Hey everyone,

Breaking my radio silence at last… with wedding planning I was going a little nuts (more on that later; I sewed my dress, my bridesmaids’ dresses, and knit a shawl! But it all came out fine and we got married and it was great!) Post-wedding, there were all the thank-you notes to write, and I got done with all that, but still felt like hiding my head in the sand for a while. But I thought I’d reemerge and share a semi-recent FO (ha, semi-recent = knit just before Thanksgiving) with the world, and work my way up to posting about the various things I made for the wedding.

I published the Bel Canto Cowl (rav link) in Knitcircus a couple of years ago, but due to their changes, it was no longer available for purchase from their site. Someone on Ravelry requested it, which was the impetus to reknit, rephotograph, and reformat the pattern for sale on my own site, since I couldn’t use the KC photos/pattern layout. So it’s up for sale on Ravelry, in case anyone was looking for it, and here are some pics:

Pattern: Bel Canto Cowl
Yarn Used: Malabrigo Merino Worsted in 37 Lettuce, 1 skein.
Needles used: US 8 (5.0 mm) 16-inch circulars
Date started: November 21, 2012
Date completed: November 23, 2012
Mods/Notes:
The first version of this cowl was knit in Malabrigo Rios, which is superwash, plied, and slightly thinner than the singles/non-superwash Merino Worsted. I like the extra body and cushier fabric of the Merino Worsted version. Also, I think the lighter color shows off cables better, although there’s no denying that rich cobalt blue from the original version is TO DIE FOR.

(Side note: I haven’t cut my hair for probably a year, and it’s longer than it’s been anytime since grade school, so I’ve been having fun with hairdos–although this may look vaguely pixieish, it’s actually precariously pinned Heidi braids that came apart immediately after the photoshoot.)

Closeup:

I’ve been trying to deal with wedding stuff and my brain is fried, but I thought I’d make a post of some links to distracting pretty stuff I’ve been looking at lately. Hopefully I will be able to countenance posting about actual crafty wedding stuff soon as well.

Martha Stewart DIY flower crap (mostly here so I don’t have to click through a whole slideshow every time I’m looking for one of these templates):

Paper wedding flower favors

Giant paper poppies

Coffee filter roses

Hard flower barrettes

Crepe paper lilies (and bubble flowers)

Giant crepe roses

Cherry branch clip art

Paper peonies

Four-petaled fabric flower template (and ultrasuede pillow how-to; this photo is the most helpful)

Not Martha, but a motherlode of fabric flower info, with pics, including:

Silk organza boutonniere

Felt dahlia

Felt rose barrettes

Kanzashi

Silk lotus

Charles James/other inspirational ballgown-related stuff:

Four-leaf Clover

Clover guts

Pinterest board

Lots of awesome ballgowns (love the Worth butterfly one)

Spiral steel boning

Ombre dyeing

Dharma trading how-to (slowly pulling garment out of dye bath)

RIT dye how-to (dip-dyeing more and more of garment into bath)

Other

How to make the Le Sac dress (50″ wide x 36″ long–1 yard of 54-60″ fabric, or I guess two of 44″)

Awesome scalloped Ultrasuede wrap skirt (how-to from Martha Stewart. WANT! This stuff is like $8 a yard)

WOW. I found this Ravelry thread linked from a post by the Magpie Knitter (via a Facebook post by Knitting Kninja)–the original post was 4 hours ago, and there are already about 750 posts/30 pages in the thread. 

The General Counsel of the United States Olympic Committee sent a cease and desist to Ravelry about the use of the word “Ravelympics,” and also this: “The patterns and projects featuring the Olympic Symbol on Ravelry.com’s website are not licensed and therefore unauthorized.  The USOC respectfully asks that all such patterns and projects be removed from your site.” (The Ravelympics is an annual event that’s been going on since 2008, in which knitters watch the Olympics while working on particularly challenging projects.)

It includes this passage:

“The athletes of Team USA have usually spent the better part of their entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them.  For many, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of their sporting career.  Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together to compete in an event that has come to mean much more than just a competition between the world’s best athletes.  The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.

The USOC is responsible for preserving the Olympic Movement and its ideals within the United States.  Part of that responsibility is to ensure that Olympic trademarks, imagery and terminology are protected and given the appropriate respect.  We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.”

