Saturday, December 13, 2008

The final step; hemming (ugh!)

I'm quite happy that I'm nearly done this gown, and just in the nick of time for the wedding. I have ironed and pinned the hems (some are less perfect than others - oops!) and my remaining 2 evenings in town before crazy traveling will be spent basting the hems in place so I can sew them invisibly on the approximately 12 hours of train rides I will be taking in the next 5 days. And the 8 hour plane ride. And the additional 5 hour flight to get from the in-laws to the wedding.

So now for the pics: front, back and side views...

Now for the project details; some are repeated from previous posts on this gown.

Corset: The custom corset pattern generator found here.
Materials: cotton canvas, rigilene boning and cotton bias tape.
Things I'd do differently if I were to do it again: I'd cut it an inch smaller at the bust because it expanded over time. Other than that I quite like it and would readily use this pattern again. I've never made a corset before but my husband *loves* it. That's saying a lot for how this pattern looks made up and in terms of fit. I refer you to previous posts for pictures.

Shirt: a pattern I found on the internet somewhere, linked to in a previous post.
Materials: Cotton lawn.
Things I'd do differently if I were to do it again: I would make the collar/neckline 0.5 inches (or so) wider. I would also NOT take the ruffles from the selvedge edge (because most fabrics don't have a real selvedge anymore, only fuzzy threads hanging from the long edges of the fabric which I had to trim away very carefully) and would instead have cut a strip of fabric twice the desired width of the ruffle and folded it in half along the long edge, thus making a ruffle with twice the thickness.

Underskirt: cutting directions from Your Wardrobe Unlock'd masterclass on a pirate gown, cartidge-pleated option.
Materials: Thai silk taffeta as fashion fabric, cotton muslin for lining.
Things I'd do differently if I were to do it again: I would NOT use muslin (unseen and ordered from the internet) for a lining because it was too lightweight. As much as I LOVE this taffeta (pure silk - yum!) it really dosen't want to be a skirt, it's too light to hang straight. A heavier lining would have helped. I intend to reclaim this fabric for another purpose - I'm thiking along the lines of a boned bodice. I also don't like the look of cartridge pleats. I doubt I'll use it again for this kind of skirt. They don't hang right with another skirt over it and I can see the pleating thread. I didn't repleat the skirt because Mom said it looked OK (thanks Mom!).

Overskirt: cutting directions from Your Wardrobe Unlock'd masterclass on a pirate gown, knife-pleated option.
Materials: Silk-blend taffeta as fashion fabric, middleweight linen as lining.
Things I'd do differently if I were to do it again: I woudn't line skirts unless they need more weight because the pleated waistband is very thick (couldn't get it into my sewing machine! ) and the skirt is very heavy. I love this fabric and I know it hangs well as a skirt on its' own. This 30-70 silk-rayon blend taffeta is now available from many internet retailers in the UK and is affordable (less than 5 pounds/meter everywhere I've seen it), comes in more colors every season, is washable, relatively wrinkle-free, is an excellent weight for dressmaking and drapes better than papery thai silk taffeta or dupioni silk. This will be my go-to fabric for dressy gowns.
Leave a comment if you want to know where I got it. Oh, and I love the look of the knife pleats. Yay for knife-pleats! YWU explained it better than any other internet site I looked at...

Bodice: Fitted English gown on page 79 of The Tudor Tailor.
Materials: Silk-blend taffeta as fashion fabric, middleweight linen for interlining, nasty cheap Thai silk-blend taffeta which lost its' color in the wash as lining (can you tell I'm bitter?).
General comments: I like it and it fits. Pattern drafting was tricky but I managed well enough with some fitting advice from Claudine on the Tudor Tailor Reader yahoo group. Thanks Claudine! You rock! Because I'm paranoid about wardrobe malfunctions I added a modesty panel to the bodice following the method outlined in the YWU instructions for the pirate bodice.
I also added rigilene boning up the center back to have a dramatic standing collar. I think it's a bit too dramatic now and may get a raised eyebrow or two from conservative family members, but at least they won't be raising eyebrows at the lack of modesty in my outfit. My husband said that he thinks I look like a puritan. (I know, puritans frowned at such 'manly' clothes on a woman...) I also put boning on the sides where the bodice fastens to prevent gapping. It works - 'nuff said.
I added ribbons for decorative effect and may have gone a little overboard...

Grumpy side-note: the silk-blend taffeta I ordered from Thailand is nasty nasty stuff. You can hardly sew it without damaging it so it's barely even fit to be a lining. If an e-bay deal seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. :(

Sleeves: taken from the Doublet Bodice pattern on page 83 of The Tudor Tailor.
Materials: silk-blend taffeta, nasty taffeta lining, linen facings on sides of sleeves fastened with hooks and eyes
General Comments: I chose this sleeve (as opposed to the numerous other options from the book) because I wanted a front-side seam that is partly open to show the white shirt underneath and this seemed like the best candidate. I also found the curved shape intruiging. My mom helped me with the assembly (from Skype) and it all came together nicely. I like the puffiness of the sleeve head and my husband says the sleeve is what makes the outfit look historical. I tried to fasten the sleeve with hooks and eyes but was unsuccessful so added ribbons instead. I also wanted detachable sleeves for several reasons; 1. I get sweaty. 2. Given the number of gowns in the book, it might be nice to have some mix-and-match-ability. I doubt that this choice is historically justifiable, but I don't think it's worth losing sleep over. I attached the sleeves to the armscyes by sewing 5 ribbons to each sleeve head (equally spaced), and sewing in thread loops in the armscye to tie the ribbons to. This detail was also taken from the YWU masterclass on the pirate gown sleeves.

