Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lace Skirt is Finished

All Lace Skirt Photos in Greater Detail Here

I finished the Prada-inspired lace skirt last night. I feel like I did enough work to make 3 skirts because I kept having to redo things that weren't working the way I originally did them. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, since sewing this kind of lace was a new experience for me. I really like the final result, but I did take the long way around.

As you may remember, I originally planned to underline with silk organza, then decided to attach it only at the waist and CB seam because I was afraid of trying to control the drapiness of the lace against the not-going-anywhere organza. As it turned out, I was right to be wary of this, as the lace was heavy enough to gain a lot in length as I went along, and I finally ended up cutting the organza completely out of the skirt, leaving it only in the zipper area. I left enough extra there to be able to turn it twice and stitch it to the inside of the zipper tape. This gave a nice finished look to the zipper and as I think about it, I think it would have been almost impossible to securely sew the lace to the zipper alone.

I knew I needed to cover the zipper with lace. I stitched a piece of lace to the left side of the zipper area, and used 3 clear snaps to attach the edges of the lace to the right side. I was afraid this would make the skirt difficult to get into, but it seems to be no problem at all. The photos show the slip inside the skirt so you can see a single layer of the lace. You can see the organza-wrapped zipper-tape here too.

Covered Zipper - Open

Covered Zipper- Closed

This skirt is fitted at the waist and hip, with darts in the front, the zipper, and a plain fabric waistband. I used the appliqué technique for the CB seam, and it did give a fairly invisible join. The arrows point to the seam. There are applied lace motifs at the top and bottom of the photo.

Here is the way I did this seam. I basted it in as a plain seam with wide allowances, pressed it to mark the seam line, then took the basting out, laid one pressed line over the other and basted along the line I planned to use as the overlap edge. It can be obvious which side should go on top at any one point, and you can switch back and forth if you like. I then went back and stitched the top layer invisibly to the lower layer, trimming as I went. You won't get a straight stitching line this way since you are following the lace design as you go along, but as long as the pressed line is straight, you will have the same result as if you had stitched a plain, straight seam, but you will have an almost invisible join, and no obvious break in the lace itself.

The hem is simply turned up, pressed and hand stitched. As I went along, when I got to a place where I didn't have a smooth turnup because of excess fullness in the hem allowance, instead of shrinking out the fullness as you might normally do, I clipped through enough of the allowance to be able to move the cut edges over until I had a smooth allowance again. This was easiest to do in the "holier" parts of the lace, as I could just take out some of the design and stitch what was left back together. I took photos of this, but honestly, you can't tell there's anything going on. The non-ravelling properties of lace makes it easy to do lots of things that you might not otherwise think of.

I love Prada's applied lace motifs that give texture to what is essentially a flat fabric, and I wanted to use this idea. I found that I needed to tack the motifs on so they had a little volume and would flutter a bit, rather than stitching them flat. I began to worry that I was doing too much, or getting too dramatic, but I really love the results. I ended up using 19 motifs, plus the zipper-top appliqué. You can see the way there's room for the motif to move.

The slip I'm wearing under the skirt is not the first one I made. I wanted it a little longer, and I put 3 rows of the decorative stitching on the hem of this one.

One last note. I had places where the bars between motifs were deteriorating. I think this was because I washed the piece so many times after dyeing it to get out the excess dye. I should have waited until I got the Synthrapol before dyeing, and I think this wouldn't have been a problem. It was easy, if somewhat time-consuming to fix. I simply did buttonhole stitch over the bars that needed reinforcement or replacement.

We all discussed on Stitcher's Guild Lace Sew-Along topic why the Prada skirts might be selling for $2000, but after finishing this, I can see why. I'm sure they didn't use my learn-as-you-go "technique", but it seems that there would have to be a lot of handwork to this kind of skirt even if you did it all correctly the first time. My skirt has machine stitching only to reinforce the basting that attaches the waistband. Everything else was done by hand. I'm not sure it all had to be done this way, but it seemed easier at the time.

