Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Trouble with Knitting...

I'm sure all you knitters out there know the importance of pattern choice and tension squares.

A few months ago I purchased some of Spotlight's wool - it was going out on sale.  It is a 4 ply, 75% wool, 25% polyester.  In 100 gm balls:

It is a variegated yarn in shades of grey through to black.  I chose a plain jumper, checked the tension, and, as the tension was fine, started knitting the back.

I finished knitting the back.  And I did not like it.  I did not like the shape, or the way the variations lay in weird (to my way of thinking) stripes.

So I undid the back.

As anything made in this wool would give me the weird stripes, I had to decide what to do.

I decided to knit two balls together, as I thought this would eliminate the (weird) stripes.

I chose a pattern, and knitted a tension square.

The tension was wrong.  I changed needles and knitted another tension square.  The tension was still wrong.  I changed needles and knitted another tension square.  THE TENSION WAS STILL WRONG.

By now I was getting fed up.  So I changed patterns.

And knitted ANOTHER tension square.

The tension was right (well, near enough, which is right in my book, especially after all this tension square knitting!).

I discovered that knitting from two balls at once created problems - both balls getting tangled on each other, or jumping out of the knitting basket.

So I wound two balls together:

And all this before I even started the garment (and you non knitters thought muslins were tedious!)

Then I started.  I rather like the fabric this yarn is making:

The pattern I am using is a relaxed blazer cardigan:

It only comes in Small (too small) Medium (too big) or Large (far too large).  I settled on Medium in the end, as I am making this in wool, not cotton as the pattern specified.  It's likely I will be wearing it over another jumper, so I thought bigger would be better.  I'll find out in due course (like in six months time) whether I made the right decision.

The pattern came from FILATI pocket, issue 2.  I haven't seen this magazine again, but loved a lot of the garments in this little book.

Knitting might be fun, but like sewing, it has it's frustrating moments :)  .  And still we come back for more :)

Enjoy your sewing  (or knitting, or crafting) time,

Sarah Liz

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Quick and Simple White Skirt...

Hello everyone,

My approach over the last few weeks has been the "Sew a Little Bit Every Day".  This works really well with simple projects.  (For more complex projects I do prefer a little bit of time set aside to think problems through - this works well if integrated with simple sewing as well).

Summer is coming, and I have been busy making a few basic items of clothing - the sort of thing you wear everyday around the house or for basic errands.

This is one of them - a simple skirt made out of stretch cotton twill (purchased from Spotlight).  I can't tell you what the pattern is, because I only have something I traced some years ago.  I didn't label it, other than "straight skirt".   Very simple sew it all together side seams, back seam, insert lapped zip, add waistband, do hem and back slit.

I think I'll just let the pictures tell the story:
Skirt front - I'm trying to learn to smile more at the camera!

Skirt Back - with RTW t-shirt that needs a sway back alteration!

And the side view.

 Thats it for today!

And blogger is doing strange things with the photo interface and typesetting, and a thunderstorm has just arrived so the power might go down,  so I might just say goodbye at this point and see you all soon!

Sarah Liz :) 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Well Wishes and Welcome to New Followers

 Hello everyone,

Another sewing week has flown by and it's time once again (as I usually do on Sunday) to welcome this week's new followers to my blog.  So welcome guyaneseista, Joyce in NY, and Lagina, who are following via the blog, and Lisa and J.P. Stevens who are following via Bloglovin.

Do feel free to say hi and comment at any time.

This week we had quite a discussion on  how thread could cause all sorts of problems with different sewing machines.  We also discussed various ways of sewing time management.  We all have different approaches - some prefer to do longer sessions,  and I tend to break the job into parts and fit it into whatever else goes on - and then have longer sessions.  It's lovely finding out the differences in our approaches to sewing and learning new ways of viewing and doing sewing.

