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cambie dress

cambie dress

Cambie has been in my stash of patterns for ages. Actually, I think I bought the paper pattern at Fancy Tiger Crafts when I was in Colorado more than a year and a half ago. I bought fabric for it last summer (a lightweight cotton; got it at Joann’s). I bought a zipper in the fall. And no progress was made until a week before I intended to wear it, when I unfolded the tissue and set to. In general I had no real troubles; I didn’t make a muslin because I wanted it done fast and because you can’t truly assess the fit until the whole thing is done, and I really didn’t want to sew an entire muslin. But it was my first time doing a garment with a lining, and it was definitely my first time ever ever sewing a zipper. Oh, and it was an invisible zipper. As a result, I paused several times to Google for help and discovered that a lot of others who have made this dress are accomplished enough that they barely talk about some of the details that I wanted guidance for. So, I figured I’d write up everything I searched (though it reveals me as the complete novice I am), in the hopes that it’ll help someone else.

“tracing tissue pattern onto freezer paper”
So I’d heard of people doing this but hadn’t done it before. I set the tissue pattern down on my table and placed a piece of freezer paper over and I could NOT see through it to trace the lines, so I googled to see if people do something special. No result I found talked about how to do it because apparently it was so easy. And it was, duh: my table is dark so that obscured the lines; I put another piece of freezer paper underneath and it got much easier. I did not use the freezer paper to stick to the fabric; I used it just because it’s sturdy. Tracing was a breeze, but time consuming.

“understitch pocket openings”
OK this is super easy but it took a few results to find one that summarized it cleanly enough. All it is is sewing the “inside part” to the seam allowance in a stitch right against the original seam line. (They say this helps keep the inside part from rolling to the front. I’m unclear why the pattern doesn’t call for you to understitch the entire top edge, and I’m debating just doing it anyway, but this was for the pocket opening.) This video gets right to the point and shows it very clearly—it’s super straightforward, but I appreciated being able to see it.

“cambie dress interfacing waistband”
So my interfacing tells you to cut the interfacing piece 1/4 smaller than the piece all the way around. I wasn’t sure if it mattered if I did that or not. Ultimately I decided not to bother cutting it smaller because it was easier to just match it, and it gets cut off anyway in the serger. That, I suppose, is an argument for cutting the interfacing smaller so there’s less waste, but whatever.

“cambie dress waistband”
My next question was how come I cut 2 pieces of the waistband out of the main fabric when you only need one for main dress. But oh! I’m a smart cookie and I realized that it doesn’t tell you to cut a piece of waistband out of the lining fabric. So you must use the main fabric piece in the lining—logically, it’s a more sturdy fabric just like an interfaced piece of main fabric is sturdier than the dress. Then I found a lot of blog posts that showed the insides of their dresses and I could actually see that they used the main fabric for the lining’s waistband. Mystery solved.

“threading a brother 1034d serger”
This is not about the Cambie dress, but my serger’s threads got all out of wack while it was sitting on a shelf, so when I went to use it… I couldn’t. I had to re-thread it entirely, and I always forget the steps. I’ve used this video before and it continues to be the most helpful. I was cranky about having to re-thread it and I considered just finishing my seams with a zigzag stitch, but I’m really glad that I sucked it up and just got the serger working. I realized what was the point in having it if I didn’t use it!? Plus it gives me such comfort to know that the seams are well finished.

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“sewing invisible zipper”
I had never sewn a zipper before—though I’ve read in several books and on blog posts the steps, so I had the gist—and I’m glad I searched “invisible” zipper, because I learned that there is a foot for invisible zippers! I don’t have one of those so this video was helpful  but not exactly applicable; this video for using a normal zipper foot totally did the trick for me! I definitely could have pressed the zipper out flatter and gotten the needle closer to the teeth, but hey, there will be a next time.

“cambie dress lining”
I knew the creator of the Cambie had blogged about sewing the lining to the zipper, and I followed it closely. I find it so funny, though, how all mentions of the bottom of the zipper are kind of glossed over in that tutorial and other sites that talk about sewing a lining to a zipper. It’s an awkward area, and I wondered how to tackle it—the answer seems to be: just as best as you can. So I did that, and it’s not visible, so it seems to have worked!

