UFO Down!

Hi there!

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted, which is a pretty poor showing as I’m working to revive Sew Tiger Sew. While I’m not nuts about that, It’s just life. I have a very demanding job at a software startup, and sometimes it just takes over for a while. I even had so much work and work anxiety last weekend that I didn’t sew a stitch! I did do a bit of pattern adjustment for a Maria Denmark Rachel wrap dress, but that’s pretty small potatoes for me on a weekend. Sewing is a big part of how I restore on weekends and evenings.

I’ve also spent a silly amount of time looking for a way to create a nice looking graphic for a wonderful event we have coming up here on the blog, about which I am SO excited to tell you all very soon. I’m happy to say that I found a good online option for creating a blog badge without too much fuss—canva.com. Some of the backgrounds and images cost a small fee, but it’s a great way to slap something together and to know that you’re good with any copyright owners.

Anyhow! On to the sewing…I’ve had one UFO to pick off before I could really dive into this next project. Nope, I’m not taking potshots at the sky; I had to finish a pair of lightweight jeans I basted together as a muslin for the hiking trousers I made myself before our vacation in July! I’ve been literally short on trousers since my Ginger jeans went and shrank on me (turning themselves into ankle jeans!) even after I’d prewashed the fabric, so I wanted to finish these up.

High Pants - 3

High Pants - 1

It was a bit laborious for my taste, since I don’t know that I love this pattern for anything other than the hiking purposes, but I did the work in small doses, switching thread on my main machine rather than running the Singer featherweight as well for topstitching. This mainly worked out well, but I did have one hilarious snafu: I somehow topstitched one inner leg seam with the seam allowance toward the front of the leg, rather than the back. It’s not something I expect any mere mortal to notice, but it’s pretty funny if you know anything about jeans construction.

High Pants - 5

There are lots of ways in which I love these jeans, but some things are less than pleasing. The extra room I added to the back of the leg for the hiking trousers needs to be removed in a non-athletic application like this. And worst of all, there’s something a bit off in the crotch curve for this 10% stretch (the hiking trousers are about 30% stretch) so that while they are actually quite loose and breezy while I’m standing, they are a bit uncomfortable when I sit. Sad tiger! I’m hoping that, since I’m currently losing weight, it may resolve in a couple more weeks. On the other hand, looking at the rear view, I think my adjustments to the curve just really didn’t work out. I think I may convert these to a denim skirt and call it a day!

High Pants - 2

Sewing My Own Wedding Dress

This project took up about 4 months of my sewing time, with only one interstitial project–my February Tiramisu. Boy was I ready to be done when it was finally done!

I started by watching Susan Kalje’s Couture Dress course on Craftsy, and though I didn’t use the included pattern or finish all the steps, I really got a lot out of her tracing, thread-tracing and muslining process. In the end, I had to modify some of the design features of the pattern I chose, not only to get the fit I wanted, but also because the pattern didn’t achieve what I’d been attracted to in the envelope pictures.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Long ago I promised process posts. I didn’t manage that, and I don’t mind too much. But I can at least describe the whole thing a bit.

First, the pattern: Butterick 5750. B5750 It’s supposed to be made in a light crepe, but I think it would probably work best in a really, really light chiffon. I worked on the fit and design in three steps, first fitting the muslin to myself, then transferring those adjustments to practice fabrics and sewing up the dress in a poly crepe, then adjusting the design features on the poly crepe, then making up the dress in the beautiful silk crepe and crepe-backed satin that I chose for the final dress.

The muslin: The first muslin was terrible, as you see here. I made about 3 bodice muslins before moving on to the skirt and then on to the practice dress.

IMG_2104.JPG IMG_2109 IMG_2111

After re-designing the bodice, I liked it!
After re-designing the bodice, I liked it!
Draping came out more like poofing!
Draping came out more like poofing!

The practice dress: When I first got the bodice sewn up I discovered that the soft draping and folds didn’t function at all as I’d expected, at least not in the poly crepe.

So after some thinking, I went with a hybrid approach, using the lining pattern piece for the left bodice, and working out my own pattern of pleats and drapes for the right bodice, based on slashing and spreading the right bodice lining piece.

Ironing a lot of silk!
Ironing a lot of silk!

