Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Alaskan fireweed cowl

My family and I just returned from a 2.5 week vacation in Homer, Alaska visiting my in-laws.  I always lament that I can't sew while on vacation, so while traveling I tend to gravitate to small knitting projects.  I'm not much of a knitter--truthfully, it is a craft of last resort for me--but I can't be without a project of some kind for that long!
This project was a small cowl, made with lovely hand-dyed yarn purchased 2 years ago in Homer.  The colorway is called "Fireweed", which represents a gorgeous flowering plant all over the fields and hills in Alaska.  Here's a (rather unrepresentative) close up of the plant.  In real life, when completely carpeting a field, it's stunning.  By the time I got out into the fields to take photos, the fireweed was almost completely bloomed out (waaaay early, thanks to a warm summer).  

The pattern is lacework (Estonian Leaf Cowl--it's free!) and while I'm not the best knitter, the pattern was doable and the mistakes are not too obvious because the yarn is nicely variegated.  
My cast-on stitches are okay, but I made some mistakes binding off, so that edge rolls all over the place when I wear it.  Anyone have a good bind-off that is stretchy, but doesn't roll?  It's a bummer.
Anyhow, this was intended to be a 'practice run' for some extra-special yarn, but I don't love the shape of the cowl--it kind of slumps down when I wear it--so I'm back to square one.  However, I'm pleased I finally used this lovely yarn (and created something while on vacation!).  Actually, I purchased another hank of yarn and managed to knit a really simple open-work infinity scarf the night before our flight home, but I've not yet taken any photos to show it off :)  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pacific leggings (for all that exercising I do)

So I'm not the most regular exerciser, and if I do anything these days it's either walking or cycling.  I might not bother making "performance wear" (quotes required to indicate my decidedly lack of performance while wearing anything), particularly leggings, if it weren't for for a buy-one-get-one pattern sale at Sewaholic a while back, and recently purchasing too much dri-fit performance knit from Mood.  Tack on that I'm anticipating doing some serious hiking this weekend at Big Trees State Park and in a couple of weeks in Alaska, and this project skipped to the head of the queue.

Okay, wow.  First off, I made leggings!  Second, they are awesome!  The pattern (Pacific leggings by Sewaholic) is easy and interesting, with the seam that wraps around the leg and the optional back pocket for your phone, chapstick, or FitBit.  I went with view C, with the pocket from B.  The main body of the leggings are size 0, grading up to 2-4 at the waistband. They might be a touch tight, but I guess that's what keeps them up!
The wide waistband makes the waist pretty comfortable, with an extra layer to hold stuff in.  In the future, I might lengthen the rise of the tights, since I'm an old lady.  However, these leggings are yet another stellar pattern from Tasia at Sewaholic.
Back pocket!  Brilliant.  It perfectly fits my moderately sized phone, and while it's a bit bulky back there, the blame can fall squarely on the phone.

For the construction, I wanted the look of decorative topstitching on the seams, but I'm not sure my coverstitch machine would do it properly.  So, I sewed all the seams on my serger, wrong sides together.  Then, I pressed the serged edge to one side and stitched it down with with a straight stitch.
It's important to be symmetrical with the direction in which you press the seams, since it's so visible!
Here's an inside shot of the crotch gusset (above).  I was able to serge the edges in two passes, which worked well.  Since all of the seams are sewn with the seam allowance on the outside, the inside seams are super smooth and lovely (see below)!
 I might have to go out and actually exercise in these babies!  

Monday, July 04, 2016

Tutorial: Insertion lace along the hem band

Okay, now for how I sewed insertion lace around the bottom (check out my previous Tutorial, for how to sew lace on a curved seam, such as those princess seams above).  The hem band of the Hayden top is a folded, bias cut piece.  To insert the lace within that seam, I first sewed the lace directly onto the bottom of the blouse, using the edge of the blouse as a guideline.  In the image below, I sewed the top edge of the lace, farthest from the raw edge of the bodice fabric, sewing right over the lace that was already inserted.
The fabric was pressed open, zig-zag stitched and pressed close to the seam.  (Sorry, no photos!)  To attach the bias band, I positioned the fabric right side up, underneath the lace, attempting to have an equal seam allowance all around.  Below is what it looks like from the right side, and then what it looks like from the wrong side.  Back on the right side, I used a straight stitch to attach the lace to the band.

