Friday, February 27, 2009

Fabric Fact Friday - Knits

Knit samples from my textile science class.

I'm currently taking a university class in textile science. It's mostly a distance course and it's highly theoretical. Sometimes it feels more like I'm taking a chemistry class and my brain has been out of school for so long that I have a hard time grasping all this stuff. Anyhow, I want to share some of the things from the class under this new headline - the weekly Fabric Fact Friday. Hopefully blogging about it will also help me remembering the facts, since I have a big exam in April.

Knit fabric Q&A
Why do some knits shrink when washed?
The cause of the shrinkage is actually swelling. And the more water the fiber absorbs the bigger the shrinkage will be. Cotton for instance can take up 30 percent of water during washing and when the threads are stretched out they react by trying to pull themself together, hence the shrinkage. Synthetics on the other hand only absorbs a very small amount of water, which is why they don't shrink much when washed. Also loosely knitted fabrics will generally shrink more than tightly knitted ones.

Why do fabrics pill?
There are a number of reasons for that. Mostly it's because the fibers aren't long enough, i.e. the manufacturer has skimped on the quality. Actually almost all knitted fabrics pill to a certain extent, but in cotton for instance the small pills just fall off so you don't really notice them. Also blends are more prone to pilling since the fibers often clash. For instance synthetic fibers are stronger than most natural fibers. The result is that the synthetic fibers rubs off from the surface of the fabric, but since synthetics are more resilient the pills doesn't fall off like the cotton ones do.
Another cause of pilling is a loosely knitted (or woven) fabric. The looser the knit, the bigger the risk of pilling.
Fuzzy yarns, like angora and alpaca, are also prone to pilling since those fibers are very loose.

Why do some knits twist when washed?
It's a production fault and is most prevalent on single knit fabrics, such as t-shirt jersey. In order to speed up the production on the round knit machines some manufacturers use too many yarn input places which cause the knitted tube to spiral. This can be tricky to spot, but if the fabric is striped the stripes won't be straight. Another reason for twists is that the fabric is cut open and placed on a frame afterwards which stretches out the fabric. This can cause distortions and when the fabric is washed it retains the original shape - hence a twist in the garment will appear. This makes a good case for prewashing knits before cutting I think.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Trial - errror - repeat

For better and for worse. Four attempts at making a beanie pattern.

I had an epiphany recently. The thing is that I have always assumed that the knitted hats one can find in stores was knitted on special hat machines. But after turning a few beanies inside out I realized that most are just cut and sewed from regular knit fabric. So I decided to try to make my own beanie, using a couple of store bought hats as guides.

In theory it looked easy, but in reality it was hard getting both the pattern and assembly right. For instance if you don't taper the seams carefully you'll end up with very pointed corners, like on the turquoise hat above. Another problem was getting the shape right. But I think I've nailed it now. A beanie hat doesn't require much fabric, so I'm thinking it would be an economical way to use expensive sweater knits. Maybe I'll even make a Missoni hat someday!

A template for a sand castle? Nope, just my finished beanie pattern. Vik means fold in Swedish and mössa means knitted cap hat.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The birthday present


The matchy-matchy project for my youngest child is done. Hope she likes it as much as I do! Her birthday is next Saturday so I'll soon find out. The beanie and scarf patterns are drafted by me (the scarf was really hard, lol!). The top and leggings are from Ottobre magazine.

It's all done in thick cotton interlock and what a joy it was to sew. The only cloud on the horizon is my serger/coverstitcher, it's skipping stitches. I bought it in 2004, maybe it's time for service? How often do you serve your sergers? I leave my ordinary sewing machine to the dealer only every 5-6 years, maybe that's a bad practice considering how much I sew?

