Sweatery Top

I needed some black sweater knit yardage for a project. I found and ordered this “Warm and Cozy Sweater Knit” on Gorgeous Fabrics’ extensive and well-stocked site. When it arrived a couple of days later, I quickly determined the color was not what I needed for the planned project and tucked it away for future use.

At the same time, while planning this top, I picked up a lovely piece of viscose jersey at The Cloth Merchants.

When I determined it was time to get the “Warm and Cozy Sweater Knit” off the corner of my cutting table, I laid my hand on the jersey and had an “aha” moment. I searched my pattern drawer, and came up with Loes Hinse’s Cowl Top. This was a pattern I had made before, years ago, and loved. And it was, in fact, one of the patterns recommended by Gorgeous Fabrics for this particular fabric.

As I pulled everything together and started examining the fabric closely, I realized, to my chagrin, that this was, indeed, not a knit. Where the fabric description had said “Please note: while this is a knitted fabric, it does not have a lot of stretch to it, so I would treat it like a woven.”, it was a woven.

I would not be deterred. I simply cut the cowl top in a larger size to allow for the lack of stretch, used the jersey for the sleeves and cowl, and forged ahead.

Once it was assembled, I tried it on and decided it didn’t want the deep hem, as I wanted it to hang longer on my body. I thought of binding with the jersey all the way around the hem, but realized that if I sat on a brick wall or a chair with rough edges, I would destroy the binding on the back. So I simply turned up the hem ½” and topstitched. Then I cut 2¼” strips of the jersey and bound the raw edges of the slit. My hindsight “oops!” is that I didn’t trim the ⅝” seam allowance before adding the trim. Oh well. “Live and learn” and other adages.

As I will be letting Ann Steves of Gorgeous Fabrics know I’ve written this post and referenced her site, I must state clearly and adamantly that this is the only problem I’ve ever had with an order from her store. Her fabric is the highest quality; her customer service is impeccable; her fabric and pattern suggestions are brilliant. I have shopped there since I discovered her a couple of years ago, and I will continue to shop there.

I’m all about learning, and this was just another learning experience.

Notes: The color in the photo of the collar is the truest to the fabric’s actual color.

I wore the top with the new Marcy Tilton gray slacks for photographic purposes only, so you could see the hem. I will be wearing it with black leggings and boots. And I’ll wear one of my Eileen Fisher silk knit tanks underneath for comfort.

I love this top! I have another piece of sweater knit that I got from Gorgeous Fabrics a couple of years ago stashed in the sewing room—it may just have to become another cowl top!

Gym Bags Aren’t All Big!

I spend Tuesday and Thursday mornings in the pool at the JCC Fitness Center around the corner from my house. First I take the class that’s designed for arthritis sufferers, then I stay afterwards for an hour of water volleyball and laughter. This is a volleyball game unlike any other. There are three beachballs in play at all times, and every so often someone will call out, “What’s the score?” Someone will shout back, “87 to 13”, or some other random set of numbers. We have great fun, and we get darned good exercise.

I don my swimsuit with shorts and a t-shirt before leaving the house, but need something in which to carry my underwear on the way to class, and then my damp swimsuit and swim gloves on the way back home.

I have made many, many of Nancy Ota’s Screenplay bags over the past ten years. I buy a roll of the screening at Home Depot or Lowe’s and dig into my stash of high quality quilting cottons.

I have had this “hog law” fabric since midway through law school. Its tongue-in-cheek sense of humor delights all my senses. I made a cute little pair of knockaround shorts back in about 1989, and stuck the leftover fabric in my stash, where it’s sat for 24 years!!

I was looking for a project one morning before I got on this vacation-garment kick, and saw those scraps. Voila! A new little bag. For me—for a change!

This bag is about 9″x9″x3″, has an outside pocket with a big black sport zipper, and has sturdy belting straps.

The unique feature to this bag, a feature I haven’t tried before, is a clear plastic inside pocket. The sewing room straightening project, which unearthed this piece of fabric, also unearthed one of those plastic bags that new sheets come in. I cut the existing zipper and seam binding off the bag, then cut two rectangles, zigzagged on a new sturdy zipper, and topstitched the pocket inside the bag. I love it! Why didn’t I think of this feature ten years ago?!

