Why so fabulous?

If you have read my blog for any length of time, it may occur to you to wonder why on earth I use the word fabulous not just once but twice in the title of the blog.

It’s not like I am the kind of person you would associate with the word fabulous. I associate Elton John with the word fabulous, for example – all bling and things you think no one can actually do in real life. What I make must surely be the reverse of that – simple clothes in boring colours are my trademark.

Perhaps internally I am extremely arrogant. Or maybe I just thought it was funny at the time (it used to be the Fabulous E’s Fabulous Blog, but when I got my PhD I changed it to Dr. E, which is just ridiculous). I don’t actually recall why I named the blog the way I did.

Anyway, whatever the reason, it is fabulous to have a fabulous blog, if in name only. I now bestow this fabulousness on all my fabulous readers: go out and make fabulous things! For me!

Autumn 15 6PAC 1 – Black jeans (Ottobre 5/2014 number 19)

I had a sewing weekend this weekend but a massive headache on Saturday, so I didn’t complete what I wanted to.  But I *did* finish a pair of skinny jeans, from an Ottobre pattern.

Here they are on. Sorry it’s so dark! Stupid black jeans.

I had major misgivings after tracing out the pattern.  I had just finished tracing and fitting a pattern for a work trouser, and the front leg of this pattern was about 10 cm (four inches) narrower than that pattern.  But, I have faith in Ottobre patterns because they do run true to measurement, and I had measured myself carefully before picking the pattern sizes (I graded between waist and hip).

Back view. They are not very wrinkly, except behind the knee. You can’t see anything really though. I blame my photographer, as usual.

I did not make a muslin because different stretch fabrics behave so differently.  This pattern called for a stretch velvet with 10% stretch.  I had a stretch denim with 10% stretch, so I was also pretty confident that I had the right sort of fabric for the pattern.  Still that front leg was very worrying.  I cut 2 inch plus seam allowances on all the side seams, and marked the seamlines with chalk.  I then basted them together (apart from the waistband) and tried to put them on.  They were more like tights, and I wasn’t able to get them up all the way.  I thought, well, I’ll do this in increments.  I added just 1/4″ to each side seam – i.e. 1″ all around on each leg.  My weight is in my legs, so even a pattern of the “right” size hip might not fit my legs, so I didn’t blame the pattern for this.  To my surprise, after re-basting this outer seam, the jeans went on fine!  But they didn’t hang right, and this was because the back waist was much too big, and also pulled down.  I extended the yoke vertically (I was prepared for this too, as a slash and spread at the yoke seam is a type of alteration I sometimes need to make), and narrowed the waist from the top of the yoke to just below the yoke seam with the jeans backs).  Then I narrowed the back waistband correspondingly (about 2 1/2 inches), and added the waistband.  That in turn to come in at the top, so I cut a second back waistband with more of a curve, and curved in the side seams.  Finally, I narrowed the leg below the knee back to the original width.  Fitting done.  They are still tight, which I think is faithful to the original pattern, but they are quite comfortable to wear.

Other back view. There’s a bit of embroidery on the back pocket, but you can’t see it, of course. There is also fun facing in the pockets and on the waistband. Time for me to take some detail shots.  Doesn’t the featherweight make nice topstitches though?

As usual, Ottobre instructions are clear and I had no trouble sewing up the jeans (apart from the headache). I set up my Featherweight to be an extra topstitching machine.  I timed myself also, at least in parts, and it was about two hours of pattern tracing, cutting, basting, and fitting, and five hours of construction.  A bit of hand embroidery included in that also.

And they are comfortable for my daily walk into town along the river.

The Klarälven (Clear River) on my walk into town this morning. I love this river.

Planning a new sweater, and start of sewcation

For a while, I have been planning on making a black cashmere vest this autumn.  I still plan to do so, but I also want to make a pullover.  I’m still new to machine knitting, but I guess my sewing background leads me to not take details like actual patterns into account.  I have a vintage pattern for a raglan pullover that I’m using as a basis.  It’s quite classic, and I like the stitch pattern, but I don’t really like the olive-rust-mustard-avocado colour scheme or the even stripes of the original.

Form Pattern 12
The pattern is from the Form Computer pattern book, pattern 12. Also I don’t want a turtleneck. See what I mean about not being wedded to the pattern?

I made my swatch with merino super wash yarn from Yeoman called “sport”, which comes on a cone, plus three sock-weight yarns that were cluttering up my yarn closet. All the yarns are super wash which makes them easier to handle.

Here’s the swatch, made 40sts by 80 rows high.

Behold its stripy goodness. The background colour is a sort of sky blue, the contras colours (from the bottom) are a denim, navy, and grey. Oh yes, sticking with the colour scheme like a good wardrobe maker!  The pink is just waste yarn.

