I Totally Want a Knitting Machine

A few years ago there was a train wreck of a reality show about a knit bikini designer in LA. All her samples were made on a knitting machine. Until I got a glimpse on that show, I had no idea knitting machines existed. And lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about getting one for myself. But, a few ‘issues’. Only two companies still make metal-bed knitting machines for the home market (which would allow me to do ribbing). One is a newish Chinese company that clones Brother knitting machines and the other is Silver Knitting (Silver Reed/Studio/Singer) which has a long history of machine making. But, after seeing a machine knitting demo today, I think I want a pre-owned Brother with ribber. A new machine is just way out of my budget. Used machines appear to be plentiful on eBay, easy and Craigslist. But, finding one in good working order can be harder. And, I’m not really clear on what they should cost. Especially considering I know *nothing* about how they work. And, they don’t seem as easy to repair as vintage sewing machines. I decided it might be best for me to get a demo from a knitting machine instructor, so I would at least know what I was looking for and what gauge knitting machine (standard or  bulky) I would want. I went to Woolstock north of Baltimore City where the owner, Leslye Solomon, is a machine knitting instructor and author.  photo IMG_20150411_114659352_HDR_zpsn8712bjn.jpg It was a GREAT demo. I mean, I have no idea which gauge machine I want because I liked them both for different reasons. But, the instructor is a big fan of Brother knitting machines (no longer made) and sells the Chinese clone. I feel totally iffy on spending that much money on a new hobby and really iffy on buying a clone.

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Standard gauge with fair isle motif

So, I’m on the hunt for a vintage Brother knitting machine and ribber that actually work (the nearest knitting machine repair shop is two hours from me in Pennsylavania). I’ve got a few online searches set up for one and hope to find a late model Brother and ribber by the end of the year. Gauge? TBD. But, After this demo, I know at least how the machine should work (which I didn’t be fore) and what it should be able to do.

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Bulky gauge with fair isle on the left and sample ‘lace’ and cables on the right

Unlike sewing blogs, machine knitting blogs don’t seem to be as abundant? I’m guessing because machine knitting’s hey dey was in the 80s and before and the women who machine knit aren’t really into blogging? Within my own feed though, I did find four machine knitters, Rachelle at Smoking Needles, Petit Main Sauvage, Kay The Sewing Lawyer and Kathryn from I Made This. Plus, this really interesting article by Karen at Did You Make That? The machines don’t seem to be as popular here on the east coast of the US. But, in the pacific northwest and midwest, business is booming! Plus, in the UK and Europe, there seem to be quite a few machine knitters. I’m assuming the climate has a lot to do with this. There’s also a super active Yahoo group and Facebook group. Great for inspiration photos. I also found a slew of people to follow on Instagram to see their knitting machine work.

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Ribbing along the bottom and stripe sample above

So, what are my machine knitting goals? Pretty modest I think. 1. I’d like to make a couple of scarves a year. I love scarves and manage to lose them more often than I care to admit. Jordan likes scarves too in bright colors but short of cashmere ($$$) good scarves seem hard to find 2. Two sweaters a year would be amazing to me. I LOVE sweaters. I’ve been buying vintage from the 80s sweaters from ebay and the thrift store and trimning them down to size. Why? Because they were actually made of wool instead of cotton or acrylic.

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20 rows in less than three minutes!!

3. A pair of socks every now and then. In winter, I live in wool socks from REI and such. I wear boots most of the winter and would love warm, cute socks. 4. Occasionally, my own knit fabric to do cut and sew projects from. I am able to get great sweater knits at Mood when I go to NY. But, the pilling factor is a gamble. I don’t know how often I would do this. But, it’s nice to know I might have the option of making my own fabric.

Don’t worry. Sewing is still my first love! And, as Amanda pointed out to me yesterday, yarn is expensive.I also muslined my Hot Patterns Cosmopolitan dress over the weekend. I need to raise the neckline another 1.5 inch and shorten the darts. And, I want a slightly less ‘scoop’ to the neck line. So, I’ll do one more version in a poly knit before cutting into my silk jersey.