The silk: I made some mistakes with the silk, but not too bad considering the stress levels and how over my head I was in some respects. I also purchased and viewed the Craftsy course on Sewing With Silks, but didn’t find it too enlightening. I didn’t have a proper cutting table, so I had to let some of the quarter-circle skirt pieces hang over the edge of the table, which distorted them some.

Apparently we're not supposed to use rotary cutters?
Apparently we’re not supposed to use rotary cutters?

I also didn’t experiment with sandwiching the silk in tissue paper or anything like that. And I used a rotary cutter, which may be a no-no, but anyhow, it all worked out. Once the dress was together I let the bias skirt hang on the dressmaker’s dummy for a couple of days, evened up the hem, and all was well.

One quarter of the skirt
One quarter of the skirt

The design features I added were:

  1. I made the right bodice piece in a blue crepe-backed satin
  2. I made 1/8 of the skirt in the same blue
  3. When the straps wanted to slide of my shoulders a bit, I added lingerie keepers, which worked a treat
  4. and when all was said and done (and my draping still didn’t behave quite as I liked), I made a 4-inch wide sash of the blue silk as well.

All in all, this was an arduous project but one I am so very glad I did it. Shortly before finally biting the bullet and buying very expensive fabrics, I went out looking for a dress I could imagine wearing for my wedding. It wasn’t out there.

Getting there!
Getting there!

So I made the dress I was dreaming of, and it turned out better than I may have deserved it to, considering how above my skill level the project was.

Techniques learned:

  • Wax-paper tracing
  • Thread-tracing seam lines
  • Adjusting a muslin
  • Creating my own pleats in a pattern piece (only half-successfully, but what the heck?)
  • Proper catch-stitching for the rolled hem
  • Thread-crocheted lingerie keepers.
Walking down to the ceremony with my sister/matron of honor
Walking down to the ceremony with my sister/matron of honor


The Joy of New Tools!

Three New Tools!

I had a little windfall of time this week when I needed to take a sick day, but by evening felt I had a little energy. I decided it was finally time to get out my new tools and take them for a spin. Here you see them: Swedish tracing “paper,” a 24”x36” self-healing cutting mat, and a rotary cutter. I was so excited to use the rotary cutter!

Pivot and Lengthen

I decided to trace my tried ‘n’ true Burdastyle kimono-sleeve t-shirt, and stop trying to use the crazy taped together thing I’d printed out. I also wanted to lengthen the pattern and widen it at the hip. I’ve been reading about pivot adjustments for months, and I finally tried one! I also got to use another new tool for drawing the longer bodice, a French curve.

I had enough of the same blue fabric from my mishap-riddled long-sleeved (turned 3/4 sleeved) top to test the longer, wider t-shirt pattern. I decided to go for it because A. I still wanted a blue top to wear with my brown skirt and print sash, and B. the fabric was thin enough that I couldn’t imagine doing anything but a t-shirt with it (possibly part of why I didn’t wind up liking the first blue top).

Fabric Weight

So it was time to cut fabric, not just tracing paper, with the rotary cutter! If only someone would let me . . . .

The Whole Outfit

I have to say now that I LOVE the cutter. Cutting’s always been my least favorite part of the sewing process, with aching hands and endless crawling around on the floor to deal with. The rotary cutter didn’t take too long to get used to at all, and I even managed to cut some very small inside curves with it. Though I can imagine why one might want a smaller one in addition to this large one.

Feeling somewhat cavalier about this experiment, I went for a rolled hem on the sleeves and bodice, but did insert a self-collar at the neck. I’m not in love with the rolled hem, but to be honest, I think the poor Viking needs a tune-up, and tensions will act more reasonable when that’s been done.


All in all, I was happy with the results, and can imagine making this pattern in a more robust fabric with an even longer line, to wear as a tunic over leggings. It was super fun to dip a first toe into altering patterns in such a low-stakes project, and also verrrrry satisfying to knock out a garment in one evening.

And as a bonus, I started tracing out the Lion’s chocolate chip cookie shirt. A great evening!

PS: I recently realized that I’ve been having a devil of a time sewing thin knits because I forgot that I can adjust the tension of my presser foot! Can you imagine? I need to create a pre-flight checklist for sewing, I’m thinking.

Durrow Sweater, Reimagined

My dear partner Lion has spent two Christmases with me (since we met shortly after Christmas 2009), and both times I’ve given him skeins of yarn and a pattern picture. Because, well, how am I to surprise him with a knitted gift when my knitting time is almost exclusively when we’re watching movies and TV together? To give myself a little credit, though, he’s gotten two surprise hats for two birthdays–I can manage some knitting out of his sight!

