Thursday, March 29, 2012

Retro Style Dress, A Sewing Project

As I have mentioned before (and you can see in my profile), I love fashion.  Especially the beautiful clothes from the 1940's and 50's.  Women just looked so elegant and chic even during wartime.  I gaze longingly at the vintage inspired clothes in the Anthropologie catalog and online at ModCloth and ShopRuche.  Though beautiful, their prices don't exactly fit into my clothing budget.  For the last few years I have bought most of my clothes at Forever 21, but sadly I am slowly realizing that I am getting too old to shop there.  Their dresses are ridiculously short on me and completely not age appropriate.  Yes, I'm only 28, but still I need to have a certain amount of modesty for my own self respect!

Luckily for me, I know how to sew.  My mom used to sew most of my clothes as a kid, so I learned the basics of sewing pretty early in my childhood.  Then getting a degree in fashion design forced me to sew as well (oh, the nightmare of all those muslin samples!).  I am signed up to receive all the sales flyers and coupons from Joann's, so I keep my eyes peeled for when patterns go on sale for $.99 or $1.99 and then stock up.  A couple of the pattern companies even have 'retro' pattern sections.  Even in the regular dress sections there are plenty of dresses that could be considered vintage inspired.  In fact, today Simplicity and Butterick are on sale and I'm going to head over to Joann's and get more patterns.

The sewing project I want to share with you today is McCall's pattern M6503.  Please excuse the scarf and t-shirt on my dress form, she has lots of pins stuck in her that like to snag on my knitting.  I used view A with the sleeves from View B.  It is an empire waisted dress with a surplice bodice, fold back collar with a ruffle trim and gathered skirt.  I used a floral print fabric in bright aqua with pink flowers.  I love calico, just about everything I sew comes from the quilting section.  It's been that way since I was a kid, some habits are just too hard to break!  I had a heck of a time sewing this dress.  It wasn't hard really, it just wasn't working out for me.  Especially the ruffle, sandwiching it between the dress and facing was proving more than a bit difficult for my little brain.  I felt like I spent more time ripping out seams than actually sewing them, but I was quite pleased with the end result.  It even has a knee length skirt so I don't have to constantly be pulling at it to make sure all the appropriate parts are covered.  I had to make a few adjustments to the sizing.  I am a size larger on bottom than on top, so I had to let out the waist seam a bit.  Also the surplice kept flopping open so I hand sewed it shut.

Last week I had a 25% total purchase coupon and stocked up on lots of fabric, enough to make my summer wardrobe.  Dresses in the summer are an easy choice for me; I love not having to think about coordinating anything, just throw on a dress and go.  Hopefully more sewing projects will be soon to follow.

Lastly, I am currently working on a new knitting pattern.  This one is a striped vest with bias pockets.  I'm hoping to release it in the next week or two, so stay tuned.  Here is a sneak peek!

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Pattern: Glenrowan Hat

 Today I am publishing Glenrowan Hat, a beanie worked in a two tone garter stripe and cable pattern.  The band is worked flat in a garter stripe with the short ends sewn together.  Stitches are picked up around the long edge and worked in the round for the body of the hat.  Glenrowan is a unisex pattern sized from baby to adult large to fit the whole family.
baby (toddler, child, adult S, adult M, adult L)
Circumference: 16.25 (17.75, 19.5, 21, 22.75, 24.25)”
Length: 6.5 (7, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5)”
Knit Picks Wool of the Andes (100% wool; 110 yds/101 m per 50 g ball); Color A: Baltic Heather, 1 (2, 2, 2, 2, 2) balls; Color B: Midnight Heather 1 ball.  
Yarn requirements for each color: 
baby: color A 100 yds color B 50 yds 
toddler: color A 120 yds color B 60 yds 
child: color A 140 yds color B 70 yds 
adult S: color A 160 yds color B 80 yds 
adult M: color A 180 yds color B 90 yds 
adult L: color A 200 yds color B 100 yds
ability to read a chart 
working in the round 
basic knowledge of cables 
picking up stitches 
US #5/3.75 mm straight needles
US #6/4 mm set of dpn and 16”circular needle


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Two Bad Knitting Habits: Take Charge of Your Knitting!

