Monday, July 29, 2013

Small Sewing and a Pair of Socks

I've been doing a tiny bit of household sewing in the past weeks. My boyfriend and I were too lazy to put up curtain rods and curtains for now, but our bedroom is pretty light, especially in summer, so I made a pair of sleeping masks for us. It's very easy, I used a pattern by the German woman's magazine Brigitte and just cut it out in three layers: a top layer made of jersey, a middle layer made of a scrap of IKEA heavy canvas fabric opacity and a layer of silk, to make it feel nice on the face.
Mine is the light, flowery one (obviously) and I just used normal elastic. As I didn't have black elastic, I used some leftover black foldover elastic for the dark one.

I also made some cushions for our sofa, even though my boyfriend's take on cushions is this:
:) This video always cracks me up. I made some cushions anyway, since I like them. I got a couple of 80x40 pillows from IKEA (amazingly, they're cheaper than the regular 40x40 pillows) and took a page out of Miss P.'s book.
The fabric for the covers is from IKEA, too, and making them is probably the easiest project you can think of: it's just a rectangle of 42x95cm (1cm of seam allowance on each side plus overlap), which I hemmed on the two short sides, then folded to a 42x40 square (with the overlap in the middle) and sewed on the two open sides.
Then you turn it and put your cusion in. Much easier than adding buttons or a zipper. :)
In other news, I also finally finished the socks for my grandma that I started on Christmas - and just in time for her birthday! Once I got into the pattern and didn't just knit a few rows and put them away, only to take them up days later, it actually went pretty fast - probably because of the lace pattern. And they turned out very prettily!
The pattern is Spring Pool Socks (a free pattern on Ravelry) and I used a merino wool sock yarn by Regia.
One sock turned out a bit bigger than the other, but my grandma didn't complain. :) Seeing as how long it took me to knit them. I'm thinking about starting on her Christmas present now... ;)
Lastly, here's an update on my balcony garden. Look at the tomatoes! I can't wait for them to ripen. :)

What are your favorite small projects?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Visiting Cologne

At the beginning of the month, my boyfriend and I went to spend a few days in Cologne. He's a theater scientist, and they're having a theater festival every couple of years with the most innovative free drama groups from all over the country. We saw a few plays, some were a bit strange, some I liked a lot. But we also spend a lot of time walking around, getting a feel for the city, shopping and windowshopping... At the end we visited his lovely cousin in Bonn (Germany's seat of government until 2000, when it switched over to Berlin), which is also a very lovely city!

So, a few impressions from my trip:
Köln/Cologne has some impressive buildings. The dome is the third highest sacral building in the world. A lot of the buildings in the inner city are several hundred years old and very pretty.
We stayed in Südstadt (the southern quarter), which is a rather cute part of the city. We had breakfast in this cute little cafe: Café Walter, and their breakfast brunch was epic! Home made jam, scrambled eggs and eggs sunny side up, waffles, fruit salad, all kinds of cheeses and ham and salami, caprese salad... Yum! They also had the cutest vintage plates and teacups, and I fell in love with the knitted pillows.
Right across the street was this bike shop. Isn't the red bike cute? And the wicker baskets?
I did a bit of shopping (mostly books, but also a cute pair of sandals) but also a lot of window shopping. I'm in love with these thermos flasks from Green Gate...
And aren't these shoes wonderful, and oh-so-vintage looking? I'd never seen this brand before, they're from Brako, and they have so many cute styles! For now they're still a bit out of my price range, though...
Despite my stashbusting pledge, I also did some fabric shopping and I have to say, Köln has some wonderful fabric shops, and right in the city center, too! Both fabrics I bought are denim, the flowery one is from Stofferia (Hohe Straße 1) and the strawberry/coral denim is from Reste-Kiste (Gürzenich-Str. 21). I also visited Stoffe Müller (Offenbackplatz 1), who also have a huge selection, but for once could refrain from buying anything. ;)
We also saw this wedding party. I love the bride's little cape and look at that cool vintage bus!
The visit with my boyfriend's cousin was wonderful, too. She's one of the loveliest persons I know and we had a few very nice evenings together making Crêpe and waffles, we had lunch in the Botanical Garden (which is beautiful) and just walking among the very nice residence areas in Bonn (see above - their front gardens are very pretty!).
Botanical Garden - do the little things in front of the lake also look like dwarfes to you?
We also visited the Siebengebirge (Seven Mountains) and the Dragon Rock, which are associated with the myth of Siegfried and the Nibelung (which Richard Wagner made into an opera cycle). I had a nice visit with the local dragon. :)
We had a very lovely vacation. :) Funny that we often want to visit other countries for vacation, when there are so many lovely spots not far from home! Do you prefer going further away for your holidays, or do you like exploring nearer to home?

