B5986 fabric and style

March 30, 2014

Fabric and style considerations. For sure, B5986 requires a fabric with stretch in both directions. The test garment is really comfortable to wear, as others who have made this pattern have noted. My original hope was to make this in a substantial sweater knit and have a cozy sweater dress for cold weather (snow still on the ground in these parts). But……. there is a large amount of fabric in the garment with no supportive seams. Even with the substantial amount of fabric removed after the test garment, there is still too much for a fabric with body that would weigh down the garment. This means that the best fabric for this garment would be a thin lightweight fabric with excellent recovery. A fabric with a significant amount of lycra. A drapy fabric will also be good for creating the neck folds that form the graceful neckline of the garment. Thin drapy fabric with this shape of garment really says warm weather to me. A thin rayon-lycra knit or a rayon-lycra blended with linen or cotton would be wonderful for summer giving nice body coverage without being hot. So for the time being I’m ignoring the sleeves and concentrating on a sleeveless version. The next consideration is color and pattern. Again the issue is the vast amount of fabric in the dress. In an overall color or pattern this can be overwhelming. A lighter color will show off the folds and drape more but it is tricky to carry off such a look with out giving the appearance of a paint blob (if monochromatic), or a sofa (if patterned). A dark color looks more sedate and also enhances the largen-look, Rick Owens-esque vibe of the pattern, but also risks looking frumpy and weird. If made in a darker fabric, the dress would certainly need shortening to knee length instead of the mid-calf where it currently sits. See what I mean with a montage of a few images from Rick Owens’ Fall 2014 RTW show:

There’s a picture of B5986 in the Vogue fashion show at Pullayup styled with matching color shoes and black leggings which is a nice way to style the garment. Leather/pleather leggings would kick it up a notch and give it the high fashion look.

Talking of styling, this hat on the model in the Rick Owens show featuring a dress with a similar vibe is pretty cool and would not be hard to make. I couldn’t pull it off the hat but I adore the look and am getting to the stage where comfortable neck coverage is a big plus. Rick Owens hat   The pattern photograph has a version of the garment using an uneven striped fabric and there is another version of the dress with this fabric and different pattern placement from the 2014 Puyallup Expo report at http://marcytiltonblog.blogspot.com/.

This looks terrific, regular stripes might look too much like prison garb dressing gown but this bordered striped fabric is very classy. Another version of the dress with a bordered patterned fabric can be seen at this link. Two other bloggers have made this dress with patterned fabric, Stitch Me Up and Communing with Fabric. These versions are gorgeous with fabulous fabric choice, the pattern has has both small elements together with larger areas of variation. The patterned fabric used for these versions is very sophisticated with different elements strewn out over a large area. This type of sophisticated kaleidoscopic patterned fabric, often created with digital printing, is great for garments, and works really well for a dress like this with so much fabric.

Digitally printed fabric is becoming more available to home sewers but still is only really obtainable in a retailer that caters to garment sewers. This type of fabric with its scattered small and large design elements and borders is the very opposite of a neat, tessellated repeat fabric like is so often seen in fabric stores that cater to quilters. If you don’t have such a store locally, especially for those of us that live far away from cities, online is the way to go.

One source that I adore and highly recommend is Elliott Berman Textiles, fabulous fabrics of very high quality with impeccable service and minimal shipping charges.

OK, off to decide on fabric! My ideal would be to find a viscose lycra blend with a faux animal skin pattern (preferable something reptilian like snakeskin). Please let me know if you are aware of the availability of such a fabric!

B5986 hem hack

March 30, 2014

When I last discussed this pattern in this post, I had my first test garment and didn’t like the look of the very different hem lengths between the left and right side of the body.

This is personal preference, the left and right sides of the garment are already different at the hem as they are draped differently.

Length asymmetry in addition to the asymmetric drape is not a good look for me. In the picture below I have outlined this area of the garment in the dashed box; the length asymmetry is significant especially as I am relatively short (5ft 3 in), on a tall person this wouldn’t be such an issue.

flap problem outline


Standing in front of the mirror, I tried a number of ad hoc ways to minimize the length asymmetry. I tried different options folding under the “flap” and attaching to an internal point of the garment in the same vein as the garment construction but didn’t hit on anything satisfactory.

Finally I just marked a line approximately even with the center front around the back of the garment and cut off the fabric. I also eliminated the gathering elastic and took in the center back seam about 2 inches pegging this to about 4 inches at the hem (i.e. 8 inches of hem circumference eliminated –roughly about the extent of the gathering if I had not removed the elastic at the hem).

This gave me a much better look. The hem is not even all the way around which would be impossible to achieve because of the draping but the big pointy flap has been eliminated.

making hem more even B5986

In the picture above the bits of masking tape attached to my garment represent different locations on the pattern, for instance the red tape at the center front midsection represents the location of the front notches.

Another way to visualize the pattern alterations is to take the fabric that is removed and place it on the pattern pieces, the major alteration is to pattern piece 1A.

eliminated fabric

A more detailed schematic for how this alteration relates to the paper pattern is shown below. The new hem line (dotted red line) for pattern piece 2A starts just below F and goes to nothing just before point F on pattern piece 1A. The gathering lines are shown below for reference, along with the new position of the center back seam line.

hem alteration


The next step would be to make another version of the garment in a fabric closer to that I would use for the final garment.

