Style lessons with knit tops

I haven’t posted anything in a while, primarily because I was knitting, but also because I was, I thought, “just” making up a few knit tops, totally easy stuff. But actually, while I was doing that, I was also experimenting and, more importantly, drawing some conclusions about what I like and what I don’t.

I started with a top I made last spring, which I tried really hard to like, but couldn’t. You can see it here. I  removed the skirt, and recut the top part from my old tried and true See and Sew B5203 pattern. Then I reattached the skirt, but along a horizontal line, after having aligned the side seams to the seams of the bodice. There was also a little flare to the skirt that I eliminated by resewing the side seam at a straight angle. Here’s the result — a top that fits me and suits me, rather than drowning me in its oversize folds. What have I learned? Go down a complete size in Vogue tops and don’t take “oversize” as written in stone.IMG_1433

I bothered with this redo because I love the colour and weave of the fabric. I still like the top best because of that. I would like it better if it had some sort of variegated hemline, which is not possible.

So I decided to make a new version of the B5203, with a “high low” hem from one side to the other. Here it is.

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Isn’t that a lovely yellow jersey? Anyway I was contemplating why I love “high low” or “variegated” hemlines so much (doesn’t matter whether the difference in length is front to back, front to sides, or side-front to side-front). And I’ve come up with an answer. Please don’t laugh, as I tell you I should be two inches taller than I am. My legs are about two inches too short for my body. Both my sister and mother have correctly proportioned legs, and they’re both about two inches taller than me. So — a variegated hem gives the appearance of extra length, because of the diagonal line that’s created. It makes me look taller. And it blurs the waist line and the crotch placement, so it disguises the leg length.

I then decided to try the free Lago pattern from Itch to Stitch. Click on the link to get it yourself.

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I like it a lot. The sides of the front pattern piece are wavey — they curve out at the bust, in at the waist, and out again at the bust. You pin and then sew that piece to the back, which has straight sides. This means the fabric skims the body, rather than squeezing it. There’s a slight razor-back, so you have to figure out bra straps, or wear a tanklet under it. I plan to make several more of these. The trousers are Vogue 9193.

And finally, I made up two versions of the Hudson top from The Sewing Workshop. IG followers will have seen that I finally put out the cash to buy two Sewing Workshop patterns, for a total of five garments. I started with what I figured would be a wearable toile in an athletic double-layer fabric. After some experimentation, I decided to cut the size XS (rather than the Medium) because that’s plenty over-size enough. Here it is, with memade fisher pants and Jon Fluevog boots. I love the neck, which is a tube cut on the diagonal for a nice drape.

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And then I went for the bright merino wool version. For this one I narrowed the sleeves at the wrists, and made the back a bit longer than the front (there are side vents separating front from back).

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Those are Vogue Marcy Tilton trousers (I can’t find the pattern envelop, sorry). And orange patent leather booties. And this leads me to two other things I’ve learned about my style preferences. First, I like to wear one colour from clavicle to ankle, and second, I like saturated colours (that might mean dark colours, or bright ones). This top to bottom orange is pretty bright, isn’t it? I spared you the matching orange down-filled sweater/jacket. I will wear this combination. I love it.

That about concludes my report on what I’ve learned over the last few months. Has anybody else learned something new about themselves recently, through sewing clothes?

 

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Second sweater done

I finally finished my second Elizabeth Zimmerman yoke sweater. This one is a fair bit different from the first one — I reused DK weight half wool, half alpaca yarn from a sweater I found unwearable, and I reduced the number of stitches from what my measurements indicated (from 188 to 180) for a tighter sweater. I’m glad I did. I bought some coordinating red and blue yarn (half wool, half acrylic with a touch of nylon) to make stripes after the really nice woman at the yarn store showed me a picture of a Kate Davies Keith Moon design.

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I like it! I especially love the broad red stripe around my shoulders. I think this is as far as I’ll go for designs in a yoke sweater. I’m pretty sure I’m too lazy to try the standard kind of Scando-designs and I tend to prefer simplicity. This doesn’t mean I haven’t loved some of the designs my fellow bloggers have produced with this patternless design.