PS: Thanks for all your comments and helpful tips about online shopping for jersey! I've already put out an order of swatches from (which is the German counterpart to and have bookmarked the others. So many pretty fabrics! :)

Monday, July 22, 2013

On Online Fabric Shopping and May Dresses

So, about the stashbusting pledge: I didn't do so well in May and June. The only real stashbusting I did was a little tanktop, which I haven't even photographed yet, because it's pretty unremarkable. However, apart from the suit jacket and dress combo for my orals, I did sew two more dresses.

At the beginning of the year, I pledged to make three in four garments from stash fabric. Which does mean that I'm occasionally allowed to buy new fabric. This, paired with the fact that I've had this amazing vision of a nautical striped Lola dress in my head since February, made me shop at Girlcharlee.
Now, I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of online fabric shopping. I like to touch fabrics before I buy them. I want to see their drape and quality, which just isn't possible when shopping online. But I'd been looking for some knit (preferably sweatshirt) fabric with broad navy and white stripes for weeks, so when I saw some in Girlcharlee's newsletter, I had to take the plunge.

The striped fabric was actually titled as a cotton jersey, but I figured I might get away with it. Also, there were two fabrics in the sweatshirt fabric category that I really wanted: the denim and navy print and the yellow polkadot fabric!

This is the point where I tell you that I probably won't shop at Girlcharlee again. While they really do have incredibly cute prints, the quality of their fabric is very varied and the rather tame prices kinda skyrocket when I figure in shipping and customs. In the end, I payed about 13€ for each yard of fabric. While that is about the same price that I'd pay for a nice quality knit at the department store (although it's about double what I'd pay at the market), I was just seriously bummed that the fabrics just weren't what was advertised - or maybe they just weren't what I was expecting from the description of sweatshirt fabrics, which was fabric suitable for making Lolas.
Does this look like sweatshirt fabric to you? Do I just have a wrong expectation? I expected fabric like the one that's used for hoodies. Sweatshirts. You know? Kinda thick and maybe a bit fluffy on the inside? Also, that certainly isn't the sunny yellow I was expecting. More of a bronzy gold?

Anyway. In the end, I did sew something.

First: Nautical Lola
Pattern: Victory Patterns' Lola
Fabric: 2 yards of wide striped, rather thin cotton knit fabric from Girlcharlee, with a good-sized piece left over.
Notions: none.
Time to complete: stripe matching took a while, but it was cut out in an afternoon and went together in about two more.
Alterations: I shortened the sleeves and widened and lowered the neckline. For this, I cut out the original neckline and after sewing the dress together, I put it on and marked where I wanted the neckline to fall, then cut and finished it.
Techniques used: Stripe matching (while cutting out and sewing). Folded band finish for neckline, sleeves and hem.
Thoughts: Apart from the fact that this fabric isn't very sturdy and as such, it's already pilling like crazy I love the dress. :D The pattern is just awesome with the big pockets and comfy fit, and this version, with the lighter fabric, short sleeves and boatneck is perfect for summer. I'm incredibly proud about my stripe matching (across princess seams and curves!), which works everywhere but at the back waist seam. I must have some kind of anti-swayback.
The fabric also bugs me because the stripes have different weights (the white is a bit heavier and has more recovery than the navy), which makes for warped bands at the hem, sleeves and neckline. I've been thinking about cutting them off and replacing the bands with new ones in a solid white or navy, but I'm not sure if I could find a fabric that's a good match, and actually it doesn't bother me that much... A funny thing is that I was expecting the thin fabric to show bumps even more than my coral Lola (which shows the belly seams of my tights!), but I think the stripes and possibly the drape of the fabric distract from it.

