Friday, January 30, 2015

For every mother out there

If you haven't already seen this, it needs a share. My husband got teary over this, this morning. I figure this woman did a great job - kids with a sense of humour are the best of successes:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cross-over V neck constuction steps

Step one: 

Iron a small piece of fusible interfacing to the wrong side below the point of the V. Do not stay-stitch. If some of your stay stitches show and you try to take them out later you will make a hole. The interfacing patch will provide all the stabilization you need.

Step two:

Working with a binding strip that is twice as wide as you want to finished neck finish to be (you are going to be folding it in half) plus two small seam allowances (I use about 1/4" for this) and a lot longer than you need (you can cut off any excess when you are done stitching and having the extra gives your hands something to hold onto), pin the binding around the neckline. Since this is for a woman's top the eventual cross-over will be from right to left.

Pin the binding even with the edges along the long side of the Vs and stretch it slightly across the back of the neck so it will hug the neck and not stand straight up.

Note that the pinning, and first pass of stitching, ends several inches above the point of the V on the left side. How far away this stops doesn't matter it just needs to be a fair bit wider than the width of the band. I think I stopped pinning about 2 1/2" before the point of the V to accommodate a band that was about an inch wide. I eye ball this.

Step three:

Stitch around the neck edge starting a seam allowance distance below the V on the right side and ending somewhere short of the V on the left side as shown. Use a straight stitch and a knit/ballpoint/jersey needle. As a V neck doesn't have to be stretched to go over your head a straight stitch is just fine. ( See above you would locate a spot 1/4" below the point of the V right at the white pin head above, stitch up the right side of the V across the back neck and down the left side of the V to where you see the pinning stop.)

Clip right to the stitching at the point of the V.

Step four:

Working from the right side play around with the ends of the band so it looks like this below and pin in position:

  • Fold under the seam allowances on the unstitched section on the left side.
  • Tuck the end of the right band into the hole on the left side where it was left unstitched.
  • Tuck the remaining part of the left band under the right band.
  • Pin in place
  • (Note in the event you have a pucker at the point of the V that only means you haven't clipped right to the stitching. Go back and do it fearlessly, remember you have interfaced this area)

This is what it will all look like at this stage from the wrong side:

Step five:

Flip it all up to expose the seam allowances and finish stitching the remaining seam - you can see what needs to be stitched by looking at the picture above and seeing where the seam ends - just continue that seam through all layers until your stitching meets the stitching above the point of the V on the right side.

Step six:

There is no step six. All you need to do know is cut off any extra tails from the binding, tack the left end to the right seam allowance if it seems it is flapping around (if you have got this far you will know what I mean) and if you want you can zig zag the layers of the seam allowance together to flatten if you want.

Why this method is fool proof (and therefore the way I always make knit V necks):

  1. No stay stitching
  2. No pivots
  3. You don't do any tricky stitching or in fact sew the worrisome part of the V until you have arranged it totally with your hands, patted it into place, put in a pin and made sure it will turn out (see step four)
  4. There are no surprises, what you set up before stitching is what you will end up with.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Making the Renfrew necklines easier

I love the Renfrew top.

It's a great draft with a good shoulder and neckline fit - both areas that too many other T shirt patterns don't do all that well.

I even teach the odd class on beginner's knits and use the Renfrew as our base pattern. It works.

And I have been adding length and width to make the pattern a tunic using the pivot and slide method and am pretty pleased with that too. Also the cowl is excellent. Well worth travelling over to other tops as I did with my blue Lazy-boy top a few posts ago.

All that said I find the V neckline and scoop neckline views have some issues that I detected in my student projects.

Here are my fixes for those issues.

The scoop itself is fine. 

Not too wide and not too low. And because of the nice secure fit in the upper bust there are none of the usual gaping issues. You can lean forward in all company and be comfortable doing it.

I do find though that the pattern piece for the neck binding is too long for many knits, like this very stretchy rayon/spandex below. I always use the old formula of measuring the neck opening once the shoulders are sewn and cutting the strip of neck binding 3/4 of that measurement plus two seam allowances. This seems to reliably pull the binding in just enough so it curves into the body and does not have any little peaky things. In this case, for the top here, that meant cutting off about 2"+ from the length of the binding strip as suggested. I think that the result, a neckline that curves in just enough, is a decent result.

Oh and BTW all three neckline views in this pattern tell you to top-stitch around the seam with a straight stitch after you have put the neck binding in.


Makes no sense to me. The seam allowances don't need that extra stitching to lie flat.