Of the dozens of these bags I’ve made, most have gone to friends or charity auctions. Only three or four, in various sizes, have remained for my use.

Every time I pick up this bag and look at that hog lawyer with his striped suit and red tie, I relive a piece of the joy of having achieved a Very Big Goal.

And I smile.

A Stripe Obsession

Have you noticed all the stripes in ready-to-wear these days? Every time I click on a website or open a magazine, I see a plethora of stripes, with lots of variations in placement and alignment.

I picked up this soft little gray and pale aqua stripe while in Santa Barbara at Design Outside the Lines. It’s out of stock now, but look at all the other sweet stripes Marcy has ready for your sewing pleasure.

As I’ve probably mentioned here before, I’m a tad busty. I always have a hard time getting darts to aim properly, even with an FBA, so I am in love with Vogue’s “Custom Fit” patterns. (Several other companies carry them also, and Silhouette Patterns carries an entire line of patterns where you can choose your cup size.)

When I saw Vogue 8831, this cowl-neck princess seam top, I quickly ordered it, thinking it would be great for the stripe fabric. I set out to make a mixed horizontal/vertical top.

<Note to self> The next time you ask DBF to take a picture of a top, don’t have him point up at your bustiness. Not attractive!<Note off>

My goal was to have the stripes on the center panels run vertically, while the side fronts and side backs ran horizontally. But I had to interrupt my cutting to go tend to some then-urgent issue, and when I got back, I was less focused. Oops. Once I started the assembly, I realized—to my HORROR—that only the side fronts were horizontal and all other pieces were vertical. As you know, the stretch runs horizontally, so I had robbed myself of the comfort of the stretch that is the reason we wear knits!

How could I save this? I felt I needed to build in a little give, so I cut narrow strips of the fabric with the stripes running horizontally. Then instead of seaming left and right backs to the center back, I seamed these strips in between the pieces, as a little extra bit of comfort. (Click on the photo to the left for a close-up view.) When all was said and done, I had given myself a little too much comfort, and had to take in the side seam/armhole for an extra 5/8″ at the armhole, gradually tapering out to the original seamline about 4″ down.

One other adjustment was to the cowl. I didn’t really have enough fabric for this top, so the cowl collar had to be cut about half its designed depth. When I put the top on, I was showing a little too much cleavage for my comfort. And the knit is so soft that the collar just flopped. Major décolleté! Since designers are doing so much pleating and tucking lately, I just made two little box pleats in the edge of the collar in front, stitched them down, and now I’m comfortable. It’s not a brilliant solution, but it’s a solution. And a learning exercise.

I have one more piece of a similar striped knit in a cocoa and pale aqua. I’ll make another little T to go with the cocoa pants when they’re done.

I don’t think France will be warm enough to wear this top, but summer’s a-coming!

A Successful Pants Attempt

After seeing these pants, Vogue 8859, worn by several friends, I wanted to try them. I’ve been investing heavily in Eileen Fisher pants over the past few years, but about $150 per pair, on sale!, is a lot for me to pay for a pair of pants. It limits the size of my wardrobe – heaven forbid!

I wanted gray pants for my upcoming vacation, so picked up a lovely piece of gray stretch cotton from Marcy Tilton’s brilliant online fabric store.

I was very anxious about fitting the pants, as I typically have a love-hate relationship with pants patterns. I love the look, the pattern illustration, but once I get it made up, I am disgusted with the fit on my body. So I took several measurements and compared to the pattern before cutting, and was bolstered by the fact that the fiber content included lycra. I cut the side seams at 1″ rather than 5/8″, just to give myself some room for alterations.

The pattern goes together so quickly. I love the tucks at the knee in front, and the seam at the knee in back. I think I left the elastic a little loose in the waist, but as they are going to be used first on vacation (a food and wine tour of Burgundy and Champagne), maybe I’ll want a little tummy room.

The pockets are a nice touch, although I don’t anticipate ever using them. I had the opportunity to do a little of the handwork that I love so much on the pockets, as I had already fused them in place for topstitching when I realized I had not sewn the top hem. So I cut some of the Cosmo embroidery floss I had picked up at Olive Grace Studios on a little road trip a couple of weeks ago. As the owner had said, the floss was a joy to stitch with, and now I have a little personal touch on the pants that (probably) only I will know about, as I will always wear these pants with hip-length tops.

