Monday, July 22, 2013

Finished*: Candy Striped Tiramisu! (And why I am knit dress obsessed!)

Cake Patterns Tiramisu Knit Dress in Candy Stripes

Sweeter than candy: I finally made my striped Tiramisu knit dress!

Seriously, I have been planning to make a candy-striped Tiramisu with this fabric since last August, when I was still illustrating the first Cake Patterns envelope cover! And I'm so glad I finally sat down and did it, because this dress in this soft, stretchy knit is pure happiness.
The pattern: Cake Patterns Tiramisu Dress 0144.

Pattern Description: Knit knee-length dress with front mock wrap neckline, cut-on sleeves, customizable midriff and flattering half-circle skirt. Pattern Sizing: The pattern is sized for a 30-54 inch high bust, 25-50 inch waist and has bust proportion sizing A-D.
  • My high bust is between 34" and 35", my full bust is 38.5" and my underbust is 30", so I initially chose to make a 35D (see muslin post here and wearable muslin top here). That turned out to be a bit large in the bust and back for me, especially since I was using a very stretchy knit and I prefer a really close fit with plenty of negative ease.
  • For this dress version in my fancier fabric with plenty of horizontal AND vertical stretch, I went with a 30D wide bodice with a 1" FBA but cut just the 30A length (I based this length on measuring some well-fitting RTW surplice knit tops I had that hit me exactly at the underbust). And I used the size 30 back bodice.
  • This worked GREAT but if I use a fabric with only horizontal stretch for the next one I will need to make it longer over the bust (maybe the 30C or 30D length).
Tiramisu back view
Sweet sweet candy-colored peppermint back chevrons!

Fabric: This fabric is out of control awesome. It's a light-weight, yet substantial red and white cotton-spandex knit with good recovery that I bought on a sewing club outing to NY Elegant Fabrics for $15/yard.
At the time I felt guilty paying $45 for a hypothetical me-made dress, but this fabric is amazing. It is softer than soft, has stretch in both directions and is drapey (but not TOO clingy). Also: candy stripes. So... worth it!
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Most. Definitely. And I should know, I drew it myself...
Were the instructions easy to follow? Obviously I'm quite biased, but I followed them almost exactly and was quite pleased with the results!

Cake Patterns Tiramisu Knit Dress in Candy Stripes
Pattern thoughts: So. Knit dresses. Lately I have been wearing knit dresses three days out of five. Because they are the perfect garment — no mixing and matching, just throw it on, pick some shoes and a necklace (and maybe a cardi) and I am DONE and I even look FANCY when I am chasing my toddler around the farmer's market or playground.

Cake Patterns Tiramisu Knit Dress in Candy Stripes
Most importantly, knit dresses ALWAYS fit. My weight fluctuated a lot when I was ill and on oral steroids for months, and has fluctuated even more since I stopped nursing four months ago, so my jeans and non-elastic woven dresses all hate me... but my knit dresses always love me and never complain. (Heck, I wore some of my non-maternity knit dresses 6 and 7 months into my pregnancy a few years ago! So there you go.)
However, the Tiramisu has one thing that almost NONE of my other surplice-style knit dresses have...

Look! No gape!
... a no-gape neckline! NO cardigan needed for bra-hiding modesty! Thanks striped neck binding!
Pattern alterations: I did leave off the pockets on this version, but only to make sure I had enough fabric left over to recut the bodice if necessary (which it wasn't).
Construction notes:
  • I cut the fabric on a single layer to make sure the stripes were just so.
  • I made this on a mix of sewing machine and serger as recommended in the pattern instructions.
  • My walking (aka dual feed) foot helped a lot in keeping the jersey from rippling out of shape and in pattern matching at the seams.