Unbelievably humorless. Also incredibly insulting to knitters. And what about that whole “culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony” thing? If they want to go after each of the individuals who have put up unlicensed Olympics-themed patterns for sale because of trademark infringement, that’s one thing, but it just seems ridiculous and mean-spirited to go after the “Ravelympics” phrase with justification about how the individual knitters/crocheters’ goals and personal achievements are so laughable and paltry that just associating them with the Olympics is a grave insult, the equivalent of spitting in the face of an Olympic athlete. 

As an aside, while anybody can knit and not anybody can be an Olympic athlete, I am pretty sure some of the knitters participating have spent more time knitting than any of the Olympians have training for the Olympics. 

Most of our house is furnished with junk we found on the street or in thrift stores for dirt cheap, and typically not in a chic mid-century vintage way, but a utilitarian/hoarder/dumpsters-behind-the-dorms way. If I ever manage to become an aspirational lifestyle blogger for home dec craft stuff, it will only be via generous application of bokeh-laden closeups and aggressive spot cleaning.

One of our prize finds became a victim of another prize find this weekend. Temperatures in Madison are climbing, so we decided it was time to drag the window AC units up from the basement and install them in our windows. We live in a decrepit house that’s about 100 years old, so it has poor insulation and no central air conditioning, although there are at least central ceiling fans and a garbage disposal–both godsends.

One of the monstrously heavy window AC units ($5 at St. Vincent de Paul) had a few sharp screws protruding from the bottom, which we didn’t notice until we had heaved it up on top of the super-comfy overstuffed chambray armchair by the window (free, found on the sidewalk) and torn multiple holes into the upholstery while wedging the air conditioner into the window. Funny, I always thought the chair would fall victim to the cat, not the air conditioner.

After an unsightly attempt to darn the holes closed with a needle and thread, I went stash diving to see if I had anything suitable to cover the chair up instead. This was the result:

This is Tula Pink Full Moon Forest damask quilting cotton, a fabric collection I adored that featured cleverly hidden animals in larger decorative patterns–squirrels, fish, rabbits, owls. Here’s a strangely washed-out detail shot where you can see the bunnies in the damask pattern:

I didn’t have enough fabric or time to cover the entire chair, and this is actually a no-sew job. I just draped the fabric over the back, pinned it into place with straight pins since the chair lives against the wall and the back isn’t visible, tucked the fabric into the spot between back and cushion, then pulled it tight around the cushion and pinned it underneath the cushion as well. While it’s not really what I would call “attractive,” it looks better than I expected (certainly better than the patched-up holes), and I’m happy the fabric is seeing the light of day for the first time in years, and actual use for the first time ever. (Love the pattern, but not so much the color for clothing.)

I’m sort of considering getting enough fabric (home dec stuff, not quilting cotton) to try and to reupholster the whole thing the right way.

The color and shape now put me in mind of Chairy, from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

On the subject of shortcuts and tricks, here are a couple of clever sewing tricks I came across in the last week or so that I thought were worth sharing:

Just saw this cool project: a Prickle (knit jumbo-sized to go around the shoulders) woven through with electroluminescent (EL) wire.

 

Youtube video, Rav link.

Ugh, I can’t believe I didn’t even manage one post per month in the last couple of months. This has been a dry, dry crafting spell (how can a baby sweater take so long?! I’ve been knitting the same gift for months now) but I finally have something to show off here!

You may recall that I’ve been pining after the patterns in the Colette Sewing Handbook since January, and I finally got around to making one of them. Check it out.

Back view:

Adoremus!

Pattern: Meringue Skirt from the Colette Sewing Handbook
Fabric: Kokka Ladybug Mushrooms 100% cotton (43 inches wide), 1 yard (!) snagged on a 40% off sale from Purl Soho–cost: $11.40; plus some leftover scraps of quilting cotton from Jo-Ann for the facings.
Date started: April 29, 2012
Date completed: May 2, 2012
Size: 6
Notes:
Last fall, as a result of me speculating on Twitter about a Woot! deal on a serger, chemgrrl’s awesome mom sent me her old serger in an amazing random act of kindness, a Bernette 43! I just had to take it in to get it tuned up. I then kept putting off using it because I was intimidated by it, wanted to take a serger class, and never seemed to time it right with the schedules for the sewing stores in the area. Eventually, though, I decided I’d just give it a shot by following along with the book and manual and Googling for the rest–this is what I did with knitting and it worked out fine–and lo, all was well!

