The inner workings of a cardigan

Wednesday, October 07, 2015Johanna / 0 kommentarer

As I am about to start with my cardigan I thought I do this as a sew along so you can follow all the steps and possible mishaps too! Sewing a cardigan certainly requires different techniques from what we learned in home ec and through traditional sewing books. Also I don’t trust the instructions for knits from some of the big pattern companies (Burda and the Big 4 comes to mind) as they often rely on sewing methods that are more fitting for woven fabrics.

So for this project I will rely on some reverse engineering using a ready to wear cardigan that is made of regular cotton jersey and sewn together in a way that is similar to a t-shirt. Most store bought cardigans tend to be fully fashioned (i.e. consists of machine knitted pattern pieces just like a hand knitted garment would be). But this cardigan from People Tree is actually made using regular fabric. I highly recommend the People Tree brand, all clothes are ethically made and they use mostly organic fabrics too. Plus the designs are great too!

I did some technical drawings to show how it is constructed. So let's look inside the cardigan:

The trick here is that there are no topstitching at the bottom or at the top end of the button placket. Instead all the pieces are turned inside out and serged together. If you look at the waist of a zip up hoodie, a similar technique is used. I have tried this a couple of times on hoodies, but this will be the first time on a cardigan. I think it will be quite fiddly, so I don’t expect it to look as neat as on this professionally made cardigan.

As for the shoulder stabilization a clear silicon elastic is used, which is also the method I prefer and will use for this project.

And last but not least, the back neckline seam is covered with a fabric strip. This is a nice touch but can be hard to do perfect. Some high end garments use a twill tape instead, and this looks like a good tutorial for that. But I won’t be using the fabric strip method for this cardigan as the loosely knitted fabric doesn’t really jive with trying to attach a ribbon strip.

Made by me Patterns

Not the silk blouse of my dreams

Monday, October 05, 2015Johanna / 0 kommentarer

Okay I'll admit, this was not a successful project. I think I just picked a project that had a lot of things going against it. Firstly I used a very slippery sand washed silk that grows just by looking at it. Secondly the design has piping which is something that I love, but getting the piping to look neat and even when working with a slippery fabric, well that was crazy making material.

Add to that that this Burdastyle pattern has a tricky sleeve insert, it is basically a cap sleeve draft that you attach sleeves to. I'm not sure what this is called in English, in Sweden we call this a "lowered" sleeve. Anyways, it was super hard to get the sleeve seam look flat especially when working with such growing fabric.

Also I did the mistake of using an iron on interfacing that shrunk and wrinkled the silk. Should I have used silk organza instead? I would love to know what the best way to interface slippery silk is. 

Still all the faults aside, I do wear this blouse a lot. The black fabric does hide some of the most glaring issues, but writing this blog post and seeing the close ups of all the problems I'll admit it looks a bit worse than I thought!
Exercise Life of Johanna Made by me

My first half marathon

Sunday, October 04, 2015Johanna / 0 kommentarer

Number of times I have signed up for a half marathon. Three. Number of times I have actually ran a half marathon. One.

Yes that is my less stellar track record when it comes to long distance running races. Not because I sign up and then forget to train. Instead the reason is something that has plagued me regularly since I turned 40 – injuries. I feel tempted to list them all here, but feel like I would just sound like a grumpy ol' lady.

As it happens, the city where I live in has the world’s biggest half marathon and it is almost like a rite of passage or a pipe dream for many who lives here to do the race at least once. I was one of those people, hence why signed up in 2013 to do the race. Of course that race didn’t happen due to an injury. But in 2014 due to luck and extensive rehab I was able to handle a big training load without any mishaps (I was training for a 120K bike race at same time).

Super stoked before my seeding race.

During that spring I was so focused on the task and even did a 10K seeding race to get into a better start group. I finished that race in 52 minutes which was my fastest 10K race time ever and was also thrilled to see that my estimated half marathon time would be around 2h 05 minutes.

Well I never managed to get that time, but I still had an absolute blast running the half marathon. I mostly put this down to the fact that I was well prepared. For almost six months I had ran 3 times a week, very gradually increasing the speed and distance to avoid any new injuries. I also did strength training, pilates and yoga. Plus the biking. Looking back I must have spent all my free time training during the spring of 2014 – I think I averaged on about 10 hours training each week.