I find there’s a bit of wave in the fabric caused by the “brutal” first row of decreases. It would be nice if that waviness was gone. Does anybody know anything about that? Have people who made stranded designs had the same thing?

When I tried this sweater on after it was done, I considered removing the top couple of inches to eliminate the final row of decreases (in this case I knit two together at every 4th and 5th stitch). That would give me more of a boat neck look. I don’t think I will because I’m fine with it the way it is, but I think if and when I make another of these, I will consider that alteration in advance.

I wore this sweater out and about after taking this picture late this afternoon, and it was warm as toast. I think that’s a thing with alpaca. Another thing with alpaca is that it’s heavy. The wonderful woman at the yarn store, Sarah, told me it can’t hold its weight so it tends to stretch longer and longer. It was something I had noticed and hated about the previous sweater I had knit with this yarn. Wool from sheep looks springy, but hair from alpacas hangs heavy, like, well, hair. I don’t think I will knit with it again, but I do think it was a good idea to make a close-fitting sweater with this yarn.

If you look closely you can maybe just see why I originally chose this colour. It’s exactly the colour of my eyes. Bat, bat.

So now …. what to do about this?

I have an unfinished V-neck, raglan sleeved sweater knitted with this yarn that my mother sent me after she was given it by a neighbour in her retirement residence who could no longer knit. My mother can’t knit anymore either due to shoulder issues so she sent it along to me. It came on a cone. I don’t know what it is, or what its preferred gauge is. I knit the sweater on large needles for a loose look, but when I could finally try it on, I got lost in it (it turns out the number of rows per inch is as important as the number of stitches per inch — who knew?) I suspect the correct gauge is the second from the top, which is knit with 4 mm needles. The picture on the left shows that the yarn is braided rather than twisted. If anybody knows anything about that, please share!

I love the colour and would like to knit a v-neck raglan tunic length sweater, possibly with a bit of flare. There’s enough yarn I’m sure.

Valley Girl

I saw this Cali Faye Valley top online at least a year ago and loved it. I had a top like it back in the 1970’s, except in rougher fabrics. I had a small piece of swiss dot cotton, and bought a bit of rayon to complement it. It’s got pirate sleeves!

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There are many things I like about this — the front and back yokes, the single button, the wide sleeves, and the cuffs that open at the inner sleeve seam. I never wear long sleeves with the cuffs buttoned up, so having them open at the inner seam is more logical than the usual. I sewed buttons on the cuffs, but didn’t bother making buttonholes.

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I can’t help but think, though, that this looks a lot like it should be a nighty. Is it too, um, virginal for me?? I have some heavy black silk. I wonder how this would look made up in that? Sophisticated, or more like sexier lingerie?

This was a bit finicky to make. The pattern calls for only the front yoke to be lined, but I chose to line the entire yoke because the swiss dot cotton was so thin. The instructions call for sewing the yoke and the yoke lining and then sewing them together at the neckline. Then you’re supposed to sew just the front yoke to the gathered body, then flip the yoke to sew the yoke lining along the same line. It actually did work. I tried to do the same for the back, but couldn’t sew the full back yoke lining to the body that way. Anyway, it’s tricky enough to sew a yoke to a gathered piece without having to do it twice on the same sewing line. I think if I make this again (and again choose to line the whole yoke), I’ll pin both yoke and yoke lining to the body and sew it once (as you do for a standard button up shirt). Then sew the shoulders together at the end.

I think I’m going to enjoy wearing this. It’s really light and airy.

And now, I do believe I have enough summer clothes, and might take a bit of a break to do a bit of knitting.

Earth and Sun

or maybe spotted bananas ….

I decided to make the ultra wide-legged trousers I wanted by simply using a drawstring pant pattern that I’ve used before and adding five inches to the sides, both front and back. The final waist measurement is 56 inches. I put in inseam pockets, and made a waist band rather than simply double-folding the fabric to make a casing. I took a 56 inch wide strip of fabric, folded it in half with wrong sides together and pinned it to the outside of the pants. I inserted 1 1/2 inch wide elastic and then inserted some mountaineering cord in front of the elastic for a drawstring. I’ve done that before and like it. The elastic starts the job, and I can pull the cord as tight as I want on any given day.