20150411-DSC_0125 photo 20150411-DSC_0125_zpshp0jhky9.jpg Unfortunately, it’s too low cut to keep as wearable. But, I really ended up liking the scrap fabric combo! And, I could not love this pattern more. So, any other machine knitters out there? Any advice for me?

That Time I Found *Exactly* What I Wanted in the Garment District

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My girl’s trip to Santa Fe was cancelled at the last minute and I decided to go to NY for the day to see the Lauren Bacall exhibit at the Museum at FIT. I was in a chat with Karen and Claudine and they both came in to the City too.

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The exhibit is housed at FIT which also had two other excellent exhibits. One of St. Laurent and Halston’s influence on the 70s style and another on counterfeit and licensed copies in fashion.

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I never thought I’d be into 70s fashion. But, seeing this presentation definitely made me change my mind. I also wanted to fondle every t’ing.

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After seeing the exhibit, I’m totally motivated to make some simple knit shirt dresses. I actually had this in mind over the winter. But, now I see exactly what I want to do.

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Of course, I had to do a little fabric shopping. I bought two of the three things I was looking for and like four things I wasn’t!  But, the one that makes me *the* very happiest is this turquoise silk jersey from Mood.

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It’s 55 inches wide and the perfect color for me to copy this Michael Kors dress seen here on Beyonce. Do you want to jump up and cheer for me? Because, I get giddy just seeing this!!

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I’ll be using the Hot Patterns Cosmopolitan pattern when I get around to making this up. But, I honestly squealed when I found this fabric!! It’s what I’ve been looking for a couple of years now.

And, guess who we found in the Garment District? Lauren of Lladybird! And, by found. I mean: Guess who I messaged on Twitter when I saw she was going to be in New York and asked if she wanted to meet and go shopping together?

IMG_20150319_152328385She is as petite and as southern as I thought she would be. And funny. And, a really specific fabric shopper. I should take lessons. I just start salivating and buy all the things. Also, I came home and told Jordan I wanted a nose ring. Well, I’d been telling him since I left my government job that I wanted a tongue ring and he was (horrified) ADAMANT that it was a terrible idea. I thought the nose ring would put the tongue ring into perspective. But, instead, he just reminded me that I’m ten years past either being acceptable. I’ll just have to stick with crazy colored nail polish as my silent protest of really being a pretty standard issue buppie. Who am I kidding? I almost passed out watching a friend get a belly ring in the 90s.

I feel I also need to explain these photos.

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After I got home, from our last trip, I decided I was going to buy a Selfie Stick. Yes, I know. It’s RIDICULOUS. But, I hate asking people to take my photo when traveling. And, I personally hate looking at other people’s travel photos when they are just of buildings and not of them or of people. And, apparently, it’s rude to ask people to take multiple photos until you’re happy with the one they took. So, I got a selfie stick and thought it was time I used it in the wild. Everyone (but me) felt RIDICULOUS and somewhat horrified that we were using a selfie stick in the middle of Mood. We couldn’t stop laughing at how RIDICULOUS it all was. But, you know what? I got a good photo out of it. Selfie Sticks for Everyone!20150319-IMG_20150319_145221692 photo 20150319-IMG_20150319_145221692_zpscf776116.jpgI couldn’t get this starry blue and brown silk jersey off my mind. I think it would be perfect as one of those 70s style shirt dresses. I may have asked Lauren to look for it when she went back to Mood. And, I may have also called Mood and asked them to send me some. I bought a bunch of other stuff too that I’m too lazy to photograph. And, knowing me, they won’t get sewn until my retirement.

It was an exhausting but fun one day trip into New York. I really need to make myself do this more often.

And now, I leave you with some Mondrian from the Museum

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Coming Down the Pike

I’m not a big fan of posts like this because I hardly ever stick to a plan. But, I thought I would share some projects percolating in my head.

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First, I want to make a spring coat. I love my red rain coat. But, I want something a little sleeker and more refined that works in rain and just plain cool but not cold weather. I’ve had my eye on this Burdastyle 2-2011-125 coat for years (not available for download). Now, I know with my full bust and short neck I’m not ‘supposed’ to wear double breasted. I. Don’t. Give. A. Fig. You can pry my military-inspired clothing off my cold, dead  G-cup body.  I think this will be a nice long project and hope to at least muslin by next weekend.

