Staff Tips & Tricks: April 2011 Archives
Fair Isle and intarsia are not the only options for adding color to your knit work. Duplicate stitch is another way to add one or several colors to your knitting after it is completed. In fact, duplicate stitch can be the easiest of any of the color work options since there are no bobbins or extra strands to mind. You simply knit your piece and then go back and add in your duplicate stitches in another color. Duplicate stitch is a great way to add just a hint of color or to add a non-repeating design element.
To complete a duplicate stitch of a knit stitch is to
recreate a 'V' or upside down 'V'. Take your threaded tapestry needle and come in from the back at
the bottom of your 'V'. Go back in at the top right of the 'V' and come out on
the top left of the 'V'. Go back through to the back of your work at the bottom
of the 'V'. (or vice versa is you prefer to duplicate the upside 'V' rows instead)
Now, the duplicate stitch for the purl stitch is a little tricky but there is more than one option. If you want a true duplicate stitch than there will be 2 rows of stitching. While the knit stitch creates 'V's the purl side creates 'S's. There are curved bumps (that look like 'n') and concave bumps (that look like 'u'). This is best depicted in pictures rather than words.
To do a single row of purl, use a loose backward embroidery stitch. This will easily mimic one row of purl stitches should you not want the double row look.
Duplicate stitch is a great way to add a custom or personalized look after the fact or an easier way for you to insert color into a knitted piece. With duplicate stitch there is no need to try out different patterns to get an idea to work. Just knit up the piece and add the color design after.
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A zipper is a zipper unless it is invisible. But that is no longer the case. In fact, I now find invisible zipper easier to insert than regular zippers due to this little tutorial I am going to share. Inserting an invisible zipper used to involve a separate plastic foot that allowed for the curling of the zipper tape and the close placement of the stitches. However, this can all be accomplished with a regular zipper foot and some careful prep work.
First, unpack and layout your invisible zipper on your ironing board and unzip. Place your zipper facedown and press your iron against the zipper teeth until they begin to curl toward the front. Continue to press until your zipper tape is flat with no more curl. Press your zipper tape flat all the way down the zipper to the zipper pull. Don't worry about not being able to press the tape that is blocked by the zipper pull, that is usually hidden by the garment. You can see the difference between the flat tape and the still curled tape in the photo. The tape is pressed flat on the left and untouched, un-pressed on the right.
Next (and this is the really easy part) line up and pin and sew your zipper just like a regular zipper. "What! It can't be that simple!" you might say. Oh but it is and you can see why it is actually easier than a regular zipper because you don't need to topstitch after applying the zipper to keep the fabric out of the teeth. The curl that you ironed out comes back when you zip up your zipper and this keeps the fabric away from the teeth. The only real difference between sewing a regular zipper and an invisible zipper is that you are encouraged , Nay- required, to sew as close to the zipper as possible with an invisible zipper. With a regular zipper you must be careful not to get too close (which will make zipping tricky) and not too far away (which will make the zipper too visible). An invisible zipper is also more forgiving should your stitch line not be perfect.
I recommend always sewing your invisible zipper from the top down. If you prefer to always have your fabric on the left of the needle like I do then you might discover extra fabric or zipper at the top or some other mismatch. If you start both sides of the zipper at the top, you are in a better position to match up at the bottom.
Invisible zippers are not only more hidden from the eye but also from the drape of the clothing and from the little rub when placed under the arm (if I wear a dress too long with a regular zipper placed on the side seam, I find a raw area rubbed away at night). I find there is none or less puckering with an invisible zipper in knitwear. I also much prefer the zipper pull; a small thing I know but details are what make me proud to wear my own handmade clothes.
Being a Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross Addict ("Hello, my name is Tara and I am addicted to Weekend Sewing...") and having made the Smocked Dress for my little girl I was over the moon when I stumbled across this hidden gem on the web. The Heather Ross Mendocino Sundress is almost an urban legend with many whispers concerning its existence but few have seen it. There are breadcrumbs to broken links throughout the internet but I have found the direct link and thus made the dress. AND... IT... IS... AMAZING. First, this dress is super fast. You can make it in an afternoon. There are 4 pieces to cut (6 if you want straps) and with the elastic thread the smocking is a piece of cake.