I'll post more pictures of the gown being worn at the wedding in the new year. If only thrace would post pictures of her red silk wedding dress! Oh the anticipation!

Happy holidays,


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Up next... the sleeves!

I've nearly finished the dress; all that's left is the sleeves which have to be pleated to fit the armholes. In my last post I showed the underskirt; as you can see it looked nicer on its' own than
under another skirt. If I have time I will remove the skirt from the waistband and rearrange the pleats so 12 inches at the center front are unpleated and the remainder of the skirt is pleated.
If I don't have time, I'll just live with it. Boo didn't comment about it so it's probably not a big deal. Now for the overskirt. I knife-pleated a 3-yard + wide skirt to fit my waist, and the end result is nice and swooshy. I also think that the knife-pleating looks and hangs nicer than the cartridge-pleating I used on the underskirt, but maybe the added weight and better drape of the fabric helps. I love this fabric; it's a silk-rayon blend taffeta that is washable, stain-resistant (on it's own, no weird chemicals are added) and drapes nicely. It also dosen't cost a fortune - always a plus. My only quibble is that it dosen't press into creases very well but this is probably related to the fact that it dosen't wrinkle easily. So on every edge that I want to be crisp I had to hand-sew some very tiny stitches about 1/8 of an inch away from the edge. I did this on the center front sides of the overskirt and all bodice edges.

Now for the bodice... I used the pattern for a high-collared bodice from The Tudor Tailor's pattern for a fitted English gown. It was tricky to fit because of the shape of my shoulder-neck area, but I got some useful advice from the Tudor Tailor Reader yahoo group and I'm quite happy with the end result, fit-wise. But for other-stuff? I'm not sure that this style is well-suited to a shiny material because I can see where my corset ends in the photo. Boo assures me that it's not noticeable in real life, but photos don't lie. He also think it looks like body armor. It fits quite well and has minimal ease, so I think that the shininess is the contributing factor. Stiff cylindrical corset + shiny close fitting layer which shows no curviness = body armor. Oh well, it'll have to do, I'll just wait to see what mom says. I do love the cut of the bodice and have every intention of making another one in a wool or velvet in the future. My final quibble is that the front edges don't meet using ribbons to close it, so I'll have to sew in some hooks and eyes under the ribbons to make the edges fit flush against each other. I *LOATHE* sewing in hooks and eyes. I added a modesty panel under the center front so that the corset wouldn't be visible under the gapping at the center front.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Finally an FO

I'm behind in blogging by a couple of months. In August, I finally finished sewing up the hem facings on Arwen (Ravelry project link). A good steam blocking smoothed out the bottom of the sweater nicely. It also caused the bottom to stretch out a bit, but I'm sure with a few wearings everything will even out nicely.

The finished product is big and warm, which is very welcome now that there's snow. The cables look really good knit up in McTaggart Tweed and the stockinette portions fluffed up and bloomed nicely with blocking.

The colour isn't something I'd normally choose for myself, however I also feel like I've fallen into a colour rut. The light blue-green is good because it's unsaturated enough to be a neutral colour when warn with most of the dark cool colours I normally wear. I'm also starting to like the look of tweedy yarns. Either way, Arwen will bring some much-needed diversity to my wardrobe.


Yesterday was a great day for the US, and I hope that President-elect Obama's administration will be able to implement the reforms that the US so badly needs. Sadly, there's a ways to go before equal marriage rights are a reality here. On the other hand, if a person of colour with a foreign name can get elected President, anything is possible.

Enough with the politics...I'm in the middle of a major sewing project. More about that later.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

One step at a time...(do I need to say it? More sewing!)

I finished the shirt last weekend and started the underskirt. It took less than a week to finish! It was really easy and although I consulted a few websites for construction tips, I did not need a pattern. First I cut out 3 pieces of my 40" wide fabric 41.5 inches long. (I measured from my waist to the floor and added 2 inches for hemming.) I did the same for the lining although I had to piece it together to be the same width. I sewed the pieces together along the selvedges forming a giant tube except for one edge where I left a 7" long gap (in order to get into the thing). I sewed the lining tube to the fabric tube along the bottom edge, turned and pressed, then basted them together at the top. Then I cartridge pleated the skirt into a waistband (some cotton ribbon with diagonal ribbing - I don't know what it's called) following the instructions here. I added a hook and eye to the waistband, and voila! A large flouncy skirt!

Now for details on the fabrics....ooh the fabrics. I love fabric as much as I love yarn and I prefer both to contain natural fibers. Does that make me a fabric snob as well as a yarn snob? Anyways, the skirt outer fabric is some silk taffeta purchased on eBay from Thailand. The price was okay (about $10/yard) but now that I've made something from it I think it was totally worth it. It was washable and didn't lose its dye (had a bad experience with some other cheaper Thai silk recently...) and retained its papery crisp texture with some ironing. It was easy to sew too. I LOVE the way it catches the light and the feel of it. I will definitely buy again when and if the occasion arises and if the prices don't creep up too much on eBay. Also note that this is a smooth silk, not a slubby silk. Some people care about this stuff when it comes to peiod costuming, i.e. slubby silks were considered inferior and were generally not used (though they did exist in the Renaissance period).

Now for the lining. I found the muslin to be a terrible lining. It static-clings to everything! And the stuff I got was too lightweight. I used it anyways but obtained an alternative lining for the overskirt and bodice. I don't want my overskirt static clinging to my underskirt! And the costumer I linked to who claimed to use muslin as a lining for everything? I found out that many Americans refer to calico when they say muslin. Calico is a heavier weight, tighter weave and stiffer cotton fabric. In the UK it is generally left undyed. Geez louise! Why are there numerous conflicting names for these things? It's very frustrating!

