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More serging going on…

Hello Dear Readers. Where I left you last, I was still feeling iffy with the relationship with my serger. Well, we’re a tiny better off, but I’ve learned to rely on it only for major seams, like shoulders and sides. It does great with woven cottons, and most jersey knits, but mostly when I am using the cutting knife with a 5/8″ seam allowance. It gets tangled and messy when I use a smaller SA. Maybe that means I need to have the cutting knives sharpened? I’m not convinced yet that it’s not user error (me) and my lack of serger  experience. I’m going to give it a bit more time and see how it works out. In the meantime, I’ll have to be happy with serged finished edges for garments and side and shoulder seams.

Remember the pink fabric I used to practice serging? That was a nice lightweight rayon or bamboo jersey knit that I picked up at Michael Levine/The Loft for just a few bucks. I think I got 4 yards of it, and it was a great piece to learn on.  Squid  had asked me to knock off a Brandy Melville drop-waisted dress, and this was the chance to try it.

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Brandy Melville dress – the inspiration

All did not go as smoothly as I had hoped, and I ended up using all of the fabric to practice and learn on.  In the end, Squid got her dress, but there will be no close up shots of the seams. It’s messy, people, and I freely admit it. However, I played around with gathering/ruffling and attaching neck and arm hole binding  with the serger. It’s all about technique, so I have learned. Without further ado, here is the knock off dress.

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Knock off dress – don’t look too closely!

The fabric was super stretchy, and I ended up having to take it in several inches on both sides. Squid has worn it a couple of times so far, once as a beach cover up and the other for a travel day, hence the airport shot. The dress has held up well, all things considered, so I’m generally pleased with it. I did learn a lot from this project so in the end, it was well worth the time and little bit of money I put into it.

In the beginning of August we drove down to Carlsbad for a family vacation. The weekend before our departure, I was lucky enough to spend an entire Saturday sewing like the Tasmanian Devil. I made 2 Mission Maxi dresses, 3 knit pencil skirts (from Mimi G’s free video tutorial), and a Colette Hawthorn dress with fabric I had just purchased at Sew LA’s sale. Here are the 2 Mission Maxi dresses I made.

 

 

 

 

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Mission Maxi Dress made with cotton jersey knit from Girl Charlee

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Mission Maxi dress made with rayon jersey knit from JoAnn’s

The navy blue and white paint splatter print dress is my favorite of all of the Mission Maxis.  Fit, drape and comfort are all perfect. I wore it on a travel day recently to Houston, and a family dinner upon arrival. The dress fared wonderfully, maybe a tiny bit of stretching out but noticeably too much.

My last sewing pieces that I’ll show you today were designed by Squid.  She told me she wanted an Ariana Grande inspired two-piece floral outfit to wear the first day of school.  The first set I made was using some vintage floral jersey knit from my mom’s stash. It was probably 30+ years old and I just had enough for the project.  I googled how to make a circle skirt and that was easy to whip up. For the top, I copied a boat neck crop tank for the pattern. The fabric lacked enough stretch so the top was a dud and I didn’t have enough fabric to make another. Oh well, lesson learned. Really pay attention to the amount of stretch in the fabric, and the amount called for in the pattern.

I let it simmer for a few days, and Squid chose another piece of stash fabric, a medium-weight cotton spandex blend that had plenty of stretch.  I knew before the first attempt that this was the perfect fabric, but she didn’t like the pattern as much at the time.  You can tell from the picture below that it was the perfect marriage of fabric and pattern. She’s really happy with how both pieces turned out, as am I, and she’s wearing it to the first day of school. I’d call that a success.

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Ariana Grande inspired two-piece outfit made with cotton spandex jersey knit from Fabric Mart (I think)

This post has gone on long enough. I am still knitting, but I am facing a knitting deadline so I won’t show any pics of the sweater until it’s done. Keep your fingers and knitting needles crossed for me!

 

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Shawl FO and Serger Almost-Success

Second post! Can you believe it? I won’t say the blog is fully revived but I’m tryin’.

First of all, thanks to all of you who read the last post, are still with me from years ago, and/or left a comment. I do love those comments, and please know that I am so socially awkward that I don’t always know I’m supposed to reply. Oops, guess I will from now on!

