Thursday, September 29, 2011


This last weekend I attended Vogue's knitting LIVE which is a convention for knitters.  I always thought my first convention or workshop or other gathering would be a sewing one, but when my Mom mentioned that she was going to this knitting convention in LA, and I could join her if I liked, I decided to give it a try.  To be honest, I would have probably paid money to attend a slug eating convention if it meant a day or two's break from the kiddos, so the knitting thing was a plus.

I had so much more fun than I thought I would have-- I immediately enjoyed the camaraderie with my fellow knitters, and I gave over to complete knitting geekdom.  Is it true that there were a lot of women who were wearing knitted things that I most likely wouldn't be caught dead in?  Yes, but I have to admit, they were very skillfully knitted, and I appreciate talent in any form.

I signed myself up for two classes and a lecture-- Fair Isle knitting, Continental knitting, and whatever lecture my mom was attending which turned out to be Nicky Epstein talking about her career as a knit work designer.

Fair Isle Knitting was taught by the cutest and most adorable woman-- Mary Jane Mucklestone, who, from what I gathered, travels extensively to the Shetland islands to learn/do/teach fair isle knitting.  What's this?  I've always loved Scandinavian fair isle knitting, and anything Scottish, and now I realize that the two are basically merged together in the Shetland islands?  What a coincidence.  If it weren't for my raging American personality, I'd swear that I was born in the wrong country.  Maybe I should have been born sewing kilts and knitting fair isle and celtic knots?  Or maybe my Scandinavian/Scottish ancestry is more powerful than I thought?  I digress, but it is interesting isn't it?  That I would come to love these things separately and then realize they are all connected? I mean it's not as if I fell in love with African color weaving or Mongolian clothing, I'm just saying.

Anyway, back to the class--  I loved it, and fell into a rhythm right away.  I've always wanted to try fair isle, but I was always so intimidated by all of those colors and intricate patterns.  I'm excited to say that I am no longer intimidated and can't wait to give it a try-- in 100% Shetland wool of course.  Want to see what I made?

 Just a few of the motifs designed by Mary Jane and featured in her new book*

 The back side of fair isle

My fair isle sampler/ wrist warmer

I went for a very Scandinavian red/white color combo, and it turned out so well, I think I'll make another to match it.  I started at the hand end with a very simple diced pattern, and worked my way up to the flower pattern.  It was a little more challenging toward the end, and there were times I lost my way, but I figured it out.  One piece of advice was to mark every so often at the end of a pattern repeat so that you can keep yourself on track. Another thing I need to work on is holding the yarn looser on the back so that the work doesn't pucker.

Continental knitting-- this is knitting while holding the yarn in your left hand as opposed to holding it in your right hand and "throwing" the yarn over the needles.  I have always wanted to learn this because I have heard that it is faster, and I am a hopelessly slow knitter.  Also, it turns out, because you make less movements, your fingers and arms strain less-- total bonus.  I loved it, I still need some practice though, and my gauge is much looser, but that's fixable.  I've discovered because it is so much looser, I can use it to bind off without getting a tight end.  All in all, very helpful.  Also, with the fair isle, it's helpful to be able to hold the yarns in various combinations of hands.

Nicky Epstein-- Honestly, I had no idea who she was.  In fact, all of the knitters that people were ooh-ing and aah-ing over were people I had never heard of.  But, I did enjoy her presentation, she's created some beautiful designs.  The main thing I got from her lecture was that designers get their yarn for free, and that is why they can use millions of skeins per project without being aware of what that will cost you the home knitter.  And now you know.

There was also a marketplace where you could view and buy the latest in yarn and knitting accessories, this was fun.  One interesting idea I'd like to pursue is knitting with silver wire.  Must remember that one.

Overall, it was a lovely weekend, and it was over way too soon.  I'd like to do the bigger one in NYC someday, anyone want to come with me?