Now for the mods (modifications for you newbies): first, I selected the uber beautiful and dreamy Valori Wells Jenaveve Linen Blend fabric in Pebbles Merlot. Let me mention that this is a cheerful reddish/coral print perfect for spring and summer. This linen (and even more specifically this print) is perfectly paired with this dress. I was more excited to be finished at each stage of construction. There are pockets, glorious pockets! But the pockets that come with the pattern are HUGE so I used the pockets from this dress but you can always just reduce the size of the Mendocino pockets but 10-20% on your copier or at your local copy place. I placed my pockets at 14 in. where the pattern recommends anywhere between 14-18 in. I guess my arms are a little short. I also smocked 8.5 in. where the pattern recommends 6-8 in. I am on the busty side so I wanted to make sure that I was 1) covered and 2) there was some smocking below the bust to nip in the waist a bit to lend a slimmer line. If the dress just goes from bust to billowy bottom then I tend to look bigger than I am. That is why I prefer to make my own smocked dresses and tunics. The store bought dresses/tops do not have enough smocking and it ends up looking frumpy. I also made my straps longer so I could add the cute bow that the little girl Smocked Dress has. I cut 4 strips of 2 by 15 in. The length is just right plus I can tuck them in should I want to go strapless. The hem is a double turned 1.5 in. but I want to make it much shorter so that it sits right at the knee which means I will need to cut off 3-4 in.
Heather Ross Mendocino Sundress Pattern
2 yds of Valori Wells Jenaveve Linen Blend
1 Spool of Elastic Thread
1 Spool of All Purpose Thread
Conclusion: I adore this dress. Heather mentions that this dress offers enough support for you to go braless and I did try it. In the future, I will opt for the bra just because I feel more comfortable with it than without. It does offer great support but I would only recommend it for those A & B cups. You can also just do 2 straps and wear it as a halter neck. Another version would be to cut it very short to wear as a tunic and then you can tuck in the straps to wear as a skirt as well. This is a great standard sundress with lots of possibility. Sexy and casual it can adapt to your days and events as needed. This is a MUST MAKE Dress!
Remember back in November when I first took a stab at a project from Sewing Green by Betz White? Well, I decided to take another go at the Easy, Breezy Skirt for Earth Day. I really like my original skirt but have decided to take the pattern up a notch for Earth Day to inspire our readers with the versatility of the pattern. My first version used a pillowcase, but I wanted more volume for my second try so I decided to use the matching flat sheet that came with the pillowcase. If you don't have a great sheet laying around to cut into you can use1 ½ yds of quilting cotton or 1 yd of 56-60 in. apparel fabric (like our Tropical Hemp fabric).
I had the picture in my head of a hybrid of a Paper-bag Skirt and a Ruffle-topped Skirt. The modifications I added were that I started with 2 rectangles of 25 in. by 26 in. which I cut using the existing hem as suggested by Betz White. When it came to sewing the elastic casing, I folded over the top 5 in. towards the right side and with a 1 in. seam allowance stitched the elastic casing-this created the top ruffle. Before adding the elastic I added a double turn hem to the top of this ruffle.
Because of the added volume and length (I made this skirt longer than my previous), I can make this skirt do double duty as a strapless tunic. It looks amazing with a chunky belt (try my free fabric belt pattern) and jeans.
This is just one way to recreate this great eco-friendly pattern. You can layer 2 or more pillowcases to add more color or texture. You can sew on some knit ruffles to create movement or if you opt for a solid colored sheet (like me) or pillowcase you can add some great embroidery from Sublime Stitching. I recommend purchasing Sewing Green book for your library so you can make your own version of the Easy, Breezy Skirt plus anyof the other 24 great projects.
Sewing Green is a great book to enjoy on Earth Day; not only does Betz White encourage you to work from existing goods but to also grab from your stash. She also highlights other Green Fabric Lovers so this book is full of eco-inspiration. However, should your stash be in need of replenishing, check out our Organic and Eco-friendly fabric section!