On the knitting front, I finished a long-time WIP, the Spearmint Tea shawl with Miss Babs Yummy Sock Yarn in the Biker Chick colorway. While I was at Stitches West, Mehitabel Marie asked me to pick up a skein of Yowza in this colorway for her. When she told me it was black, white and orange, I can’t even describe what was going on in my mind. Suffice it to say I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it knit up in a sample at the booth. Enough so that I had to bring a skein home with me. Here’s what the shawl, dubbed Earl Grey Tea, looks like while blocking.

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Why is she named Earl Grey Tea? The pattern is called Spearmint Tea, but the colors look more like Earl Grey to me. I drink English Breakfast every morning, but Earl Grey sounds a bit classier, don’t you think?

This crescent-shaped shawl was pretty simple to knit, even with the lace. The only parts that tripped me up were 1) flying along without keeping track of my progress and having to rip back inches to put in the garter ridge rows, and 2) not having stitch counts before the lace. As I am wont to do with my knitting, my stitch count was off, so I had to fudge it quite a bit with some thrown in increases here and there. This allowed me to start the lace according to the directions, rather than have to try to figure it out in the middle of the lace repeat. It all worked out in the end and I’m looking forward to having a modeled photo for you in the next post. (I gotta have some kinda hook to get you to come back, right?)

On the sewing front, last weekend I attended Mimi G’s Sewing, Fashion and Style Conference in Downtown LA. It was a wonderful two day event filled with fabric shopping downtown at Michael Levine’s, listening to knowledgeable industry speakers, and meeting tons of other sewists who also blog. I’m realizing that I don’t have the sewing camaraderie with friends, as I do with my knitting friends, and this helped me meet a bunch of friendly, open and experienced sewists. I’ve connected with many on facebook and instagram, joined a couple of online sewing groups, and found a couple of new blogs to follow, Susan from Miss Lulu Sews and Diane from Diane’s Vintage Zest.

With the excitement from the conference, I harnessed my energy into cracking the tough nut that is my serger. I read through my serger books, looked at online serger tutorials, read and reread the serger manual ad nauseam, and watched the Beginning Serger class on Craftsy which I got free for visiting their booth at Stitches West this past year. (I love how my Stitches West experience is still present with me even five months later! I have invested about six hours so far into my friendship with my serger, and it’s juuuuust beginning to pay off. She’s a little fussy but I know that the more time I spend with her, the more rewarding our friendship will become. Here are a couple of proofs of my serger almost-success.

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Basic overlock with woven fabric

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Basic overlock with lightweight jersey knit

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I even figured out how to make gathers! But don’t look at the top very closely. It’s a hot mess.

I’m learning on a drop-waisted dress which Squid has requested. Hopefully, it’ll come out well enough for a photo. Next post, yeah right.

Don’t have a heart attack

I’m baaaaaaaack! Please don’t have a heart attack.  I’ve been crafting a lot lately, knitting of course and a resurgence of sewing. I’ll try not to write too much text and blab on and on, but I wanted to memorialize, or scrapbook if you will, the stuff I’ve been knitting and sewing.

Here’s the most recent.

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It’s a skirt which I just finished this morning. It’s a wearable muslin, if you will.  A wearable muslin is a test sew of a pattern to see what adjustments need to be made to fit better. This is actually the second muslin and it’s much better than the first. And no, I won’t post a picture of the first. Fabric – cute. Fit – not.  The skirt is Simplicity 2226, a learn to sew pattern. I think it’s my first yoke front skirt. Slight gathers in the front and back with a zipper closure in the back.  I was influenced by Zaaberry’s. I have some grey polka dot fabric lined up for the next iteration, maybe with some yellow rick rack on the pockets?

The sweater is Miette. It’s part of The Loopy Ewe’s 3rd annual Camp Loopy knitalong. This is Project #2 of the kal, and I finished it in less than a month.  All of the challenges are held in a one month period.  The yarn is Madelinetosh Tosh DK, one of my all-time favorite yarns, in Molly Ringwald colorway.  I used almost all of 3 skeins.

Let’s hope I can keep the knitting, sewing and blogging mojo going!