At least Boo likes it and thinks it's coming along OK. He also said it looked quite Victorian so far (it's supposed to be Elizabethan) but I figure the bun I typically wear as well as the wire-rimmed glasses contribute to that end result. I think he's a bit jealous, he asked me to make him an outfit too, but I won't have time until the New Year. Good thing I picked up a copy of the Tudor Tailor!


Sunday, October 12, 2008

The chemise is almost there (yes.. more sewing)

For the last week I've been assembling a high-necked chemise to go under the corset I just finished. The pattern I'm using is An Elizabethan Shirt Instruction by Grace Gamble, available here as a free pdf download. I think it's working out OK, other than the problem that there is no mention of finishing techning techniques for fabrics that fray very easily. I decided to use french seams and modified the pattern intuitively. I wouldn't say that my modifications were perfect, but it's good enough for now, and if I ever decide to make a similar garment I will redraft the pattern properly in order to incorporate french seams. The hardest part was sewing in the underarm gussets (built into the body pieces) with a french seam; the surrounding fabric bunched at the armpit. I added some small darts to alleviate the problem and for underwear no one will see it anyways. But for the next one I will use separate triangular gussets incorporated into the side seam like on the medieval T-tunics I already made this summer. While I didn't french seam them, I did french seam the mockup so I know how to do it already.
My only other issue is that the pattern was quite vague on the topic of the ruffles at the wrist and neck. I know what pleats are. What kind should I be using here? How deep should they be?
I found the diagrams misleading as to the assembly of the pleats to wrist and neck-bands. So I winged it. I had to ask myself over and over - 'Does this make sense?'. I finally figured that part out yesterday and will finish the neck ruffle tonight.
Here is one wrist ruffle. I used cartridge pleats 2.55 cm deep, and while they are nice I want a bigger bolder ruffle at the neck.
So far my 5.7 cm deep cartridge pleats are just pinned in place, they need to be moved around a bit so that they are distributed evenly around the collar. This is fiddly business! Yuck!
And for those who are interested the material I'm using is white cotton lawn. I bought 3 m, good thing too, because I had just enough to cut a new front and back (parallel to the grain, not perpendicular as the pattern states - I don't think anyone will notice or care ;) ) when I made a pretty big mistake on the originally cut front and back. This stuff frays like crazy. There are bits of white fluff on my ironing board, rug, couch, table cloth, computer, and bedspread. How'd it get all the way to the bedroom? Did it grow legs and walk? I wouldn't be surprised...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

It fits! (A sewing post)

Here's my latest F.O., an Elizabethan corset to go under the gown I will be making in the next few weeks.
and Back:
This is a reasonably comfortable corset; I could walk around, sit down, and consume fluids while wearing it unlike a commercial monstrosity I had purchased many years ago to go under a formal gown. I also think it looks quite cute. My husband was disappointed that I didn't make it out of a fashionable fabric in order to be able to wear it as outerwear instead of underwear.
Since it fits so nicely there's always the possibility to use the master pattern as a bodice in the future. Also, I achieved 2 inches of compression at the bust with minimal compression at the waist giving my body the conical shape typical of the Elizabethan era. Some cleavage is present as shown in the side view, but that will all be covered up by the chemise I will be wearing underneath. Now for the details:

Pattern: the Custom Corset Pattern Generator
Notes: The pattern needed no modification as it's custom built for my funny wide-waisted and short-torsoed self. I did a few mockups fiddling with the built-in 2 inches of compression (I didn't trust that my body could do that) and went with the original specifications generated by the pattern for my dimensions. I did have to cut the armscye deeper though.
The only bits that I found less detailed was the discussion on strap placement; in a separate document about how to sew your custom corset they said if you want straps to place them 3 inches away from the center back and front (and 1 inch wide) and to cut them 5 inches long, and join at the shoulder. I found that this did not give me the optimal support and pulled the corset up too high. Maybe I have huge shoulders. Instead at the mockup/muslin stage I cut long strips 1.5 inches wide and pinned at the center back 3 inches away from the center back at a 90 degree angle to the corset edge. Then I took the other end and moved it around until I got the fit I wanted and marked the spot. Since I thought that cutting 13 inch straps coming out of the back was wasteful of the fabric I cut out 3-inch extensions at the right place and joined in 10 inch long pieces of fabric (not including seam allowance) cut on the grain to finish the straps. Supposedly bias-cutting the straps gives a more snug fit over the shoulders but stretches over time. Then I placed grommet holes at the end of the straps and at the place for the join on the front to have yet more flexibility in fitting. I will tie them on with elastic once I buy some in order to get the smoothest transition from strap to corset.

The boning pattern was also left more-or less up to me. On one place on the site 'they' say that if you use rigilene, to use a fan-shaped boning pattern. (Huh?) On the boned-tab option page 'they' say to bone heavily if you use rigilene. I went with the bone-as-heavily-as-you-can-given-the-quantity-of-rigilene-you-have method and I think it worked out well. Only time will tell.

150-cm wide cotton canvas. In the US it's cheap (under $5 a yard I hear) so it's commonly used for this sort of thing. Here it's not cheap. It's about $15 a meter. Oh well, it works. Unfortunately I later found out surfing eBay that I could have gotten linen canvas for less than half the price per meter. Linen canvas would have been better because it wicks away moisture. Oh well, if I ever do this again (please no!) I'll know where to look for better materials. I finished the edges with 2 packages of 5-m long and 2 cm wide (with the edges folded under) white cotton bias tape. No problems there. But if anyone is interested in making their own, there is a nice set of instructions provided by the Dread Pirate Roberts for making continuous bias tape.