*Mary Jane's new book is called 200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory, and will be released for sale on Nov. 29th (I was lucky enough to score a copy at the convention thanks to my mother and her keen sense of early-bird-gets-the-worm buying.  Also, she had it signed for me since I couldn't be there, and Mary Jane may or may not have called me her best student in the inscription...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

ice cream dress (finished)

I started this adorable little dress last summer, cut it all out and did the pockets on the front panel, and then started statistics.  Yeah-- statistics pretty much took over my life, and then the holidays and then my other classes that required I sew lots of other things, and then the move....  you get the picture.  It's so nice to finally have this dress done!  I can't tell you how distressing it is to have a halfway finished project hanging around getting pushed aside for months on end.  Not to mention the pressure of finishing it before my only girl grows out of it.  And it was especially laughable after I finished it and realized how easy and fast it went.  I could have finished it in an afternoon at any time.  

She's getting good with the poses, this one in particular reminds me a little of the Dior New Look pose (and she did it all on her own):

 Apparently this dress also works with skateboarding

The front yoke detail 

 The back-- covered button looks like one of the polka dots.

This shows the boxy shape of the dress, and I love how the sleeves are partly made from the skirt.

Normally, when I do my seam finishing, I opt for serging it because it is durable and fast, but I was too lazy to thread my serger, and I wasn't sure how long this dress would fit anyway so I decided to use pinking shears.  I've never done pinked seam finishing, so I'm very curious to see how it holds up in the wash and wear and tear (hm.. I really should have taken a picture of that.  Sorry.).  The gathering isn't perfect-- gathering and I butt heads a little bit, but all in all, I'm very happy with this dress.  So adorable!


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Striped Knit Skirt (finished)

Wow-- my hair is getting loooong!  And check out those palm trees!  Ah, California.

This is one of the skirts that I made in protest to moving at the beginning of August.  I really like it, but I'm going to need to fix it a bit.  You see, I had this idea to make a skirt that was self-lined by folding over the fabric at the hemline, which is lovely except that I wasn't sure how to make it curvier so I cut a straight rectangle instead-- telling myself that it would forgive a bit since it is knit.  Somewhere in Provo, my sewing professor is dying a tiny bit inside and most likely shaking her head at my sewing obstinacy.  I can hear her saying Ali, you are not a brick, you have curves!

Ok, ok, I hear you.  I promise to make it better and to resist the urge to do it again.  The waist is a little bit too big too because I didn't allow for enough negative ease, something I'm still learning with knits-- it's funsies because each knit stretches a unique amount so there isn't really one amount of negative ease to employ-- you kind of have to guess and experiment (if I am wrong, please feel free to correct me).

But-- I love the folded over effect, and I have plans to do it again real soon (I'm aware that I'm blatantly ignoring the rules of grammar-- and my awareness makes it ok, right?).  And then when I'm done fixing this one, I'll post it again with details.  Wow-- two sentences beginning with prepositions! I'm definitely developing some problem solving skills in my sewing that's for sure.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Alright-- so the movers come on Monday to start packing us up for our move to California (did you know we are moving?) and I am still sewing.

I think this is the hardest part about moving for me-- the huge gap of time that I am unable to sew between packing it up and unpacking it and finding the time to start again. I'm really upset about it, and I think that's why I'm still sewing. Call it my little protest. Jon will not be happy when he comes home to an unclean unorganized sewing room, as that was my only job this morning, but I had to finish the skirt I had started a couple of weeks ago (and of course start another one really quickbecauseit'sknitandsewsupreallyfast). I mean what does he expect me to do, put it on hold?? Crazy talk.

Unfortunately I have plenty of things to show you all (the three of you who read my blog), but alas it will have to wait until I am settled in California. Also, I have plenty of good news about my design degree quest-- all forthcoming.

So stick with me, and wish me loads of luck for finishing this second skirt and cleaning my sewing room before Monday, and then I will see you all on the other side of this hideous move wherein all of my stuff gets handled by a perfect stranger in whom we put all of our faith to then deliver it to another state where I have to then find a new spot for it. It's all very invasive. I hate moving.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Father's Day Ties (finished)

Happy Father's Day!