October is drawing to an end, and lots of garments are being completed for the Make a Garment a Month Challenge.  I found two more of you had finished garments today, and one of you has already posted November plans - so next weeks update will include all of you.  So if you are finished your garment, do please label your post clearly - I only want to post the garment you want me to post. 
I'm not sure what my November garment will be yet - I have to decide - you all know how difficult that can be - so many choices :-)
 With my daily approach to sewing - a little a day keeps the sewjo flowing - I have completed a few garments.  Next week I will start posting these...
That's it for now, so everyone, everywhere, wishing you all the best for next week...
Sarah Liz :-) 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Make A Garment a Month Challenge Weekly Update

Hi Everyone

It's nearing the end of the month and so many of you have already finished some very lovely garments.  I'll be posting these later in the blog.  Next Saturday I will post all the October garments - that will give you a few extra days to post your garment on your blog :)

I also post all the garments in a Gallery so that you can look at all the garments in one spot.  If you look at the top bar of this blog, you will find the Make a Garment a Month Gallery.

I do go around all your blogs to find your garments, but if I miss you, please, please, please do tell me, by email or by commenting on my blog.

And I know there are some of you out there who have joined the challenge, but I don't know who you are - in which case, again, just let me know...

This week  three new sewers took up this challenge:

Judy, Lisa and  Patty have already completed garments - I'll tell you more about them later in this post.

PLANS are still coming in: is planning to make a  co-ordinated wardrobes, -using this challenge to motivate herself to make garments that work back with each other.  I'll be joining you on that challenge Lisa - it's all to easy to have orphans in the wardrobe, as many of us know :)

An update also from Jolanda:

Jolanda has found this stunning fabric (she has details of where she found it on her blog) and is planning to make a skirt:


JBB has  found this wonderful fabric that reminds her of Venice.  JBB I visited your blog today.  Unfortunately my webshield did not like Bloggers translation today and blocked it.  While I can read enough French to make sense of your post, I am afraid it is a very long time since I have had to write or speak it.  So I commented, a bit in French, and a bit in English.  


Is making a pair of jeans copying a pair that already fit her well.  She is taking a Craftsy course ( run by Kenneth King.  She is making progress, so visit her blog if you want to know more.


Accordion 3:  (

Has been very busy making this stunning jacket from an OOP McCalls pattern. 

Lisa has plans to also finish this UFO cardigan in her October Challenge:


Mrs Smith: :

Mrs Smith : Butterick Jacket 5926.  Sized for knits and made in a knit.
Sew Blessed :

Sew Blessed Maw - Indygo Junction Tunic, made in cottons

BlueSea: (bluesea emails me as she does not have a blog):

BlueSea - Barb Pants from StyleArc made in stretch fabric.

Rachel Comey skirt, V1247:

Kathy's version of V1247, Rachel Comey skirt.

Judy- knit dress made via a course

Lisa's Leopard print Linen skirt - Burda Style Sewing Handbook

Gaye's Top made out of a locally made (Thailand) fabric

Farhana's self drafted Jean Skirt - first attempt.
Dorothy Dot Dot:

Dorothy Dot Dot - Jacket and Dress in Knit Fabric
Do pop over to each other's blogs to find out more details...

That's it for this weeks update - next week I will be back with more...

Sarah Liz :)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mastering the Mojo - How do you manage your Sewjo?

We've all had problems with our Sew-Jo from time to time.  If I'm honest, I have problems with it much of the time.  So I break every project down into manageable steps - otherwise what with the 200 plans for garments you already have in your head, plus everything you have to do with the current one (sort out the pattern, go through the stash, pre-shrink and iron fabric, prepare pattern pieces, do muslins (if you do them) , thread machine, check notions, master techniques, fit the garment, and finish it), you can just get overwhelmed.  Especially as you probably already have a full life...

This week I have been working on a project step by step:

Day Three's effort
Day One:  I found the fabric and the pattern I was going to use.

