Friday, December 16, 2011

The Metro Coat

I took photos of this coat after I finished it, but failed to get everything up to the blog.  So, after 1 1/2 years, here is my finished Metro Coat.  I knit sweaters using my own patterns and using bought patterns.  For this sweater, I used a pattern from a book called Swing, Swagger and Drape by Jane Slicer-Smith.

Our local yarn shop, The Needle Lady, brought in Jane Slicer-Smith, an Australian knitter,  a couple of years ago to give a series of workshops.  I attended one on fitting.  It is only the second knitting class that I have ever attended, and it was well worth it.  Jane is a master at fitting sweaters, something that has always been hit or miss with for me.  She brought a huge selection of sweaters to try to see which ones we liked and how they fit us.  It was great fun to try on all these beautiful sweaters.  I love the one on the cover of the book and will definitely knit it one of these days, but I started with the Metro Coat because I felt I needed to start using up some of my stash.  I had a lot of the light grey silk/wool yarn in my stash, so I then chose colors to go with it.

The colors I chose were a tweeded black, dark grey and camel and used green and bright blue as the accent colors.  I started the coat, but the going was very slow.  Then, I had a major back injury.  I herniated a disk in my back and was unable even to stand up for more than a week.  Even then, I could only stand up for very short periods of time without severe pain.  Once I got through the worst pain and was able to get off the very strong pain killers, I was still bed bound for 3 weeks.  So once I could sit slightly propped up, I started knitting.

This coat is not hard to knit, but does require some attention to pattern.  This is the first sweater that I have knit that has used bobbles.  My first attempts were not so successful, but I got the hang of it.  Mainly, it was a challenge managing all of the intarsia strings and untangling them periodically, but otherwise, it is a pretty straightforward project.  

Because it is such a big coat, I decided to line it to hide all the color changes and to help hold its shape.  I picked a beautiful cotton fabric for the main lining, and used a slick rayon for the sleeves to help get them on and off easily.  I covered the seam in a velvet ribbon.  

Here is a photo of the back of the sweater, and one with me wearing it.  It is quite warm and works well for 40'ish type temperatures.  I get lots of compliments on the sweater, and often have people stop me to comment on it and to ask where they can get one like it.  I love this sweater and I am tempted to do another one but shorter.  However, life is too short to knit the same thing twice, so I think I am off to do a different project now.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Latest project

My latest project is a design that I drew a couple of years ago, bought the yarn for, and then never started. I finally decided to get started.  It is a sweater for my daughter, who is now 8.  It will be a bit fitted at the top.  I have started from the bottom of the fitted top, and will knit up to the shoulders.  Then, I will pick up stitches for the gathered skirt at the bottom of the sweater.  Here is a sketch that I did for it.

I am using a Debbie Bliss cotton yarn in a bunch of different colors.  Right now I am knitting with red and using a bright orange to knit a leaf pattern into the bodice. 

We'll see how the sweater progresses since I have a bunch of colors and may not have enough red to do the main body and the sleeves.  I will post my progress.

Modified Sweater: steeking

About a year and a half ago, a friend who is a portrait artist asked me if I was interested in trading some work.  She had two sweaters that her parents had brought her home from Ireland and she wanted save them.  One, a natural wool fisherman knit had a hole near the elbow.  We found some yarn that was a close match and I spent a couple of nights repairing it and knitting a patch for it.

The other sweater was more of a challenge.  It was a large blue fisherman's knit that was much too large for her.  She wanted it shortened.  I decided that it would look like a large box and I would end up cutting off about 8-10 inches off the bottom.  I wasn't happy with the idea, but didn't have a better one and put the sweater away for a while.  The sweater sat in my studio for almost a year maybe more.  Anyway, one day inspiration struck.  I decided to make it into a big coat sweater.  I wouldn't have to cut any off the bottom, I could steek it and then I would only have to shorten the sleeves.  Steeking is often done on Scandavian sweaters.  The main body of the sweater is knit in the round, then once finished, two lines of stitching are sewn in the sweater and the sweater is cut apart to form a cardigan.

I find the hardest part of steeking is the cutting. It takes a leap of faith to trust that your machine stitches will hold and the sweater won't totally unravel once you cut it.   I carefully marked the center of the sweater.  In this case because of the pattern, it was easy to mark the center.  I then stitched down the center twice.  Once just to the left of the center, and once just to the right of the centerline.  