My final thoughts on this project:
Biding the corset was a BIG ROYAL pain in the b*tt.
I think I could have gotten away with cutting it an additional 0.5-1 inch narrower. I can easily adjust it if I gain some weight but not if I lose weight. If I'm a bit narrower at Christmas things are going to be tricky.
Setting grommets hurts your hands if you don't have a lot of hand strength. My husband set a bunch of them because I got hand cramps. At least he insisted that I purchase the grommet setting thingie (sort of looks like pliers) even though it was a bit expensive (about $30). Thanks Boo!

Now I'm working on the next garment, the chemise that goes under the corset. I won't show pictures because it doesn't really look like anything yet. I wanted to make a high-necked shirt
because I think it would look better than a wench-style low gathered shirt under a high necked bodice and I don't feel like making a partlet. I'm using a lightweight semi-transparent cotton lawn fabric that wrinkles when you look at it the wrong way and frays like crazy. I found a free downloadable pattern for exactly the look I want, but I'll have to hunt around to share the link.
These screen-shots of the movie Elizabeth The Virgin Queen show exactly what I am making:

This scene is from the end of the movie where Elizabeth gets her hair cut off. Her three ladies-in-waiting have high collared shirts with what looks to me like a cartridge-pleated neck ruffles. I'll bet these shirts are a lightweight transparent silk but that's a bit expensive for a garment that I haven't worked out all the details for yet. I already made one major mistake, thank goodness for extra yardage!


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Who is this thing supposed to fit, anyways??? (A sewing post...)

In my last post, I mentioned that I was interested in sewing the positively drool-worthy dress featured as a Masterclass on Your Wardobe Unlock'd. Pictures can be found here...
Before ordering any fabric, I purchased the recommended bodice pattern, Reconstructing History's 1670s-1690s bodiced gown. I followed all the recommended steps starting from the beginning, which was to cut out a pattern piece for the largest of your relevant body measurements from the sizing table. Since that was my waist/hip area, I cut out a size that *should* fit a 38 inch bust, with a supposed 2-inch gap for the lacing. So that means that the garment size is 36 inches across the bust (my bust measurement), right? More on that later.

The first step was to cut the pattern out of cardboard/bristol board to check the fit while imitating the stiffness of the boning, so if it stabs you anywhere (like at the hips or armpit) you can cut those bits away and then transfer those alterations back to the pattern paper. Useful tip! The cardboard fitting went without a hitch, so I made a "muslin" out of some fabric scraps I had around the house, which is the same fabric I intended to use for the main part of the gown but in a different color. I figured this step would help me see how the bodice would look in my fabric choice, and work out if the taffeta would stretch when laced up, etc. Also note that the pattern as written is meant to lace up the back where a 2-inch gap is somewhat acceptable. The YWU instructions just say to switch the lacing from the back to the front with addition and removal of the appropriate seam allowances. Also note that the pattern is for a tabbed corset, but YWU removed them. YWU drafted the bodice from a book (by Janet Arnold, historical costumer extraordinaire, I don't remember the title of the book) but recommended using this pattern due to similarities in style. Here's my fitting of the bodice.
Aaargh !!! No matter how hard I tugged or laced it up tightly, it was WAY too small everywhere but the upper back where it gaped like crazy. With my husband's help I managed to get the thing closed but it wasn't pretty. Really not pretty. I couldn't breathe. If it was boned I'm sure I'd have broken a rib or two. Who is this thing supposed to fit anyways? It's a size larger than my bust and it's *supposed* to have a 1-2" gap (for someone with a 38-inch bust) so why is there a good 3 inches of gap at the chest?

So I gave up on this pattern. Good thing I didn't cut out the pattern paper, instead I traced over the pattern with giant tracing paper and cut that out instead. Anyone want to buy an uncut but opened pattern for a bodice that probably won't fit anyone? For fun I wandered over to and fiddled with their custom corset pattern generator. I also googled like crazy the topic of fitting bodices and corsets. Here's what I learned...
1. For a back lacing Elizabethan corset, about 2" of gap is required in order to get the right amount of smoosh at the bosom.
2. For front lacing corsets, and especially bodices, at most a 1/2 " gap is OK, otherwise it just looks bad.
3. To have the maximum amount of flexibility in sizing and ease of dressing, a front and back lacing corset cut with 2" of negative ease is the best bet. That way if you get a *touch* bigger it can still accomodate an extra 1/2" gap at the front.
4. No one in internet land has used this particular Reconstructing History pattern. Hmmm....

I made a few mockups of custom-generated corsets from the elizabethan costume site and they all worked, but the one cut with tabs and a 2" gap gave the best fit. Here's a comparison of the custom corset in navy blue over the Big Disaster Bodice.

The picture isn't great, but the differences are that:
1. The custom corset (CC) sits lower. I think the straps were too short on the Big Disaster Bodice (BDB). I figured out where the straps should be and their length on the CC by pinning long strips of 1.5" wide fabric from the recommended placement point on the back (described at the elizabethan costuming website above) to where they felt right at the front. My shoulder straps were 3" longer than the recommended length. I must have enormous shoulders!
2. The back is cut at an angle.
3. It's about 1" wider at the bust and 2" wider at the waist than the BDB.