Also I've joined Clevergirl's informal March pant sew-a-long. I plan to make the Anthropologie knockoffs, which probably will be rather tricky and time consuming, so I'm very grateful that Antoinette is offering this format.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The taiming of the pajama pant


Dear Simplicity Pattern Company

It's not that I don't understand the concept of wearing ease. In fact I think leisure wear should be a bit roomy, it's more comfortable that way. But what I don't understand is why you have to add around 13 inches of ease around the thighs of your
9499 pajama pant pattern. And why you add almost as much ease around the hips. Another thing that I don't understand is why you couldn't have supplied a XS in your pattern envelope, it's not exactly as you exhausted yourself with the size range that you offer with this pattern anyway.

In total I had to cut away over 4 inches from your pattern, and yet the pants are still pretty baggy. I think it's time that you updated your men pajama pant range and moved this pattern to your costume section, since the sizing is more for clown pants than pajama pants in my opinion.

Also can you please explain this to me?


I don't think I can take this much design innovation in one sitting.

Regards
Johanna

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Alrighty, enough of the rant and over to the positive things. My boyfriend really likes his new pajama pants (it was a surprise gift) and he has already worn them a lot. And all in all I too like how they turned out. The striped flannel makes the pants look really smart and my eldest daughter (who offered me some feedback during the fitting process, since I had to try them on myself) gave me a great compliment when I showed her the end result "I don't know how you do it, but the clothes you make doesn't look homemade at all!". That made me feel all happy inside.


I used a combination of elastic and drawstrings for the waist. The original pattern calls just putting elastic in a casing, but I prefer my solution since it makes the waist adjustable.

So yes, in the end I think the pajama pants turned out fine. But next time I'll draft the pattern myself.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The deal is done


Anita and I exchanged our craft projects yesterday and we are both really pleased with how it turned out. Or pleased is the wrong word - I just love, love, love the crochet beret that she made for me!

Also for all you US folks: Look out for two new fashion documentaries that I think will be interesting:
Project runway winner Jay McCarrol's Eleven minutes, a movie that by some has been heralded as the new Unzipped. I had hoped Eleven minutes would turn up at the Gothenburg film festival this year, but sadly it didn't.

Another fashion thing scheduled for cinema release is The September issue, a documentary about American Vogue's thickest and most profitable issue. The focus is on Anna Wintour and it sounds pretty promising. Hopefully it's better than The Devil wears Prada, I could barely finish the book, and the movie wasn't all that either IMO.
Both will be hitting the US cinemas soon and possible be on cable as well.

And a little update: Anita sent me a photo of the bag after she pimped it up with the crochet table runner (such a cool idea!) and she also wants to tell my readers that she really loves the bag :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why do I sew?


I was thinking about this the other day and realized that the reasons have changed a lot over the years. When I started sewing at the age of 11 it was mostly because I was bursting with ideas and really really wanted to be different from the other kids at school.

The second reason was the most important. I know a lot of kids at that age just want to be part of a crowd, but for me it was the opposite. I wanted to be different and I wanted my clothes to reflect that. And even though some kids teased me when I proudly sported my bright yellow beanie that looked like a rolled condom and basked at my tartan wool pants that I found in a surplus store sales bin, I really didn't mind.

That was what draw me to sewing and the first couple of projects was so successful that I soon became pretty ambitious. I sewed my first insulated winter jacket when I was 13 (it probably looked vile by today standards) and taught myself to sew single welt pockets with a little help from the German pattern magazine Neue Mode, which was the hipper cousin to Burda magazine (who was incredibly dowdy back in the eighties). I also entered a couple of design competitions that a Swedish magazine held (with no success, it should be added).

When I hit my mid teens my focus started to shift a bit. I got more into vintage clothes and became obsessed with recreating the styles I saw in the fashion history books that I was carrying home by the dozens from the library. I started to make high collared Victorian silk blouses and sewed my own puffy riding breeches as I had decided that they were the only pants that was acceptable to wear. And as I had problems finding suitable patterns I also began drafting my own, but was only mildly successful at best. But back then I was pretty oblivious to things like proper fit, so I didn't care much.

