. The pattern is New Look 6226 btw.

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I really need a haircut…

I made a couple more modifications:

- Eliminated the bottom and sleeve end casings and elastic in favour of rib knit bands. From the beginning I knew I wanted to replace those casings because I knew I wanted a more sportswear feel. I basically just cut out long rectangle for those based on my hip measurement and a rough circumference at mid-forearm.

- Eliminated the little stand up collar. Changed to a v-neck and added a rib-knit stand instead.

These changes meant that I needed to change up the order of construction a little but I kind of just winged it as I went along. I definitely needed to get a shorter zip than the one the pattern called for, but that was OK as the longer one I had had metal teeth which would probably have been too heavy for the lightweight silk. I ended up getting a 16” plastic one from Joanns which just kind of disappears and lets the fabric be the star.

The hubby and I went out at the end of the day on Sunday and took some shots with my phone. I think it’s about time I invested in a proper camera. It was kind of fun driving around looking for cool backgrounds. Thanks goodness the weather was somewhat cooperative.

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The East side of Austin is a mix of broken down original houses and ones that have been restored with varying degrees of a success. This one is one of the more successful ones imo.

Anyway, back to the jacket, not much more to say. The drafting was excellent, though do make sure you do an fba if you’re even slightly above a B cup. The instructions were great and it was nice to find a bomber jacket with set-in sleeves, not raglan. Set-in just looks nicer on my frame so I tend to avoid raglan if I can - one of the reasons why I didn’t use the Papercuts Rigel pattern. All the lovely versions of the Rigel popping up all over the blogosphere really did inspire this make though.

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Yep, ridiculously happy with this jacket. Here are the mugshots:

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Sorry for the sun flare:(

Details:

Pattern - New Look 6226

Fabrics - Floral silk twill (Richard Brooks, Dallas) underlined with fine wool shirting (Common Thread, Austin). Black stretch charmeuse (Texstyles, Austin) for sleeves, front band and pocket welts. Black china silk (Common Thread, Austin) for lining.

Zipper - 16” open end sport

The Silk Bomber - Part One - retrofitting some room for the girls

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This post could also be called “The perils of not making a muslin”for reasons that will become really obvious, really soon. Let’s start from he beginning. I got this floral fabric when in Dallas with Dixie and Susan last summer. Dixie and I went halfsies on this 3 yard remnant piece of fine silk twill and she promptly sewed hers up into a fab Scout Woven tee (the girl does not believe in stashing!). This left me puzzled about what to do with my half as that had been my plan but we didn’t need to be literal twins:) At one point I thought of making a colour blocked Archer by pairing it with some scrap black stretch silk from the stash (Picked up from Texstyles here in Austin about a year ago). Then I got this pattern on a whim n early December and just happened to put it down next to the two fabrics and the idea was born.

Now this idea would have probably percolated in the back of my head for another year before I got round to actually doing it but a couple of weeks later I got invited last minute to a stitch and bitch party (and by last minute I mean about 5 hours before I would have to pick up and leave) I had no project that needed hand stitching at the time so I could have just brought along some knitting or something but then I remembered this one and the fact that the silk was actually a little thin for a jacket and could probably use underlining. That would be a good hand project and it would actually get something started that I would have sat on for ages, win-win.

I looked around the stash and found a piece of thin wool shirting that I had accidentally washed and felted a couple of years ago. It was too fuzzy for shirting but too thin to do anything else with - perfect. So with 4 hours to go, I cut out all the pieces in both the silk and wool and bundled it all up to take with. The wise among you will now groan and shake your heads at me. “How did you know what the fit would be like?” you ask. Yeah, bonehead, right? In my defense, I did take pattern measurements across the shoulders and across the bust and figured that with such a loose fitting jacket I would probably get away with it. And I did - kind of…

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There’s a band that gets inserted in the front which should mean I have enough space width wise over the bust and the shoulders look like they’re in a fairly good spot. They could be a little narrower but Ok for this style I think - I can live with it anyway. And the back is not too bad either.

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Not perfect, but not bad. But then I caught a glimpse of the side view.