Once the two stitch lines were made, I cut down between them and voila, I had a cardigan.

Next, I shortened the sleeves by about 6 inches using the same process: stitch using a small stitch on my machine, and then cutting the excess off.

Now the harder part, or at least the part that requires a lot more work...  I had decided to make a sweater coat, and I found a design similar to this sweater in America Knits by Melanie Falick.  The exact sweater in the book is the SnoqualmieStripes jacket, but I only used the cuffs and the collar for the sweater.   I chose a beautiful malabrigo yarn that matched the sweater but brought in some brown, which was the color that Kelly wanted in the sweater.   This is a beautiful yarn that is lovely to knit with.

The pattern that is used for the collar and cuffs is a woven stitch.  The biggest problem was that it is a very tight stitch and requires bigger needles than what the yarn calls for.  Also, the first time I knit a few rounds on the collar, I found that it gathered the sweater, so I had to pick up more stitches around the sweater and use a bigger needle once I started the woven stitch.  The collar seemed to take forever, but I thought it was lovely once finished.  Below is a closeup of the woven stitch.

Below is a closeup of the collar with the woven stitch for the outer collar, and a rib for the inner collar with buttons and buttonholes.  I love the leather look buttons with this yarn.

The last thing  I did was knit the cuffs and sew them on, and finally I covered the steeked edges in velvet ribbon.  It hides the rough edges and makes a beautiful seam cover and inner detail.

And finally, here is the finished coat sweater.   I love the new look.  I is a bit retro 80's, but it is a nice coat for layering, and it saved Kelly's sweater from the obscurity of the back of her closet.  Plus, in return, I will have a nice portrait of our family dog Elsie.  I will post the portrait once it is finished.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Converting a Dress to a Skirt

I ducked into a resale shop recently to check out what they had.  I spotted a $300+ Versace suit, lovely, but out of my price range.   I also found a beautiful Eileen Fisher skirt, but the silk fabric had a large marred spot on the back.  I also found a great strapless sundress from Old Navy.  I was surprised it was Old Navy, since I rarely buy anything from them but T-shirts.  The fabric was lovely, but it was way too short for my less than perfect 50 year old legs, ten years ago....But that is another story.  Okay on with the story, I bought the dress for $8, what a bargain!  I took it home and decided to cut off the top and make it into a high waisted skirt.  As an inspiration, I used a great vintage Vogue pattern 2155, a Calvin Klein pattern from the 1980's that has patterns for a flared skirt with pleats and a high waisted straight skirt.

I tried the skirt on and marked where I wanted the top of the waist line to be.  I then unzipped it, cut off the top of the dress, and I trimmed the top saving it to be used as a facing for the raised waist.  I stitched the facing to enclose the raw edge which would be the bottom of edge of the skirt facing.

I then interfaced the facing.  I stitched the top of zipper so that when I zipped the skirt up the zipper tab would not come off, since I had shortened the zipper when I cut off the top of the dress.  Next, I  attached the facing to the skirt, taking care with the zipper at the top.

I pressed the facing over to the inside of the skirt, topstitched it into place, and then tacked it down at the seams.  Now, my $8 skirt was complete.  I really love it.  I think I will try this strategy again.  How else can you get a lovely fitted skirt in less than 2 hours for $8?

Tutorial for a kimono inspired girl's dress

I found some lovely floral fabric at my local fabric store that I couldn't resist.  So, I bought a couple of yards for me and my daughter.  It sat for a while in my studio until I finally got around to sewing it together earlier in the fall.   I had seen a lovely dress in a local store that I love to look in, but rarely buy from.  They have lovely children's clothes imported from Europe.  They sell the kind of dresses that little girls should wear, you know what I am talking about, cotton dresses with style, no sparkle, no "justin bieber" labels, ...  however, they are usually in the $100 plus price range, a little too pricey for me.  So, I look around for inspiration and file it away.  This is a dress inspired by one that I wanted to buy....

First, I started with a pattern that I have used multiple times, Burda 3023, but apparently this pattern is no longer in print.  I have been using this pattern for my 8 eight year old for years.  It still works because of the amount of ease.  Anyway, I started with this bodice pattern, then I extended the pattern diagonally to create an overlap in the front, rather like a kimono.

I finished cutting out the two fronts, the two back pieces, and the three skirt pieces (one in front and two in the back to allow for a zipper) out of the floral fabric and lining fabric.   Next, I  sewed the shoulder seams together on the top and on the lining top.