But what fabric to use? Monochromatic? Patterned fabric? How substantial or thin should the fabric be for this project?


Sewers need Ravelry

March 12, 2014

This is just one more example of why sewers NEED Ravelry.

Yesterday I was looking for amigurumi patterns in response to a niece’s request. Bingo I dound one and could instantly purchase and download. Instant gratification and check out this INCREDIBLE toy pattern folks!


(click on photo for link to pattern info)

Ravelry is a perfect example of how independent designers can get an audience and go commercial.

On the other hand the sewing world is stuck in a different mode. I just read about Seamster’s Rose Hip Tights pattern on Communing with Fabric and thought it would be a fun little project. I went over to the website and put the pdf pattern in my cart. Move to checkout and here the whole process goes kaput. No matter how much I wanted to check out and hand over my $$$, the site stubbornly refused giving me the 404 error.

Here’s the screen shot I kept getting, you can see my cart contains the item but that is as far as I was able to get.

need ravelry

It’s obviously a big challenge for a small outfit to set up secure web sales so I’m not surprised by the failure. It’s frustrating when a site doesn’t function. I couldn’t even get the buttons on the header to work and give me the contact info and I tried two different browsers. Plus there is no straightforward method of contacting or reporting the difficulties. Grrr…..

Hopefully this issue will get fixed and the sewing community can go forth and purchase these patterns.

I’m sure I’m not the only person dreaming about the equivalent of Ravelry for the sewing community.

Hats for men winter 2014

March 9, 2014

Following up on the RTW inspiration theme for making your own winter headgear posted  here, I wanted to add a companion post for menswear.

men 2014 winter accessories

Clockwise from top left:

  1. Ben Alder Marled Over-Sized Beanie 100% wool $85
  2. Ben Alder Striped English Beanie 100% wool $75
  3. Paul Smith Striped Pom Pom Beanie wool and angora blend $125
  4. Ben Alder Neck warmer cable knit in a bicolor weave $110 (shown scrunched up and extended)
  5. CA4LA heathered grey rib-knit ridged beanie cotton/acrylic/linen $105

Interestingly compared to the women’s accessories, those for men are significantly less expensive. For example, the brioche knit hat for men (Ben Alder Striped English Beanie) is priced at $75 whereas an equivalent hat for women (Matty. Navy and neon striped ribbed hand-knit beanie) is $175. Some of this price differential must be a result of the yarn (wool versus alpaca). I wonder how the relative contribution of the labor and the raw materials factors into the pricing.

I love the color look on the Paul Smith beanie, a great way to use up left-over bits of yarn. The marled over-size beanie and the neckwarmer are simply 2 or 3 yarns knitted together, one of which looks to be one of those barely spun, slightly knobby yarns like LB collection pure wool.

The welts on purl ridges in the CA4LA beanie would be very simple to knit and have an attractive manly appearance in this design.

I haven’t seen these pieces in person and from the photos can’t figure out the construction of the neckwarmer, if the brim portion is knitted separated and then attached at the top or if there it constitutes some type of casing to scrunch up the garment around the neck.

From examining RTW in shops, I’m guessing that most of these items are knit flat on machine with seams forming the shaping. The oversize beanie could even be a knit tube that is gathered at the top. Making something yourself means you can add an extra touch and make a completely seamless item, incorporating shaping as an integral part of the design and construction.

One other interesting aspect to all of this is the terminology used to describe the knitwear.

What you and I would call “2-color brioche stitch” is “striped rib-knit”. In the arena of menswear, a “cowl” is termed a “neckwarmer”. Descriptive terminology like this is useful to know when searching for RTW inspiration.

B5986 understanding the pattern

March 8, 2014

B5986 has two pattern pieces, one for the left side of the body and one for the right size.

As the pattern pieces are so large, they are supplied divided on separate pieces of paper that one joins together for the final pattern piece (depicted below by the dotted straight line).

outline pattern pieces

When making my muslin test garment, I pieced two pieces of fabric together along the line used for joining the two parts of the pattern piece. The top part was black fabric and the bottom part pink fabric.

in fabric

Getting large pieces of thin jersey knit fabric cut out on grain is quite a challenge as this stuff loves to curl at the edges. I had to resort to taping down the selvedges aligned on my cutting mat.

Once the pieces were cut out, I marked the notches with bits of painters tape and masking tape. Sewing them together was straightforward once the notches were all marked and labeled.

I added the 1/4 inch elastic along the hem edge attaching it with a wide zig-zag stitch. The elastic gathers a length from about 42 inches on the pattern onto about 30 inches of elastic i.e. a gathering ratio of ~0.75.

This is the result which I am showing you in the interest of science:

me B6986

Note that:

  1. I am wearing long jeans underneath, it has been very cold recently and
  2. that the photo shows the bits of tape I used to mark the various notches and pattern landmarks. These marks are invaluable to help me understand how the 2D paper pattern relates to the 3D garment for alterations.