Provisional Cast On in Action (sneak peek at April's Project)
Sometimes the cast on is as important as the stitch pattern. Sometimes you need an invisible cast on; sometimes you need to knit from your cast on flawlessly without the tell-tale ridge row that comes from picking up previously knitted stitches. Enter the Provisional Cast On which is an invisible cast on that can be knit from in both directions leaving you with a flawless knitted piece. Most often this cast on is created using waste yarn and working yarn knotted together. You cast on your desired number of stitches and knit on. Once you are ready to pick up your other cast on stitches, you carefully unknot and remove your waste yarn and pick up and knit your stitches. You must be careful because every other stitch from this cast on will be twisted so you must knit it through the back loop. A trifle compared to how useful this cast on is. You can match your cast on to your bind off by picking up the stitches and binding off a second time, so in actuality you have 2 bind offs instead of a cast on and a bind off. You can create mirror images for scarves and other luxury items where perfection is desired. I incorporated this wonderful technique in the upcoming April Free Knitting Pattern Download (so take notes).
However wonderful this cast on it, it can be better. "How could anything so awesome get any better, unless Michael Buble were holding your yarn while you cast on. Surely that is the only way to make it better!" you might exclaim. Alas, no Michael's were employed to make this technique better but only a cable needle. I substituted a flexible cable needle in for the waste yarn. This enables the knitter to forgo unknotting yarn and pick up stitches. When the time comes to knit from your cast on, you need only slide your stitches onto your needle and knit on. It is so simple and wonderfully easy. You can see how I pull it off in this handy video.
Don't forget to tune in later this month for this cast on in action in the April Free Knitting Pattern Download. Yarn used in this blog post was the delicious Lion Brand Recycled Cotton to be featured in this month's pattern as well.
You can catch sneak peeks of upcoming patterns and project by following me on twitter @tdangermiller
Pattern: Simplicity 2443 Cynthia Rowley
I have had my eye on Michael Miller's Interlock Knits Prints for quite some time now but I put off purchasing it for the simple reason that I had already labeled them as "kid prints". Thus without any conscious thought I had mentally removed it from my list and thus out of my shopping cart. But when I needed project ideas for this month's blog theme of "Spring Wardrobe", I gave it a second look and decided that I would help remove the stigma of "Kid Print" from these great, modern knit prints and show their glam/adult side.
Let me start out with a monologue on how gorgeous and totally awesome this fabric is. I have not been this excited while making a dress since Serendipity Monique Dress (and if you will remember this dress gave me a challenge); this dress is even better. The reason I rank this dress so high is because that it is knit. Knit = Fantastic. First, the interlock doesn't curl so it is easy to work with. Second, the print is just plain fun. The polka dot oval shape gave some definition to the waist band which was cut on the stretch. It doesn't just blend in anymore. Third, the fabric is just SOFT and gets softer with a wash or 2. The stretch is just right for this dress and adds more comfort than you would expect from such a tailored dress. I highly recommend an interlock knit for this, or really any spring knit dress pattern.
Now to the modifications that really make the dress super fun. The pattern calls for gathers around the waist but I wanted to add more structure and tailoring to counteract the whimsical nature of the fabric pattern so I opted for pleating around the waistline and it turned out even more fab than I was counting on. To make the pleats I folded each skirt piece in half widthwise and marked the center. I then marked out from the center at 1 in. increments to the edges. Working from the center, take your third mark and fold it toward the center, matching it up with your center mark and pin. This makes one pleat. Repeat for the other side of the center and all the way down toward the edges till you have reached the same measurements as your waist band (I spaced my pleats out 1 in.). I made six 1 in. box pleats and two ½ in. box pleats on each skirt piece to make my skirt pieces match the 15 ½ in. of each waist band piece. I added my ½ in. box pleats on the edges to make up for the difference. I also added a very simple and tailored ruffle at the bottom. It adds some definition to the skirt without drawing too much attention to one area and keeps the dress more tailored and sophisticated than the original pattern. To make this simple ruffle, use the same width measurements as your skirt pieces by 4 in. Mine were 31 by 4 in. pieces. Cut 2 and stitch together at the sides using the same instructions as the skirt pieces and set aside. On your skirt pieces mark a line all the way across the front of your fabric with a washable marker 5 in. above your hem line (or if you are leaving it un-hemmed like me: 5 in. above the bottom). Line up and pin the top of your ruffle with this line and stitch in place using a ¼ to ½ in. seam. Your ruffle will fray just slightly with a few washes and add some texture to your ruffle.