A short aside on the Form Computer, it is a 1980s style knitting calculator into which you input a program in the form of a long string of numbers.  The programs are adjustable so you can easily alter height, bust size, and sleeve length, and you input the gauge of your fabric in milimetres for 40 sts x 40 rows.  Hence the size of the swatch.  Yep, could have done the swatch differently, like with edge stitches and holes and stuff, but this is the way I did it.  I did 80 rows to get four repeats of the pattern in, and also because since the stitches are slipped, it’s like two rows is one row, almost. 40 rows would have been unnaturally short.  The fabric is thicker than stockinette but still flexible – I think it will be lovely and warm!  It lies flatter than stockinette but still rolls.

OK, so the even stripes of original are not what I want.  I like the trend of having a kind of a striped yoke, and having single stripes of different colours.  I’ve now sketched out a revised stripe scheme:

This is the sort of thing I do on my coffee breaks. It’s not really finished or anything. I just think it’s fun to see how people work.

The next step is to go through the Form programme and make sure I how how many rows are in the raglan parts so I can plan the stripes properly.  Something good to do in the downtime from my sewing.

Because it’s SEWCATION time. Dr Moreau is taking the kids to Stockholm at lunchtime and they won’t be back until Sunday afternoon!  Much sewing goodness on the way!

Sewing as a social activity

One of the main benefits of re-doing my space, I now see, is that I’ve managed to create a social space at the cutting table.  The barstools and the open tabletop are inviting.  You want to come in and sit.

Sewing room in action last night. I am basting together some black jeans at the sewing machine while my daughter is drawing. Except I’m taking the picture so you have to imagine me at the machine. The cutting table needs its own light, though.

What this means in practice is that both children have been in to play in the room, and for the past several nights my daughter has left the warmth of the TV to come and do her homework and draw with me while I sew.  So, good parenting, relationship-building, and extra sewing time.  Can’t beat that with a stick.

Is your sewing area social?

New ironing board covers – sewing room improvements

Continuing on September’s theme of sewing room improvements, I decided to re-cover my ironing boards.  This was not in any way hard, and is very pleasing.  The sleeve board was re-covered by the stretch-and-staple method, the large board I cut the cover, edged with bias tape, and passed a string through.  I used the previous cover as a pattern, then put it back on the board.  I used some type of padding on the recommendation from the lady at the fabric store, who knows a lot and in whom I have confidence.  But I don’t know what it is, so sorry!  It felt a bit like poly quilt batting, but the outsides were more … firm – not fluffy like batting often is.

Full sized board and matching sleeve board. Both were quite ugly previously. The sleeve board I got for 15kr at a local thrift store. That’s about two US dollars, I think.

I did think about making a padded ironing-and-cutting surface of the cutting table, but I decided that I was happy with my smaller board, and that I used a hard surface all the time to trace. So I stuck with what I am used to.

New sewing room, with pictures!

OK, I’ve decided the room is “done enough” for pictures.  I’m not really a perfectionist, or a decorator, so there are many areas for improvement.  But it’s a lot better than it was.

Welcome in!

View through the door… I think it’s rather inviting.

If you remember, this is what it looked like before:

The old entrance, with mess beyond.

On the right as you enter, the cabinet used to be full of random stuff.  Now it’s a yarn and doll shopping cupboard!

The top three shelves are doll things, then two shelves of yarn, then some pattern magazines, then below the counter, knitting machine extras, like punchcard readers etc, and on the bottom the circular knitting machine, the Bond, and the Featherweight sewing machine are stored in their cases, along with a miscellaneous basket. But when closed, all you can see is the magazines. The yarn on the shelf that is about to spill out is in the process of being wound into stable cakes (see the ball winder on the right of the countertop.

Ahead is the NEW cutting table!

Already there is a bit of muslin on the edge of the table.

It has a “public side” (with bar stools), but it also has a private side!

The lower shelf has two bins of scraps (divided into plain/cotton and novelty/silk bins), plus an extraneous doll cradle; the upper shelves have project bits and other things – actually basically these boxes are empty, there are just a few things in them. You see the unpadded dummy in the background – she’s no use except as decoration currently.

Then under the window is the long long desk with the machines.  Between the cutting table and the desk is a nice feeling sort of “work area”.

The desk fits perfectly between two new chests of drawers for notions. The machines  (sewing machine, serger, coverstitch) are covered with unfinished dishtowels and doilies LOL — highly impractical! Until I sew cases. Or clear these away. Under the sewing bench is a basket full of mending to be done.

Wanna see in the drawers?

These are cutlery organisers, side by side. Things are not super-organised in the drawer. I guess I’ll probably try to rationalise. Some day. The needle book is a cross stitch design I did long ago. It’s pretty, no?

Then going around the room the next thing you see is the bookshelf.

This shelf hasn’t moved, but used to be full of fabric. From the bottom up: knitting books, sewing books, outsized books & iron & boxes I haven’t dealt with; more sewing books; project box & pattern boxes; toy machine, pattern box & small loom. To the right of the bookshelf is the ironing board and fold-up blocking board, to the left is the unconstructed glass cabinet, which will move out of the room.