If you look at the photos on Pbase from the link between the first 2 photos, you'll see that I took photos of it with several different tops/jackets. I'm not sure what I really like best, and if you have an opinion, please let me know. If you have an idea of something else that would look even better, tell me that too.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Slip for the Lace Skirt

All Lace Skirt Photos Here

I've been waiting for the lace skirt to quit "growing". Every time I pin up the hem and hang it up, the next time I come back to it, it's a little longer. It's definitely slowing down, but I want to make sure it's completely finished before I actually do the hem. It's been a unique experience. I've never had anything lengthen quite this much. There are lots of holes in the lace though, so I suppose I should have expected it. I'm really glad I didn't mount it to the organza first thing. That would have been an exercise in futility.

So, I decided I would hold up on the skirt for another day and make the slip to go under it while I was waiting. I used the darker gunmetal tricot rather than the very silvery tricot. It seems to almost disappear behind the lace and organza, which is just what I wanted. I thought of putting a lace edging around the hem, from the skirt lace, but decided plain would be better, and much stretchier. I wanted some kind of subtly decorative hem. Since I have a new machine with all new decorative stitches, I checked out a few of them. I ended up using the Greek Key stitch, which is one of the 9mm wide stitches on offer. I like the way it just looks textural. The thread is a pale gray-green, and is what I used to do the organza seams. I like the way it almost disappears into the fabric, although you can see it better in the photo below than in real life. It makes an interesting touch, but isn't going to try to be the star of the show.

I really like using decorative stitches in this type of situation. On lingerie and on linings, I think they're just perfect. Otherwise, it's kind of rare to find a use for them on serious garment construction. Excuse the wrinkles in the photo. I've been needing a new half-slip, so I wore this one this morning since it was done. I think I'll make a couple more while I'm in the mood. I'd like one a little bit longer than this, but not much.

The other thing I did last night was to cut out some individual lace motifs to apply to the skirt. I think these turned out very nicely. They look a little like round goldfish with long fins and tails. I'm not sure how many I might need, but I don't think a huge number is called for.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Something struck me really funny the other day, and I can't get it out of my mind, so as a friend says, Good Morning, Victims.

We were watching the business channel the other day, as we often do, and I happened to notice the name of a company going across in the trade listings that I'd never seen before.

It was called .................. Intrepid Potash.

I immediately wondered how potash could be intrepid?  Also, if there was intrepid potash, there must be timid potash as well.  

I can just see the Intrepid Little Potash in it's brave pile, wearing a Robin Hood hat, with a jaunty feather of course. "Go forth, Intrepid Potash! Spread yourself far and wide upon the land." It all reminds me of The Brave Little Toaster, a darling cartoon. It was pretty silly too, but darling. Surely. the Brave Little Toaster would have been friends with The Intrepid Potash.

Finally, here's a sweet pea that's blooming now, and I thought it looked so much like an orchid.

Photo Link

It's a very carefree flower, but it does tend to take over if given the chance.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lace Skirt Progress

Link to All Lace Skirt Photos

Here's a close-up of my zipper installation. I plan to add a lapped-zipper-like lace overlay to it, but for now, it's just a centered zipper, handstitched through the lace only, so the only stitching you see is basting. This was fun, but a little nerve-wracking, as the lace is very thick, and I was afraid of getting it too close to the zipper teeth.

I got the waistband basted on last night, and am very happy with it. I am using the contrast fabric from my Marfy jacket for the waistband. It blends in nicely with the lace, as a neutral, and is nice and smooth. I knew I did not want lace for the waistband, and I did not want the organza, as it would be uncomfortably rough. I also wanted a real waistband rather than a faced band, as the faced bands never really hold things in position on me, and this is a very heavy skirt that needs to stay put. I put it on last night and it has grown quite a lot in length because of the weight I'm sure, so I'll be turning it up at least 4" more than I'd planned. This changes the length of the organza layer too, and I may just rip off my bias edging and re-apply it to the new spot rather than trying to think of something else. Here's the organza bias hem edging as it is now.

Here's the back of the skirt before the zipper was in, with no waistband, and the original hem length pinned up.