Now for the recommendations: I omitted the pockets in this dress to give it a sleeker look but I will go back and add them just because I love them so much in my previous versions and the pockets don't add that much bulk to justify leaving them out. I did use an invisible zipper but there is enough stretch to opt out of this as well.
I added darts to my bodice bands just under the arms to accommodate gapping due to a larger bust line. The illustration is below to make your own. My darts were ½ in.
I shortened the straps by ½ in. on each piece for a total of 1 in. shorter straps for a bit more modesty since I will be wearing this whilst carrying a 2 yr old and bending over.
This pattern can be tricky when stitching the bands to the bodice but if you clip into the bands around the curves while pinning it makes it a lot easier. I clipped about every ¼ to ½ in around the curves. Sometimes you will have to rip back and re-sew; the dress is such a wardrobe staple that an extra 30 min is worth the time investment. Oh and one last tip: Wash this fabric at least twice. Don't just do it once. Mine shrunk a bit more after the second wash.
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Our closets are not the only areas we get a craving to update; our outdoor spaces may be blooming but could also use a little fabric help. Whether it is vintage chairs that need some paint and new cushion or a chaise that needs a floral box pillow or (like me) you need to bring some color to an outdoor patio; outdoor fabric is a spring necessity. The colors are bright and bold; the prints are big and make a statement. This is all exactly what you need to contend with the show put on by your lawn, garden and competitive neighbors. I think decorating the outdoors is my favorite home dec project because I can use the bright colors and big patterns my brain tries to talk me into everyday of the year and in an afternoon you can make the outdoors inviting to friends and family. Fabric.com's selection of outdoor fabric gets better every year!
My patio area is a covered walkway from my back door to my garage and is a jungle of browns and bland greens. Brown walkway (colored from the red clay), brown fence, brown patio set and green house. It needs something and fast. We have plans for planters but since it is all shade under there I am having trouble deciding on shape plants that can handle the abuse a 2 yr old might decide upon and the sweltering heat of the Georgia summers. Until the happy day where I find my dream plant, I am planting with an outdoor fabric instead. It will bring in all the color I want without needing any water or constant vigilance over little hands and plotting minds.
It takes about 1 yd for every 2 chair cushions so I am working with 3 yds to make 6 cushions. To start you want to measure the area for your cushion. Mine measured 16 x 17 in. I cut my foam to match this size using an electric knife. If you don't have foam left over from another project like I did, you can always score some from at a thrift store by finding outdoor cushion that may be hideous but still in good shape and recover them (or use a pillow form for an extra cozy cushion). I next cut 2 pieces from my fabric 1 in. bigger on each side (this will account for the 1 in. depth of my foam plus a ½ in. seam allowance. So my cutting measurements were 18 x 19 in. With right sides together, I stitched around the sides and front of my cushion, leaving a 6-7 in gap the back open to fit the cushion. After clipping the corners and pressing open the seam allowance on the gap (this makes it easier to hand sew later) I turned my cover right side out. Next, fold you foam in half and slide it into your cover and carefully unfold it until it is snug inside the cover (since my measurements were so close I drew an arrow to make sure I inserted my foam correctly). Hand sew your gap closed.
Now you can add your embellishments. I opted for a nice little bow at a back corner (though I have it in front in the pictures, that was just me a little over excited about how great the cushion turned out). It adds a little whimsy but I don't have to really worry about backsides rubbing it off because it is tucked safely in a back corner. To make the bow cut a length of ribbon 2 the size of your desired finished bow. Fold it in half and stitch the 2 ends together. Place the seam in the back middle of the loop and press it in half. Next, wrap another small length of ribbon around your flattened loop and stitch the 2 ends together in the back and sew to the flattened loop. Once your bow is finished you can hand sew it to your cushion for a pretty flare. You can also add buttons to tuft your cushions (this is a good idea if you go with the pillow forms) or tassels at the corners. To keep your cushions in place you can add ties to the back (about 6 to 8 in. for each) or add some non-slip backing to the bottom of your cushion.