Next to the bookshelf, between it and the sewing bench, is a closed door.  But if we open the door…

The sewing pantry! The door has the doll closet, plus a bunch of bags I can probably move that hold knitting needles and embroidery hoops. Inside you can see half-widths folded as bolts on the shelves on the left, and silks/linings folded as bolts and then in thirds on the right. The right hand also has most of the knits and the few patchwork fabrics I have. A bin holds interfacings and ribbon at the bottom. Plus a skein winder. Which shouldn’t really be there… And you can see the pattern tissue for the trouser muslin I’m working on hanging on the door inside, too.

Now, continuing around, the room used to look like this. Then I added another knitting machine and it got, um, crowded.

Oh yes, much clutter was seen in this room.

But now, it looks like this – a bit barren still, but nice to work in!

Passap in green, Singer Memo II in brown and cream. The door out is just to the left. I’m standing at the sewing bench taking the picture.

And that’s the end of the photo tour!

So far I can say that I love it and particularly the cutting table – the kids love to sit there and keep me company while I work.  It’s also really easy to use the knitting machines, and they are right next to the power socket, which is handy for the electronics of the Memo II and the Form “Computer” of the Passap.

I hope it was worth the wait to see the pictures!

Sewing room update: The cutting table is go! And miscellaneous miscellany

Today was a huge day because I finally managed to get the cutting table assembled.  My little son is ill, wheezing and feverish, so everything was on hold yesterday except some sorting and reorganising of the cupboards.

Cupboards – well, in addition to the three sewing machines and two knitting machines which are actually out in the room, I have an additional sewing machine and two knitting machines which I want to keep there and easily accessible. (Not including, you know, the BACKUP sewing machine which will be stored elsewhere…)  And experience teaches me that heavy items like machines should be stored close to or on the floor.  I have a nice big cupboard at floor level, which I had earlier filled with yarn. The second shelf of this cupboard also held a zillion random art supplies and old boxes of god-knows-what, and then there were the two upper shelves filled with machine parts and miscellaneous old projects and interfacing and just, you know, stuff.  I have well and truly reached the “miscellaneous” section of the sorting-out.  It’s good to save this section to last.  It sucks your soul because each individual thing in each random box belongs to a different category and has to be placed differently, and if you haven’t sorted anything else out before it’s impossible to know where it goes.  So, where was I?

I took everything out, anyway.  Amongst the things I discovered were many types of interfacing I didn’t know I possessed, a bunch of doll clothes I’d been looking for everywhere, yet more needles (I have SO MANY needles), a whole assortment of tools for cutting linoleum blocks, several drafting and stenciling sets, technical pens, a lot of paint, approximately 100,000 sketchbooks, all unused (why, why?), and you know what? Where does all that stuff come from? Why do I keep it?  It’s a psychological puzzle going through a cupboard like that.

I removed the yarn from the plastic bins at floor level and stacked it on the narrower shelves at eye level.  This is much better in every respect except one: skeins of yarn don’t stack very well, so currently I can imagine the whole shelf emptying out if I pull out the wrong skein.  Fortunately my ball winder makes nice flat stackable cakes, so there will be some winding in my future.  Both children have offered to help.  The ball winder has its own special allure.  I have also felt its pull…

Now the machines and all kinds of associated machine parts are on the deep lower shelves (and some remaining paint, embroidery frames, loom bits, etc) where they protected and out of view but much less likely to kill me if I need to take them out.

Once my husband came back from his trip to Stockholm today, he helped me with the wonderful, beautiful cutting table that is already just about my favourite piece of furniture ever.  It is a joyful day indeed, the Day of the Cutting Table.  But currently the cutting table is completely covered with detritus from the Very Last Box of the stuff I packed in Philadelphia in 1994 and have moved with me to London and Sweden.  That box is like the cupboard all over again, but in miniature.  It contained so many metal eyelets, and a specialist eyelet setting tool too.  And enough metallic gold gimp to start my own rococo reupholstery studio.  Again, I ask why?  Many of these will be headed for the donation box.  Amongst the good things were some beautiful linen decorative cloths and a giant tin of African beads, which I inherited from my stepmother whose assistant had collected them in Africa and then abandoned them with her.  This is the type of thing you find when you are doing the “miscellaneous” category.  I have no good knee-jerk place for a giant tin of African beads, yet no urge to donate them.

What remains?  Well, there’s always going through all those books to locate the sellable ones.  But outside of that, I realise the knitting machines are in the wrong place so I need to move them around; I need to build the glass cabinet for the dolls (which are currently in a plastic tub), and there’s another storage chest to build.  Oh yeah, and The Cupboard of Miscellany contained a bunch of brackets for shelves.  The shelves themselves are currently in the basement.  So, um, shelves are on the list too.

I leave you with a quote from Borges, who captures exactly the mood of both the Cupboard and the Very Last Box, when he writes of a supposed Chinese encylopaedia: “In its remote pages it is written that the animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.”  (see Borges Analytical Language of John Wilkins).

Things I make, and things I think


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