Looking at all this, it is clear I was really clueless about sewing this dress, and I suppose I was, but look! It’s done! It fits okay!

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The top of the bodice could probably benefit from a little taking in, but there is no way I was taking out the lining in order to make this adjustment. Also I think that I need to figure out how to cut different sizes for different parts of a pattern. I cut the size based on my bust measurements, and oddly the bust seems too big and the waistband slightly snug? I don’t really know how that works, but I guess I don’t want as much ease in the bust as the finished dress measurements give. I was suspicious of this when I picked a size but I went with it. I don’t really regret it.

When I sewed down the straps I deliberately pulled them down far and the bodice up high to keep it as flat as possible, but that made the armpits way too tight. I could wear it, but I knew I’d be uncomfortable, so I took that out and dropped the strap just a touch more. Not a lot—the sweetheart neckline would have gaped drastically if I’d dropped it to where it probably “should” sit—but this helped a lot.

cambie dress sleeve

I hemmed it to just above my knee, as I feel that with my short height (5 feet 4 inches) that just-below-my-knee length is awkward. This meant chopping 4 inches off the main fabric at the hem. I hemmed the lining so that it ends close to the seam on the main fabric, so that I could tack the lining to the seams if I wanted, but I did not blindstitch the lining to the waistband. I’m unclear why doing that would be useful, and I also think I might go back to understitch the top edge of the bodice. Still considering that. I didn’t take pictures of the dress turned inside out but I assure you it looks fantastic. The lining is a white cotton batiste.

I love the pockets, and I’m proud that it doesn’t look totally homemade. The zipper matching up gives me a secret thrill every time I pull it up. And it’s cute! I wore it to my cousin’s rehearsal dinner in Savannah last weekend, so we were able to get these shots with some live oaks in nearby Chippewa Square. At one point, a cousin of mine walked up and stuck her hand in my pocket and complimented the cuteness of my dress—and she didn’t know already that I had sewn it (though I’d told everyone else). SUCCESS.

honeycomb hat for jason

honeycomb toque

A long while ago, I knit Jason a hat in a simple rib in a charcoal Cascade 220 to match the first scarf I knit him. But it tuns out he wants his ears COMPLETELY covered by hats, so it was slightly too small, and I set it aside to redo. I finally unearthed that project recently and decided he deserved a better pattern than a boring rib. Enter the Tweedy Honeycomb Toque.

honeycomb toque

I have a newish sweater from the Gap with a honeycomb pattern on the front that immediately became my favorite sweater of the year (I wear it at least 2 times a week). So I was perfectly happy to make him a hat that matches, ha. The pattern is fine but the resulting hat is too small for a man—I actually increased the stitch pattern part by 16 stitches in order to get it to fit him. This meant some finagling in the decreases, and they’re not quite as neat as the written directions, but it works! I cast on 96 stitches, increased to 112 (k5, kf/b), and went from there. I knit it in a few hours on a Sunday (I’d knit it as written in a few hours on Saturday, and then we realized we’d made a hat that fit ME perfectly).

honeycomb toque

Knitting someone a hat in March might normally seem like past the season, but this winter… I think he’ll still get plenty of use out of it!

a woven scarf for dad

plain weave scarf

Last October, I browsed the halls of Rhinebeck with nothing in particular in mind. I wasn’t really knitting too much, so I mostly went to spend a day with friends and see some sheep. But then we passed through Oasis Farm Fiber Mill‘s booth and petted their yarn and came to a screeching halt. It was so so soft, despite its rustic appearance, and we all wanted it. I decided it would make a lovely gift for Dad for Christmas. So I called my mom and asked her if Dad is allergic to angora and what color she thought he’d like in a scarf. I debated among their colors for a time before settling on a pretty heathered blue. The yarn doesn’t have labels so I truly have no idea which yarn I bought, but I think it’s the “Classic Bunny” (because I don’t recall picking one with silk content, but who knows).