I'm getting excited about finishing this skirt now, and I think it's going to be done in the next couple of days. I really like the shape of it so far, and I think it's going to be a success.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More Mail

Yes, nice things came in the mail again. Harper's Bazaar is always nice to see, but the Lana Grossa Filati is my first issue, and was great fun to get. There are a couple patterns that look interesting, and one that I'm seriously thinking about. It's for their Baby Kid mohair yarn, but I may try a swatch with some mohair I have already. It's a cone of seafoam mohair, and it's very pretty.

The coral-red yarn is Rowan R2 Fuzzi Felt, and is for a vest/sleeveless jacket. The pattern is on order, but hasn't come yet. The brown elann Esprit is for a skirt. The 2 skeins of alpaca in purple tones are for mitts.

So, lots of plans anyway.

I'm bonding with my new Pfaff, and enjoying trying lots of things with it. I'm also coming right along with the lace skirt. I'm really pleased with how it looks so far. I've been very timid about it, and I suddenly decided that it's just a skirt for heaven's sake, and began to get on with it. I've decided on one layer of organza under the lace, and have attached it at the waist and CB seam, and turned up the hem with the organza inside the lace. I will make a slip to wear under it. I tried various suitable knits that I have, and the dark gray-silver that I originally suspected might work is definitely the best. I think this skirt is going to be great fun to wear. I hope so anyway.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Machine

I was resting yesterday afternoon, trying to appease the cold that won't die, and I heard the doorbell ring. Immediately I ran for the front door in case it was my new Pfaff. I didn't want the UPS guy to drive off with it if I didn't answer. He was already driving off when I got there, but you can see what was waiting for me.

It sure seemed like a really big box, but when I saw all the gear that was in it, I understood.

Very quickly I got down to what you see here. It has the embroidery unit and more hoops than I'd realized were coming. There's a Grand Hoop, All-Fabric Hoop, Endless Hoop, Petite Hoop, and the hoops that come with the unit. Guess I'd better learn to embroider after all! Probably not just this minute, though. Also in the box was an extra bobbin-case for bobbin-work, extra bobbins, and a straight-stitch plate. I've probably missed something, but I'm a little overwhelmed by all the goodies.

And here's my new baby at home.

I fooled around a little bit last night and again today and am getting comfortable with some basic things. I needed to alter a few pairs of pants for Pearle, which is a quick, easy job, but it was perfect for learning precision with this machine. They all have their little quirks, and I'm sure there are lots of things that I'll learn to do in a better or easier way, but I'm pretty thrilled so far.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Marfy #1234 Jacket with Photos

Photo Link

Finally, photos of the Marfy jacket I finished Thursday evening. I plan to make pants and a skirt from the contrast twill fabric, but for these photos I tried 3 different pairs of pants, none of which is quite right, so if you follow the link and look at all the photos, just ignore the non-coordinating pants.


I'm generally very pleased with this jacket. I made it a little more fitted than the pattern drawing shows, and I didn't use the pockets, although I made them and tried them in every position imaginable, but they just were not flattering in the slightest. I think the length is pretty good, although I'm thinking of making the next one just a little longer. This is already somewhat longer than what I've been making recently, but I think I'll go longer yet. Here's the pattern drawing. You'll notice that my buttons are on the opposite side, but since these photos are taken in a mirror, the image is backward. In real life, my jacket fastens the same direction as Marfy's illustration.

Photo Link

I love the fabric, which is from the Fashion Sewing Group. The lining is a silk tie jacquard from Fabric Mart. They had a bunch of them a few months back, and I bought this and one other. This is probably just a bit heavy/stiff for a jacket lining. The other one is a lighter weight, but the wrong color entirely.

I like the jacket open too. It fits really nicely in the back and it stays put when unbuttoned. I would have shown this, but I haven't decided what I'll wear under this. I assume I will most often wear it closed, but it's nice to have a more casual look available.

You can see the inside finish here, including the backs of the handstitched buttonholes.

Photo Link

Photo Link

The twill fabric is one reason I wanted to do them this way. It's such a touchy fabric. Every little thing leaves its mark and it's hard to get surface stitching to look good or even. It also wants to fray. Not enough to be a problem with ravelling seams or anything, but enough that the buttonhole lips on the test buttonholes wanted to look frowzy. I used FrayBlock on these, and it did help. Meanwhile the tweed was extremely forgiving, and almost completely hid any stitching at all.

