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.

Match Those Stripes!

Another of Marcy Tilton’s “Cool Combos” that came home from California with me was a bundle of gray and black stripes—one with the stripes about ¼ inch wide, one with narrower stripes, and one with sheer black stripes and abstract gray stripes.

The pattern I chose was another of Katherine Tilton’s tops—this time Vogue 8817. I liked the sheer stripe so much I decided to use the sleeve from view A/B, but without the trim strips. For the body I used view C. On the middle stripe on the upper front, I used the sheer, but doubled it (cut two of the pattern piece and layered them) so my bra strap wouldn’t be so visible through the fabric.

Laying the pattern pieces on the fabric to try to make the stripes meet on the side seams took me a long time. I need to figure out a better way to make sure the stripes are straight on the fabric. But my work paid off—I was very pleased with how they matched.

But the part of this top that I am the most excited about is the binding on the neck opening. I had heard Marcy talk about this treatment, but had never tried it. I cut the binding strip along the selvedge, which had a rough, fringy edge. Instead of sewing it on the outside and wrapping to the inside, I sewed on the inside, wrapped to the outside, and topstitched a ¼ to an ⅛ inch from the selvedge edge. Because I’m working with a knit, I don’t have to worry about fraying. I have a decorative edge at no extra cost.

I’ve been sewing since I was 13, and it’s great fun, almost 50 years later, being able to draw upon a lifetime of experience to quickly and easily make a new top that would probably cost me $100 in a high-end boutique.

Broken Wrist Knitting!

I just completed my first knitting project since I broke my wrist on 11/30/2012 and had surgery to install plate on 12/7/2013. I follow The Buffalo Wool Company on Facebook. A month or so before my Fateful Fall, Buffalo Wool Company posted a picture on FB of a skein of their hand-dyed “Tracks” in a color they call Black Bunny 2, a wonderful mix of shades of blue, aqua, and lime. Tracks is comprised of mostly superfine superwash merino, with a little bison for warmth and strength. This yarn is soft!!

I ordered a hank of the yarn, 400 yards. It was placed in my mental knit queue to follow the ruffle scarves I was knitting for my grandchildren’s Montessori teachers’ Christmas gifts. And then I fell and wondered if I’d ever knit or play piano again.

In January, during my two-month stint of sitting on the couch all day every day, I received my weekly email from nearby Wolf Creek Yarns. They posted a photo of the Madelinetosh Honey Cowl, and I thought it might be the perfect pattern for my hank of Tracks.

In early February I cast on the cowl. I tried for several days—my wrist still in a brace—and could only knit 50 or so stitches before the pain would be too great to continue. I would try again every few days, but could never get much more than 50-100 stitches completed before I had to quit. Then in mid February I graduated from the brace and began physical therapy. Well, guess what — my doctor considers knitting to be good therapy for strengthening a broken wrist. Yea!

I knitted five or so rows every night while watching television. Last week I made a big push to get this thing done so I could move on to other projects. Over the weekend, I finished my new cowl. It perfectly complements the cashmere sweater given to me for Christmas by DBF.

This cowl will be to me—forever—a symbol of progress and accomplishment.

Why “Honey” Cowl? The pattern is knit one row; [purl 1, slip1 wyif] for one row, knit one row, [slip1 wyif, purl 1] for one row. The slipped stitches give you a pattern that looks like honeycomb. Love it!