Second: Polkadot Mad Men Wiggle Dress
Pattern: My usual self-drafted jersey top/dress pattern, this time with a straight skirt and self-drafted cuffs and collar.
Fabric: 1 yard of golden&cream polkadot "sweater fabric" from Girlcharlee, about 20cm of cream jersey.
Notions: two pearl and gold buttons from my stash, fusible knit stay tape from Sunni's shop.
Time to complete: About three afternoons. Drafting the collar took the longest, actually. ;)
Alterations: Drafted a collar and cuffs and added a straight skirt instead of my usual half circle.
Techniques used: Fusible knit stay tape on all horizontal seams. Folded band finish for the hem.
The brooch is actually a single clip-on earring that I found at a second hand shop
Thoughts: This fabric is strangely see-through for a sweater fabric, and also readily shows all bumps. It already had a spot of pilling somewhere in the middle of the fabric, which I had to work around, but this pattern doesn't need a lot of fabric. Recovery is also not stellar. Then again, the dress in this fabric is really more of a fun, going-out-for-drinks, or maybe a costume party dress. Because of the transparency, I wear it with a slip. I also really should invest in a bit of hand-stitching, to hold up the cuffs and slip-stitch the seam allowances at the neckline... I think all things considered, it's a fun dress and I've already worn it twice for going out for drinks. I won't wear it tons of times, but seeing as I was totally stumped what to do with the fabric, it was a good rescue.
Have you had online shopping fabric failures? Do you know a good source for cute printed knit fabric?

Friday, July 12, 2013

How do you seam-rip?

Funny that I've never actually thought about the question. Nor have I ever looked it up. When I started reading sewing blogs, at some point someone mentioned what a seam ripper looked like. When I first needed to rip a seam, I grabbed the one that came with my sewing machine, proceeded to insert it into the seam, found out by trial and error that the blade wasn't the side of the pointy bit, but the area between the two points, and ripped the seam. After a while, I found out that there are other methods, that didn't produce as many shreds of thread. And at some point, I stumbled over the method I mostly use now (at least with stable fabrics, and ripping out a straight stitch), as it's delightfully fast and almost fun to use. It's actually more like unravelling than seam ripping. I'm going to describe it to you in a moment, and maybe you don't know it yet and it'll make seam-ripping more fun to you. :)

Ok, sorry for the rambling, I'm just a bit excited.

I'm not a big fan of unsewing, except maybe when I take apart an RTW garment for refashioning/fabric harvesting. That's fun for some reason. ;) I usually cut the seams off, especially in knit garments, because they are almost always overlocked, and who wants to deal with that many shreds of thread?? But hems are a different story. Sometimes you need the hem allowance because there's not enough fabric otherwise. And usually, it's a coverstitched hem.

So. I just found out that my usual method of seam ripping/unravelling works with coverstitched seams. For some reason this really makes me happy, because it took almost no time to open the hem of a dress and its sleeves. If you already know this method, feel free to giggle condescendingly at my exitement.

So this is how I do it:
First, use the seam ripper to loosen a few stitches, until you have a tail, as below.
Then take the tail and pull a bit, as when you're gathering something.
I usually pull a bit, then "distribute" the gathers, then pull some more.
If it's a long seam, or has a high tension (meaning the pulling isn't easy and you're likely to break the thread), you'll want to break the seam some way from the gathers, pull out the thread carefully and start the process again from the breaking point.
If it's a short(ish) seam, or if you tension isn't very high (and if there's no backstitching at the end), you may even be able to carefully pull out the whole thread in one go. Then you can turn the fabric over and unravel the other side of the stitching in one go.
If it's a cover stitch, of course you need to pull out both lines of topstitching before the bobbin thread comes away. I've also found out that the stitching seems to come out more easily in one direction, than in the other, sometimes. So if you thread is constantly breaking while you're trying to pull it out, you may want to try pulling from the other end of the line of stitching. In my cover stiched hem, funny enough, the two lines of stitching needed different pulling directions to come out easily...