Second, I need a dress to wear to my dad’s May wedding. Something appropriately bright and cheerful that does not say, “I’m totally wigged out by all of this and I really just want my mom back. ” While it’s a little maternity on me, I really love this polka dot Burda top. I think I want to make the dress version, Burdstyle 5-2010-103 using another polka dot silk in my stash. But, the cream and polka dots might not photograph well and leave me looking like a mid 70s bride in photos.

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I also like this similarly styled dress with a different waist treatment. So, I might make up this Burdastyle 6-2010-106 also in this red, cream, brown and black silk I bought in China dog years ago and take them both. I’m thinking the waist will be less maternity. And, there are darts which might make my FBA easier.

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I’ve also always had a thing for this chiffon wrap dress from Burdastyle 4-2011-134. I attempted it over a year ago but didn’t have enough fabric. I think it’s such a cool look and would be great for a late spring wedding. The main fabric is  cotton silk also from my first trip to China. Obviously, I’dd try to add a little bit of dart for some shaping.

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When we go to the wedding, we’re going to go early and do some beach time. And, I will need a swimsuit. Not a single one I own still fits. Well, it fits, but it’s not pretty, So, I’d like to sew something up. And, probably a caftan too.

Right. That’s like five or six garments. In ten weeks. Obviously, I won’t get them all done. Which is why I hate posts like this and hardly ever stick to a plan :-) Feel free to weigh in on what is the most appropriate or maybe even switching up the print for a better pattern? Looking at these, I’m tempted to sew the wrap dress in the polka dot… #immobilizedbyindecision

Empire Waist, Surplice Green Sweater: Burda 5-2009-103

 photo DSC_0148_zpshqw7nidi.jpg I imagine this is the last cold-weather top left in me before I start some spring sewing. I just CANNOT with winter anymore. Is it me, or as you get older, do you just get totally over cold weather? We had a surprise snow storm over the weekend.  They called for 1 – 3 inches and we ended up getting 7 – 10. The roads were such a mess! We were slipping and sliding all over, got stuck at an intersection and had to leave our car on the side of the road. We ended up taking a bus home (yay for mass transit!) plus a one mile walk. After all that, I STILL didn’t make my 10,000 steps. Grrrr. I’m really over winter. Just four weeks until spring!  photo DSC_0156_zpskajufpxs.jpg I think the greens of this sweater knit sort or looks forward to spring, don’t you?  It’s interesting, I rarely sew green. I love a green nail polish, but think I’ve sewn only two green items. This luscious fabric is from my December 2013 trip to Mood. Anywho, it’s very similar in look as this blue cowl top and this blue sweater dress (Loved that dress. I should have treated the fabric better). But, this knit is the sturdiest of the three with far better recovery. And, as I type this, I just remembered that I can’t remember if I pre-treated before cutting or not. Ugh. I think I didn’t pre-treat and have sewn myself a dry-clean only sweater #RookieMistake  photo 000001764893_zpsxgaoqpx1.jpg I chose this pattern because it combined a wrap top with a fitted waist. Both  features good for a busty hourglass. And I LOVE it.  photo DSC_0158_zps6wca3i4m.jpg I sewed a 40 grading to a 44 at the hip. I also tried taking 1/3 inch off the shoulder seams. I usually take 1/4 inch and think I may stick with that. Sadly, I find the neckline wide for me and had a bunch of photos where you could really see my bra strap — versus the ones here where it’s just peeking. I’ve since altered the pattern adding another 1/2 inch to the neckline on each side. I made a 1.5 inch  FBA on this top and added a bust dart, it’s almost invisible in this sweater knit. I’ve since added to the pattern an additional 1/2 inch under the bust. If there is something I personally can’t stand it’s a bust bifurcated by a seam. It makes me ragey and sad inside.  photo DSC_0161_zpsqajbs9zy.jpg Looking at the made up version from the magazine, it looks like my bust is just eating up all the length in the bust. Maybe what I need it a bigger FBA rather than just throwing some length on to the upper bodice. And, let’s face it. This is too low cut on its own.  I’ve raised the neckline 1/2 inch for my next version.  photo 000001764897_zpschvrm3vr.jpg    photo DSC_0163_zpseys2zy3k.jpgI like how I walked around all day with a massive center part at the back of my head from my twist out. I really need to get a second mirror in the bathroom.  Moving on, as drafted, the pattern already has a center back seam so I made my swayback adjustment at the waist line. I think the darts give awesome shaping.  photo DSC_0129_zpshs3bm7si.jpg I think this would be better on me a few inches longer (becuz I hates my thighs). So, I’ve also altered the pattern to add three inches in length.  photo DSC_0152_zpsva1hos3w.jpg There you have it. A good sweater that I hope will be great the next time I make it. Can’t you see this in spring weight knit with 3/4 sleeves?