 

 

Day 10: London – Part 1

After leaving Oxford and taking the trains and underground, we finally got to our hotel. We were centrally situated near the Tower of London, and although it was a budget property, it was very clean and comfortable. We dined at a small Indian restaurant recommended by the front desk at the hotel, and it turned out to be my favorite meal in all of Britain. The Empress is located on Leman Street, and it was rather empty when we arrived on a Monday evening. After we looked through the extensive menu, Russell, our server, asked what dishes we liked, and recommended dishes that weren’t on the menu, but rather his personal favorites. Lamb curry made with baby mangos, Dhaka Murgh (chicken stuffed with spinach, glazed with honey and cooked in a tomato-based curry), king prawn butterfly, tandoori chicken and chicken tikka. Oh my god, my mouth is watering just thinking about that meal again. After our meal, we had a nice chat about the English football teams, the upcoming Man U v. Chelsea Champions League game, and Tottenham’s and Arsenal’s seasons, all of which I’m sure contributed to a fully satisfying dinner.

The next morning, we headed out bright and early to the Tower of London. We got in right at 9:00 when it opened and toured a la audiophones. We had wanted to take a tour with a Yeoman Garder but those didn’t start until later, and we were eager to be on our way. Two words: C R O W N J E W E L S. Those were awe-inspiring, astounding and amazing. They even impressed Brad, who I think is a rather tough customer. The crowns and sceptres were intricate pieces of art and history combined. Unfortunately, we were banned from taking pictures for security reasons but it actually allowed you to focus on the experience and pieces before you, rather than being distracted with taking pictures. I told Brad that I’d like at least one piece of jewelry like that and he said he’d see what he could do. I’m not holding my breath but it was a nice thought anyway. After the Jewel House, we also toured the Torture Exhibit and the Prisoner Exhibition, toured a recreation of the room where Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned for years, and listened to stories of those few privileged aristocrats and royalty who were executed inside the walls. We spent a nice satisfying 2 hours or so wandering about the Tower of London, appreciating its history and beauty.

Onward with our whirlwind tour, we hopped on the sightseeing double-decker bus and toured the many famous sights, appreciating them from afar: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, Trafalgar Square (we were stuck in a traffic jam in a roundabout there for 45 mins; argh!), Piccadilly Circus, Marble Arch, London Eye, Sherlock Holmes Pub, and National Gallery. We easily could spend nonstop weeks filled with wonderful things to experience, but unfortunately we lacked the luxury of time in this trip.

We then walked through Leicester Square (boarded up for London Olympics 2012 construction. Our London Angel, Helen, thought they were putting in the beach volleyball court there, as it seemed they were getting ready to move the trees), through the Soho area, along Oxford Street, picked up tickets to watch the Queen musical, “We Will Rock You!”, and raced the clock successfully to get to Loop, a London LYS, in Islington, another part of town. Imagine my mad yarn shopping powers being put to test in two minutes time. I emerged successful and happy with a Loop shopping bag and some beautiful indie yarn. Ahhhh, more sweet memories.

With only 30 minutes to spare before the show started, we stumbled upon a Hong Kong noodle house, Noodle Oodle (formerly called Noodle Inn) with a guy making handmade noodles in the window, next to the hanging char siu, roast pork and duck. Be still my heart! We popped in and asked the waitress if she could get us in and out in 30 minutes so we could get to the show on time. Not a problem, she sat us at a table in 3 minutes; we ordered our noodles with char siu or duck and Wes ordered his steamed Shanghai dumplings (the yummy kind with soup that leaks out once you bite into it) which takes 7 minutes longer; and we were slurping down noodle soup within 5 minutes. Delicious home-cooking inspired comfort food in the least expected place! It’s located on Oxford Street just next to the Tottenham Court Road tube station. Cheap, not a fancy place to hang out, but good satisfying food, especially on a cold day.

“We Will Rock You!” was recommended by my sister and her family, who saw the show three years ago, and it was a perfect recommendation for us. We splurged for close-up tickets, and enjoyed the music of Queen, albeit with a rather weak story line. Even so, we loved watching the live singing and dancing performances. Squid was entranced by the female performers, and I could hear Wes laughing at the jokes (Who were Tinky Winky and Dipsy? And why did they say, “Eh oh?” In our family he is known for his great obsession with the Teletubbies, when he was a toddler.) The show ended the with a huge, rousing performance of “We Are the Champions” and I promptly whispered to Brad, “What happened to Bohemian Rhapsody??!!” I’m such a sucker and easy target. That was the encore performance, and the true highlight was when Brian May came out and performed his great guitar solo. We were seated amidst a sea of German high-school age students who mostly seemed to understand the show. However, when they performed Queen’s most famous hit, they seemed a bit bewildered at all of the reaction and singing along from the audience. I’m glad to say we have appropriately musically-educated our kids and instilled a love of Queen well before this trip. We loved the performance, and our kids loved the performance. This is the stuff that memories are made of, and it was a great way to end our first full day of London.