........20 days ago. I always feel a bit sad that I am unable to post these time sensitive projects before the event so that someone can possibly get an idea of what to give (I myself struggle with this), but I'm also so worried that that'll be the day the recipient of the gift will choose to check my blog. So consider this an advance on an idea for next year, and maybe if you start now you'll have them finished the night before. Haha-- that's a little joke at the expense of hand sewing. Those of you who know me should know that I'm a bit of a procrastinator, and I spent many a wee early morning hour finishing these up.

The fabric I chose is L: Dupioni Silk and R: Silk twill weave. It occurred to me, as I was beginning these ties, that ties are completely non-functional. Essentially, ties are showing off good fabric. That's all that's going on here, and in light of that, one must pick the very best fabric available. Yes, that brings the price up, but when you consider that you are making a tie that would otherwise sell for 100 dollars or more retail, 30$ doesn't seem too terrible for the 7/8 of a yard required for one tie. Yes you read that right-- good fabric is expensive!

I have to say, these were fun to make, but very time consuming. I think the hardest part was my thread on the gray striped tie kept knotting and twisting. I think I spent more time dealing with the thread then actually sewing with it. Part of that was the fabric, it was stiff and grippy and liked to tug at the thread. Part of that was my stubborn need to have it all done with one long piece of thread. Bad habit though-- I really must quit that and use smaller more manageable lengths.

Well, I dare say (sorry, I've been watching a lot of BBC period dramas lately, so you'll have to put up with the odd British phrase like "dare say") that my father and the father of my children liked their ties very much, and one guy at church even came up to me and told me that my husband's tie is so nice he would even buy it if he saw it in a store. I think that's a compliment... I should have asked him which store.

Loads of fun though-- I think that with just about everything I make, I tell myself that I should make a whole lot of them and sell them, but afterward I'm just so anxious to get on to something new that I never come back to the idea. Maybe some day I'll work that out and become a tie maker.

Pattern: McCall's 2447 (also the same pattern used for men's dress shirt)
Fabric: 100% Silk Dupioni (gray striped) and 100% Silk Twill (pattern)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Knit Hopscotch Dress (finished)

This dress is another project from my swimwear & knits course. I love how it turned out! I made it from this interlock knit that is so very soft, you could use it for pajamas. This was very fun and fast to make, I definitely want to make this again.

Happily, the pattern offers different variations in length of sleeve and also a shirt variation. I could seriously make Greta a ton of different pieces using this pattern.

The one thing I struggle with is the twin needle hemming situation. The bobbin thread pulls too tight and it creates a bit of a ridge. I decided to try it with a looser bobbin tension (on my grey knit shirt), and I was able to eliminate the ridge for the most part, but at the expense of even stitch tension. Oh well.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Knit Shirt (finished)

This is one of the projects for my swimwear & knits course, I think it turned out well. Knits are both tricky and easy: easy because you just whip them through the serger, but tricky because you need to use a few secret tips to get it to look halfway decent (so it doesn't look homemade).

All in all I'm fairly happy with it, aside from a few fitting issues. I was being a bit lazy about fitting because I figured knits are forgiving (they are), and I was on a bit of a deadline and anxious to start my Father's Day gifts (forthcoming).

I do love sewing with knits though, I plan to do much more!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Men's Dress Shirt (finished)

Jon is very good with the GQ poses isn't he?

This is the very first time I have ever attempted to make anything for a man. It was loads of fun. Huge amount of work though! If anyone ever wants to know why men's shirts cost so much, just try making one. Trust me, by the end of the process, you'll be happy you can get them so inexpensively.

I bought this fabric from Yellow Bird Fabrics in Salt Lake City, and I was told that it was a runoff of Jcrew shirting fabric. Cool!

I should have taken a close-up of the plackets, because I'm very proud that I matched the stripes... you'll just have to trust me.

Here's the pocket and button band, check out the stripe matching!

FYI-- collars are very hard and labor intensive. I'm a little bummed that I couldn't get a sharper point, but my professor and I worked on it, and this was the best we could do.

We learned and used a lot of industry standard methods on this shirt, and I feel like I know so much more about clothing construction in general now.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Zip Hoodie (finished)

Doesn't Zip Hoodie sound like a name some looney celebrity would give his or her child?