So last weekend I decided that I had two options. I could fiddle with the BDB until the measurements between the two agree. But they are corsets from different periods and it would be a lot of work for someone who has never done this sort of thing before. Or I could just make an Elizabethan gown and separate corset. The final corset mockup fit extremely well, so that's what I decided upon. I also refuse to go through a lot of effort for a 1-wear-only dress, so I figure I'll get even more use out of a Renaissance-style gown than a Jacobean one. So my mind was made up.
This is the gown I'm attempting to make. My apologies for my lack of drawing skills.It's a high-necked bodice (which I'll draft myself) with an over and underskirt (using the same instructions as would have been used for the pirate gown) with a high-necked chemise and a corset. This picture approximates my color scheme. I'll be using purple silk taffeta I bought off ebay (for an unbelievably good price from Thailand) for the underskirt, bodice and sleeve lining. The bodice and overskirt will use a black silk-rayon blend taffeta purchased from a competitor of the ebay vendor who never got back to me. Shame shame.

Sidenote: Mom, I know you don't like the idea of black wearing black to a wedding. Thrace thinks it's OK, and it's elegant. The other colors were also way too bright. And somewhat ugly. I consulted with friends.

I recently acquired some beautiful white cotton lawn for the chemise, I'll probably get to start that next weekend. Now my only decision left is the lining fabric for the skirts. They will be quite full (3-4 yards wide at the lower hem) so I don't want a heavy lining. Silk habotai is way out of my price range for the quantities required. Polyester is affordable (1.25 pounds/meter), lightweight, and apparently won't cause static cling between the layers. But it doesn't breathe and Thrace said (and I quote) "yuck". The polyester lining fabric I found on the internet is also a 45-inch width fabric while the black taffeta is 59" wide, so I'll have to piece the lining together for the skirts. I say "yuck" to that. I hunted around for ideas for natural fabric linings, and came across a costumer here who claims to only use cotton muslin as a lining fabric. I found the price quite reasonable from an online vendor at 1.89 pounds/meter for a 54" wide black muslin. And it's wider than their polyester lining, definitely a bonus. My only concern is that it will get all static-clingy. Advice needed! Will the weight of the skirts overcome the static charging and sticking of the muslin to pantyhose/taffeta underneath? Will it charge at all? Help!

At least I have a bit of time to make up my mind on this one because I'm still working on the corset.
I used a locally purchased cotton canvas material for the corset, in a so-called natural color. Well then why did it bleed yellow (bright urine yellow - yum!) when I pre-washed it? I'm so glad I washed it, the last thing I want is for that yucky yellow to bleed all over the pure white chemise I'll be making next. It is extremely easy to sew, at least. I sewed in about 32 boning channels on each half and used about 18 meters of rigilene boning. I would have preferred to use plastic cable ties for the boning because it's supposedly strong and flexible like the baleen used in period, but I couldn't find long enough cable ties locally. They do come in 50 cm lengths,
but I'd have had to mail-order it and I had the rigilene handy. I am finishing up binding the corset with bias tape by hand. Ouch! Never again. Hopefully I'll be done next weekend so I can post some pictures.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Warning: Viewer discretion advised

Mom: this means you. There is one rude (but funny) photo below. Skip this post if you are easily offended. Otherwise read on. So... as Thrace has posted on more than one occasion, whe likes to go camping on the weekends. Well, I like to dress up funny and also go visit medieval cathedrals. I've been doing both those things in the last month, hence the lack of posts. I went to Cologne and saw the enormous cathedral (which was only finished in the 19th century due to lack of funds) which I believe is the highest standing Christian monument in the world, and then I say Notre-Dame de Strasbourg which was the highest standing cathedral until Cologne's cathedral was finished. Wow. Impressive architecture. I love Gothic architecture.

This is the view up a stairwell of the Cathedral builder's offices of the Strasbourg cathedral, which is now a museum. The level of detail in the buildings is astonishing, each time you look you see something new.
The city had illuminations of the cathedral at night, and the view was fantastic. This is definitely worth checking out next August if any of you lovely blog readers are in the area next August.

In our wanderings of the city, me and my friend also saw some amusing contemporary art:
Take that you lawn-gnome thieves! I can't help it, I want one. Too bad I have no lawn.

So I promised details about that sweater I posted about briefly last time.
Well, it's done! Just in time for the chilly weather too.
Pattern: Kaleidoscope by Sarah Sutherland
ravelry link
This sweater was formerly available from Magknits, now it is available at the designer's blog as a free pdf download.

General idea:
It's a bottom up raglan that is entirely seamless, knit in fingering weight yarn on big (pattern states 4.5 mm, I used 5 mm) needles.

My thoughts:
I love it. It was a much faster knit then I thought a fingering weight sweater could be. And the construction method made it possible for me to try it on as I went along. This really helped me to nail the sleeve length perfectly, which is usually an area I have difficulty with.

I extended the k2 p2 rib at the sleeves and neckline to be 1 inch long (6 rows of ribbing at my row gauge). I'm not really sure what size I ended up with because I am using a thinner yarn knit on bigger needles than the pattern states, but unblocked it fits me very nicely. I'll do a proper measurment and modelled shot once I block it. I worked the number of stitches for the 40 inch bust size, and I know it's smaller than that. I also worked more yoke decreases (10 decrease rows, or 20 rows total) than the pattern stated because I wanted a higher neckline. I also made full-length sleeves instead of 3/4 length. It was easy, I just kept on knitting and trying the sweater on until it was my full sleeve length.

The yarn:
21st century yarns botany wool in colorways Pluto (bottom hem), Sorcery (middle section) and Mole (neckline).

My impressions:
Nice wool. No complaints whatsoever. Beautiful colors. I would definitely buy again for a fingering weight hand-dyed shawl. Gorgeous colorways from their inline color card. It's a bit fuzzy and 'sticky' so it way work well for stranded colorwork too. I don't know yet because I never tried it!

