Saturday, September 20, 2008

A bit of success...

...was achieved this summer making casual tops from patterns created from ready-to-wear items, but now it's time to up the ante -- slacks.

I chose a simple pair of J.Jill slacks whose fit works well for me. Let's hope their simplicity will give me a better chance at success.

As mentioned previously, I decided to try taping off the pattern pieces instead of tracing them. No pockets, no lining, not even a separate waistband, so it's just 2 pattern pieces -- a front and a back. The flat areas (lower legs) are simple. The tape is placed around the entire outline of each piece, and then filled in with overlapping layers. The real challenge comes from the non-flat, darted hip/waist area. This needs to be done with the shape filled in -- preferably while being worn inside out. Darts (there are two on each piece) are taped over, with each apex marked. After removing the taped shape from the garment, the darted area is cut from the center down to the marked apex. When the taped piece is affixed to a flat paper the slits will open up (hopefully!) to proper dart width. It was a real pain to get the taped shape from the garment to the paper -- remember wrestling with adhesive paper when lining shelves? -- but here's what I ended up with:

That's the front piece, and I think you can see how the darts opened up in a closer shot:

Because it seems to me that this method might result in slight shrinkage as far as size goes, you'll note I've given myself wide 1" (2.5 cm)seam allowances. I'll baste fit and make adjustments as needed.

The original slacks are made from a sueded poly/Lycra blend. I am testing in a denim/Lycra blend -- hopefully I'll be able to get a clear idea of the fit by using another stretch woven, although the original fabric has more drape. I'm thinking a stable knit might have worked as a test fabric, but you go with what you have.

Sew, will this work out? Or will it be yet another "wadder"? Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

You spin me right round...

So, a couple of years back I decided it might be fun to learn to spin. Took a couple of lessons, and bought a nice little wheel (Majacraft Suzie). Then, as sometimes happens, life intervened and the spinning took a back seat to other things. Lately, the urge has returned, and I've been taking baby steps back into the wonderful world of hand spun. I wasn't that proficient when I stopped, and I'm certainly no better with such a long layoff, but by turning to the spinning newbie's best friend -- that would be Blue-Faced Leicester roving -- I managed to produce some passable yarn. But what to do with it?

Now, in the past, yarn produced generally went right into the stash, with no thought given to any particular project. Since my initial goal was to sample many different types (sheep breeds) of wool, that wasn't surprising -- not too much you can do with many little 50 g. skeins of wildly different yarns. But now I'd really like to concentrate on actually making something from the spun yarn, so I set about swatching.

My first thought was a lacy scarf, and so I turned to "Zen and the Art of Stash Diving" from Crochet Me on-line magazine. I really liked how that pattern was developing, but quickly realized that I wouldn't have nearly enough yarn to make a scarf of the length I wanted. Rip-it!

Sometimes inspiration comes at you in a blinding flash, but usually I experience it as a slap upside the head -- why not make the pattern that most folks are coming to the blog to get -- "Could It Be Any Easier?" neck cozy. And so I did.

The roving is hand-dyed from the folks at Sakina Needles, and purchased through The Loopy Ewe. Colorway is "Mango", and fiber is Blue-Faced Leicester (BFL). Spun to (roughly) a worsted weight yarn, it's soft and absolutely delightful. Won't that be a nice pop of color for those grey winter days?

And since I still would really like a "Zen, etc." scarf, I started one of those in some hand-dyed yarn I picked up at Maryland Sheep & Wool this year. It's 55% mohair, 45% merino dyed with natural ingredients (osage, madder and cutch) by Juanita Breidenbaugh (who doesn't appear to have a website). Pretty, yes?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Last Gasp of Summer Tee

It's late, summer's almost done, and I should be thinking of autumn wearables, but I just couldn't resist one more summer tee. The fabric is a rayon/Lycra blend from Emma One Sock. I'm late to the party as far as working with rayon knits, but once I discovered them I haven't looked back. They are lighter than cotton, and to my mind seem just a bit dressier -- not that they're fussy -- just a bit more refined for those times you want to look a little more polished.

This was another of my 'traced from ready-to-wear' instead of sewn from a commercial pattern. It's a nice technique for duplicating simple styles -- not sure I'd try it with anything too intricate, but it's ideal for tanks and tees. Basically I just fold each garment segment in half, line it up along a line on my 1" graphed paper and carefully trace around each piece, smoothing things out where needed. After I finish my half tracing of each piece I make any adjustments I think I need -- for example, the RTW top had a too wide neckline which I corrected on my pattern pieces -- then I add seam allowances and hem allowances where needed. Voila, a pattern piece. I generally use self binding on necklines, and often on sleeve edges, so for those pieces I just cut strips in the width I need across the total width of my fabric with a handy-dandy rotary cutter. So simple.

Of course, the value of this method depends on you actually having a RTW item that you like and that fits with only minor adjustment, but if you do, I highly recommend trying it.

I'm hoping to duplicate a favorite pair of slacks from J.Jill next. This time though, I'm going to attempt a pattern steal by using painter's tape to shape each pattern piece. I'll be following tips in an article from the Fall 2008 issue of SewStylish magazine, which itself is an extract of an article from Issue 120 of Threads magazine. They are a no-pocket, side zip, faced waist (i.e., no waistband) style, so they should be a good candidate for this -- we'll see!