Half a lifetime ago. A 20's style flapper dress that I made for my graduation.

When I was a teenager I wowed to never wear modern clothes again, but, alas, my retro period started to phase out when I hit my mid 20's. Instead I begun to shop more clothes in regular stores and only sewed occasionally. It wasn't until I was about to turn 30 that my sewing passion took off again. This time the Internet was instrumental in getting my mojo back. In 2003, while searching for a pattern, I stumbled onto Patternreview and realized what a wealth of information I had access to. Suddenly someone could explain things like why some knits grow when sewing and how to prevent it. Another eye opener was realizing that I'm petite and need to alter my patterns accordingly.

One of my first successful attempts after my sewing comeback. A wool cardigan with rick rack trims and metal snaps that I made in 2004 and still wear.

I started to read up on everything I could, I prowled sites, rekindled my interest for pattern drafting and bought and borrowed numerous sewing and pattern books. I also learned to use a serger and subsequently bought one in 2004.
My purpose also started to shift, it went from different and retro - to perfect. I know this might sound incredibly anal and boring, but I get a thrill out of trying to understand all the components; i.e. design, fabric, pattern, fit and sewing and then putting those things together in a hopefully happy union. But for me perfect is not about sewing Chanel jackets with couture techniques, actually I'm more interested in making the perfect t-shirt or pair of cords, since that's what I mostly wear.

I suppose that my reasons for sewing will continue to change as life goes on. Maybe I'll even stop sewing some day, but I hope that won't be the case since clothes making is the only hobby that has been a constant in my life. It hasn't always been a love affair, but sewing has somehow become a part of my personality.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Three things I love


Happy Valentines Day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Diana bag


Well I've done my part of the deal and I think Anita is pretty far along as well. This was a really quick and fun project. I enjoy making things for others, the only thing that makes me a bit nervous is that I want everything to be top notch so I fret even more than usual about the tiniest details. The Burdastyle Diana messenger bag pattern was easy enough though, but since both Anita and I are habitually tweakers of patterns we decided to omit the darts and use a side piece instead to give the bag more shape. I will try to review the pattern soon on Patternreview since no one, to my surprise, has done it yet

The bag is made of a mid weight linen fabric and all pieces are interfaced with a thick, almost rubber like interfacing to make it even sturdier.
Inside it's lined with a shiny cotton/poly twill that is normally used for children's winter wear like overalls and thermo pants. It's incredibly sturdy and called bävernylon (beaver nylon), I don't now what's the English equivalent, I've never seen it in any non-Scandinavian fabric store come to think of it. Good stuff anyhow.

A little glimpse of the bävernylon lining.

As for the rest of my projects it's kinda scattered all over the place right now. Also we are moving in a month so there is that dreaded attic clean-out to be taken care of, not to mention starting packing. Ugh. I kinda promised myself (and later my boyfriend when he moved in) to never move again after the last one, and well, three years later here we go... It's actually back to my old apartment (long story) so at least I know that I'll be able to fit in a sewing table in there :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A crafty swap

This beret will be mine, but I don't have to crochet it!

I love hand knitted and crocheted clothes and accessories, but can never find the motivation to start a project. So when my crafty friend Anita wanted a linen messenger bag, but didn't feel like sewing one and suggested a craft swap instead, I had to say yes. The deal is that I'll make her a bag and she'll crochet a hat for me. I was all for that idea and begun an international search for a crocheted beret pattern. After a lot of browsing I found the perfect pattern in a new Swedish book containing retro style knitting and crochet patterns: Stickat och virkat - vintage på svenska.
We went to the yarn store yesterday, and after a lot of mulling I picked a light grey and charcoal grey combo that matches my mittens and scarf.