(I still haven’t had to rethread it from scratch, and I still haven’t washed anything I’ve serged with it to see if it disintegrates, so this may yet prove to be a statement of Extreme Hubris, but it worked like a dream and was much less scary than I had anticipated.) Thank you again, Joyce! Anyway, long story short, I put together a lot of this skirt with the serger. This is not the first garment I sewed with the serger–I have another post planned for that–but I used it to do a good part of the seaming and to finish all the edges.

Verdict: I LOVE this skirt and want to make about 10 more of them in all different colors!

The entire time I was working on this, I was concerned about the sizing, because it seemed terribly small as I was putting it together and holding it up against myself, but as it turns out, it fits perfectly! I’ve had a lot of heartbreaks involving making pieces of sewn clothing that turn out to be an inch or two too small, but this was great. I went as far as just basting the darts at first instead of sewing them the proper way because I was so sure I’d have to rip them out to give myself more room in the hips and waist, but the skirt is perfectly comfortable as is.

The skirt pattern calls for something like 2 1/2 yards of fabric. I’ve made one-yard skirts before, but they were shorter and narrower, and I just couldn’t make the Meringue pattern pieces fit. I spent about half an hour turning the pattern pieces and refolding the fabric every which way, with no luck. Finally, in order to eke it out of just one yard, I ended up folding the pattern pieces down at the top, cutting the lower parts of the skirt on the grain, and cutting the upper parts of the grain crosswise for a sort of improvised yoke. I serged the top and bottom pieces together and followed the remainder of the pattern using the construction instructions from the book. (I wouldn’t recommend this approach if you can help it–I think it would have looked better with the pieces cut from a single piece, and I’m sure there’s going to be some kind of consequence down the line as far as shrinkage and fabric distortion–but the fabric was busy enough that I didn’t think it looked bad, and I managed to make the skirt I wanted out of the fabric I had!)

I cut the facings out of scraps of yellow quilting cotton (no idea how much–a quarter yard, maybe?) I also cut out pocket pieces, intending to put them in at the side seams, and then completely forgot to do it and serged together the side seam on the side that would have had a pocket in it, and put a zipper in the other side following the pattern construction, so I’ve set aside those pocket pieces for some future project.

I serged all the edges that would be left raw (facing edges, fabric edges) and serged the seams on the left-hand and for the facing construction. The darts, right-hand side seam (where the invisible zipper is), and hem were constructed using the standard sewing machine.

I drew a stitching line to follow on the facing with disappearing ink, and stitched slowly and carefully, then (following the advice on this page) trimmed the seam allowances on the rounded parts of the scallops to about 1/4 inch width, and notched almost to the seamline at the pivot points of each scallop. In addition to understitching the top facing, I hand-stitched the facings to the shell fabric afterwards to keep them in place.

The pattern was well drafted (for me, anyway) and easy to follow–no complaints! Plus it’s versatile–the scalloped hem could easily be replaced with a straight one for a nice basic A-line skirt pattern. I liked the treatment of the facing around the zipper area–you stitch it down vertically along the zipper as well as around the top, and it makes for a very nice finish.

Something I found freeing with this project was giving myself permission to cut the pattern directly out of the tissue paper it was printed on. I usually try to avoid doing this, and prefer tracing off expensive patterns like Colette patterns onto a separate piece of paper to leave the originals intact in case I ever need to use them again in a larger size (e.g. if I do my initial fitting wrong), but I got out my tracing paper this time and asked myself why I was going to bother with the extra hassle and expense of tracing and cutting from a separate piece of paper. If I needed a larger size, I decided I would just use the tracing paper to modify the pattern I had already cut out. So I cut it out, threw out all the scrap tissue paper, and felt suddenly liberated. So much time saved! And, as it turned out, it worked out just fine.

Next time I make this, I might cut the back in two pieces (with extra seam allowance added to each) in order to put in a zipper at center back, and hence side seam pockets on either side. And I would definitely try to get enough fabric that I could cut the pieces with the intended cutting layout instead of my kluged-together crosswise yokes. Oh–and I didn’t interface the facings as the pattern asks you to do. That would probably be a good thing to do next time as well.

Next up, though, I think I’m going to try a Truffle dress with some of the other Japanese fabric I got from Purl. (A birthday gift, courtesy of my dad and stepmom–thanks, guys!) I intend to sew the bodice lining first as a kind of muslin, make any tweaks and re-sew the lining if necessary, then use it as a template to cut the fashion fabric.