Future projects? Well, thrace is getting married in a few months. I searched long and hard for a dress to wear (I only own one dress and I can barely breathe when I wear it, and it's too casual for a winter wedding anyway) and I failed miserably. Nothing would fit either me or my friend who is roughly the same size but with a different shape. Who are these dresses made for anyways? Clearly not humans when I can't even get my arm in the sleeve because the armscye depth is too small!!! So it looks like I'm going to have to sew something. I've settled on a gown which is sort of Victorian-ish, but without the cased steel boned corset. Shudder. Here's a picture of the completed gown on the designer's website. I have settled on a black mostly-fake-silk taffeta as the main fabric and a gold jacquard fabric for the contrast fabric. Thrace still has to approve this choice (hint hint call me!) but I'm looking forward to trying this out. And I cast on for a black lace shawl to match. If I go ahead with it, I'll post progress updates on it. For those of you who are interested the gown instructions are a 3-part masterclass from the online sewing magazine Your Wardrobe Unlock'd.



Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dragging my feet

It really does take me forever to finish an adult-sized sweater. I started Arwen in September 2007. Machine knitting the stockinette parts on the LK-150 (tension dial set to 6.5) went quickly enough. Unfortunately, the sleeves turned out too narrow to be comfortable with a long-sleeved shirt under the sweater. Since I had planned the sweater as an outdoor jacket, this wasn't going to be acceptable.

Over the winter, I fixed the sleeves in fits (unpicked cast-on and bind-off edges) and starts (added additional short rows to widen the sleeves). I've been pushing to finish this in time for fall; I even took the final cable panel on our backpack in the Uintas last weekend. Knitting by a pristine alpine lake is an experience.

I think it finally turned out well: I really like McTaggart Tweed for rugged, warm sweaters. I'll post modeling photos once it's dry and I stitch up the hems.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wow, no posts for a month!

Well, that's what happens when you're busy and then running around on the weekends! First Thrace came by and it was very nice to see her. And her knitting which she is not posting about regularly! Hellooo blog collaborators! Then a handful and a half of the inlaws came by and we wandered around the countryside in a rented car looking at the castles in the area. Very nice!
This one is Burg Hanstein which was built in the 14th century, if I am understanding the German handouts correctly. I posted pictures of this castle last August when there was a medieval festival; it looks much bigger when it's not being swarmed by hundreds of people!

My husband and I have also been attending medieval festivals in the region; I've been filling my free time with sewing seasonal appropriate gear. The problem is that it's chilly and wet most of the summer, but not cold enough for an enormous cloak. I bought an end of roll 2.5 yard piece of leightweight wool for a throw/wrap cheap... Here I am all wrapped up, posing with one of my husband's colleagues who also attends these things (on the left). I wish I had a spear!
While it's nice and warm, I found that it was tricky to wear as it slides around a fair bit, so I hacked it up into a super-tunic...
Mmmmm... nice and fitted except when I'm not standing straight! I took schematics from a web page entitled 'T-tunic the period way' and omitted the center gore. I did this because I can not sew it in nicely (as I discovered while making the cheapo mock-up which will NEVER see the light of day) and medieval Anglo-Saxons apparently did not use them. I instead transferred the fabric to make wider side gores than shown in the schematic (much easier to sew!) because I still need the extra room at the hips. I intend to dress it up a bit in the near future by adding silk trim at the neckline, sleeves and hem. Another modification I made was to cut the front and back into two pieces because I figured the garment needed a seam there to hang properly. I also cut the shoulders on a slope to omit the bagginess at the shoulder line that really bugged me on the mock-up. To make the neckline (and to find out how much material to remove at the shoulders) I made a pattern by tracing over an old Gap V-necked T-shirt I bought ages ago. I slipped the t-shirt over the under-dress to make sure that
the sizing and neckline would work, and I was happy with it. I also had to alter the schematics as shown because here the fabric (pre-shrunk) is 58 inches wide and not 60! So much for standards!

A few more words on this matter... when I was planning and drafting, I was a bit concerned that NO ONE posted pictures of their finished T-tunic using these guidelines even though plenty of web-pages refer to it. That really makes you wonder if it will turn out well. Even the designer (who I think is very clever for drafting this pattern in such a way that it uses fabric in a non-wasteful way to get a very sweet and period-looking result for a gown shape that was used for at least a couple of hundred years in Europe with only minor modifications) doesn't show a clear picture of the finished product, only a couple of inches of hemline under an over-gown. Shame shame! So here you go world. A picture. If anyone cares, post a comment and I'll arrange for a full length photo to be taken. I am very pleased with how it turned out and I got loads of compliments on it. Not bad for a quick easy sew (once I did the learning part on the mock-up. Still, straight lines = easy sewing).
My silk gown has also been getting a fair amount of wear too. Your friends are much more likely to get dressed up with you if you have a spare dress. She's (more than a touch) narrower so I am lending her the narrower cut gown. She also got loads of compliments. It's nice what you can do with interior decor fabrics if you care to!

So... knitting.
Currently working on the Kaleidoscope cardigan, formerly from MagKnits, now posted on the designer's blog here. I'll describe it in more detail including where I found those lovely yarns once I'm done my current sewing WIP, the husband's tunic, cut along the same lines as mine!


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Dodecahedron basket

Looking back at the blog's posts, I realized that I forgot to write about my stitch 'n bitch one-skein swap object from January. Since I'm not feeling terribly inspired in this heat, I thought I'd look back at this project.

The basket had a number of sources of inspiration: I got the pentagon idea from Knitting Nature, from this project, and from this pattern. Essentially, it's the knit soccer ball with the 12th pentagon missing.