Tiramisu side view
  • Great fit! So flattering!
  • Stripes! Stripes! Chevrons and stripes!
  • Lovely binding that is NOT in any way stretched out of shape.
Recommended Reading: Wear for: Work or a date. I love it so much and the fabric is so nice I am a bit afraid to get it grubby at the playground. So I might make a second version in a less fancy knit for weekend wear.
Obligatory half-circle skirt twirly photo:

Tiramisu twirly view
Outfit details:
Cake Patterns Tiramisu knit dress, me-made
Coral necklace from craft fair
Vintage-inspired blue and aqua leather watch
Comfy red leather Mary Janes
*So the asterisk in the post title is because this dress isn't actually hemmed yet. BUT one of the hemming options recommended is to leave it raw... either permanently or just for a few wears until it settles. So it is finished ENOUGH. For now. I do think I will do a twin-needle hem to even things out, as it seems a bit shorter in the front than the back (though that might be a bad posture thing).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bits and Pieces from a Mini Sewcation

TIra dress bodice and Insta Skirt in progress

My daughter is off visiting her grandparents in Massachusetts for a few days, and I'm managing my severe toddler cuddles and kisses deprivation by taking a little sewcation for myself each night when I get home from work. It is kind of amazing how much sewing you can get done when you don't have to start at 11:30 p.m. and stop at midnight each night... and when you can actually leave out the ironing board, sewing table and cutting mats!

Above you see two separate items in progress: the bodice of my Tiramisu dress so far (finally! I made the muslin back in May!) and a self-drafted "Insta Skirt".

The Tira is the one I sketched for my Spring Sewing Plans, it's got a red and white bodice and skirt just like my envelope illustration:

Spring Sewing Sketch 2013 — Cake Patterns Edition

I picked a smaller bodice size this time (30D with a 1" FBA, instead of a straight 35D) and she is fitting great so far! I should have the skirt attached tonight. (And I know she doesn't fit my crappy sewing form at all, so just trust me on this).

Tira dress bodice and Insta Skirt in progress

The "Insta Skirt" is the one-piece half-circle skirt and midriff I drafted for this McCall's knit dress I made a while back:


I've always wished I could wear the bottom bit as a separate skirt, and it took me only about 15 minutes to sew (just two sides seams and an elastic-free knit waistband—magic!). FIFTEEN MINUTES FOR A SKIRT, PEOPLE.

...But it's not REALLY an Insta Skirt, because my serger temporarily crapped out on me for three hours of swearing and rethreading and crying... and now that the skirt has hung for a day it has grown by four inches and needs a severe hemming. Having no clue how to evenly hem a half-circle skirt, I suspect there is some online tutorial hunting in my future.

Finally, I have my Hummingbird Blue top pieces sitting around since the sew-along, since I was too busy moderating to actually make anything!

Hummingbird "Blue" in progress

I think this little sewcation may almost be as fun as splashing around on the beach, and I'm getting 100% less sunburned as a result! (But I am also counting the seconds til I get to cover little Z in kisses ... on Friday!).

So readers: When was the last time you really got to sew (and leave all your sewing mess all over the place) with no interruption?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Delancey Try-On: Too Snug or Just Right?

Delancey Cardigan Try-On

Chevrons and stripes both rank high on my crafterly happiness list and this cleverly-constructed sweater has been a joy to knit so far. The big question, though—does it actually fit me?

Pattern: Delancey Cardigan. You may recall that the Delancey cardigan by Alexis Winslow was the winner of my indecisive "Sweater Girl Showdown 2013." Here was my original concept sketch:

Sweater Girl Showdown 2013: Which Cardigan to Knit Next? (Polka Dot Overload)

Ravelry link with all details: Here.

Yarn: Knit Picks Merino Style (discontinued) in various colors from the stash. A lovely DK-weight merino that I had lying around. Sadly I lost one of the colors I was using midway through (left it on a subway or airplane during a business trip) so you can see that the stripe pattern on the top back is gray/periwinkle/gray instead of gray/periwinkle/purple. Oops!

Size: 33" bust. The biggest challenge was deciding what size to knit—the 33" finished bust or the 36" finished bust. I have a 38.5" bust and 29.5" waist but I like my cardigans snug, with at least 2-3" of negative ease at bust and waist (see my old post on sweater fitting for more on this).