So, did you know about this method of seam ripping? Do you know the "official" one (or at least the one with the most google results)? Which method do you use?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Starlet Suit Combo

Thanks for your crossed fingers and well wishes! I did it! I finished the suit jacket and sheath dress combo in time for my orals, didn't die of heat during the exam even though it was about 34°C and walked out after the second day with a grade that I'm proud of. Now I'm a physician! (I'm not sure if I'm also a doctor, since I didn't write a thesis, as you don't have to in Germany.)

In the end, I was glad that, stitching my jacket and dress together, I had something to do that drew my attention off the impending exam. Orals always make me way more nervous than written exams, but it turned out not to be so bad. The examiners were really nice, and the three others in my group also did very well. So, yay! Now I need some time to get used to the thought that I'm not a medical student anymore...

So, the suit! I ended up not using the Craftsy Startlet Suit course at all, mostly because the instructions in the book, though kinda bare, were enough and I was a bit pressed for time. I also didn't go the hair canvas and padstitching route, using fusible interfacing instead. Although now I wish I had either used heavier interfacing or indeed hair canvas, since the jacket's lapels seem a bit floppy to me.

Pattern: Suit Jacket from Gertie's Book For Better Sewing and Colette Rooibos dress, both Size 8
Fabric: 3m of navy woven wool fabric with a nice drape, and a light cotton (batiste?) for contrast and underlining.
Notions: For the jacket, fusible interfacing, hair canvas for the setting-in of the sleeves, three big mother-of-pearl buttons from the stash, white piping. For the dress, fusible interfacing, an invisible zipper from the stash, white piping.
Time to complete: Two days of almost full-time sewing, as well as a couple of afternoons.
Alterations: For the jacket, shortened by about 2 cm, graded a size up for the waist and took off 1 cm on each side under the arms and lengthened the back darts upwards. For the dress: I wanted more of a sheath dress look instead of the original A-line, so I took off about 1-2 cm on each of the skirt pattern pieces, grading to nothing at the waist. I also lengthened the back bodice darts.
Techniques used: steaming the heck out of the wool fabric, underlining, basting, piping (I used store bought piping), invisible zipper insertion, machine-stitched button holes (I stitched each of them twice, to get the stitches closer), setting in sleeves with a bias-cut piece of hair canvas (that is an extremely awesome technique!), lining a jacket, hand-stitched hem.
Thoughts: I actually think it turned out pretty well, and I was impressed by myself that I did get it finished in time. :) I'm usually such a lazy stitcher... I also found out that I enjoyed all the special bits of sewing, like adding the piping and hand-basting the underlining (which took about two hours, as I also basted through all the darts to keep them secure)... While I thoroughly enjoy the small projects that provide me with a cute new dress in a coupla hours, an involved sewing project like this is really satisfying! Imagine that! ;-)

I also enjoyed trying out new techniques, like the way Gertie sets in sleeves, using a bias tape made of hair canvas. I have no idea if what I used is hair canvas, as I couldn't find an adequate translation, and it seems like it should be less stiff and more drapey than the stuff I used. But it makes for a good sleeve head.
While I really like how both garments turned out, I'm not sure how much wear they'll get as a combo. I don't usually go for the serious, office-like look, but there will be a few job interviews in my near future, so maybe for them? I'm seriously in love with the dress, though, and can well imagine it being worn for all kinds of stuff. And maybe the blazer would go well with jeans? I own this one pair... ;-)
So this may have encouraged me to try some other, more involved projects in the near future. A nice shirt for my lovely boyfriend, maybe, now that I've overcome my fear of buttonholes? A jacket for fall (it's been raining again) - a Minoru or a Robson Coat maybe? A pair of trousers, featuring a front fly?
We'll see. Theres still this huge mound of stash fabric, mostly consisting of blouse and dress weight fabrics... And I'm hoping summer isn't quite over yet?