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It was a bit windy out there today. I bought the fabric especially for them, on sale at Fabricland. It’s a cotton/linen blend. I also made the top from an old TNT pattern and a small piece of wool that I picked up at a thrift shop. It might be a wool gauze. It’s very nice anyway.

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It turns out another small linen top I made last summer also works with these pants. Yea!

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That’s it. I’m glad to have some yellow in my wardrobe. I’ve gone some yellow jersey that might go with these pants. If so, I’ll whip up a simple t-shirt.

Why did I leave that plastic bag (filled with clothes pegs) hanging off the clothesline???

Plaid?? Yes, plaid.

So here’s my most recent completed project, the over-sized V9162, a Kathryn Brenne design. I first saw this shirt on a blog post by Ruth at Core Couture. (sorry I can’t link to the exact post) It looked pretty terrific to me. I actually bought the fabric at a real fabric store, off the roll, because it struck me that a large check fabric would really suit the design. It’s taken me almost a year to get to this. When I was finally ready to, I worried I wouldn’t have enough fabric, as it calls for 3 yards. I’d purchased 2 metres, which I figure is enough for anything. As it turns out, it was. After I’d laid out the pattern pieces on the fabric, I let this sit for about 10 days so my thoughts could percolate. I’m glad I did. I’ve never pattern-matched  before (I usually use solid colours, or sometimes subtle stripes). Over the 10 days I pinned and repinned and repinned again as new realizations struck.

 

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Look at that white stripe up the middle? A concealed button placket took up most of the vertical white and blue stripe, which I thought was a shame, but I managed the white stripe.

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Notice anything about the pocket? The decorative sewn-on flap has the blue and grey stripes reversed. I noticed that before I sewed it, but thought it would be a fun way to show the pocket, while otherwise maintaining pattern matching. I had no idea how to match the sleeve to the body, so I didn’t try. Now I see that I could have laid the pattern piece sideways to the body piece and tried to line up the horizontal stripes. That’s for next time.

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Got the side seams matched up. But there wasn’t any way to match the back to the front pieces at the shoulders. I would have had to make a seam up the centre back, and I didn’t want to do that.

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I have to say that navy blue is not my colour. I’ve never, ever received a compliment when I’ve worn anything navy. So when I draped this shirt over my body after I had the fronts connected to the back at the shoulders, I saw a lot of navy right by my face and it didn’t look good. So I decided to make sure I got a lot of the lighter blue, grey and white at the fronts of the collar. I’m really happy with that.

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Weird closed-eye shot??? It’s a good shot of the shirt, so it stays.

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I cut out the medium, but was prepared to reduce the side seams to a small if necessary. As it turns out, it was. When I had the sleeves basted on, and pinned the sides from wrist to hip, this looked more like a cape with sleeves than a shirt. I decided to cut back the sides and arm scyes to the size small, and it’s made a large difference.

Now I’m thinking of making a second one from a very stiff white cotton fabric I just picked up at the thrift shop. But don’t hold your breath waiting for pix of that! It’ll have to wait in line. First, more trousers coming up.

Tentative joiner joins

So, for the first time, I’m joining me-made May. I’ve watched others for the past two years, kind of envying them, but I don’t exactly have a lot of experience joining things … I I finally took the plunge this year, after waffling back and forth. My pledge is to wear me-made every day, but I could hardly avoid doing that as I own only a few sweaters and the odd jacket that I haven’t made myself. The real part of the pledge is to never wear the same combination of clothes two days running. This means  I’ll have to a) put clothes away and b)  make a deliberate choice about what to wear in the mornings. It’s easy when you don’t go out to work to throw things on a chair at night before bed and then throw them on the next morning again. This will be a tough challenge!

As to what I’ve been sewing lately, just futzing with a few t-shirts while I prepare to cut into some lovely plaid material for a blouse. I cut up a long-sleeved over-sized t-shirt I made last year, and wasn’t terribly happy with, and made a paper pattern for a sleeveless tank from a couple of different old RTW tanks.