Burda 10/2011 #122 / #123: Maxi Knit Wrap Dress

This pattern is also OOP Burda envelope pattern #7187

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I wanted to make a non-winter dress for our nice (read: Valentine’s) dinner out in San Antonio over the holiday weekend. Back in November, I bought a stack of poly knits for $3.99 a yard from Jomar in Philadelphia on our way home from Long Island, NY. I loved this fabric because I figured I could play around with print placement.

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This pattern was made up four different ways in the magazine, a top, dresses with three lengths with two sleeve options. Plus, there’s a gorgeous flounce you can add if you have the right fabric to carry it off. For this dress, I chose #123 for the length, minus the flounce. And #121 for the bell sleeves.  The pattern(s) are available still on Burdastyle. The pattern calls for either a woven or a knit. And, because the print was on the border, I even cut the dress with the stretch going vertically at the front, and horizontally at the back. I would normally never do that (different pieces hanging / stretching differently), but I was stuck on making the print run vertically instead of horizontally  as it was printed.

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I’m normally not a ‘black’ clothing person. But, the print definitely helps keep me interested. Sadly, I didn’t go a great job on the print placement. I think it’s a little jarring the way it worked out. In an ideal world, the print would have had more of a northwest to southeast orientation and maybe a hit of color on the bottom right to balance out the left side. But, I’m glad I tried to do something different with it.

Below might be the view I like best since I was able to wrangle some print on to the bell sleeve hem too.

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I can tell you I really love this pattern for a wrap dress and think it might become my TNT wrap. Why?

1. There are bust darts already!! Easier (for me) to make a FBA (mine was 1.5 inches)

2. There are release darts at the waist. So, there’s is great shaping that doesn’t come from negative fabric ease. Plus, it’s so easy to shove the volume created from your FBA into the waist dart.

3. The pattern is in three lengths. Yes, yes, I know I could just cut or lengthen myself. But, I is lazy.

4. I didn’t have to adjust the ‘V’. So, no awkward cleavage.

5. It already has a centerback seam and darts in the back which only help with my swayback adjustment.

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The pattern calls for an interfaced facing. For this, I followed Ann’s Wrap-A-Palooza lead and added clear elastic to stabilize the front and shoulders. If not for her posts, I’m sure I would have just turned and topstitched instead of cutting a facing. The facing does flip out along the skirt. Could be because facings suck at life or because the skirt is cut off grain. I like to think it’s a combo of the two. Definitely next time I’m going to practice using the binder on my cover stitch and bind the edges.

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I sewed a 40, grading to a 46 at the lower thigh. This dress was exactly what I was looking for in a traveling Valentine’s Weekend. It packed well. It’s good for my body type and think it works for me. There are some issues I see that I hope to fix in my next versions (not mixing fabric direction, pattern twinning) And, I’m curious to sew this in a knit where the stretch goes around the body rather than up and down. Luckily, I have two or three more knits to try this out in.

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Ahhh, Jordan loves nothing better than to spend 20 minutes taking blog photos out in public on our mini break just before heading to a nice dinner. This is me, getting annoyed at him, getting annoyed at me. It’s obviously a vicious cycle.