I placed the lining with the shoulder seams together, so that the lining would have no seams showing inside the dress.

Next, I cut my own binding from a contrasting quilting fabric.  I sewed the binding to the neckline of both the left and right fronts with the inner lining in place, and then trimmed the excess.

Next, I turned the binding to the back, pressed it in place, and then sewed "in the ditch" to attach the binding at the back edge free for zipper installation.

At this point I did a fitting with my daughter.  She is tall and slim and often the patterns are too large for her frame.  As I suspected, the top was overly large.  I had her try the top on with a t-shirt, and then pinned it together noting where I needed to trim the top to fit.  I also marked the overlap point for the front pieces. I cut the excess fabric from the top side seams from the floral fabric and the lining, and sewed the side seams together.  Again, I sewed the dress and lining seams separately making sure that when in place the dress and lining seams were together, so that the lining seam would not show inside the dress.

Next, I took the front and back skirt pieces and gathered them to fit the the top and set them aside.

Now I was ready to make my obi.  I cut out four back pieces and two front pieces so that I had two obis, one for the dress and one for lining.

Now, taking my obi pieces, I sewed them together so that the two back pieces were stitched to the front pieces.

I sewed the dress obi to the top, and then sewed the gathered skirt pieces to the obi piece.   Then, I sewed an invisible zipper into the back.

Above I said I left the last bit of seam on the binding free for zipper installation, now I will sew it closed.   I folded the binding over to catch the zipper, then sewed in the ditch to secure.  As you can see below in the second photo, the job I did was not so lovely.  If it were a dress for me, I might try and make it look much better.  However, my daughter will out grow this dress in a year or less, so in lieu of spending more time, I moved on.

I then put interfacing in place inside the dress to reinforce the obi. 

Next, I attached the skirt lining, which I had cut in an A-line shape to the obi that would be in the lining.  I folded the top of the inner obi in place and pressed it down.  Finally, I carefully pinned the inner obi in place over the interfacing and stitched in the ditch to attach the obi lining to the dress.

A second detail that is still not beautiful about the inside is that the zipper shows.  I didn't do anything to hide it in the inside of the dress.

Next, I wanted to bind the sleeves.  With the same binding that I used for the front neck pieces, I bound the sleeve edges.  

Here is a photo of what the inside of the dress looks like at this point.

As a finishing touch, I decided to encase the bottom of the dress in a 2 inch hem casing of the same fabric as the obi.  I also serged the lining hem.  Finally the dress was ready for wearing.  My ballerina was thrilled.  Here she is  on an early fall afternoon in our garden wearing the dress I should have finished earlier in the summer practicing her pas de chat and arabesque.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sweater Rehabilitation Finished

I finally finished my sweater rehabilitation.  You can see the previous posts about this sweater below.  After several missteps along the way, I finally managed to get the sweater back together, and added length to both the bottom and the sleeves.  Is this a sweater I would have designed from the beginning, no, because I would not have chosen the colors that are at the bottom of the sweater in the striping, but I will wear it and it saved the overly large, lovingly knitted sweater from obscurity in my closet.

(Sorry about darkness of photos, they looked great on iphoto but dark on blogger, I will work on this issue).

Today is the first day of school, so I am out to finish up some tasks left incomplete over the summer, file papers, straighten my studio, and next week I plan to get back to sewing and weaving.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Adjusting skirts: ditching the waistband

After having two children, my shape has changed a bit.  I still weigh the same as before children, but my waist is bigger.  Because of that, I have found that wearing skirts with a waist is very constricting.  I have made several skirts using an Amy Butler pattern, the Barcelona skirt.  It fits below the waist for comfort, but above the hip bones so it does not fall off (a problem that I have with so many of these jeans that you buy now!).  I have found this skirt fits me despite a few pounds up or down.  So, I decided to reconstruct some of my favorite skirts that I have which have waistbands and that I find constricting.  I don't want to get rid of the skirts, I like them, but they are just not that comfortable to wear.  So, here is the process I used to modify these four skirts.

The one that I am going to show for this process is a skirt that I bought while I was nursing and very skinny.  The skirt still fits in the hips, but is WAY too tight in the waist.  Rather than get rid of it, I decided to get rid of the waist band.  This is a white linen, bias cut skirt.  Obviously I did not iron it for this photo.  I am going to show how I reconstructed this skirt.