I pressed the fabric open, but did not zig-zag the seam before trimming the seam allowance to 1/4", see below. (The zig-zag stitch will happen later.)
To avoid additional stretch, especially while pressing the seam allowance, I sewed a basting stitch along the unsewn side of the bias hem band.  Then, I used that line to guide pressing of the seam allowance.  
Finally, I folded the hem band in half lengthwise, carefully lining up the edge of the hem band with the edge of the lace, pinning all the way.  

Finally, on the right side, I zig-zagged through all the layers.

Unfortunately, this method had some problems.  First off, I couldn't sew everything with a perfectly even seam allowance .  This isn't a huge deal, but it made me feel uneasy (and a bit grumpy).  Second, the bias stretched a bit with all the handling.  Perhaps this could have been solved by more basting stitches?   
Perhaps the best way to do it would have been to mimic what I did with the curved seams; sew the first seam as instructed with basting stitches, apply the lace, remove the basting stitches, and then fold up the hem band to attach to the lace edge.  
At the end of the day, I still adore the look of the insertion lace in this top.  The edges are frayed a bit on the inside, but hey, there are worse things!  

Tutorial: Insertion lace on a curved seam

If you're arriving here from Britex, welcome!

I'm so excited to share my method for inserting lace into a curved seam (such as a princess seam)!  I used this dusty peach handkerchief-weight linen and floral ivory insertion lace, though there are many, many options for both linens and laces both online and in-store!

After seeing one of the cover shots for the Hayden pattern, and making a couple myself (two versions here), I really wanted to insert lace in the seam lines on the front and along the hem.  The style lines are curved, though, so the typical way of inserting lace had to be tweaked a bit.
Usually, insertion lace is applied on an uncut, unseamed piece of fabric.  The general steps are: sew along both lengths of the insertion lace, then cut through the fabric on the wrong side and press the fabric open.  On the right side, using a narrow zig-zag stitch, sew along the edge of the lace again (which catches the fabric on the wrong side) and the trim the fabric on the wrong side, close to the stitches.  Insertion lace can also be inserted into an existing seam, before sewing the seam and after taking into consideration the added width of the lace.
However, for this blouse, the seam in which I wanted to put the lace was a curved princess seam along the front.  Instead of inserting the lace before sewing the seam, I did it a bit differently:
First, I sewed the princess seam using long basting stitches, then trimmed the seam to 1/4", and pressed the seam open.

Since I didn't want the seam allowance to get caught when I stitched the lace, I then pressed the seam toward the side seam (opposite side from which I will sew the first side of the lace).
On the right side, a line 1/4" (half the width of my lace) from the seam was marked as a guideline for the lace edge.
Using matching thread and a straight stitch, the lace was carefully sewn, lined up with the markings. As you can see, after stitching, the other side was a bit ruffly, since the lace was sewn on a convex curve.

To ease this excess lace, a running stitch was sewn using a contrasting thread and gently pulled to barely gather the lace on the concave side of the curve.
Prior to sewing the other side of the lace, the seam allowance of the princess seam was pressed to the other side (toward center front) to avoid catching it in the lace stitching.  The lace was then stitched in place along the edge on the right side and the contrasting thread removed.

On the wrong side, the basting stitches were removed from the princess seam and the fabric was pressed open (with clipping), which revealed the lace underneath.
On the right side, a very narrow zig-zag stitch was sewn along the edge of the lace, securing the seam allowance on the wrong side.

On the wrong side, the seam allowance was trimmed very close to the stitching and pressed well.
For this particular garment, I also inserted lace along the junction of the bodice and hem band.  I have a separate post to go into more details of how I did it, and how it probably should have been done!

This technique is addictively fun to do--it creates such an interesting detail on garments and it is fairly easy for the impact it imparts!  Thank you to Britex for supplying the beautiful insertion lace and handkerchief linen!
Still love covered buttons!
I don't have much to add regarding this pattern--as before, I would recommend making a test fit and then considering some of the alterations I discussed earlier.