The seam allowances should naturally move down to the body if the binding is snug enough and top-stitching with a straight stitch around a part that is likely to stretch is just asking for trouble IMO. 

I get into enough sewing trouble on my own without asking for more, you can count on that. 

For instance the bright green strip drawing attention to my belly was not something I set out to do on purpose. I have decided to ignore this little detail since this top goes with my glasses but you and I both know it is still there.

Next I have abandoned the instructions for the set-in mitered V neckline the instructions tell you to use. I decided to do this for the simple reason that it breaks one of my main sewing rules, the rule I activate particularly when I sew something stretchy or emotional like a knit.

That rule is this: Never stitch a pivot if there is any way at all you can achieve the same result by simply crossing two shorter seams instead.

Crossing seams gives you the same end result, a corner or point of some kind, but by not pivoting you have avoided pushing the grain around in a woven (going one way going down to the pivot and going up the other away from it) which nearly always produces a little bubble at the point of the pivot - you are pushing the grain into a dead end and it has no way to go but up when you sew like this. 

In a knit pivoting so easily just twists the fabric around the needle and you get a little pleat that you will rip a hole through when you try to fix it, or a funny bumpy thing, to use the latin term.

So to do a V neckline that will always be easy and uses my two seam method and no pivoting I do a cross-over V. I will explain this tomorrow when I don't have dishes to do.

If my friend Carolyn is reading this I want her to know I can feel her eye roll at yet another psychedelic print. That poor girl has already done her time trying to get me to shop with taste. I obviously bought this when they let me out on my own.

Whenever I make something like this I always say to myself - I can wear it in Florida, I can wear it in Florida.

The thing is around here it is looking like this:

A shot near my youngest son's place, the ocean in winter. You might think this is picturesque - I just feel the cold.

My body is craving colour like an old sailor with scurvy.

So that's my excuse.

Now off to the dishes that still haven't figured out how to do themselves.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fusible thread continued

As promised here are some shots of the sleeveless top I finished by turning under the edges using fusible thread in the lower looper.

There is not much to this, just finish the raw edges with three threads and the fusible thread in the looper that will be next to the body fabric when you turn up the hem edges, or in this case the armhole edges once to hem. Lengthen the stitch length if you want so you don't get too much thread built up.

Press lightly so the thread sticks the edge to the garment (the thread won't completely melt away and I have never had an residue on my iron) and this is what it will look like after pressing ( know I the loops show on the black and I could have tightened the looper to hide that but I wanted you to be able to read what was happening in this picture):

After top-stitching this is what the armhole edge looks like, nice and neat, no ripples and no bulk, which is a problem I often found with the fusible web - I once had to take it out of a hem because it stiffened it too much.

All this was in aid of this simple everyday outfit of some Lucinda pants and a Renfrew top with the sleeves left off and a cross-over V neckline. I will be posting those instructions Wednesday, right now I have to do course prep for the week.

Not much to report here except I hope you can see the great armpit coverage I got with this tactic.

Another shot that doesn't show much except a black top and I necklace I got at Belk last year and have had no occasion to wear in Nova Scotia, which is more of a single tiny diamond on a thin chain kind of place if you get my drift.

In a month we will be in Florida. Once there I will be teaching distance for two months and my husband can get some relief from the weather and hopefully loosen up those joints.

32 days actually but whose counting?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fusible thread

Since we last spoke I have been sewing more knits. Two more pairs of the Lucinda pants that I loved so much (the grey ones a few blog posts back) and a sleeveless T with a V neck to go with one pair.

I will post my instructions of how to do a cross-over V, promised a long time ago, tomorrow too.

But tonight quickly I want to tell you about the tee.

I used the Renfrew again as a base pattern, lengthened and swung it out using pivot and slide also described a while back and did a cross-over V. I find that the armhole on many sleeveless patterns are too low for me and the squishy stuff in my armpit is not really my best feature.

As a result lately I am just leaving off the sleeves of a T-shirt pattern I like and just turning under and stitching around the armhole.

This can be tricky so I want to tell you how I do it.

First I replace the thread in my lower looper with fusible thread (my friend Trudy gave me a new spool last week, thanks) and then three thread finish around the raw armhole. I give it a light press under to secure and then top-stitch down from the right side.


This is a million times easier than pinning, basting or hoping. And about two million times easier than using fusible web which I have heard some serious people do.

This is what the fusible thread looks like on the wrong side before it is turned, fused and stitched.

So easy. Top shots tomorrow

On those age numbers

Yesterday my mother turned 87.