  I have been working on a new pattern for the last couple of days and have been thinking about my past experiences working with test knitters and emails I have received from people who have knitted my patterns.  While I have received quite a few wonderful comments and emails, I have also had a few comments (some helpful and some just rude) about sizing and gauge in my patterns.  I try my best to produce perfect patterns, but a perfect finished product depends a lot on the knitter.  I think the two most important things that will produce the perfect finished product and picking the correct size and getting the correct gauge.  But even though they are most important, I see lots of knitters just grab their needles and start knitting without taking the time to check their choices.

Gauge.  Yes, I know, gauge swatches are not fun.  You are so itching to start that beautiful sweater (or hat or socks, etc) that you just want to cast on all the stitches and get on with it.  But in the end, what do you do when your sweater comes out three sizes too big?  Or too short?  If you think about it, the couple hours of work it takes to knit up a gauge swatch is worth it to save weeks (or even months) of knitting when the end product is not wearable.  Here is my own example.  When my niece was a little baby, I decided to knit her a sweater and I chose the beautiful Helena from Knitty Summer 2008.  Now, I did knit a gauge swatch but it was very tiny and I (stupidly) only checked the stitch gauge and not the row gauge.  After going down a couple needle sizes my stitch gauge was just fine and dandy.  I happily knit the whole sweater and didn't realize until the end that it was several inches too short.  I didn't have my niece readily available so I thought maybe that is just how short and compact babies are.  Well when she put it on, it was a lovely midriff baring 3/4 sleeve cardigan.  Sigh.  If only I had take the time to really check my gauge properly I could have adjusted the length and ended up with a much better sweater.  Another problem that I have with gauge is that I knit very loosely.  I really can't help it, I have tried to knit tighter, and although I already have a death grip on my needles it just isn't going to happen.  When I knit someone else's pattern, I typical have to go down two needle sizes to get their gauge.  I have noticed that some of my testers and knitters who knit my patterns just see what needle size I use and go for it, and then send me emails and complain that it is not even humanly possible to get that gauge with that needle size.  Well, it is possible for me.  I have tried to add extra notes to my patterns (besides the obvious "adjust needle size to get gauge") to *please, please!! check your gauge because I knit loosely*.  I wish there was another way around it.  I have thought to even just write the pattern one needle size bigger, but I think it is more important to encourage knitters to take charge of their knitting and make any adjustments necessary to make their project a success.

Sizing.  Picking the right size of a pattern can be a tough decision.  I usually just pick the size (if it is a sweater) closest to my bust size without checking any of the measurements.  I hadn't really thought about it until Knitting Daily discussed ease and started the photo galleries of one size sweater on different sized bodies with different amounts of ease.  I hadn't realized just how important positive or negative ease can affect the look of a sweater.  I tend to wear sweaters with no or negative ease.  When I knit Talia from Knitty Spring 2008 I chose the size closest to my bust size, which had 1" positive ease.  I figured since it was a vest and I would wear a shirt underneath it would be fine.  Sigh.  It wasn't fine.  It was a lovely pattern but I really should have considered all the measurements before I began.  The photo is on my dress form which is basically the same size as me.  The neckline flops open, the armholes are too big, and when I wear it the whole vest just feels heavy.  Don't be shy about getting out the measuring tape and taking all the appropriate measurements.  Along with bust, the body length, neckline depth and sleeve length are all important.  Get to know how your body size is different from the 'standard' of your size.  I have long arms and big hips, and would definitely want my sweater to have sleeves that come down all the way past my wrist bones and have enough ease in the hips so I can sit down without stretching out my sweater.

So I hope this post has encouraged at least one knitter to be more aware when starting a new pattern.  We spend so much time (and money!) on our crafts, it is really worth the effort when you end up with a fantastic fit.

Friday, March 9, 2012

New Pattern: Lavienne Scarf

I am happy to announce that my newest pattern, Lavienne Scarf, is now up for sale.  Lavienne Scarf is a versatile scarf with curved ends worked in a striped entrelac pattern. It is begun by working the wider edge. The tiers are worked in alternating solid and striped diamonds. By omitting the side triangles a trapezoid shape is created. The final triangles are worked in short rows. Stitches are picked up along the curved edges then worked into a contrast ruffle. Lavienne can be worn as a scarf either wrapped or draped around the neck or worn as a mini shawl.

Skills needed: 
picking up sts 
previous experience with entrelac. If you have never tried entrelac, please take a look at my basic entrelac tutorial for further explanation.
Designer note: I am a loose knitter, so please check your gauge before beginning this project. It may be necessary to go up 1 or 2 needle sizes.
Yarn: About 250 yards required for main color and 200 yards for contrast color.