Day Two: After a day at work, traced the pattern pieces.  I always trace the pattern pieces if the pattern is multi-sized.  That way, if I have chosen the wrong size, at least I have a master to go back to.  And tracing patterns is not my favourite activity.  I also cut the pattern out in the evening - it was very simple.

Day Three:  In the evening...Stabilise and sew the pockets.  Tack the pocket bags in place ready for top stitching tomorrow.

Day Four:  In the evening.... Top stitch pockets and sew skirt together at side seams.

Day Five:  In the morning ... Overlock band, overlock hem, turn band over and stitch down, insert elastic,  hem by machine. Finished.  Go to work...

A little pile of basics ready to blog about - all done bit by bit.

This was a very simple project that only needed about three hours total.  So it was easy to break down into small parts.

I've nibbled away at quite a few simple  garments  in this manner - it does keep the momentum up.  Which makes you feel good about your progress.  Which helps the motivational mojo, which in turn keeps the sewing going.

What about you - how do you keep your Sewjo going?    I'm sure we are all different in our approaches to sewing - it would be lovely to know how you manage your sewing time :)

Sarah Liz

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Technical Talk - Does your machine skip stitches?

Sometimes sewing machines skip stitches.   The machine usually has a manual that lists causes of skipped stitches - usually to do with the needle being bent, blunt, inserted incorrectly,not the right size, wrong type for the fabric, poor quality needle or the thread may not be threaded properly.

There is another reason as well, and not one you will find in the sewing machine manual.


This is a little known fact.  I use the threads that are marketed as "good quality"and was sewing with the above reel yesterday. And noticed that the odd stitch was being skipped.  It didn't matter on what I had done, but I wasn't going to keep going.

I replaced the thread with a new reel of a different brand:


I learnt this some years ago when I used to hire an industrial  machine. (yes, I have a past life in sewing).  I was grumbling about problems with stitches and thread breaking and was told it was the thread.  My mother also had an experience like this - she uses a domestic machine.  She has stitch problems and was told to use a "good" thread.  She uses the recommended by all shops brand - which is quite different from that used by sewing professionals.  Trouble is, you have to buy that by volume.

So, I now use the home sewers "quality brand"and have found one of these works better than the other on my machine.

I just thought I would share this in case any of you have had similar problems that have not been solved by changing needles and rethreading the machine correctly.

Sarah Liz :)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Hello, Welcome to New Followers and Answers to Comments

It's that time of the week again - Sunday, the end of another week - and we are getting very close to the end of the year - but I'm sure you don't need me to remind you of that :)

I would like to welcome five new followers to my blog - Marta, Susan, Diana, Angie and Kathleen, all following via Bloglovin.  And a belated welcome to Karen.


I'm currently facilitating two challenges - one a stashbuster, the 2013 Style the Stash Sew A Long. This has been running for a few months now and will finish on December 31st this year.  Some of our contributors are amazing sewers, and together we have sewn over 600 yards of stash.  Quite an effort... you can find us at

The second challenge is ongoing and more self directed - the Make a Garment and Month Challenge.  Three garments have been completed already and are posted in a Gallery dedicated to this challenge.  You can find that at the top of this blog.  Every participant has their web address linked, so you can go and visit directly to find out more about who's doing what.

This week I received a  comment from Mo who is making New Look 6963 - a simple shirt pattern.  I did tutorial on this shirt.

Mo I understand you to say that your neck edge is smaller than your collar.  There could be a number of reasons for this:

1.  You have not traced or cut the correct size - check your pattern pieces and see if you have cut correctly.  Multisized patterns can be tricky.

2.  You have not cut carefully enough - if you cut the collar just a little larger then it won't fit.  Ditto if your seam allowances are not correct.  Check your finished collar against the pattern pieces (minus seam allowances) and see if it is correct.

3.  The neck edge was stay stitched.  The pattern asks you to clip the pattern before attaching the collar.  If you have not clipped, then you will have difficulty fitting the collar.  From memory it did need encouraging - collars frequently do. Sewing is about manipulating to get results sometimes.