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Sorry for the bad pic — I was taking a few shots for IG. Some of you may remember the fabric. I do like the stripes.

And I like the top so much that I immediately started another one in a small piece of green jersey.

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Um, pardon my toes.

I just made one pattern piece because the difference between front and back is minimal.

So, check out my outfits on IG if you’re interested. I’ll try not to cheat.

Floral waterfall, or something new

I’ve been looking a fair bit at pinterest lately. Once you indicate an interest in something by saving it, their program sends you more similar stuff. The result is I’m seeing tons and tons of clothes that I like. That’s a first in my long, long, long life 🙂 I’d been looking at a waterfall top/dress pattern from Chalk and Notch (I just had to go look up their name because I was going to write ‘notch and crotch’ and that just didn’t seem right :). I was finally convinced to buy and download the pdf after I saw three or four similar dresses on pinterest.

Those dresses were mostly in woven fabrics. I thought the Chalk and Notch pattern was for both wovens and knits, but mostly people have been making it out of knit fabrics. I wanted to make a maxi dress out of a ‘robust’ woven fabric, something that would make a statement. It’s a bit out of my comfort zone, but still within my “boho” or “art teacher chic” or (my favourite) “bedouin chic” style preference.

Anyway, I thought I’d better start with a muslin, using the shorter top pattern to check the size and the outcome with a woven fabric. After I downloaded the pattern, I saw that they state it’s specifically for knits, so whoops. Anyway, I dug out some floral home decor fabric that I had originally bought to make a window covering.20170322_142003

Sorry for the sideways view. WordPress is not perfect when it comes to presenting photos right side up.

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Try to ignore the undershirt peaking out at the neckline. It was too cold and, frankly, I was too lazy to go upstairs, remove new top and undershirt, and dress again.

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There were a couple of problems due to the woven fabric. First, the sleeves. The pattern did say that if anyone made the garment out of woven fabric, the sleeves might be too tight. It provided bicep measurements for each size. So I took this seriously. I measured my biceps. They were the width for the size I was using (size 12). The finished garment width, which Chalk and Notch also provides, indicated about an inch of ease. I thought that might be okay, but just in case, cut the fabric with an extra quarter inch of seam allowance  down to about elbow level. I didn’t worry about the forearm. That was my mistake. I could barely get my hand and arm through the bottom portion of the sleeve. I was able to pick apart the stitching and resew with about half the given seam allowance (the pattern allows only 3/8 inch). So ….. they’re okay, but I would definitely be better off with slightly wider sleeves for full elbow bends.

I also found that the top pulled across the tops of my shoulders, making it a little uncomfortable. Fortunately I remembered that another raglan sleeve top pattern I have that is meant for wovens, but that I’ve only ever made with knits, has shoulder darts that extend from the neck to curl around the edge of the shoulder bone. (It’s a bit of a curved dart). I decided to try that. I opened up the raglan sleeves to the size 14 marking (I had cut extra seam allowances) and made shoulder darts. The result is that the top is now happy to sit where it’s supposed to.

I also added about half an inch to the bodice bottom, and another half inch to the bottom of the ruffle just because. I made bias binding for the neckline and also for the bottoms of the sleeves because there wasn’t enough wide at the wrists to fold the fabric over.

At the end I was so excited about this that I immediately pulled out the two pieces of wool fabric that I intended to use for the calf-length dress, only to discover that my imagination had gotten away with me again. There wasn’t near enough to make the dress. Not even close.

So I started work on something else instead and have been ruminating grumpily over what I might be able to use instead. Today I pulled out these two fabrics, both of which seem too “precious” to cut into and actually use, you know? Some fabrics are like that.

The bright blue is a lovely textured wool. The other is much more beautiful than the pic shows. I tried north and south light to capture the true colour, but neither worked. This is a lovely pale blue/lavender hammered silk. I think I’m going to use it. I realized I have about four yards of it, which means I could make the dress and have almost two yards left, enough to make a top or bottom later that might get more wear.