All that prep work paid off big time on race day. I decided to start slow, increasing slightly after the first few kilometers and then kept a steady pace at around 6 min/km all through the race and I felt truly excellent. Looking back at the stats I managed to stay on the plan until I had 2 kilometers left. Then my feet starting to cramp bad, I had to stop and stretch them out, and as soon as one foot was sorted the other began cramping. So for the last kilometers my pace were more in 7 min/km range – not the strong finish I had hoped for. But at least I wasn’t trashed when I reached the finish line. Total running time was 2 hours and 14 minutes. Which I was really happy about all things considered. Plus the crowd was amazing, this race is a huge deal in my hometown so there are tons of people cheering you on all through the race.

Fully kitted in my running dress that I made myself. I wanted to make it a little tongue in cheek, vaguely resembling a cheerleader uniform, Underneath is a pair of matching shorts with pockets. Unfortunately this outfit is no more, since a plastic bag mixup happened and it was accidentally thrown away. I loved running in a dress BTW and will totally make more in the future.

So that was my half marathon experience. I had planned to run it again this year, but alas another injury happened (an inflamed foot/calf muscle) so my competing stats for this year has been zero.     
Fabrics Made by me

Why wool tops with short sleeves makes totally sense to me

Friday, October 02, 2015Johanna / 0 kommentarer

Finding pure wool knits in Swedish fabric stores is such a rare thing, that every time I stumble on it I always by way to much as it may literally take years until it happens again. Don't know why it is so unusual over here, it can't be because it doesn't sell, because these wool jerseys fly off the shelves. Of course, then afterwards I'm like "what do I do with 4 meters of offwhite wool jersey?".

This top is the result of one of those bulk buys – pure wool rib knit, even more versatile than jersey. And in two different colours no less! I did the pattern myself, using my block pattern for a form fitting jersey top.

I have about five wool tops with short sleeves. I know it might sound weird to make short sleeves tops using wool fabrics, but in Sweden it makes sense – at least to me. Plus a thin wool knit is not all that warm and tends to last longer then a cotton or rayon jersey. I wear the tops as is or under a cardigan – and the wickaway aspect of wool makes them the perfect choice for when I'm biking to work during the winter.

As for the itch factor, it obviously varies a lot from knit to knit. This particular rib is on the coarser side, but not so much that it bothers me. As for my wool knit stash, it is getting worryingly small and if anyone has good international source of not too pricey wool jerseys I would love to know.

work in progress

Time to compete

Wednesday, September 30, 2015Johanna / 0 kommentarer

Way back, even before I first began blogging in 2008, I was really into participating in online sewing competitions. I guess the competitions acted as a motivation, a chance to document the process and to show others what I had done. Looking back I think I stopped competing around the same time that I started blogging. Because blogging pretty much fulfilled the same needs. But I think all this sharing also led to a certain personal fatigue for me. Because though I love sharing and am not shy at all, I also felt a bit self conscious about being too much look at me and what I do all the time. Perhaps not an unusual feeling in these days with so many channels to show yourself and what you do.

But now that I unleashed the blogging beast again I’ve begun to feel really motivated to return to the sewing community and sharing and documenting my process. Which leads me back to the sewing competitions. Last week I browsed through the Pattern review competition list and found two that I feel really excited about – sewing with sweater knit and color blocking. The sweater knit competition starts in October and I have already picked out my project. The biggest challenge will be faking the ribbing. I have some leftover wool ribbing that I will probably use, not the exact same shade but will have to do as I try to adhere to my non shopping policy.

So well, that was a long winding way to say that I am back at competing and sharing and we'll see how it goes!

Made by me Patterns

Burdastyle jersey dress

Monday, September 28, 2015Johanna / 0 kommentarer

Sewing jersey knits can be quite rewarding can't it? Huge amount of wonderful prints to choose from, easy care with no ironing, super comfortable and if shaped right they can be really flattering on the body too. Whenever I make a jersey dress that works I keep thinking that I should a whole wardrobe with these. And as a print aficionado I don't think any other fabric type offers the same range of colours and prints. The downside is that that rayon/lycra jersey (my personal favorite) don't hold up as well, as say, a woven cotton fabric for instance. Another challenge when making knit dresses is to find the right pattern. Some sort of draping is always a bonus and the pattern shouldn't require super tricky assembly techniques – having to rip up and redo an overlock seam is not my definition of fun.