Hope this helps ...


Sherry ( a new sewer with  no blog) commented that she is having difficulty fitting and would like some help from experienced sewers.

Sherry, I highly  recommend that you start blog as this is how we blogging sewers communicate with each other.   You can also join forums such as Artisan Square and sewing pattern review ( where there are lots of other sewers, and classes on fitting.  Other places where you can find courses about fitting -  Craftsy classes. ( There are also plenty of books available on fitting.


And my plans - well, for once, I don't have any!  So after I finish work tomorrow, I'll have to have a stash rummage and see what I can find...

Have a good week everyone, wherever you are,

Sarah Liz :)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Make a Garment a Month Challenge, Weekly Update.

Hi everyone

Just a quick update on who has done what so far...but before I start, just to let you know  that Lou, Chris and Sherry want to join - these ladies don't have blogs, so please email me pictures of your garment for the month when you have finished it - my email is

 Sandra from is also joining us.

So, who has developed their plans:

BeaJay -  will be making up a TNT that suits her.


Has raided her stash to make a Woodland Fairy costume from Simplicity 1550:

And look what she has to choose from (great stash!)

Karen -

Karen is drafting her own wrap dress and plans to make it in the following fabric:

Karen -

Is making a pair of lined trousers - the fashion fabric is a chocolate brown wool  This is the pattern she is using:


Is making up a UFO, already cut out, from a Vogue Pattern:

She is using a ponte knit, in colour Ivory.  It should look stunning - I've always loved this pattern so it will be lovely to see made up.

Some of us have finished our official garment for the month - L, Judith, Gaye, and Sarah Liz.

First up: L-

 A really stunning little top:)

Second:  Judith -

Judith made a dress up from Simplicity 2247.

Simplicity 2247.

This is Judith's pretty version:

Third, Sarah Liz -

Made up New Look 6095:

New Look 6095

Sarah Liz

And Gaye - - is giving us a sneak preview of a blouse she has completed - we will have to wait to see the whole garment :)

Gaye's sneak peak...
That's this weeks roundup.

Happy sewing everyone,

Sarah Liz :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fitting New Look 6095.

I'm going to talk about fitting today.  Most of us have read books about fitting - how to fit shoulders, full busts and so on.  These are technical alterations but there is a lot more to fitting than that - you have to think about whether the style is right, whether the pattern is right (there are some patterns that are just not going to work), and how the dress works on you.  You may alter but still find problems - that could be caused by poor posture for instance.  So with fitting you also have to develop an eye and a feel.

New Look 6095 is a simple shift dress with bust darts and back darts.  It has no front darts over the tummy. It is shaped at the side to go in at the waist and curves out over the hips and thighs.  That is what the picture suggests.

Ease is quite generous - 4 inches at the bust, 5 inches at the waist and 4 inches at the hips.  I was not sure what size to use - lots of commercial patterns are quite generous with ease.

Pattern companies design patterns with hips 10 inches larger than the waist and 2 inches less than the bust.  Slightly pear shaped.

I am not pear shaped, but slightly inverted, in that my shoulders are wider than my hips.  Some inverted triangles have large busts, but mine is a A cup - but I do have a protuberant rib cage.  I'm slightly rectangular as well, with bust and hips about the same measurement, and waist larger than 25 inches - 26.5-27 inches.

As the ease was generous, I decided to start with size 10.  This is a starting point.  I know my measurements suggest I have a 12 but, but that means that the garment will be far to big with the neck and far too long.  I've worked out I'm a sort of 6-8 frame with added bits.  Sometimes I use an 8, sometimes a 12 pattern.  And  if I have no idea how the pattern is going to work, I start at an in between size.  Also, I only have size 6-8 hips - too much distortion occurs if I try and mix sizes. 

Size 10  gave me the following look with drag lines and a very baggy zip curve - which was also too low.  The back waist is sitting too low as well.