Day 9: Oxford

Brad and I did a day trip through Oxford 21 years ago, and loved it there. When we were deciding on our itinerary for the trip, we were weighing whether we had the time for Oxford or not. On the one hand, an extra day in London could easily be filled with all there is to do there. On the other hand, how could we not expose the kids to an educational institution of higher learning which has gifted the world with wonderful minds? Higher education won out, but we wisely sold it to the kids as seeing Harry Potter sights.

We had all our not-insignificant luggage with us as we alighted from the train, and schlepped it to a hostel which babysat your bags for the day. Walking through the narrow streets of this beautiful older town, we found a great little sandwich shop which made these delicious crusty paninis which were also customizable. We have really enjoyed eating at the small mom-and-pop type of cafes and shops throughout our trip, and this was another, boasting friendly faces behind the counter.

Fortified, we walked back to the train station to hop on the red double-decker sightseeing bus that takes you about the different places, features live commentary and lets you hop on and off. We rode the bus once around the tour and on the second loop, hopped off at Christ Church College. Christ Church is one of the biggest colleges at Oxford, boasting notable alumni including William Penn and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll was his pen name). The Great Hall, also their dining hall, was the inspiration for Hogswart’s dining hall, so we snapped many pictures there. We tried to tour the Bodleian Library, where library scenes for some of the Harry Potter movies were shot, but unfortunately, they were closed. And that was the end of our too short Oxford trip. We still had to hop on the train for the hour ride back to London.

Believe it or not, Oxford is a small enough town where they do not have a yarn store, so sadly, no yarn adventures there. I’m sure I’ll make up for it in London though!

Day 8: Liverpool

It was a nice train ride from Manchester for our day trip to Liverpool. We’ve been enjoying record temps here in the UK. Brad and I got a chuckle, when we read a warning to the public that with these extreme temperatures, babies, small children and pets should not be left in locked vehicles for any amount of time. We’re used to seeing this in our neck of the woods, and especially when the temps hit the 90s, but it was a bit funny to see the warning here too.

Once we arrived in Liverpool, we headed towards the Albert Docks to Beatles Story, their official museum in Liverpool. Of course, not until after a bit of goofing around.

We toured the museum and really enjoyed the exhibits about their start and the start of the British Invasion, and their meteoric rise to fame.

There was a recreation of The Cavern, one of the main Liverpool nightclubs they performed, and there was a great vibe to it. We truly appreciated their musical, songwriting and performing geniuses.


It was a bit ironic that the day we visited, April 10, was the same date that Paul announced the group was splitting up. We didn’t plan it that way; it was just a coincidence.

One very touching exhibit was seeing John Lennon’s piano, … and pictures from his Imagine sessions. I felt these were quite special and touching to see.

I have to admit, I came away from the end of the tour a bit saddened by it. What they shared and created together was wonderfully magical, and I hated seeing it end the way it did. However, that’s part of their history and I just have to accept that peaks wouldn’t be peaks without the valleys. Hearing their music still makes me happy and I’m glad the kids got to appreciate and hopefully understand the Beatles’ significance in the music world.

We rushed off to Anfield Stadium, home of Liverpool Football Club, afterward. While I would have loved a full stadium tour, a’la Old Trafford’s, sadly it was not to be. Their game was scheduled for the next day, so only mini tours are offered the day before matches. Big sigh… We did get to go into the stadium though, sat in The Kop (one end of the stadium) and looked onto the pitch, as well as tour the museum. It was a bit disappointing but it’s nice for me to say that I’ve actually been there.

Wes, the die-hard Man U fan, refused to pose in any of the Liverpool pictures, but I snap a pic of him on the escalator. Escalators have always made him happy, ever since he was a toddler. I guess some things you never grow out of.


I have two bits of sad yarn-related news. The first is that while running about in Liverpool, we ran out of time and I didn’t get a chance to go to the LYS, Purlesque. A missed yarn opportunity is always sad for me. Please sit down for the next one, if you’re faint of heart. Second, while on the train from Edinburgh to Manchester, I worked steadily on a stripey ribbed grey and purple beanie for Wes. Yes, you saw a picture of it on the Edinburgh day. I had purchased new Addi Turbos needles for this project, got through 65% of the hat on the train, and was starting to see the finish line. As we approached the Manchester station, the train was packed like sardines, and I put my knitting bag in my purse, and even tied the string onto the purse strap. You can probably already tell where this is going. Between the jostling of the heavy luggage, the crowds of people closed in about us, and the short 5-10 minute walk to the hotel, I lost the little project bag with Wes’ purple stripey hat and the new needles. I didn’t realize it until much later after we returned from the Old Trafford stadium tour. A few inquiries to the hotel and train station and even a walk back of our route yielded no results. RIP knitting stuff. Sniff, sniff, I’ll miss you! Brad consoled me by suggesting a knitter picked it up and will give it a nice, loving home. Yes, I’ll think of it that way.