In turn I'll sew her a modified version of Burdastyle's Diana bag that she will pimp up with a crocheted table cloth. I think this craft swap is such a great idea, and one that I could really do a lot more. I have several talented and crafty friends that don't sew, so there is definitely a potential to take this concept further.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Amy Butler skirt


Since I was looking for some instant gratification I decided to make the skirt first. It turned out pretty nice I think. Actually I can't take much credit since it's really the print who makes this skirt. The print is from Amy Butler's Lotus collection and has a wonderful colour combo. It's a pretty bold print, but still somehow subtle since the colours go so well together. The quilters get the best prints, that's for sure. Although I'm not completely in love with the hand of the fabric, it's a bit coarser than normal dress fabric cotton. It's perfectly fine, don't get me wrong, but I can feel that it's primarily designed for home dec rather than clothing.

Waistband. I used a strip of the dotted fabric from the same Amy Butler collection, it's great since the red colour is the same in both prints.

Underlining. Sewing the lining and fabric in one piece is the best thing since sliced bread. It gives the skirt a great shape and doesn't slip around inside like regular lining might do. I used the instructions from Pattern review.
The lining is cotton voile.


The pattern is from a skirt block that comes with the Swedish standard pattern making book. It's great because full scale patterns for skirt, bodice, jacket and pants are all included (in a huge range of sizes), and the book is not all that expensive either. Talk about value for the money! I just added a gentle flare to the skirt in order to make it a-line and lowered the waist a bit.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Summer sewing


Summer is still months away here in Sweden and I feel a bit under the weather right now, mostly due to a lingering cold, lack of sleep and some general discontent that I can't quite put my finger on. I don't know if it will help, but I'm trying to chase the winter blues away by making some summer clothes from fabrics that have been mulling in my stash. The blue flower print is from Amy Butler and so is the red/cream dotted fabric. I plan to make a skirt of the flower print using the dotted fabric as a bias tape contrast for the waist. The rest of the dotted fabric might be turned into a blouse or a halter top. And the blue linen/rayon/lycra will become an unapologetic copy of these Anthropologie trousers:

Well worn. This torn Anthropologie catalog page and I have been through a lot together.

I tried the pants when I was in NYC 2004 and loved them to death, but stupidly enough didn't buy them. All the buttons are working ones, so you can basically button up the entire pants. I counted the buttons and there are approx 40 of them! I will settle for 30 hoping it'll be enough since I'm petite. But sewing 30 buttonholes still feels pretty daunting. I might cheat a bit and only make proper buttonholes for lower part of the pants.

I've also ordered the fabrics for my daughter's birthday present. I asked her what her favorite swatches was from my stash of over 100 cotton interlock samples that I got from
E-slöjd. She picked these two, so now I'm all set.

Made in Sweden. Sweden used to be known for it's high quality cotton knits. Now most manufactures have closed shop, but E-slöjd still makes some fine stuff.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Vanja tote goes mod


The decidedly 70's vibe corduroy Vanja bag has gotten a 60's style cousin. This time I wanted a practical tote that could withstand both rain and snow as well as internal assaults from things like leaking ball point pens and melting chocolate. Therefore this Vanja version is nothing but plastic fantastic. The outside is faux leather remains from the Stoff och Stil bag I did last year and the lining is made from a vinyl table cloth scrap that I found in a department store sales bin.

Strictly for winter use. I suspect the air tight plastic lining combined with summer heat will turn this bag into a portable sauna and bring all it's content to the boiling point. But for the autumn/winter season it'll be perfect.

Sewing with faux leather is both easy and difficult. Easy because the fabric is very stable and easy to sew on a regular sewing machine with a leather needle. Difficult because it's stiff and doesn't hold a press well, so it's almost impossible to fold faux leather. I had to use a combination of glue and gentle ironing to keep the straps folded long enough so that I could top stitch them.

The closure is magnetic snaps, which is my new favorite thing - it's incredibly practical. Although I got a bit nervous about them last week when I read about a women who had bought a diaper bag with magnetic closures that had demagnetized her credit card! Then she got a new bag from the manufacturer and the same thing happened again! It's the first time I heard about it though, so hopefully that diaper bag closure was unusually strong.