As an aside: Rahul is really into mushrooms and I knew he would love the Amanita muscaria mushrooms featured on this print. After taking these photos of the skirt on Friday, we went out hunting mushrooms on Saturday and found the biggest morel I’ve ever seen in my life in the woods! I was so excited until our friend told us that EVERY stall at the farmer’s market this weekend (which we missed) had enormous morels for sale and we could have gotten a huge pile of them there. Oh well–at least ours was free, and wild-foraged! We sauteed the morels in garlic butter, and they were delicious.

Genius.

OK! Here we go. I picked a number between 1 and 29 (there were 30 comments, 2 of which were from the same person). Random.org has spoken, and the winner of the Shabby Apple Mariposa Grove dress is commenter #5, Chris C./bookgeekgirl. Congrats, Chris! I’ll be in touch with the details.

Here are the Shabby Apple dresses readers have named as favorites so far in the comments of the giveaway post. Keep them coming!

Also, if you feel like buying something, here’s an even better link than the one I gave you last time (through a different marketing campaign)–this one gives you 15% off and me a $20 gift card.

Click here.

Pictures and commentary follow.

A+

Bookgeekgirl posted “And I think my favorite dress is the A+ shirtdress, although I think that belt they’ve paired with it is about the ugliest thing I’ve seen! ” WHOA. You weren’t kidding. I love the pale blue pinstripe shirting fabric for the shirtdress style, though–perhaps I need one.

Those glasses are also horrible on her. This is like the “before” in the Beautiful All Along trope. Suddenly the nerd takes off the glasses and insane equestrian belt and is transformed into prom queen!

After Class–love the enormo-collar! I have a store-bought sweater dress with a similar collar (black, short sleeve, seed stitch). And the belt with buttons is great, too.

Look, she’s taken off her glasses and is on her way to popularity, sexiness, and glamour as everyone realizes she was beautiful all along!
after class dress

P.S. I clicked on one of the other dresses in the Academia collection, Extra Credit, and was horrified at the description (bolding is mine): “With an a-symmetrical ruching at the center front of the garment pleated on the diagonal and a collar accentuated by a tucked and folded flap, this two-tone charcoal taffeta dress is sure to have all your professors looking to add a few points to your test scores.” Are you kidding me?

Ahoy! I’d like this better if it weren’t mint green. And apparently quilted on top? It reminds me of my old judo uniform.
ahoy dress

Atlantic Fog–cute! I’d wear knit dresses like this pretty much 100% of the time if I could. PRO TIP from a Wisconsin resident: do not try this look in the snow for real. You’ll get cold. (Well, it’s possible that she is FROM Wisconsin or points northwards and enjoying a summery 30-degree day. I went out a few weeks ago with a friend who showed up in sandals because it was around 35 or 40 degrees out and hence “very warm.”)
atlantic fog dress

Baciami!–love the Fibonacciesque stripes.
baciami dress

Ballerina–see note re: Atlantic Fog.
ballerina dress

Beauty Mark–yes yes yes. I think I already picked this out in navy as one of my faves, but possibly with a different name because of the different color.
beauty mark dress

Boogie Woogie–I’m not a fan of the petri dish rosettes. YMMV.
boogie woogie dress

Confidential–gorgeous. I want to say “Oh, it’s very Gossip Girl!”, but I have never seen Gossip Girl and so this impression is based entirely on reading women’s magazines with articles about Gossip Girl. I don’t even know what Gossip Girl is about; some rich girls with great hair who wear a lot of headbands, I think? And they gossip?
confidential dress

Dressage–hmm. I like the color, but if you look at the unbelted, unembellished pictures on the site of the dress on a dress form, there’s a certain Mennonite, modest-dress air about the cut of it, though I guess it would be pretty daring in the ankles/elbows/neckline for that purpose.
dressage dress

Grand National–reminds me of Colette Macaron, but with wonderful skirt pleats!
grand national dress

Love Me Do–so pretty in the photo, but in real life I probably couldn’t pull off lime green lace on a white background. I’m sure there’s another style somewhere with a different lace color.
love me do dress

Madison Ave–one of my favorites. BUTTONS AND HOUNDSTOOTH OVERDOSE.
madison ave dress

Maize–I like it. I probably couldn’t wear it without looking like a set of curtains, but I like it.