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Doh!! The girls were hiking the front hem up by 2-3 inches, argh! I could also have done with a forward shoulder adjustment but I can live with that. The bad mullet job on the hem was gonna bug me though. So I ruminated on this problem whilst I got sidetracked with the Diva’s blouse and finally was able to get back to it this weekend. I also knew that I wanted to add diagonal welt pockets to the front as the pattern came with side in-seam pockets which just aren’t that comfy up high like that. So the plan was to somehow cut a diagonal seam into the existing front pieces and add in a strip of fabric which would allow me to lower the front hem. I would also be able to somehow add in the pocket into this seam. Confused? I know I was until I started tracing and drawing on the pattern piece, figuring out where I could insert the pocket and where I would need seam allowances and where I could eliminate seams. I came up with this -

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It would result in just one visible diagonal seam line and would allow me to use the existing front piece for at least one side of the pocket. I would need to cut some new pieces for the bottom but I had just enough floral silk left over for that. You can see the old hem line on the bottom piece and my new hem line which would be about 1 3/4” longer at the center tapering to nothing at the sides.

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The pocket will be a little shallow but I worked with what I had. I inserted a welt cut from an interfaced piece of the solid silk and attached the pocket lining piece to the bottom of the welt.

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Then sewed the bottom pieces to the top pieces on either side of the welt insert, sewed the pocket bags together. And tada -

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OK, it’s still not perfectly level from front to back but it is now in the “I can live with it category” which is all I can really ask for such a half-assed approach. So now all I have to do is finish the darn thing before it gets to roasting temperatures, which in Texas is any day now:)

That’s my first “Make it Work” moment for 2014. I’m sure there will be many more…

Jan 6

A (very) belated Christmas blouse for The Diva

So this blouse has been in the planning since early October and I still did not get it made before Christmas! It’ll probably go in the mail tomorrow. Yeah, I’m that much of a procrastinator. During our last East Coast trip, I happened to take a little trip to Joanns with my mother-in-law (a.k.a. The Diva - in the best possible way) We were getting some supplies for me to make a little stuffed toy for our niece whilst I was there. I’ve made a couple of presents for the Diva for Christmas in past years and so I thought it might be a good idea to get her to pick out a pattern herself then I could “surprise” her with the fabrication. She chose Butterick 5967 pretty quickly. Lovely and swishy with a neckline and sleeve length just meant for showing off a little blingy jewellry - just up her alley. Luckily the style looked pretty unfitted so I just took some fast measurements in the store and chose the size accordingly.

I’ll try to get her to take some pictures when she gets it (actually I’ll have to try to get brother in law to take the pictures as the Diva does not do digital:) But here it is on a hanger -

She requested black lace and I had the devil of a time finding one that I liked and thought she would like as well. Of course, that didn’t help my natural procrastination tendencies. Finally, in early December, I found this great scallopy lace and the olive gold charmeuse from Texstyles here in town. They didn’t have much of the charmeuse which led to my decision to leave the sleeves unlined but I stlll had to pull out the mad ninja cutting skills to get all the pieces cut out. We may have one or two pieces not strictly on grain but we don’t really need to talk about that;)

Modifications:
- The sleeve pattern piece has an angled hem end which I changed to straight because I wanted to use the scallop of the lace as the edge. The best thing about this lace is the fact that each row is a scallop.
- I also wanted to have the bottom edge of the flounce be scalloped which meant I had to change up the pattern piece. This was total guess work on my part. Here is a picture of the original pattern piece (which I cut the charmeuse out of) and the altered piece (which I cut the lace out of)

The top edge of the lace was then pleated to match the length of the top edge of the charmeuse. A cheater’s remedy but one which actually worked out pretty well imo. I did the same for the back flounce piece which was a little easier as the flounce was the same depth throughout.
- Lined the upper bodice. I am just not a fan of facings and I wanted this one to have really pretty insides. Nothing less would be worthy of the Diva! I used some black china silk from the stash. I used the facing pattern pieces to cut out some lightweight interfacing which I fused to the wrong side of the charmeuse (just the upper bodice) The lining covers this all up and hopefully the interfacing will help to keep the shape of the neckline intact.

I decided to use the charmeuse as an underlining, not a lining, because you’d be able to see the seam allowance right through the open weave of te lace otherwise. I took all the pieces to our local monthly hand sewing party and the girls were soooo nice they helped me baste all the lace and charmeuse pieces together. Yay for sewing friends! So all this got done by Mid-December but then preparations for my pre-Christmas brunch got under way and sewing got put on hold. I managed to put in a few hours here and there but still hadn’t managed to get it all put together until this weekend. What is it about sewing for someone else that brings out the inner perfectionist? I used black Seams Great on all of the exposed seams (not that many really after lining; just the side seams at the flounce and the armscye seams)