BUT because of the clever chevron pattern, there is no waist shaping here—the bust and waist are the same size. So if I went with the 36" bust, the waist might have been quite baggy. I wrote to the designer and she gave me some fantastic advice—based on my preferences and yarn she suggested I try the 33", as the bias fabric makes the cardigan quite stretchy.

So readers, what do you think so far? The back looks perfect to me (see top) but the bust area seems to be pulling away to the side (note that I've only knitted one of the side fronts, the other isn't done yet):

Delancey Cardigan Try-On

And the side "seams" aren't really straight when I pin the cardigan shut in front:

Delancey Cardigan Try-On

That said, there is going to be a button band and shawl collar in front which will add a little extra front width.

My verdict: Keep going and hope for the best. I think with a little blocking and the bands/collar, it'll be just perfect, and it may loosen up a little with a handwash and wear, too.

Delancey Cardigan Try-On

Speed notes: I swear I haven't been knitting MORE often than I did last year but I must be knitting FASTER. Not only is my Delancey more than half done, I just finished a baby cardigan for a friend two days ago. AND I just started on a Tulip for my niece-to-be yesterday and I'm already down to the chest:

Tulips Cardigan Progress

Hello, my name is Mikhaela and I am a cardigan knitting (and wearing) addict.

I think my new speed is from switching away from plastic to metal needles. I had some serious repetitive stress injury issues with my hands back in 2008 and had switched to using plastic and sometimes wooden needles... and they are just MUCH SLOWER. This year I decided to switch back to metal but just be careful—to knit in small chunks and stop if my hands start bothering me even the slightest.

So, what do you think—too tight or just right?

P.S. By the way, if you're interested in making the Delancey yourself, there was a Ravelry knit-along last year with accompanying blog posts on the Sweatshop of Love. It also comes in a plus-sized version (up to a 58" bust).

P.P.S. In case you're wondering why both Z and I are prancing around in black bike-short-esque things, we were about to go for a family bike ride. We went down to Brooklyn Bridge Park and rode the carousel four times until I got motion sick and had to let my husband take her around for the fifth ride. Phew!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Unusually Unselfish Knitting: Baby Surprise Jacket II

Baby Surprise Jacket II

There's nothing like a hot summer day to snuggle your baby in a ... really warm wool jacket. Er.

Anyway, I knit this little garter-stitch cardigan for a friend who had a baby boy last week — she's bringing him over this evening and I can't wait to meet him! I'm hoping it's big enough that he can wear it in the fall.

This is the first time I have EVER made anything more serious than a hat for someone ELSE's baby, but said baby's mom is a knitter herself, so I know she'll appreciate it in the way only a fellow maker-of-garments-that-take-forever-and-ever-to-make can.

The pattern: Elizabeth Zimmerman's famous Baby Surprise Jacket from Knitting Workshop. I knit with a worsted yarn in hopes of achieving a 3-6 month size for this fall/winter.

The yarn: Classic Elite Liberty Wool, a fabulous soft squishy self-striping washable wool, purchased on my birthday trip to the Hub Mills yarn store.

The buttons: High-quality blue buttons from Pacific Trimming (at least, they LOOK really nice and for 75 cents each, they must be high quality, right?)

Time taken: A month (but I was knitting and making lots of other things at the same time).

The exhaustive Ravelry details: Here.

Baby Surprise Jacket II

This jacket is known as the surprise jacket because while you are knitting it, it looks like an amorphous blob of yarn nonsense...

Baby Surprise Jacket II in Classic Elite Liberty Wool: almost done!

And then you do some origami magic and seam up the shoulders, and surprise! It's a jacket. I actually made one for Z three years ago when I wasn't nearly as confident a knitter... and totally left off the buttons and buttonholes. Oops!

Baby Surprise Jacket

Back then I kept getting confused by the cryptic pattern and looking up reviews and notes... this time it was a breeze and a great way to relax on the family camping cabin vacation we took in the Poconos last week:

Relaxing and knitting

In sum: pure baby sweater happiness!