The basket was knit with Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride chunky and lined using some quilting cotton. I used Vinyl-Weave as interfacing. Fortunately, cutting the sheet into pentagons was fairly easy.

I've been sorting through our photos from our trip to Europe (we visited Germany, France and the Czech Republic). We had a fantastic time in Berlin.

charlottenburg palace grounds

The Charlottenburg Palace was one of the first sites we visited upon arriving in the city, which was worth seeing for the grounds alone.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The baby pinwheel is (almost) done!

I went to Berlin a few weekends ago, and got lots of knitting done on the train. Even took the wrong one by accident (right platform, right time, wrong train? Guess it happens...) which increased the knitting time by 1/3. Ooops!

I went to many places, and even did some shopping. I love Berlin. I ate great food cheap, had some very nice wine at a Parisian-style wine bar in Kreuzberg, went to a goth bar which reminded me of the 'good-old-days' more than 10 years ago, and went to the very popular and famous Festival of Cultures.
There were loads and loads of people. It was so crowded that I couldn't feasibly sample any of the cultural wares or foods, so me and my friend left after only an hour. It was extremely hot and sunny so all that standing around and slowly inching forward was not very fun and made our feet hurt. And all of the sun/heat/crowding makes for grumpy children.
Very. Grumpy. Children.

All of that knitting made my hands hurt.
Ouch! I need to hurry it up because the kid is already born. It's a boy, so I'm somewhat glad I chose dark colors for this.
Overall the pattern (from Elann's website) was pretty easy, but the place where I added the sleeves has a discontinuity in the garter stitch pattern. I'll have to keep an eye on it when I make my full-sized version. I also decided I liked the picot bind-off better than bobbles, so I ripped back the pinwheel bind-off, extended the length of the sweater (it now has a radius of 15 inches instead of 12 inches) and made a 4-stitch picot bind-off following the instructions on Knitty's techniques pages, which I linked to in a previous post. Now I need to weave in 8 thousand ends. Yuck. I know now why I never do colorwork; I HATE weaving in ends! HATE HATE HATE! I'll have to do that this week, and send it off to it's new home!
Here's a gratuitous close-up of the bind-off edge.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Still here

Still here, still knitting.

That's a Queen Anne's lace shawl I'm knitting on the train from Munich to Rothenburg ob der Tauber (cute town, very touristy).

I'll post more once I get home from vacation. The Blogger interface is a nightmare on my internet tablet.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Spring/summer fun

Medieval festival season has officially started for me with the early May festival at Freienfels. I snapped a few photos of stuff I saw. I had a pretty good time and saw several historically accurate fabric stands with nice stuff, but I had to travel light, so not much browsing occurred.
I also saw some handmade drop-spindle vendors, as well as fleece and yarn boots selling fibers that were dyed using historical techniques and materials. Nice stuff, but again, I had to travel light because my husband and I were carting around sleeping bags and a tent on the train, and I have to make a concerted effort to reduce the stash.

The festival took place in a field near an old castle. We took the rocky winding path up to the castle and saw some dancers. What a hike! No one in their right mind would attack that place. Or maybe they would have to be much tougher than me!
Ignore the smudgy ghosts, there is a law here about not photographing children and I only just noticed they were in the way. Parents take note: don't bring your children to places where people will be taking a lot of pictures. Just leave them at home please! Thank you.

There were also jousting competitions...
It ended pretty quickly because one guy got hit so hard he went flying off his horse. It's still a
dangerous hobby and it's better to be safe than sorry.
I also saw some gorgeous garments, and while they are not quite historically accurate, they were simply stunning. One badly photographed example...
Stupid long exposure time! I saw her go by and snapped, but I had my camera settings ready for a different shot. The basic idea: a calf length coat with princess seams made of crushed (!) velvet. It has a liripipe (read: long and pointy) hood that goes to the waist lined in a contrast color crushed velvet. There is a tightening string/ribbon which thread through loops sewn to the back princess seams and the string/ribbon is the same color as the hood lining. I haven't seen the front so I have no idea how it fastens. Probably buttons to the hip, I figure. Gorgeous! And it pointy bell-shaped sleeves.

My outfit: not so stunning but very warm.
It was quite cold with the nights dipping down to 5 or 6 degrees (Celsius). The wool cloak was good for keeping warm while walking around and it made an EXCELLENT extra blanket to throw over the sleeping bags. That's what people did with them in the middle ages, and it works incredibly well for it. It also made me appreciate how warm wool really is. For something like this, accept no substitutes!

I recently finished a sweater that I'll post about soon, and I've been working more on Imogen recently, to minimize the sweater-quantities-of-aran-wool portion of the stash.
So far I've finished the back and one sleeve, using Lorna's Laces Bullfrogs and Butterflies. This yarn is a luxury to knit with, a fuzzy (i.e. contains mohair) single ply that just glides on the needles. To avoid pooling I swap balls every 2 rows. And the lengths of some of the colors is not the same in every hank, so this minimizes the differences between hanks when knitted up. It looks very long and narrow, so I am hoping that I have enough yarn, and it will get shorter and wider when blocked!


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Almost Ready...

Between work, the internet outages and sewing, there hasn't been much blogging, knitting, or blogging about knitting going on at my place. Instead I'll discuss on my latest sewing WIP, which I expect to finish sometime this week.

This is my cloak for the medieval festivals I expect to attend in the spring/summer/autumn.
There's LOTS of them in Germany in general, and many of them within an hour and a half's train ride from where I'm living. I suspect this is due to the large number of well-preserved medieval castles in the Lower-Saxony and Hesse region. So my husband and I can buy a relatively inexpensive one day regional train ticket, go away and come back all on a Saturday! Sweet! I also think a cloak is necessady because of the variability of the weather here. Last year May was sunny and hot, but July was cold and wet. You never know, so I figure I'll be prepared just in case.