For Christmas 2010 I gave him beautiful 100% Alpaca wool from Misti Alpaca, Tonos Worsted in a color called impossiblue.

Look at the beauty!

I’ve been slowly introducing new colors into my love’s wardrobe, and find it works well if they are mixed with black, his very favorite! With the yarn I gave the Lion a picture of the Durrow pattern from Knotions online magazine.

The body knitted up like a dream, in a simple 2×4 rib. I did decide early on to knit the sweater in the round, as I dislike seaming, and I like the evenness one gets from a pullover knitted in the round. The calculation for the body was easy, just lopping off 2 stiches on either side for a total of 4 fewer stitches cast on. I believe I had to choose to cast on 6 fewer, though, owing to the pattern being a 6-stitch repeat. I did the same calculation with the sleeves.

I don’t contribute nearly enough to Ravelry (or Pattern Review, for that matter), but I’m planning to post this there as well and start turning that trend around. Anyhow, I’ll be forever grateful to Ravelry folk for the many reviews of this pattern they’ve posted, as well as options for adapting it. Before I got to the point of knitting the second sleeve (and had stopped the first sleeve at the third repeat of the center cable chart), I had decided to go with Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Hybrid Sweater for the yoke and shoulders, given the reports that the pattern as printed led to a very wide, almost boat neck. That wouldn’t suit the Lion at all. I needed help calculating how to pull it all together at the top anyhow, since I was knitting in the round. Last, I decided to knit the second sleeve with a mirror-image cabling patternfor better symmetry.

I'm proud of that Kitchener join!
The whole shebang!

The irony of all this? It’s only the second sweater I’ve knitted, at all. The first one I did straight from the pattern, no alterations, and I wound up with something that I like to some degree, but it doesn’t fit me the way I’d like it to. I guess that’s what emboldened me to all the amendment of this pattern. Anyhow, it was an adventure, all right!

My love was abroad for 3 months this summer, and I’d finished sleeve #1 before he left, and finished #2 while he was gone. Sadly, #2 seemed to be at a larger gauge than #1, and the pattern was off . . . I can’t quite remember what I ascertained the problem was, but I opted for frogging #2 and reknitting it. Wouldn’t you know, when I finished #3, my Lion was already back home, and, well, the two STILL weren’t the same! I had to admit that the gauge of #1 was not going to be repeatable, so I frogged that one and started in on #4.

Number 3 or 4

The months crawled on, and I worked and worked to try to finish Christmas 2010 before Christmas 2011 came around. When I started the decrease for the shoulders, I got somewhat confused and it seemed I was nipping stitches from the sleeves, not the body. As I was planning to work the cable pattern up onto the shoulders, I had to frog that and start over. Then things stabilized, and I even got the Kitchener stitch join of the two horizontal back-yoke pieces looking pretty great.

As it happens, I just missed the mark, putting the finishing touches on the neck band on December 29th, I believe. And there were adjustments to make from that point too. The neck was a little tight, so I frogged it and redid it without the very small decrease I’d done to tighten it up a bit. Then, Uh OH! It turns out that the hybridization of Durrow with the Hybrid meant I should not have knitted the last of the Chart B repeats on the sleeves–they were far too long, as they connected with the sweater in a different manner than I’d expected.

Here you can see the cuffs are 1/2 stitch off.

So that was the last, somewhat terrifying act of amendment to this sweater to make it fit well: I painstakingly unraveled the sleeve cuffs, backwards, losing all of Chart A of my cabling in the process, and knitted new cuffs onto the sleeves. Because I was knitting them in the opposite direction as they’d originally been knit, the cuffs are now 1/2 a stitch off, but this is not very noticeable at all.

Since alpaca is said to be weak, I blocked the sweater by spritzing it with a spray bottle, and left it on the floor of my office (on top of a fluffy towel) over the weekend to dry. I expected to have to flip it and find another office to hide it in for another couple of days, but on Monday morning, it was all dry and looked great! Oh, and for those of you who asked themselves just now “Why the office?” it’s because there’s no place to block things at home that are safe from our little Ocelot. And I didn’t want to discover what a kitten can do to alpaca while it dries.

The Lion and I are both very happy with this sweater.