Most of our outdoor fabric blends with many collections so it will be easy to add tablecloths, coordinating pillows and grill covers.Check out our whole Outdoor Fabric Section which includes fabric by motif, patterns and notions. Have fun!
Short Rows are one of my favorite knitting techniques. They are so versatile in their application. Short rows can be used for shawl collars, sock toes, hat brims, bust lines (instead of dart-like increases/decreases), sweater necklines and easing over hips in skirts. The list goes on but using short rows is a bit trickier than listing their applications (though knitting short rows is infinitely more fun than listing). To successfully knit short rows you sort-of need to get out of your head and forget most of what you know about knitting. This is different and, I'm not gonna lie, a little weird. Short rows are extra rows invisibly inserted into a knitted piece to add shape and extra ease, depending on pattern. Short rows can form the toe box of toe-up socks like my Free Autumn Stars Sock Pattern.
Short Rows are formed by wrapping certain stitches and then picking up and knitting those wraps. You start by knitting a number of stitches according to a pattern or, if you are designing your own, according to you stitch count, slip move your yarn in front, slip the next stitch knit wise and then turn your work. With your yarn still in back, slip the slipped stitch back to your right needle and bring your yarn to the front (this forms a wrap around your slipped stitch), then purl back according to pattern. When you have wrapped the needed number of stitches and you are knitting (or purling) back to pick up your wraps and knit the slipped stitches you want to pick up and knit (or purl) the wrap with the stitch making sure you are hiding the wrap on the back side.
Try practicing short rows on your own with some cotton yarn (it is the easiest to rip back)- I used Berroco Linsey. If you are thinking of adding short rows to an existing pattern or your own swatching with short rows will help you determine the best fit and shape for you. Plus it makes for good movie and car knitting.
There is always some point in a knitting pattern that I have realized that I'm missing a stitch from a row below. Usually this is with a substantial pattern will 300 or so sts per row (Murphy's Law and all). Not a piece you relish un-knitting, going back finding/fixing the problem and knitting again. Once you have figured out where the problem is it can be easy to fix an increase or add an increase without a lot of frogging and reknitting. Some increases are easier to fix than others.
YO (Yarn over)- this is an open increase that creates an eyelet. To fix a yarn over you just need to pick up the ladder between 2 stitches and put it on your left needle and knit it. Depending on how many rows down you need you increase to be you pick up the ladder from that row put it on your crochet hook (or 3rd needle, if you like) and fix your stitches back up the correct row.
M1 (Make one)- this is a relatively invisible increase. To add or fix a M1 increase you will pick up the ladder from the desired row just like a YO but you will then twist the loop and the place it on your fixing tool and work back up to your working row.
Kf&b (Knit front & back)- this creates a bar or a purl like stitch that adds a decorative or textural detail good for sleeve increases. Fixing a Kf&b can be tricky but with my video tutorial you will have it down in no time!
One of the main reasons I got into upholstery was to take a break from sewing. I thought that it was all mashing tacks with mallets and tack hammers. I knew it would be a good way to vent frustration. And it is 90% tack mashing but thankfully there is that 10% of sewing. The small bit of sewing is like closure. You spend weeks pounding and yanking on a piece and if that was just the end of it, it would be like a Hollywood Blockbuster ending with a huge fight scene and explosion. The small bits of hand sewing wrap up your project and give me a chance to focus on the details instead of the big picture of pattern matching and yardages. This focus on detail is really gives the finished piece its polish.
One of the secrets to successful upholstery is carefully placed tucks and folds, but tacks alone do not always hold these in place or hold them flat to give a polished look. Often you need some hand sewing to blend these tucks or folds. Or you might need some scrolls, or add a section highlighted by piping, there are many reasons to need hand sewing on your upholstery work. Hand sewing upholstery can be tricky but for the most part it is easy. I prefer to do all of my work with curved upholstery needles. Curved needles are excellent at getting into tight spaces: deep corners, crevices between cushions and awkward lines. Curved needles are pretty slippery, so I often wear a leather thimble to help with grip or you can try a pair of cotton garden gloves (the pattern in Weekend Sewing makes a good fit). Wearing something with a little friction can help your grip on the curved needle. Matching thread is also important, but an exact match is not that big of a deal; most of your stitch will be hidden (Note- I used bright white thread for pictures purposes only).