First, I tried the skirt on and noted where my hip bones were and marked them with two pins.  I then took off the skirt and removed the zipper by carefully cutting the stitches holding it to the seams.

Next, I opened up the seam since the zipper will be placed lower in the seam.

I found that if I cut the waist band off where it was without cutting any lower, with a 1/2" seam allowance, it would be at the right place to sit on my hips.  So, using the waist band as a guide, I cut the waist band off.

Next, I sewed the zipper back in allowing for a 1/2 inch seam at the top.  After the zipper was in and I tested it.  I then put the seams together and using the zipper foot, I stitched down starting at the last zipper stitch and just to the outside of it, I stitched down to the seam that I had left intact.

Because this skirt is a bias cut skirt which would stretch because of its cut, I took cotton waist tape and used it to stabilize the waist of the skirt.  I took the skirt with  its right side out, placed the lining over the skirt with wrongside out, and then placed the tape on top of that and pinned this sandwich carefully together.  I stitched from the back zipper opening on one side all the way around to the other.

Finally, I turned the lining and the cotton tape to the inside of the skirt.  I pressed the lining and tape to the inside, and finally I topstitched it all in place.

The skirt fits beautifully, and I was able to wear it comfortably to my daughter's ballet performance and even got some compliments on the skirt!!  However, once I started writing this, I realized that I did not have a photo of the final product.  I will have to take one and  upload it soon.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sweater Surgery Update

Back in October I posted on a sweater that I was updating.  I had knitted it in the early 90's while in graduate school.  It was very big on me and I wore it for years when I was into big, loose things.  Now I wear a more fitted style and hadn't worn the sweater in a couple of years.  See the October post to see how I trimmed it to fit me.

Once modified, the sweater ended up so short that it needed some length both in the body and in the sleeves.  I found some lovely heathered yarn appropriately named The Heathers by Cascade Yarns.  It fit in with the variegated Missoni yarn quite well.  I first knit just that yarn on the bottom in stockinette with a reverse stockinette gore.  But the solid color at the bottom looked added on and very dull compared with the rest of the sweater.  Back to the knit store to look for more yarn.  I found another heathered yarn that somewhat matched, but when I knitted it at the bottom with the green it looked horrible.  Finally, I remembered that I might just have a hank of an original brick red left from years ago.  After digging through my stash I found it.  It was probably left because I don't really like red and really never wear it.  Lucky for me, because I had used up all the other yarn I had left over from this sweater on another project!  This time I went back to my original sketch:

I started at the bottom and used the brick red and the heather green to make stripes, or rather I used the heather green to make stripes and the brick red was more of a gore.  Just the inverse of the sketch above.  Since I was knitting down and not up as in the original sweater, I had to carefully select the stitches that I added into so that it looked as though it was part of the original sweater.

Because I had only one hand of the brick red, and to ensure that I had enough of this yarn, I counted the number of stitches I would need for the bottom of the sweater, divided by the number of stripes that I wanted to use for the bottom and the sleeves, divided the total yardage of the hank by the number of stripes I would need total, the figured out how many yards per little ball of yarn using an intarsia method.  I then created all these little balls.  I found using the little butterfly method I was having too many tangles, so I then switched to using the little plastic yarn holders that look sort of like giant paper clips and are sold in yarn stores.  It worked much easier.  Luckily, I didn't have to buy them as my mom had given me hers years ago after she stopped knitting.  I then knitted these stripes and gores around the bottom until I ran out of brick red yarn, and then I bound off.  As you can see from the photo above I have not blocked the sweater yet since I am still in the process of knitting it.

Next, I started on the sleeves.  I am almost finished with the first sleeve.  At first I tried to knit it in the round, but then realized with intarsia, I could not make it work and the red yarn was getting carried over into the next gore.  So, then I had to start knitting it back and forth, but I continued using the double pointed needles.

It is finally starting to feel like spring here, so I won't finish this sweater in time to wear this year.  I have to finish the right sleeve, knit the left sleeve, figure out what kind of band I am going to put on the neck and front,  knit the band, find buttons, and finally line it.  So, I have a ways to go before it is finished.  So it goes when making your own clothes.  For me, it takes time and patience.  I have to admit I have not spent much time on this sweater lately.  I have been working on some of my tapestries.  If you are interested in seeing those you can look at my other blog:  Woven to a Random Rhyme, which is linked on the left under favorites.