San Antonio, Texas

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We are back from beautiful, warm and gracious San Antonio, Texas! My parents lived in the San Antonio area (Garden Ridge) some 15 years ago and I remember visiting them many times. But, somehow, I never got a real feel for the area. After spending the long holiday weekend there, I can tell you I love it. First, it was warm an sunny our first day. Second, I can’t remember the last American city I’ve been to that had so much diversity. We kept remarking at different sites at how many times we saw people of different ethnicities socializing together. There was such great American history and culture in San Antonio. We stayed at a fantastic inn in the King William / Southtown neighborhood and were walking distance from the Riverwalk and all the major attractions.

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But, my biggest personal draw to San Antonio was the chance to meet Amanda from Amanda’s Sewing Adventures. She was kind enough to introduce us to real Texas BBQ on our first full day in town. I say ‘introduce’ because there really was a lot to learn :-) Like, did you know brisket can come ‘wet’? Until this trip, I thought brisket was boring and I didn’t know what the big deal was. After this trip, brisket is my jam. Also, from now on, I might try and meet sewing bloggers over local food instead of fabric.

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It’s possible I plan trips around what other sewing bloggers I can meet. If I’m being honest, when we start talking about places to go, I do run through a mental list of ‘Who do I know…’ Sadly, Amanda didn’t bring her recent pink coat so I could take it back to Baltimore with me.

We got rained out of our bike tour of the city and missions on our second day. So, we made up for it by going back out for more BBQ. The Big Bib opened at noon and I kid you not, there was a line 30 people deep when they opened the door.

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My dad was also in San Antonio for the weekend and we got to spend a little time with him before heading back home. It’s good to see him smiling again.

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I naturally took the opportunity of being in Texas to dress like an American Flag.

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Heh.

My last funny about TX is I reserved a hybrid or sub-compact car while we were in San Antonio. When we arrived, they gave us a Toyota 4Runner as it was the smallest car they had available. I guess everything really is bigger in Texas.

But, for real. From now own, President’s Day weekend gets spent in a warmer climate. We came back home to 8 degrees (-13 in Celsius) and snow. I also really like that in the last year I’ve done more traveling in the continental US. Growing up an Army brat we were always taking trips overseas. But, I’ve really come to appreciate all the great places there are in the States you can visit.

Burda 9/2012 #130: Sweater Knit Semi Fail

I first made this September 2012 Burda Style sweater  two years ago in a poly sweater knit (line drawing and pattern description in that post). It was extremely flattering and I got compliments every time I wore it. But, given a few years and the poor quality of the knit, it pilled and got gross. So, I thought I’d recreate it in a wool blend sweater knit I bought in Mood back in December 2013. The pattern is still available for individual download.

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When I first started this project, I thought more than a few times about underlining it with a tricot knit for fabric support. But, I wanted some instant gratification and I didn’t. It’s too bad, because the material has ZERO recovery and stretches any which way you move it. So, it doesn’t hold it’s shape well. Which makes it impossible to get the curve hugging I did from my first version.

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It ends up looking stretched out after just a few wears. I’ve taken it in several times already. But, at the end of this shoot, you can see that it’s stretched out at the hips. I just don’t know how long for this world this top is.

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I love the color, I love that it’s wool and I love a sweater knit. But, the fabric doesn’t have enough recovery to work on a body skimming sweater. I didn’t even bother with the side and sleeve ruching since I knew it wasn’t going to ‘hold’.  Even the hem is wonky. It looks lovely after a press, but one bit of tension and it’s all out of sorts. Plus, I’ve worn it twice and it’s already pilling ::sad trombone::

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This fabric also didn’t take the drape at the neck very well. I might actually lower the front neckline if I make the patter again.

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I did make a swayback adjustment, added darts in my FBA.

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Yet, I gotta give it a solid ‘meh’. Mostly due to fabric choice.

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In exciting news, my friend Liz  and I started a photography class at the local community college. We’ve both always like taking photos. And, when Jordan gifted me a new DSLR at Christmas, I gave my beloved white Pentax k-x to her and we’re taking a class together. So, be prepared to be bored with loads of landscapes and such over the next few months.