There was no way I would knit something up in time, nor could I be sure my hands could handle it, so I brought out my little 10-inch Cricket and got to work the week before the holiday. I worried about warping it with this yarn, as it felt delicate, but I didn’t know how to resolve that issue so I just barreled ahead and crossed my fingers—I realize that I’m lucky it held up just fine. I know just enough about yarn to be concerned, but not enough about how weaving works best nor what my personal preferences are to know what kind of fix would be right. (Obviously, choose a stronger yarn for the warp, but how would I find one in just the right color? Would I want warp and weft in different colors? There were just too many variables.) I know confidence and knowledge will come with time, so for now each foray into weaving is another experiment, and blind luck and a hopeful attitude makes up for actual planning. (I could never imagine approaching knitting this way! Egads.)

plain weave scarf

As I say, my weaving experience is very limited so of course my skills are, well, in need of practice, but I think I did okay. I tried not to beat the weft down too hard (which is my instinct) in order to keep the gauge relatively even in both directions. Truth is, a different-dent reed was probably in order but I only have the one. The edges are not exact but they’re not drastically bad, either! I think dad liked it a lot, and he immediately donned it when we exchanged Christmas presents a few weeks ago. I only wish I’d bought more of this yarn to weave a scarf for myself, too.

plain weave scarf

quilt as i go

OMG I love this pillow. Love it. The mere afternoon it took me to make is a measly price to pay for the joy this is going to bring me.

quilt as you go vortex pillow

I completely literally followed Let’s Eat Grandpa‘s examples (this one being my favorite), using her tutorial. I’d never tried “quilt as you go” before, so it was something to cross off my list as a sewer. I loved watching the vortex (because that’s how I see it) come together, and feeling the texture as it happens is cool, too. I’d like to do more with the technique, given how easy it is. (You can see that  I forgot to quilt one segment, but that’s ok with me.)

quilt as you go vortex pillow

The case is backed with some Kona Coal, which sort of blends into our couch. I did a simple pocket with a decent amount of overlap to be sure nothing would show and to make it so I wouldn’t need a button. (It’s not the prettiest back, so I’ll spare you a picture.) It covers one of our existing couch cushions, which have always tended toward the flat side. I tried to counteract that but I didn’t go far enough, it’s clear. How do you determine the best side length, anyway? The old pillow cover is 16.5 inches square. This one is 15.5 inches square. I could probably go even smaller, though Jason says he loves it just as it is. And the truth is, I love it too much to edit it down at all!

quilt as you go vortex pillow

washi dress

Now that I’ve started sewing my own clothing (ha, look at me, talking like I’m making a whole new wardrobe already) I’ve been thinking a lot about fit. When I shop for clothing in retail stores, I try items on to see how they look, but I don’t think about how they fit. I realized, in making a Washi Dress, that I don’t know how to really assess how something fits yet. But I like to think this one looks pretty good on! (All photos by Caro Sheridan; the last photo by our host, Phil!)

chevron washi dress

I didn’t make a muslin of the Washi—my bust measurement went fine with one of the existing sizes, and I knew the skirt was forgiving enough to not matter. It came together fast once I got the shirring to work (which, upon further reading, I’ve learned I did not do correctly, but it functions fine, so I’ll just be improving my technique for the future. In case you are wondering, the problem is that the elastic is wobbly on the back, which means I didn’t have it properly under tension. I’ll be playing with that once I get more elastic.). I went with a tank instead of sleeves and made white bias binding out of Kona Snow for the armholes. (Now I wonder if I should’ve used that for the neckline too, but I’m not doing it now.) I tried it on once it was all assembled, modeled it for my boyfriend and a friend, and asked if I needed to change anything. They said it looked fine.

chevron washi dress back

But does it FIT fine? I’m not convinced it does. The bodice should probably come lower. The bust darts don’t make the bodice shape to me in any real way. The neckline gaps just a bit (maybe partly because my “featherweight” interfacing was too heavy in combination with the cotton, lightweight though it is, or maybe because I forgot to clip the curves). I know there’s room for improvement if I take this one on again.

chevron washi dress

Wearing it while tromping around Star Valley Flowers‘ farm in Wisconsin, however, I discovered it is a great garment for wearing. It’s comfortable, breezy, and the fullness of the skirt means it requires absolutely zero effort at all. If I add a white cardigan, I’ll happily wear this to work and show off my handiwork. But I won’t make this dress again without significant revisions. This field of sunflowers are actually part of Driftless Organics‘ farm, across the street—we couldn’t resist them!

in the sunflowers in the sunflowers