Days 6 and 7: Manchester, Manchester United and the Red Army

Way back in 2005, we hosted two lovely British football coaches, Suzanne and Helen, who were coaching soccer in the US for a summer. We had a grand time showing them around our area and loved getting to know them. Fast forward six years to 2011 and our trip to Britain, we were really hoping to see them again. We’re looking forward to meeting up with Helen in London, but unfortunately we won’t be able to see Suzanne. She had booked her grand tour of Asia, and departed on the same day we arrived. We were so sad to have missed her, but she has proven to be our Manchester angel! Suzanne was and still is a huge Manchester United fan, and Wes shared that bond with her back in 2005. Turns out Angel Suzanne was working in the hospitality office at Old Trafford, and completely took care of us, scoring us amazing tickets just 15 rows from the pitch, a wonderful tour of the stadium and museum, programs, souvenirs and discount vouchers for the megastore. Suzanne, whether you’re in Beijing, Xi’an or elsewhere, you’re the T O P S ! ! !

After arriving in Manchester and getting settled in the Arora Manchester Hotel (great property that Suzanne recommended that was just a block off the tram station but still super quiet), we headed off to Old Trafford, home of the Red Army. We arrived about an hour before our scheduled tour and had plenty of time to enjoy the museum. There were great exhibits about the history of the team, the stadium, the horrible Munich plane crash of 1958 which claimed the lives of eight players, and the great footballers of past and present.

If you were to ask Wes his favorite part of the tour, he would say he liked all of it. The rest of us particularly enjoyed sitting in the players’ dressing room (and no, there were no players in it, I’m sad to report), sitting in the players’ seats during games when they’re not on the pitch (that’s the field for you non-footballers), and walking through the players’ tunnel. This stadium, this team, this history, all of it is awe-inspiring and really inspires you to well up with emotion at their greatness. I guess their tourism powers are strong.

I have to stop right now and make an admission. I am a Liverpool fan. (For you Man U fans, go ahead and boo and hiss right now. I’ll wait for you to get it out of your system. Liverpool is Man U’s rival, or at least one of the main ones.) The tour, museum and game – this whole experience – were almost enough to convert me to join the Red Army. Almost.

Welling over with Manchester United pride, we went to the football match vs. Fulham the next day. Fulham was also fun to watch, primarily because they have one of the few successful Americans, Clint Dempsey, playing in the English Premier League. However, I didn’t dare cheer him on as we were right smack in the middle of the Man U fans. In my heart, I cheered on old Clint. Our seats were right by the players’ tunnel, and we got great views of the players coming on and off the pitch. We learned a bit of the Man U songs, and cheered the players on. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience watching these footballers play in person, these athletes which we watch week in and week out do their thing.

We were a little sad that our favorites, Rooney (Who ate all the pies, Fat Boy?), Giggs and Van Der Sar who retires at the end of the year, didn’t play that day, but we were still rewarded with some great action right before our eyes. Berbatov had a nice goal, for which Nani had an amazing assist by dribbling through five guys. For the second goal, Nani drove up the left side, cut in towards goal, juked out the keeper and got past him, and passed it to a wide open Valencia who beautifully headed it in. The end result was 2-0 for Man U, and they earned 3 more points to keep them at the top of the league. There you go, Suzanne; there are your 3 points!

We waited in line for the Megastore before the game, and while it would be madness, the kids wanted to get their jerseys for the game. Wes chose a Giggs jersey (because he already has a Rooney one), and Squid chose a Van Der Sar keeper jersey. No, she’s not a keeper but purple is her favorite color. Makes total sense, right?

I asked Wes what his favorite part of the game was, and do you want to guess his answer? The game. That’s right. It was for all of us too. Thank you, Suzanne, our Man U Angel for making this a dream come true!

Tomorrow, we journey to Liverpool and visit Anfield Stadium and the Beatles museum.