I hide my knot with my first stitch by coming in backwards. My needle enters about ½ in from the end I am starting at and exits right where I want to start my seam. I recommend using a doubled strand when hand sewing to make your seams strong. If your tuck, fold or fabric pieces are not 100% secured with tacks, you can use T-pins to hold your piece in place while you focus on sewing. I like to take bigger stitches than for clothing or toys, about ¼ in. to ½ in. from one stitch to the next. Applying your stitches is much like adding a blind hem, you just want to catch the edge of your fabric so your tucks or fold lay flat and your stitches stay hidden. Line up your stitches and pull your thread tight after each stitch to make sure your path looks good. You don't need to hold your stitches tight after each but pulling them tight to check each one will help you make tiny adjustments as you go so you don't have to rip out at the end. I also like to hide my end knot in between cushions or behind piping if I can. Always double secure your knots so they won't pull out.Man, that looks so much better!
Check out our great Waverly fabrics here. They are my favorites for recovering vintage furniture
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April is a Spring Wardrobe themed month. I am going to feature several great pieces to add to your Spring Wardrobe that will carry you into summer and can be added to your fall wardrobe as well in layers. My favorite fabric for spring is knit. It is so swingy and flexible. Knits are light enough to layer with leggings and a jacket for brisk mornings and can be glammed up with a sleek clutch and heels for a night out. Knits are excellent travel garments as well and are not prone to wrinkle like wovens. Great knit patterns are also easier to find than ever before and Kwik Sew has many fashionable knit patterns. One of my favorites is the Kwik Sew Knit Pull-Over Dress & Tunic. It has a simple design which makes it a shoe in for easy layering and also customization. You can make several in different colors and prints to really flesh out your closet. The fit is flattering without being clingy.
I learned my lessons from my previous knit dress and measured my pattern pieces before deciding on a size. I was between a medium and a small so I went with medium because I fall on the busty side and I didn't want to have the bodice too tight. I realize now that I should have gone with the small. I didn't take the weight of my knit into account. I prefer the medium weights and this Stretch Cotton Jersey is a bit heavy but the drape is just right. There is also considerable ease in the pattern; I suppose to prevent too tight bodices should you decide on the next size down. The fit is still good and I will not alter the dress. The tank style is very flattering, with a scoop neck that accentuates without revealing. I feel very comfortable as a mom with a toddler wearing this dress around to do my mom-like tasks. I did modify the style of dress and am very pleased with how it turned out. I wanted to display how well this pattern lends itself to modification. While a stylish cut, it is also a blank slate. It reminds me a of a really great t-shirt; you can totally wear it as is and look hot but if you add some embellishments, they will look great too.
For my modifications I added a contrasting knit trim on the neckline and armhole. I also added a scallop edging to the skirt. It was really easy too since I made a hem facing. I measured the width of the skirt piece and made a rectangle 2 in. tall by the same length. Then I chose a plate about 4.5 in. in diameter (you may need one smaller or larger if you choose a different size), there was one in my daughter's tea set. I marked on the back 4 marks each indicating ¼ of the plate. I then lined up the half plate on the fold side of my scallop pattern piece and traced it. I moved the plate over so that I then traced half the plate until I came to the edge where I again traced only ¼ of the plate. Cut out the hem facing. Tape this to the bottom of your skirt pieces before you cut out the skirt and then cut 2 of on the fold from your fabric for the hem facing following the same stretch and grain indicators from the skirt pattern pieces. Sew the skirt as directed in the pattern but instead of hemming, add your hem facing. Stitch your 2 hem facings together at the sides and with right sides together, pin and stitch your hem facing to your skirt. Clip and trim around the scallops before turning and pressing. Finish by stitching your hem facing to your skirt. You can topstitch if desired. This scallop hem really adds a bit of spring to this dress in homage to tulips and Easter. Created in a light color or soft print this dress will make a great Easter dress or tunic. I recommend a jersey or interlock, something with a good bit of stretch and experiment with a muslin to get the fit just right. This is a great wardrobe builder.