Now for the details...
The pattern... Simplicity 5794. This pattern gives 3 options, where view A (click on the view link) looks sort of Victorian, view B (the one I made) looks more Renaissance/Medieval because of the long pointy hood, and view C looks like an ordinary cloak. As much as these things can be considered ordinary these days!

My opinion so far? It certainly looks the part, but good fabric choices help. I will get to that in a minute. I am not a fan of the hood, even though it looks great in principle, it is difficult to wear.
It's very full at around my face and due to the weight of the material it flops off very easily.
The only way the hood would look good worn is to have it perfectly arranged in a mirror and stand extremely still so it doesn't fall off. I would only wear it up if it were raining, and no one looks good sopping wet! I also find it flops about when it's hanging down due to that fullness around the face. Not perfect but I can live with it. Others have this issue also as can be seen

I also find that the pattern leaves something to be desired in the finishing details. Personally I HATE it when a commercially lined hood has the lining puff up when the hood is worn down because the lining was not secured to the hood anywhere except where the lining was seamed to the hood (around the face region). It BUGS me beyond belief. This cloak suffers from this problem. I fixed it by catch-stitching (by hand) the lining to the seam where the lining was sewn to the hood. Problem solved. And my catch-stitching was reasonably invisible.

The final finishing step for this cloak is to sew the lining to the cape ALL THE WAY AROUND. side edges and bottom edge. No way I'm gonna do that! Typically the cloak material and lining material are different fabrics which will stretch differently over time. Instead I hand-hemmed both lower edges, and when I sew the lining to the cloak, I will only sew at the neck edge and side edges. If you look really closely at the pattern envelope, view B (the only visibly lined cloak on the package) you can see that the lining is a bit bunchy at the lower edge. My modification avoids this problem!

The fabrics... I bought the cloak fabric on eBay. It's a wool from Austria which was listed as a
light weight olive wool. The price was decent, and in the color range I wanted (green/brown/gray) so I bought it. Then it arrived.... It's heavy, scratchy as hell, and more of a forest green than an olive green. And it's textured! It has short wool pieces sticking out like a corduroy fabric! There was no close-up shot for the fabric on eBay. Grr...
But after looking at it for several days, and observing how it would wear by looking at one of the more well worn edges, I decided it would age nicely so I went for it. And after draping it on myself I decided it had the right weight/drape to be a decent spring cloak. I have grown more and more fond of it as this project progressed, but I really cannot picture this as a suit wool, which is how it was marketed. Now about the itchyness. Wow. And I have I high tolerance for scratchy wool. So I decided it needed to be lined. Off I went to the department store in search of a coarsely woven historical looking fabric.

I found loads more linen than last year, at a cheaper price than I paid last year in nicer colors too! Grr! But still 10 euros (or 15 bucks) a meter is too much for a cloak that needs a heck of a lot of fabric. Cotton? As expensive as linen! I resorted to looking in the imitation linen section and came away with a polyester-rayon-linen blend for 4 euros (or 6 bucks) a meter. It looks and feels nice, dosen't have the wrinkliness of linen but still looks like it. Now I have one question for the fabric retailers here; who wants to purchase a dressmaking fabric that looks like linen, is coarse like linen, but is 100% polyester? I know I would sweat buckets in it! I am bummed by the lack of and high price of nice natural fiber fabrics here.

Now for the edging/trim. I have seen quite a few commercial cloaks out there with embroidered motifs on the hem and side edges... like these. They are gorgeous, and an awful lot of nice things can be done with embroidery... by anyone but me! I can't embroider well!
Instead I decided to needle-felt designs on the thing. Needle felting? I never needle felted before last weekend but it's very easy. Go ahead and google it. I made some templates of Celtic designs (the prominent side edge shown in the photo was sketched from the Book of Kells) by making a pencil drawing on graph paper (can't draw either), scribbling in the lines to be thicker, then cutting all the way around the design. I then laid the template on the fabric and gently shook baby powder over the template. I lifted it up, and the unpowdered areas were a transfer of the design. Then I took some unspun wool pulled out into long strips and plaved over the design. With a few stabs of my felting needle, the design was loosely secured, and with repeated stabs, well, you get what you see. Needle felting is easy and fast! If anyone wants more detail on this process, I will document the creation of the matching bag in detail later this week, but ya gotta ask! Now all I have to do is finish the edging and sew in the lining...


Sunday, March 16, 2008

I almost have a sleeve!

I'm within spitting distance of being done! This is a nice and easy mindless knit, and I think that it's even cuter than I imagined now that it looks less like a blanket and more like a garment.
I like the seamless design, though I'll have an awful lot of ends to sew in. Yuck! I'll take seaming over sewing in lots of ends any day of the week! I also made another change to the plan; I thought that the bobbles on this adult version of the pinwheel sweater were positively fetching so I added them around the circumference when I bound off. I swatched many different bobbles from my Harmony Guide (Aran and Fair Isle patterns) and I didn't like any of them. Instead I knit into the front, back, front of the next stitch, turned, purled 3 stitches, turned, slipped one, knit two together, passed slipped stitch over, then passed the previous stitch over to cast it off. I placed bobbles 7 stitches apart because 28 (the number of stitches in each wedge) is evenly divisible by 7. I'm also curious about how a picot edge will look, so I'm going to bind off the sleeves with a picot edge, instructions are here in Knitty. The winning finishing touch will make it onto my own version.