Revisiting the La Mia Boutique Sweatshirt Dress

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One of my most worn and beloved garments is my LMB sweatshirt dress from the August 2008 Italian magazine. Such a simple design and concept in a sweatshirt dress. I got compliments every time I wore that dress!  After five years of wear, I thought it was time I made up a new one. Or, two.

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Yes, yes. In my last post I said I was getting back to color. And, yet, here I am again sewing grey and navy. What can I say? I’m currently a sucker for simplicity.

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Like last time, I made the largest size in LMB, a 46 and left off the pockets. Which, makes me think I was sewing clothes way big for me five years ago. Or, I like my clothes a little snugger now? But, this time I added some six centimeters of wearing ease around the thighs and attempted a FBA. Other alterations?

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Well, I tried to add some shaping at the waist. It remains unclear if this worked or not. I also took off my standard 1/4 inch off the shoulders.

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I also shortened the sleeves a good three inches. And, I took about four inches of length off the hem of the original pattern.

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One thing I’ve noticed is I have inconsistent dart placement when I add FBAs to garments.  Sometimes they are SO LOW. In this one, I had to take out my original dart and pin it into the right place. In retrospect, this probably could have been a dartless FBA to keep with the loose fitting silhouette.

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I sewed everything but the darts on my serger. And, if you’re wondering, my ribbing is all local and $1 a pack. That’s right. Stadham Corp here in Baltimore charged me $1 for a pair of cuffs and another $1 for the hem cuffs.

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And now I’m off to work on a Valentine’s Day dress. We’re spending the long weekend in San Antonio, Texas. We debated between there and Cleveland, Ohio. But, based on today’s weather report, it’s already 30 degrees warmer in San Antonio than both Baltimore and Cleveland. So, that was an easy choice.

Ponte Wrap Top: Burda Style 10-2012 #119

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I was so bored making this grey top I almost fell asleep typing the title. Last top was black and grey. This one is like a muddy  grey. I really do prefer grey to black. And, I *like* grey. But, I am a magpie. I gotta sew color.

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I am still on the basics train for hourglass figures.  Wrap tops rank high with items that work. They provide waist definition and a low/ wide neckline. And, I liked that this one from Burda has some length to it (no need to cut me off at the waist) and had darts in the back for shaping. I *think* next time I’ll make it with 3/4 sleeves too.

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I’m trying to build my casual work wardrobe. And, I’ve quickly realized that’s going to mean a lot more separates in my life. I was worried this top would be Burda-low in the front. But, I think it’s actually ok.

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I made a 1.5 inch FBA. For my size, the recommendation would be 2 inches of length and one inch of width. FYI, somehow, I’ve only just discovered this chart for seeing the BWOF design lines. So helpful to know where they put the bust point. Anywho, my original dart was ridiculous. First, it was huge (read 1.5 inch FBA). It was also thick because of the ponte.

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Second, if you look where my finger was pointing, the original dart was way, way way too long and low. “Long and Low” are words you should never use to describe your bust. Not sure if this is a product of a bias, stretch item. Also, they totally point down instead of up (or rather ‘to’ my BP) as you can see below. I’ve already altered to pattern so hopefully the next time will be better.

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I used my coverstitch for the neckline and hems with wool nylon on the lower looper. I reinforced the armhole with my Viseline tape, the neckline and shoulders with bias fusible interfacing. In thin knits I sew with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. But, with a thicker knit you gots to go with 1/2 inch.

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I suspect this fabric is a little thicker than intended. The pattern suggests drapey knit fabrics. But, I was looking for cosy comfy tops to wear to work. I really love how the darts in back give great shaping.

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I took it in quite a bit at the waist to make sure I had some definition. But, I am not big on how the side seams on wrap tops always seem to pull forward a bit.

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I think the back, like in almost every Burda I sew, is a little wide at the neck. I would reccomend a little wedge in the neckline for fit and for me, adding a 1/4 – 1/2 inch at the shoulder neckline so bra straps don’t show.

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I quite like this top. But, it really grew on me.  Originally, I kind of felt like a concrete brick. I think with a looser weave fabric, this will be a real winner. In the meantime, warm and cuter than a sweatshirt.

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Ok. I gotta sew some color.