Here is my very first BYU-under-professor-supervision project. It was supposed to be a fleece hoodie, but for some reason I was feeling nonconformist and decided to ask for special permission to use french terry (also a stable knit, meaning it is technically knit, but doesn't stretch much). I like french terry, but what was I thinking buying this color?? Someone want to take a stab at that one? Because I'm at a loss. What a horrid color choice.

Moving on. I think I did a pretty good job, but there are a few things I'm not terribly happy about. One of them is the size-- I'm not sure I can adequately describe the amount of second guessing and indecision that can happen when you are suddenly in control of your clothes (especially when you have a professor, a Teacher's Assistant, and 20 or so others weighing in), but I agonized on how tight to make this. We decided that I didn't want it to be skin tight (did I?) and also that I'd be wearing it over other clothing. Then, when I tried it on for my professor, she said, "oh what a cute slouchy jacket!" Slouchy? I didn't think that was the look I was going for, so I went to the mirror and pinched the back together taking out an inch or two. Yeah-- that was much better. Also, the sleeves were too long, so I decided to do a cool technique and sew pleats in the sleeves. I love how it turned out, but somehow one ended up shorter than the other (it must be my arms because I swear I measured the heck out of it).

So to be truly happy with this, I'd have to take out a chunk of the bodice and refit the short sleeve, but I'm too busy now with other things.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Have to Brag....

About a friend of mine. I've been following her blog for a while now, and have watched every step of the way as she has mostly hand sewn a full outfit from the 18th century. Yes you read that right, hand sewn.

Pop over and take a look-- it is absolutely amazing. Lest any of you be unaware, an outfit like this has about a million pieces to it, and each of hers are impeccable. She has embroidered pockets that are meant to stay under the skirt for crying out loud! Click around to her different posts about it, and you'll be amazed. The girl's got skills.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Bit of Beadwork (finished)

Any of you that follow Glee will probably recall the sweater clips that Emma Pilsbury wears that are a throwback to the fifties, well, I immediately fell in love with them and went on etsy to purchase some. Unfortunately, all the ones available featured low quality glass or plastic beads. Um, no thanks. I prefer semiprecious stones because I'm a snob. Plus they are so incredibly easy to make, and I wanted to personalize mine.

Beadwork and jewelry making is so much fun and so easy. And I have to say that shopping for the supplies is equally as fun. I kind of feel like a cross between Rosie the Riveter and a regular crafter. I get to use all of these specific tools and work with silver.

For this sweater clip, I decided on olive jade and little peridot beads as separators. On the ends, I had a strong desire to not copy the one I saw on etsy that featured scrabble tiles even though I think that is a really cute idea. Instead, I picked two of the same (I think Taiwanese) coins and glued them to the clips one "heads" up and one "tails" up. I actually use this quite a lot, more than I thought I would. It turns out that sweater clips are not only very cute, but also completely practical.

Next on the docket-- Crochet markers (above) and knitting markers (below). I made these for my mother for Christmas this year. These are laughably easy to make, but are very impressive looking especially when you use semiprecious stones. The stones above are citrine and coral, and I can't remember what the ones below are-- leave a comment if you must know and I'll get off my lazy hind end and go look it up-- otherwise I'm staying right here. You might think the ones above look like earrings, and that is because I used earring hoops, so it's kinda like getting two things for the price of one.

I really need to make some of these for myself. After making these, plastic markers just don't cut it anymore.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Little Girl's Dress (finished)

I think my Mom has a million pictures of me doing this exact same pose. Look out world, here comes another "Ali." Alright. So, this is the last project of my winter semester sewing class, a little girl's dress with a gathered skirt and flat collar. There can be so many interpretations of that, if you have a higher waistline, it could look like a mid 19th century dress, but I opted for a natural waistline and shot for a more mid 20th century look.

Because I wanted a more contemporary style, you'll notice that there are no bows or sashes or flowers etc. And I used a 1930's style print

First thing a girl does in a new dress is twirl of course.