I tried to talk to her the night before but she was busy going over Spanish questions with my niece who lives with her, in preparation for mid-term exams (interesting in itself as to my knowledge my mother doesn't speak any Spanish at all). And that was interrupted by call from another grandchild who needed help with an essay.

My mom said that by the end of the day she was pretty sure she could write at least three high school exams.

The day of her birthday she got up and drove my niece to school. Then she swung by the church and did whatever you do when you are on the altar guild. She then spent to rest of the day talking to other grandchildren and friends. When I tried to call her several times throughout the day she was out. God knows where and undoubtedly not using her walker like she is supposed to.

When I did reach her she told me she has a lot to be grateful for. Everyone has turned out, except for one of two who were almost there but she was sure would be just fine (I am smart enough not to ask who, in case one of them is me).

It is very helpful to have a parent who shows you how to age.

My mother once described being old as sitting in the waiting room waiting for your flight to be called. If that's making her sad she doesn't show it. She says she's not dying until my niece graduates from high school anyway and so that's that.

She never starts a sentence with "at my age" and more or less proceeds as if she is about 40.

She has dealt with aging by deciding to ignore it, despite a series of major health crises, and she just treats those as times out. 

My mother does't like to be bored. She has a great mind. As we always say even when it's bad she still finds it interesting.

We are not going to get her to slow down or sit down. I think are all coming to terms with the fact she is going to keel over at some point on her way to a kid's swim meet or some other activity that involves someone else.

I have been thinking about this lately as it has suddenly occurred to my husband that 60 is in fact not the new 30. His psoriatic arthritis is catching up a bit and we have more or less accepted that he is going to have both hips and maybe a knee replaced at some point. And last week he and his boss volunteered to go speak to some kids at a high school career day and HR sent someone who was half their age instead.

And like many men he is considering the reality that his career is going to take new directions, involving part-time work even, rather than being the go-to guy. He has had his turn being that. This is just starting to sink in.

He will be fine of course once this all settles into his mind and he retools - something he is really good at.

I am not sure women, or women like us, go through this the same way. I personally am already behind about 50 years in my projects and have no fears about what I am going to do when I retire.

But the thought of what to do when you hit the day when you realize there is actually a waiting room, or you see your age in someone else's eyes, is an interesting one.

I have thought this over at various points usually around 3:00 a.m. and this is what I have figured out.

Best thing to do is just forget the numbers.

Just forget them. Put them right out of your mind. Listen I teach 20 year olds who are already older than I am.

You aren't as old as you feel, you are as old as you do.

Keep doing, or in my case, keep sewing.

That's quite the back log I have stored up.

Off I go.

Friday, January 23, 2015

What designers do you like?

The comments are the best part of writing a blog.

It is a conversation with folks who get exactly what you mean, and they share with you exactly what you want to know.

A case in point is a wonderful comment Anne in Melbourne (a city I lived in for five years and love) left for us.

In describing her own bridal sewing she directed me to Australian designer Carla Zampetti

I was so glad she did.

Zampetti's clothes reminded me of what successful sewing can look like. Simple shapes, great fabric, and flattering, liveable fit.

Go to the site yourself but here are a few things that caught my eye over my coffee in the chair with Daisy this morning:

It occurred to me that these clothes articulated what for me were the things I didn't like about the latest Vogues - they were trying too hard to be clever, and in doing so the fabric, and the woman inside the clothes, seemed lost. Little sewing, seaming fancy turns in some cases for their own sake, like those pointy sleeve bottoms. And I don't want you to think for a moment that the complete irony of the fact these thoughts are coming from the same woman who made herself clown pants is lost on me.

The clothes I looked at this morning from Australia made me remember that one of the things that matter most to me is clothing doesn't looked forced and that the fabric itself is a primary pleasure. Yes, I know, I know. This being a work in progress takes effort, and humour 

Zampetti's designs also reinforced for me the significance of TNT patterns in a sewer's life. If you look carefully at everyday looks in the collection they really are just that - different fabrications of the same patterns.

Which brings me to another comment that has really stuck with me. Sewingkm suggested I do just that for my wedding sewing, find great fabric and make it up in a pattern with a good history with me.

Of course.

Now I would like to hear more from you all, for all of us to share. 

What designers do you like?

I sometimes go on to look at the collections for ideas and frankly I am overwhelmed. I just don't have enough time in the bathtub with my iPad to go through them all, and would like to skip all the ones with ostrich feather hot pants and find the ones with clothes I can sew and wear.

I think this matters. Working out your style, or returning to home base by remembering what you really like in favourite clothes (for instance simple shapes and great fabric as above) seems to me to be a good investment of pre-sewing time.

So I will put that out there.

What designers do you like?