Although it is hard to tell from this picture, the lower part of the dress looks exactly like the published garment photo. This is to say that the hem on the right side of the garment forms a large flap that hangs significantly lower than the edge of the garment on the left side. The conclusion is that the published line drawing of the garment does need alteration to reflect reality as I had previously discussed in this post.

This issue can be seen better in a photo of the garment that was posted by the designer.

flap problem

On MY body, I liked the draping on the left side but the look of the garment at the hem on the right side did not work for me. Too shapeless and hanging too low. This was the problem I had worried about at the before making my trial garment, discussed in this post.

The other major pattern alteration I need to do is shorten the garment. Right now it reaches to mid-calf. I also debated if an how to reduce the “sweep” of the skirt on the pattern to make it suit my frame better. In the end, the pattern alteration I did to change up the hem of the garment addressed this issue enough so it wasn’t a major concern.

Next up: pattern alterations to the skirt of B5986

Knitwear – making it your own?

March 7, 2014

Yesterday, I posted about luxury accessories you could readily make for yourself and acquire the item at a fraction of the cost.

Today is a different story. This garment you could readily make yourself at a generous DK or worsted wool gauge (I’m thinking around 4.0 mm needle size). The shaping is easy i.e. minimal and it would be an interesting knit.

H&M sweater

BUT, and it’s a big but, there is no way you could produce this for the price it is being sold at. This garment, in 100% wool, retails for $49.95.

Knitters know that even the cheapest wool yarn, in the quantity required for this oversized garment, would cost that amount or more (certainly at retail prices), never mind any valuation of the time taken in making the garment. I would really like to see an itemized breakdown for the cost of manufacture of this garment. How is it possible so sell this 100% wool garment at this price?

I’ve never handled the garment in person, only seen it on the internet so I’m guessing here that the wool yarn used in the manufacture may not be the quality to hold up well and be durable. As a knitter you have the choice to customize the garment in size and shape, choose the color and yarn, making it an even lighter and more luxurious item (touch of angora), more durable (touch of nylon and lycra) and more user friendly (superwash wool).

Using the H&M garment as inspiration, there are many wonderful patterns that you could adapt to create an oversized shaped and cabled sweater with asymmetric front and back hems. One pattern that springs to mind is Vivian by Ysolda Teague from the Twist Collective.

Vivian by Ysolda Teague

There are multiple approaches to “making it your own”.

One method, perhaps the ultimate way, is to literally make it yourself. Another approach is to style it yourself. I really like the way the fabulous tznius fashion blogger à la modesty styles this particular garment overlaid on a shirtdress:


This concept is adaptable in general with the idea of a white or pale shirt dress under a baggy sweater (for winter) or pinafore apron dress (for summer) as in this outfit from the Marcy Tilton 2014 Puyallup fashion show:


Winter hat inspiration

March 6, 2014

A month ago, I knit a friend a hat (100% alpaca) thinking that maybe she’d have at most a couple days use out of it. But it is now March and winter still has us in an icy grip.

Every year I like to see the knit RTW hats for design inspiration and a bit of self-congratulatory pat on the back that we can make high-end accessories for ourselves with a fraction of the outlay.

I always like the Eugenia Kim designs that are sold at Barneys.

Eugenia Kim

Clockwise from top left:

  1. Bobbi. Neon yellow chunky wool ribbed turtleneck cowl 100% wool $215
  2. Felix. Cream chunky wool hand-knit skull cap with cat ears 100% wool $165
  3. Andy. Charcoal, black and mustard baby alpaca leopard hand-knit beanie 100% alpaca $215
  4. Jill. Red baby alpaca cabled hand-knit beanie 100% baby alpaca $215
  5. Casey. Black, cream & peach sequin mix crochet mesh beret 100% baby alpaca $135
  6. Matty. Navy and neon pink baby alpaca striped ribbed hand-knit beanie 100% alpaca $175

I cannot figure out the crochet stitch on the crochet mesh beret although the bottom band looks like a simple knit rib. The other designs are pretty obvious, I particularly like the large cable within a cable in the red hat (Jill) and the shaping of the brioche hat (Matty).  The intarsia or is it fair isle hat (Andy) would be (only slightly) tricky to execute but none of these would take too much time to knock off. With the current weather trends, you’ll get a few more weeks to wear them (of course now that I wrote that, it will warm up rapidly…).

Bobbi in particular is a no-brainer beginner project, cast on 48 sts with the appropriate yarn and something like a 10 mm needle size needle. Join (taking care not to twist) and knit circularly in 2 x 2 rib until ready for cast off.

Stores stocking only spring and summer stuff right now? No problem. Right now you can quickly make yourself your very own trendy designer accessory to beat back the lagging end of winter. Chose a vibrant color to boost your mood. Polar vortex will not be the boss of you! Plus a bonus of making your own is that you would never find yourself in the situation faced by this unfortunate fashion victim.

sad story

I leave you with some glamor shots of Eugenia Kim knitwear. You may chose to style your hats differently.

brioche beaniebeaniefashion shot


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