The last little problem that I needed to overcome was buttonholes. I didn’t think that the lace would be able to handle machine buttonholes. Not only is the lace very open in places but I was afraid my presser foot would catch and snag the process - sewing in the sleeves was the one area where I was sewing with the lace on top and it showed me that this lace was prone to doing that. So I experimented with stabilizing the buttonholes with interfacing (not ironed on, just laid on top) but I didn’t like the way this trimmed out so in the end I used little squares of the black china silk. Made the buttonhole right through all the layers then trimmed the china silk away from the edges. This worked really well though was a bit nerve wracking when trimming:)

Anyway, I hope she likes it and maybe next time I’ll start in June:) Now back to some delightfully selfish sewing. Silk bomber jacket, here I come…

You know you have good friends when they help you underline delicate lace with silk charmeuse for a christmas blouse for your mother-in-law :)

You know you have good friends when they help you underline delicate lace with silk charmeuse for a christmas blouse for your mother-in-law :)

Two Lola’s and some Hemlock…

Sounds like a recipe for a cheesy murder mystery doesn’t it? Presenting Miss Lulu and The Case of the Missing Sewjo! But really this is more like How Miss Lulu Got her Sewjo Back. It’s been missing for a little while folks (the sewjo that is). Ever since the middle of September when we left for our little East Coast trip (which was great btw), I’ve barely touched the sewing machine. First I came back from the trip as sick as a dog and took forever to get over that cold and then my head was just teaming with ideas - so much so that I couldn’t seem to settle to anything at all. I would be at work dreaming of finishing my day so I could go start something fabulous at home and then get there and be too distracted to actually start anything, urgh! I have even turned to knitting to get me over the hump, hence the last post about finally steam blocking that vest. What’s next, quilting? God forbid!

So I finally just pulled out this pattern one day and cut into it that night. It’s the Victory Lola pattern which I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I decided to make it into a top for a couple of reasons. This was my first time making it so I really needed to do a muslin and thought that with such an easy fitting dress, the main issue would be getting the bodice to look right. Also, I knew that I would get way more wear out of a top than a dress right now. I don’t tend to wear dresses in winter as I just can’t stand wearing tights.

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I made a straight size 8 and the only modification I made was to lower the bust apex by an inch. When cutting out I made all of the upper bodice pieces 1 inch longer because I was concerned that the empire seam might not be low enough for me but I ended up cutting it right back off once I got the lower part stitched on and tried it on. I had to unpick the empire seam, cut off that extra inch then sew the lower part back on. Here are the mug shots:

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The fabric is a sweatshirt fleece that I got from a pattern swap. I had no idea on the content and just assumed that it was synthetic but I was happily surprised when I got to the ironing stage and it pressed like a champ, behaving like wool, yay! The right side has tiny pinstripes and the back is fuzzy. I only used the contrast for the little triangle decal at the neck though it would have been cute to use for the bands too. I was really careful to line up my princess seams when stitching the lower portion on.

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I had to cut the cuffs a little longer than directed as my fabric didn’t have very much stretch, certainly not as much as the rib knit that Victory suggests you use for the cuffs. So I cut the largest size and it just about worked. And the verdict? I really like it! So much so, I made it again…

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This time from a much thinner knit with flocked roses. And yes, if this fabric looks familiar it’s because not only did Dixie make a dress from it last year, but Susan made a tunic from it a couple of months ago (which I’m looking for but I don’t think she did a blog post on it) and gifted me her scraps. Triplets again! We’ll have to line up another photo op soon.

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This time I did contrast bands from some super drapey hemp knit scraps that I’ve had lying around since last year. I remembered that Dixie had trouble with a neckline binding made with this rose fabric when she made her dress so I decided some contrast would work well. I’m really happy with this version. I made the neckline about an inch wider at the shoulders and an inch lower in the front but kept the back neck the same. I also took in the back princess seams about 1/2” each at the waist to get a little more shape at my swayback.

In between these two little Lolitas, I knocked together a Grainline Hemlock Tee - the unofficial easiest top in the world. I had meant to make this one before we left on our trip but didn’t get around to it till last week. Here are the mugshots for posterity -

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Not so fab as is but with the sleeves pushed up (as I intend to wear it pretty much all the time) it looks a lot better.

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The fabric is a rayon sweater knit that I bought at Stitched Fabric here in Austin. I added a bunch of width by placing the pattern about an inch from the fold line for both the front and back pieces (so added 4” total in circumference). I also cut a slight hi-lo hem and added 2” cuffs to the sleeves to help them stay pushed up.

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Love that swing! I also wore it over a button down to work last week and it worked pretty well so not bad for a two hour top! Versatility, I has it!

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The neckline binding is just a crossgrain piece, folded in half and sewed to the neckline with all raw edges even. I sewed pretty close to the foldline and used a straight stitch which has stabilised the neckline really well.Then I just pulled the edges slightly to make them curl - instant deconstructed finish.