One of my favorite teachers, Nancy Shriber, says you should always have a personal touch on the inside of a garment you make, a little treat only you know about. And, she continues, you should always have some special touch on the back, because you not only leave enter a room, you leave a room. I think my pocket embroidery counts for both!

Will I make up this pattern again? You bet! I’m waiting for my order of Cocoa Canyon Stretch Woven to arrive. And then I want to try Katherine Tilton’s Vogue 8837. Could it be that my dependence on Eileen Fisher is waning?

If you’re curious about the top I’m wearing with these pants, that’s the next blog post. Gotta take advantage of Designated-Photographer Boyfriend’s day off!

Stars and Stripes

Another piece of yardage I brought home from California made it to the top of my list this week. When I bought the fabric, a luscious double-layer fabric that’s comprised of a sheer black knit and what looks like your favorite old comfy gray t-shirt gone all wabi sabi on you (thanks, Nancy Shriber, for the term), I had no idea what it wanted to be. When I first picked it up off the counter, I thought it would make a great extended front for an old Eileen Fisher boiled wool jacket I had dyed black. But the more I gazed at the fabric and the jacket, I was having no epiphanies.

I’ve never seen a fabric like this. The two layers appear to be fused together. Random three-pointed stars are stitched through the two layers and the top layer pulled away and cut around the stitching. The t-shirt fabric then rolls a little to the right side. It has a mola or Alabama Chanin stitch sense to it. I got the fabric from Marcy Tilton—alas, it appears to be sold out.

©2013 Katherine TiltonA week or so after I got home, Katherine Tilton blogged about the wardrobe she was compiling for her week at Puyallup. (Photograph—at right—©2013 Katherine Tilton) Guess what was at the top of her list. Yep, that fabric. Katherine chose to use her Vogue 8793 (which I made up while I was at DOL Santa Barbara and blogged about recently). But the fabric Katherine paired with the stars blew me away. I had a bit of that fabric left over from my first take on Katherine’s Vogue 8817, and already knew I loved the burnout stripe. So I jumped over to Marcy Tilton’s fabulous fabric store and grabbed some more.

The pattern I chose—Vogue 8817. Again. Without a second thought. I love the shape of this top. Where I made the first one with the curved hem (short in front, longer in back), I wanted this hem straight, so I cut both front and back to the center back length. I dropped the neck opening by an inch in the front, and cut a rectangular cowl collar. Because of the size of the neck opening, this cowl ends up being almost more of a portrait collar, which—again—I love. (Man, I’m throwing that love around a lot in this post, but maybe that tells you something.)

I wanted something different from the stars for the middle neck piece in the front, but didn’t want to use the burnout there also, so thought I’d search for a nice black jersey that would blend well with the stars. I recently discovered The Cloth Merchants on Facebook, so searched their site, where I hit the jackpot on a piece of black viscose knit

Once I got the various pieces cut out and assembled, I was almost finished with the top. However, I had looked at the topstitching on Katherine’s top, and longed to add a bit of that to mine. I love delicate and precise handstitching, but when I did a couple of test samples, I wasn’t pleased with how mine was coming out. For me, the double-layer knit didn’t lend itself to my topstitching.

Did that lessen my love for the top? Not on your life. I put the top on, slipped on a pair of black leggings and my little Eileen Fisher ballet flats, and out the door I went to take granddaughter to dance class.

Another winner from the brilliant team of Katherine and Marcy Tilton.

Final note about these t-shirt patterns Marcy and Katherine have available on the Vogue website. They are simple and elegant, and go together in a jiffy (or gypsy, as my now-adult sons said when they were little). I started this one Easter Sunday morning hoping to get it finished in time to wear to the matinee of “The Book of Mormon” in Pittsburgh that afternoon. I missed by less than an hour. You just can’t go wrong with these patterns.

Photo disclaimer: Today was the first really spring day we’ve had, and the wind was trying to prove a point. My photographer thought you’d enjoy seeing the crocuses.