Photo Link
I love these buttons. I found them at JoAnn's, but they're real shell and quite beautiful.

I have to say I'm happy with this jacket, and I am anxious to start on the next one I have planned from the Blass boucle fabric I got from Elliott Berman Textiles.

Photo Link

I'm going to begin seriously working on my cashmere coat first though.

Friday, September 05, 2008

String Bag Instructions

I thought I'd probably have to be more specific about how I made the String Bag in the previous post, and Marji has given me the push I needed.

I found the original pattern I started with. It's Everlasting Bagstopper from the Summer 2007 Knitty. It calls for 2 skeins of Allhemp 6, which sells for about $17/skein. So we're talking $34 for yarn, exclusive of S&H. I find this ridiculous for a string bag, which in my view is the sort of thing that you ought to be able to make from stuff on hand at basically no cost. Oh well, that's just me, and there's nothing wrong with the pattern itself, except that I don't like the handle or how it attaches. It's just a piece of twill tape or ribbon, and so you basically have a bucket shaped bag with a handle. Not what I really had in mind, so I changed it.

I followed the instructions up to where she starts the garter stitch rows for the top edge of the bag, then I went on my own.

Here's my (very sketchy)pattern, using 2 skeins Aunt Lydia's Size 3 Fashion Crochet Thread, for a cost of around $4. (I tried SugarNCream with my bag following the original pattern, and I thought it was too heavy looking, so I looked for a yarn/thread that looked like the right size and came up with Aunt Lydia's.)

With Size 5(US)needles:
CO 44 and knit every row for about 28 rows (14 ridges).
PU 14 st on end of rectangle, 44 on long side and 14 on end. Place marker. Continue in garter stitch around your rectangle/circle for about 4 or 5 rows.
Change to Size 10.5(US) needles and begin pattern stitch.

Row 1: YO, K2tog. Repeat around.
Row 2: K.

Repeat these 2 rows until you get the height you want before the handle area (about 8-12 inches unstretched).

Place a marker at the halfway point of your round. You will be working on half the stitches at a time. Work so that you are doing Row 1 on the right side and Row 2 on the wrong side. Of course you will now be purling Row 2. After you finish the first side (half the original stitches0 go back and do the other side to match.

BO 3 st. at the beginning of the next 2 rows, then continue in pattern, decreasing 1 st. on each side of every WS row. I like to decrease next to a selvedge stitch which is K on each row, rather than on the outside stitch. Keep doing this until you have about 40 stitches.

Next 2 rows: K2tog. across the row.

10 st. remaining.

Here's where my possible changes will come in. I changed back to the Size 5 needles and did a garter stitch strap at this point across the 10 rows on both sides and did a combined cast off at the middle of the strap. This is kind of pointless and fiddly, so I would either cast off at the 10 st. point on the first side and do the whole strap on the other side and then sew them together,


cast off at the 10 st. point on both sides and use a crochet hook to do a couple rows of reverse SC around the entire bag opening and then make the strap. That would probably be the sturdiest option, but possibly unnecessary.

Photo Link

String Bag & Lots of News

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I decided to knit for the Mu Phi Fundraiser again this year. I skipped last year, and was surprised, but rather pleased too, that my things were missed. I'm making scarves again, which you can see at the bottom, but I also thought it would be fun to try knitting a string carrier bag. This is my second attempt, and I'm kind of pleased with it. It's a slight modification of a pattern I found somewhere on the web. I'm going to do the next one a little differently and I think it will be improved, although I'm happy with this one for myself.

Here it is flat.

And as worn over the shoulder.