Mulholland–so beautiful. I’m a sucker for that scallopy lace. Her shoes sure are sparkly.
mulholland dress

Nine to Five–see note about Atlantic Fog. This has some really nice details with the ruching and gathering and tie collar.
nine to five dress

Overboard–fabulous. I need to make a gingham shirt dress this summer.
overboard dress

Pina Colada–This is the only dress I saw on the site where the different color options weren’t named different things. It’s a nice design. Maybe it would be nice in gingham. Just a thought.
pina colada dress

Yorkshire–Very cute, and the tweed is an interesting fabric choice for the style. I’d like to see it with a big brown leather belt and not the big leather boots they’ve styled it with.
yorkshire dress

–Colette, in one of her apparently few quotable quotes not involving cats

I got my copy of The Colette Sewing Handbook the other day and it’s LOOOOOOVE. What a gorgeous book. One of my first sewing books was Built By Wendy’s Sew U, and I learned a lot from it, but this book, while somewhat similar in general contents and approach, is about a thousand times better suited to me in both the aesthetic and the sloper measurements. (I haven’t made a garment from either book yet, so I can’t speak to actual fit!)

I’ve been idly checking in on the posts on Colette Patterns’ blog every so often, and decided at some point that I’d add this book to my next Amazon order, but I hadn’t looked through it all until the book actually arrived in the mail. It includes five patterns, all very pretty and very, very girly.

I found the Pastille Dress on the cover somewhat uninspiring–the cover photo is possibly the worst one in the book. The dress is fitted very closely, but somehow between the cut and the color, the model just looks like she’s wearing a fleshy Spanx tube rather than a dress. This version is way cuter–check out the belted, cardi’d picture down at the bottom of the post. I like the knife pleats across the hem of the skirt, but I’m wary of the cut-on sleeves–seems like it could be very difficult to get the fit right.

This blog post covers the Taffy blouse and Meringue skirt. I’d totally make and wear the scallop-hemmed Meringue skirt. The Taffy blouse, on the other hand, is probably the pattern in here I’d be least likely to make–it’s lovely on the model, but those sleeves are really pretty enormous if you look at them, so it would probably be better in theory than practice, unless you have a very narrow torso or are really proud of your shoulders and just want to show them off to everyone.

This post has pictures of the Truffle and Licorice dresses. TO DIE FOR. Truffle is a simple sleeveless A-line with a gorgeous front drape across the skirt, and Licorice has a big draped collar and big, poofy elbow-length sleeves. (Eat your heart out, Anne Shirley!)

I have been surfing around to find finished versions of these, and unfortunately haven’t found a ton, but here are a couple of cute versions:

Truffle in black brocade
Licorice with sassy belt
Licorice, described as “the dress that almost broke me”

The measurements for these patterns are interesting. To compare with some other pattern companies and ready-to-wear: I normally wear a size 6 or 8 in RTW. Going just by bust-waist-hip, I’m close to a Burda size 40 across the board,  just a little smaller in the bust depending on whether I’m inhaling or not. Looking at the measurements for Vogue patterns, my waist is a little bigger and my bust a little smaller than the size 14, but again, pretty close measurements across the board. According to the Colette measurement chart, though, I’m probably a size 4 by bust, size 6 by waist, and size… uh… smaller than a size ZERO by hip measurement. Since none of these patterns are very fitted in the hips, I won’t worry about it too much, but it’s interesting to see such a huge variation from the Burda and the Big Three slopers. I’ve read that Colette patterns are drafted for a C-cup bust, so I’m guessing the size 6 is going to be closer to the right size for my frame–I’ll probably start from there and see if it works out.

The real draw for me was the patterns, but the book has a lot of other good info, including making a personalized croquis, assessing fit (how to read all the random wrinkles your muslin makes across your body when it doesn’t fit!), making bias tape, and how to do a number of standard adjustments like full or small bust adjustments, sway back, or adjusting for small or large waists. It also covers a lot of the basic information about sewing, like grain lines, pattern layouts, fabric types, and finishing seams–I have a lot of other books with this info, so I skimmed over it, but it looks like a solid summary. Since a single Colette dress pattern goes for $18 by itself, this book is a bargain at $18.99 on Amazon even if you only like one of the patterns, and a positive steal if you like more than one pattern or would find the sewing information useful.

Next step: stop talking about/accumulating Colette patterns, start making more of them. I think I’ll start with either the Meringue skirt or the Truffle dress.

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