This Burdastyle dress from issue 2/2013 ticks most of my boxes, except one. There is no way the facing can stay inside with the heavy neckline draping pulling it down, even with the understitching that is recommended in the instructions. As you can see in the photo, a bit of the facing is visible on the outside. Also as usual Burda drafts the neckline fairly deep, at least for someone like me who is on the shorter side. But all those are minor quibbles and I am very happy I tried this pattern.
This is the second time I used this fabric and I couldn't love the print more. Read my review over at Pattern review.
Exercise Life of Johanna

My exercise life pt 2: Doing sprint triathlons

Sunday, September 27, 2015Johanna / 0 kommentarer

As told in my previous post, after roller derby I decided to focus on triathlons. Not Ironman or anything extreme, but rather sprint triathlons which seemed pretty doable; 400 meters of swimming, a 20K bike ride and lastly a 5K run. Distances that I do quite easily on their own and that wouldn’t require crazy amounts of training.

My plan was to do three races during the summer of 2013, one shorter training sprint triathlon, a full sprint triathlon and then finish off with a second short sprint triathlon. The first race was in June and the final one in late August.

The training plan was pretty simple and loosely based on Joe Friel's Your first triathlon. I trained each sport twice a week, though my running training was confined to the pool during the beginning of the season due to an injury. Also some of the biking was done in spinning classes, which is a safer way to work on speed than hitting the streets!

The biggest challenge (apart from the swimming) was running with bike legs. The first few minutes felt like running in thick mud, not a fun feeling when you have ways to go. But after a while the legs eased up and the running got better. But even though the distance of my first triathlon was really short (even shorter than sprint), I was still totally fried when I reached the finish line. All in all it took me about an 1 hour, but it did feel longer due to the exhaustion.

Next race was a full sprint triathlon with an ocean swim. It felt better but I still faded a bit on the run and even had to walk just to get my legs back on track. The third and final one was however a breeze compared to the first two. I was way faster and much less exhausted during the run. But still, these short triathlons turned out to be much more challenging than I had anticipated. Doing the each distance on its own is clearly not the same as doing them in a row with no rest in between. At least not for me.

So that was my triathlon summer of 2013. I had planned to do more triathlons the next summer, but instead I ended up doing a half-marathon and 120K bike ride in 2014. Adventures that I will talk more about in future posts. 
Made by me Tutorials

Sewing a Buff

Friday, September 25, 2015Johanna / 1 kommentarer

Is the Buff a big thing internationally? In Sweden this versatile tube scarf is huge. I first heard about it a few years ago from a colleague who is a runner – he raved about his "buff" and showed me what it was. All I could see was a tubular knit, hardly an innovation, but then of course I started to see them everywhere. And a little while ago  my eldest daughter looked through my fabric stash and said she wanted a buff  (she is a very outdoorsy type). I think I promised her that I would, then forgot, but last Friday she reminded me and said she was in dire need of a buff for fall.

So I googled frantically to find the measurements. Turns out it is basically a square if you would cut it open. For the standard size buff the finished measurements are 50 cm x 24.5 cm/20 by 9 inches. After some more consideration I decided to go with the women slim fit version instead (47.5 cm x 22.5 cm/18.7"by 8.8") .

The only drawback with DIY:ing the buff is that the homemade version has a side seam which might rub I guess. So I decided to do a flatlock instead which is pretty much rub free (hence why it is so popular in workout clothes). I also did a quick tutorial on how I made the buff – not exactly rocket science, but here you go!

Note: My tutorial relies on both a rotary cutter and a serger, but there are plenty of tutorials out there that are less equipment reliant.

Sewing a buff - a pictorial
You'll need:
  • A stretchy knit with good recovery (a lycra jersey or rib knit is recommended). The piece should be about 50x50 cm (~20x20 inches).
  • A rotary cutter
  • A serger set up for a flatlock seam

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