In other cardigan current issues, I'm still knitting the fantastic chevroned Delancey cardigan for myself (try-on photos soon)... but I have another urgent unselfish baby sweater to make first, as I'm attending a baby shower in just a month to celebrate the impending arrival of my niece-to-be!

I bought the unisex #4 color kit for the Dream in Color Classy Tulip Sweater in blues and greens from Eat.Sleep.Knit:

Luckily my niece-to-be will reside in Maine, so she'll have an endless need for warm wooly things!

So—what was the last thing YOU made for someone else (and not you or your immediate household?)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Teaching the Girls to Sew! (Fun Dolls Eyelash Bunny)

Polka Dot Overload: Teaching the girls to sew

Don't worry readers, I didn't give my just-turned-three-year-old a needle and a pair of sharp shears. But I did let her use toddler-appropriate kiddie scissors, and I was really impressed with how carefully she cut out her pattern pieces!

Let me step back for a moment.

Twenty-three years ago my brother (then seven) and I (10 at the time) got a really fantastic Christmas present from our sewaholic mom -— doll-making kits. We spent a couple of days sitting around the kitchen table carefully dying our doll fabric with tea, cutting out our pattern pieces, embroidering the faces, sewing on hair, and stitching the seams by hand (see photo at top). It was awesome, and I loved every minute!

My mom still has "Annie," one of the finished dolls at her house.

Anyway, when my niece T came to stay with us for a week recently, she asked if I could help her fix a split seam on her travel pillow. Instead of sewing it for her, I handed her a needle and thread and showed her how to use them... and was impressed at how quickly she figured it out and sewed a sturdy little seam on her pillow.

T was so excited by her success, I decided to give her a more fun project. I gave her a little Japanese doll sewing book and she picked a moderately challenging doll pattern. Little Z couldn't be left out, so I promised to let her make the same pattern.

The pattern: "Eyelash Bunny" from the book Aranzi Aronzo Fun Dolls (Let's Make Cute Stuff). It's a fantastic book full of cute, modern-looking little dolls with excellent comic-book-style instructions. The eyelash bunny in the book is sad, but T decided to make her happy and add button eyes:

T's bunny is happier than the pattern called for.

Fabric & notions: I let the girls choose fabrics from the stash.

  • T made her bunny body out of a stretchy white fleece from an old blanket, and the dress from a lovely floral cotton I had picked up a few years ago in Portland at the Bolt modern fabric shop.
  • Z chose some yellow cotton flannel left over from diapers my mom made her a few years ago, the same floral for the body, and some red felt for eyes.

    Z's finished bunny, face 1

The process:

  • T's bunny (aka "Mini-Me"): T had never sewn before, but took to it very quickly. She cut out all her own pattern pieces and fabric, did all of the stuffing and most of the sewing. She had a few moments of impatience with the hand-embroidery parts...

    Sewing on the bunny's face...

    ...but absolutely LOVED "driving" the sewing machine and very quickly learned to back-stitch, pivot and the like: Project Runway, here she comes...

  • Z's bunny (aka "Foo-Foo"): Z obviously couldn't do as much as her big cousin, but she made quite a try. She cut out a few of the paper pattern pieces, cut out the felt eyes and nose and glued them on, and drew a second face (that I embroidered for her):

    Little Z's doll in progress

    Her Nana Gail helped her cut out most of the fabric pieces, T stuffed the doll and I sewed it together.

I've taught some adults to knit before but this was so much more fun—the girls were so very excited and enthusiastic and proud of their creations! (And I found it so much easier to be really really patient and helpful with them... I think sometimes when I've taught adults I get frustrated if they don't pick things up quickly.)

Bunny love.

Z and me with her finished bunny doll

I promised T that next time she visited she could sew a ruffly (and sparkly) skirt! I think she's really caught the sewing bug...

T and her finished bunny doll

Have you ever taught anyone to sew? What was your experience?

P.S. I finally got around to setting up a Facebook page for Polka Dot Overload... will try and cross-post everything there if you prefer to follow me that way!