One of the problems I have with the idea of making this type of bag as a replacement for throw-away bags is that so many of the patterns I see have you using very expensive yarn. That seems ridiculous, especially if I'm going to try to sell these at a bazaar. Wetspun linen would be ideal for these and they might last a hundred years, but who's going to pay over $20 for one, and that would only cover the cost of the yarn, with no profit for the group. So, I decided to use something cheap and available (I got it at the dime store). This is Aunt Lydia's Size 3 Fashion Crochet Thread in mercerized cotton. It should be quite durable, and has the right look for what I wanted. I'll see how it holds up, but I think it will be just fine. This bag took almost 2 balls, which was less than $4 worth of yarn, about right for something like this, I'd say.

Here are the scarves I'm making.

These are a fun pattern called the Potato Chip Scarf. The pattern is from KnitPicks, although I cast on 180 stitches, as per their original pattern, and it gives you a nice length. These are great for wrapping around the throat, and they stay in position wherever you put them.

I finished the Marfy #1234 jacket last night and I'm very pleased with it. I may wait a day or two to take photos. I've got a rotten cold right now, and I'm not looking too fashionable, to say the least. I will just tease you with a (semi-fuzzy) photo of one of the hand-embroidered buttonholes halfway done. You can see the double strand of thread I used to cord these. After they were done except for the bartack on the inner end, I pulled up the cording threads to shape them, tied the threads off and finished the bartack.

Photo Link
I worried about them and tested and tested and thought I'd made a big mistake in not doing bound buttonholes to start with, but as it turns out, I love them. I love the look, and I really loved doing them. They're really fairly fast too, which shocked me.

My other big news is that I'm getting a new sewing machine!!! It's a Pfaff 2144 which has been very gently used. In fact, my sister traded it in on the newest Pfaff CV, and she literally almost didn't use it at all, so I'm getting a wonderful, and basically brand new machine. Her dealer is checking and updating it, and shipping it to me, and I'm hoping it will get here by the end of next week. Much anticipation here, and a little anxiety that the learning curve I've heard about with these will be a problem. Naturally, I want it to do everything I want, right now, rather than after I figure it out. Patience is NOT my middle name. It's going to be fun though, and I'm ready for a new machine I think. I haven't worn out my Elna, but it's been going strong for 20 years now, and it's showing its age a bit here and there. I take care with it, but it will be fun to have all the new bells and whistles.

I will be interested to see if the embroidery bug bites. Somehow I doubt it, although I want to try buttonholes using the embroidery capability of the machine. I saw this on a Babylock TOL machine a couple years ago, and it was the first thing that really made me sit up and take notice of an embroidery-capable machine.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Green Lace - Dyeing is Done

Here you can see the Before and After pictures of the lace I dyed.

Photo Link

Photo Link

I am very pleased with the results. I used Procion dye from Dharma Trading, and did it in the washing machine. It took me several hours last night, and I ended up washing it numerous times after it was dyed, to remove all the excess dye. I think I'm finally done with that, and I love the color. The color I used was Sage Green.

I'm ready to begin 'auditioning' things to use as an underlayer, and as Els suggested, silk organza is first on my list of possibles, and I have some loden organza that may be the perfect color.

I have a lot of colored organza, as at one time I was sort of planning to try to copy a technique I'd seen that had a dress with a doubled organza skirt (fold at the bottom.) It had organza shapes within the skirt in various colors. It was very pretty, and looked a little like an underwater scene. I collected colored organza in a desultory fashion for a while, and the mood seemed to pass before I tried it. I still think it would be fun to use it for something, probably something much smaller in scale.

Even though I love the results of the dyeing process, I am not eager to do it again. It was a lot of anxiety about the result, along with worry about using somewhat toxic stuff in my home. If I'd been able to do it in a bucket, it might have been less worrisome, but I knew the lace wouldn't have room enough to move freely, and the washer was my only choice, and actually was probably a lot less mess than anything else would have been. I have to say if I have to dye something again, I will probably chicken out and use Rit. Before this, the only thing I'd dyed for quite a while were lingerie findings, and I saved my old crock-pot to use for this in future. It has a Teflon interior that was beginning to flake off, but I don't think that would matter with dye, since Teflon is non-reactive.

I did have a birthday recently, and I wouldn't normally say anything about it, but I got the most darling little Birthday Sewing Bird from my mother, and I had to share him with you. He stands by my computer and I smile whenever I see him, he's just so cute and silly.