It took me some time to figure out what to do as some of you already know, with multiple muslins made trying to sort out the baggy area around the zip.  I did normal short waist adjustments, sway back adjustments, straightened the zip area - ant the problem got worse

Eventually I did a standard short waist adjustment of 1 inch - not at just above waist level, but under the arms - and that raised the back curve and put the back waist where it should be - albeit still creating a kyphotic looking curve in the zip.  And the drag lines are still there:

Then the next solution came.  This dress is meant to be a loose shift - hence the ease.  That ease is there for a reason.  We tend to want to overfit and overshape - but some garments are not designed for that.  Shifts are a case in point.  The shaping for this dress can only come from the sides and a bit at the back.

The drag lines might have been because there was not enough ease - my bust and waist being larger than the pattern suggest, my hips smaller.

I added the missing ease to the bust and waist.  I could take the hips in to a size 8 but I have learnt that leads to a set of distortions as well.

The drag lines disappeared.

 Natalie Bray's book "Pattern Cutting", fifth edition, is a highly technical book that discusses fitting as both an art and a science.   It really is not an easy read, but has a lot of principles in it:

I have a photo taken from the book that  illustrates quite clearly what overshaping means.  I think the pattern may have learnt that way - and my inverted proportions made it worse.

Page 32, Natalie Bray, Dress Pattern Designing, fifth edition.

Unfortunately today I have a lot of interruptions, so photography was on the run - hence the crookedness.  Still, I am sure the information is what interests you, not my skills in photographic presentation.  I decided not to trim the text out, because I decided you might find it interesting.

You can see quite clearly here the drag lines caused by overshaping into the waist. Many fitting books I have read - developed for the home sewing market - suggest that folds are due to to much fabric or too little fabric - but that is not always the case.


A reader sent me an email asking me how I knew what to do with fitting as she has difficulties in this area.

Fitting is both a science and an art.  Flat patternmaking is relatively recent - Natalie Bray was the pioneer of flat pattern cutting.  She was an Engineer also highly skilled in dressmaking - I'll write more about here another day.  In the 1920's garments were starting to be mass produced - prior to that, garments were always fitted to the body (we are taking garments made for the rich here - the advent of mass production meant also that ordinary people could also access reasonable clothes at reasonable cost, but I digress).

Moving forward in time, people still use the basics of this flat pattern making.  Many books have been produced for the home sewer advising how to fit.  These are very useful and certainly give me technical tools to make alterations.

But sometimes it comes down to having a good long look and think.  Drag lines come from somewhere.  Conventional fitting books will say that the garment is too tight or too loose across a certain plane.  I took a more engineered perspective and could see it was from a high point of the bust,  to a low point, through the waistline.   So the problem had to be in this area. 

Fitting is time consuming and relies very much on eye.  I believe in trying anything new but I always make a muslin. Muslins allow you to check whether the style suits you - if not, don't make it.  Muslins allow you to alter areas that don't please you - in my case I altered the neckline and the shoulder line.

I think that will do for today - but I want to close with this idea - if you are curvy - don't use a minimally shaped dress like this for a shift, but use a princess line - that way you will have the seams that allow more shaping and fitting.  I'm a great believer in the princess line for curvier ladies - and that includes larger busts, hourglass figures, and pear shaped figures.

It's hard to teach people how to fit on the internet - but what I will do is talk about fitting more with garments I make. I'm making a dress later in the year and I will go through all the steps of fitting that with you.

One comment on my blog suggested maybe I needed to do a FBA.  This was not needed for a number of reasons - I don't have a full bust and it would have made for far too much fabric around the hips.  I do sometimes add extra at the bust - especially for jackets with two piece sleeves, but often find just a little extra on the sides works - I'm straightish through the sides, so this is the best place for me.
From Australian Stitches, not sure which issue.

As you can see, I did not need extra around the tummy of that dress - it was already loose, and I get narrower around my hips, not wider like a pair.

Happy sewing,

Sarah Liz