This pose was entirely Greta's idea. That girl-- if you find her on a future episode of America's Next Top Model, don't bother shooting me because I will have already committed suicide.

And now we come to the inside. The bodice was fully lined, and the skirt was attached using a sandwich seam, and all other seams are french, so the entire thing is enclosed. Also, if you'll notice the hem-- it is 7 1/2" deep, which is an incredibly deep hem. Standard for this type of skirt is about 2-3" but we were informed that deep hems are somewhat luxurious, and also that because she is a growing girl, I'll be able to keep letting it out and fit it to her for many years. Also I just wanted to see what a deep hem looked like. It's pretty cool.

Here's one of the french seam if you can see it, my apologies for being too lazy to get out my macro lens.

Generally, I'm not sure I'd put this much extra detail into a child's garment because they are liable to rip it or spill something on it or get pen ink on it (like today for instance. *sigh*), or eventually grow out of it, and quite frankly it's just not worth it. But it is good practice, and I take solace in the idea that if I can ever get that pen ink out of her dress, she'll be able to wear it for a long time.

I'm not going to bother forwarding you the link to the pattern I used because it wasn't a very good one. For starters, it had only 1/4" for a seam allowance, and I had to increase them all myself. Not fun. On top of that, the instructions were poor. All in all, I'd suggest you find another pattern to use if you want-- for example one produced by a reputable pattern company.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Springtime Update

My life has pretty much been consumed by school lo these past many months, and sometime during fall semester statistics, I decided that I was finished putting off my fun classes, so I enrolled in an intermediate sewing class for winter.

I've been sewing as long as I can remember, so I kinda thought there wouldn't be much for me to learn in this particular class. Boy was I wrong. I mostly learned the correct ways to do the things I had been doing, and also a slew of brand new skills. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The projects we made were not necessarily things I had been dying to make though, and that was a challenge, but I ended up learning so much that I don't regret it.

I made a zip-up hoodie for myself, a man's dress shirt for my husband, and a dress for my daughter. Pictures and posts for these are a comin' I promise. In fact, I've been wanting to post these, but the weather here has been so foul that there haven't been many opportunities for outdoor photo sessions. Anyway, all in all, it was a fantastic class (I got an A- by the way. I don't know why I'm bragging about my grade, call me egotistical I guess. I suppose it helps though, when I decide to go into the fashion industry, to know that the clothes I design or make for you come from a girl that got good grades and not just passing C's and D's. Other than that, I suppose it's just unholy pride, but at least I'm honest about it right?)

While I was in that class, I discovered the secret under the table, only mentioned in hushed tones in corners of the room classes that BYU offers to those in the know (or in my case, those eavesdropping on conversations between those in the know). Apparently, there are certain special classes offered at special times-- this time was spring semester, and the class was Swimwear/Knits. Did I want the last seat in the class? Oh yes I did.

Now, I am blissfully sewing along in my Swimwear/Knits class, and you know what? *spoiler alert* I love it. First of all, the atmosphere is just plain fun. It's a very full class, and so despite the really well designed classrooms, we are literally working on top of each other. It's kind of like a delightful little sweatshop, in fact, I bet it is similar to what it would have been like to sew with a bunch of other women during the industrial era. We laugh and talk and listen to music and occasionally yell at our projects (ok, that could just be me), and we cheer everyone else on for any small achievement. It's a blast to see what everyone else is making too, I love to see so much creativity.

Sewing on knits is so much fun it feels a bit like I'm cheating on clothing construction. Like I'm having a little fling-- no pressing or ironing, no seam finishing, and it works up so fast. I can't wait to show you all what I've been up to, and I will I promise.

In other news, I've found a cache of vintage and folkwear patterns and pattern companies from which I am thrilled to take part of as soon as I get some more money. I especially love things from the 1930's-- what a beautiful and glamourous decade. It's really a timeless era, the clothing was very flattering. Fabric was high quality and frequently cut on the bias, both things which are very flattering to a woman's body. Things were made to look long and slender, unlike the super curvy look of the 50's, but not boyish like the 20's. Anyway, more on that to come I guarantee.

So, stay tuned, I've really got some fun things to come.