So it looks like the sewjo is back! Hopefully I can keep on a roll and keep making things that I’m actually gonna wear. The future plans include a couple pairs of jeans and a moto jacket and maybe a couple more hemlocks, because I can’t sew to do anything in singles lately. Not a bad problem to have…

Following the rules

I have a take it or leave it attitude to rules. Mostly I think of myself as a law-abiding citizen, I don’t speed and I never drink and drive but I can’t see why I have to come to a complete stop at an intersection that is so open I can see for half a mile in every direction just because there is a stop sign.

Kind of the same with sewing rules, I’ll follow the rules if they make sense to me and they give a good result but I have no problem with trying a different method or making something up that suits me if I get to a result that I like. It’s also one of the reasons that I’m a good cook but not a good baker. All that precise measuring drives me crazy, I prefer the free and easy, taste as you go along method of cooking.

All that to say that sometimes this attitude comes back to bite me in the ass. It can border on arrogance sometimes, who am I to say that a rule is not necessary just because I can’t see the logic in it or the method that I’ve used to follow the rule has not worked for me and so the rule must therefore be defective.  This is the case with me and knitting.

I am an occasional knitter. I’ve really only been doing it for a couple of years and have made maybe three or four things. Granted, those things have been ambitious (like a cable and lace wrap cardigan), but I really don’t have the experience to call myself anything but an advanced beginner. Now the rule that I’ve always heard but never really paid much attention to before is the one about blocking - You should always block your work after you finish knitting. There’s a couple of different ways they tell you to do it in all the textbooks and they mainly involve getting your knitted project wet and then laying it out to dry all spread out so the fabric has a chance to relax and the pattern gets really defined. 

For some reason none of the methods ever worked for me, there was no discernible difference when I blocked. Not sure what I was doing wrong but probably has something to do with not actually using a blocking board and pins like they tell you but thinking that spreading the thing out on a towel on my bed and pinning it down with straight pins was an adequate substitute:) So in my wisdom, I just assumed that rule could be ignored and that how the garment came off the needles was how it was supposed to look. Hence, I had two cardigans that I spent ages knitting that I never wore because They just didn’t look right. I just thought that it was a poor choice of yarn or that maybe that style just didn’t suit me.

Exhibit A:

I loved this pattern when I saw it in the Knitwear magazine. On the model it hung straight and the fabric looked nice and drapey, really playing up the fabulous chevron stitching.  What I got was a stiff feeling fabric that clung to me and had a rib hem that poofed out the rest of it and made me look even more top heavy.  So it has sat in my closet for a year unworn. I would try it on every now and again with different outfits and I just though that maybe I didn’t have the right clothes to go with it.

Then a couple of weeks ago, the fabulous Gail over at Today’s Agenda posted a video on how to steam block your knitting with your iron. Ooooh, finally a method that looked logical to me!  So simple, so genius.  And no extra tools/ equipment needed - right up my alley. So I pulled out my little cardigan today and steamed the hell out of it. Et voila:

Drapey fabric, no cling at the hem and sleeves that don’t stick straight out.

Rib hem meets rib collar at close to a 90 degree angle.

Fabric looks drapey and stitchwork is well defined.

And it even looks good pinned closed.  I can already tell that I am gonna get a lot of wear out of this one. Yay!!! And thank you so much Gail, I am definitely gonna use this method from now on. I also used it on my cables and lace wrap cardigan and wow, what a difference.

So kids, the lesson we learned today is that sometimes the rules are there for a reason, even if we can’t see it, and sometimes it’s worth it to follow the rules even if you have to try a few different methods that get you there. And if it still doesn’t work for you then feel free to ignore it:)

Dilemma!

Aaargh, my selfish and unselfish selves are getting ready to duke it out and it’s gonna be a close match!  So my brother and his girlfriend, who live in London, are gonna be in New York for a few days in a couple of weeks. We haven’t seen each other in about 8 years and so the hubby and I are gonna head up to see them. We’re going up about a week earlier in order to see his family in Philly as well but the last weekend will be spent in New York with my brother.

Here’s where the dilemma comes in: Can I work in a trip to the Garment District when no one else I’m with is into sewing? Can I be selfish and force everyone to go with me or do I try to ditch them for a couple of hours and go by myself? And should I even be thinking of doing this when I haven’t seen my brother in eight years? Am I a “Bad Sister” for even considering it? (kind of like Bad Santa but without the liver damage)

What would you do? And what kind of ninja moves would you use to ditch them?