Sewing with Knits and a commercial pattern

A little history.  1860’s was the beginning of tissue patterns in different sizes – made for the home seamstress. Through the years there have been many changes, initially there was no need to include instructions, everyone who was going to use these patterns knew how to sew.  Look at vintage patterns from the 1940’s and sewing instructions are minimal. By the 70’s – 80’s the pattern companies realized that more detailed instruction was necessary, but I’m sure they limited themselves – so as not to make the patterns too cost prohibitive.

It takes a good six months from concept until the pattern is in the stores. The Big Four (McCall’s, Butterick, Vogue and Simplicity) are trying to find that sweet spot between – high fashion and classic form. They don’t want their patterns to be like H&M Stores – full of trendy clothes that change every month.

They do have more leeway than the independents. First of all, a much larger client base and distribution network. So although they do carry basic standard patterns, they can afford to offer more specialized patterns.

Case in point this pattern I made last year.
McCall's 6754A pattern for either a knit top with peplum, or simply lengthened – a dress. How does this differ from the Moneta pattern I just made?  Look closely,  the front bodice is made from 4 pieces, not one – so if you want to work with stripes – you can create the wonderful graphic design you see in example C.

Look at the skirt, not a simple rectangle that is gathered at the waist – rather a circle skirt that has a completely different drape and flair.  Here is my version, a simple red and white stripe,  working hard to match the stripes, I now have a dress you won’t find in the stores. That kind of matching simply isn’t worth it for a simple knit dress.striped knit dressRTW stripped shirtHere is a RTW (ready to wear – store bought) shirt.  At first glance you may say, it’s the same.  But it isn’t. The side section stripes do not match up. The center is one piece with horizontal stripes, not the chevron I achieved.  The one thing that is exactly the same is the circle peplum.P1020460Even the back has the chevron, created by using two pattern pieces. If you look very closely you can see that I didn’t match them perfectly – so don’t stare at it for long!P1020459This fabric is heavier weight as well, it’s amazing the variety of cotton knit jersey fabric out there.

As to the instructions, no they are not as detailed as the Moneta, which is fine. I’m a good enough seamstress and anyone who sews for a while quickly gets to the same level of proficiency. Another wonderful thing is the internet, there are so many You Tube  sewing tutorials available for free. As well as Craftsy classes, Threads Magazine, other publications, books and live sewing classes in stores or adult community centers.

I am very happy to see good independent sewing patterns out there. But I am not willing to criticize the Big Four or dismiss them. As a sewer and knitter, I don’t want to create my own patterns, I am thrilled that others will do that work for me. I will tweak, or change, I know that I am putting my own individual stamp on my handmade clothes, without the need to create a pattern from scratch.

I’m thrilled that the Big Four recognize that putting out complicated difficult patterns is worth their while. I’m sure the simple pattens pay for the cost of these, which is why I don’t feel bad about having a very large collection their patterns and I’m always willing to buy more.

El Dorado Apartments, formally the Hotel Stowell

At my son’s wedding I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely young couple who live downtown. They were very gracious and invited me to come see their apartment in a wonderful old building on Spring St. el_doradoHere is an image from the 1980s’ before the building was renovated. There used to be a blade sign in the middle of the building which is now gone.

El Dorado Apartments, Hotel StowellHere is the renovated exterior, the fire escape was removed, and the platforms became balconies.  On the south side of the building, they broke through, added windows and balconies as well.El DoradoThis building was built in 1913, named for the developer. The beautiful design elements on the exterior are  Art Nouveaux, a style seen more in Europe than in the US. Charlie Chaplin lived there as he was starting his career here in LA.IMG_3378The wonderful designs are molded concrete. The Green is colored bricks. A few years later Gladding McBean would start manufacturing wonderful glazed terra cotta tiles. It’s nice to see what predated that.IMG_3670Last year, the building got this designation.

A resident found this sign and it is now in the lobby. Hotel Stowel signNotice the misspelling of the name, I think they ran out of room for the second L. Fireproof was a big selling point in those days, fires were the biggest hazard to buildings in the early 20th century. Those prices are what one would expect for a nice hotel in those days.

One of the things that made this hotel famous was the lobby. Scan of old lobby in Stowell Here is an old image of the lobby. Below the lobby in the basement there was a cafe as well, a very necessary service to offer guests a place to eat. Both made extensive use of Batchelder Tiles.  To my delight and amazement, there are plans underfoot to turn this into a restaurant. We were able to go take a look.IMG_3686Apparently they are working in conjunction with historians to maintain the correct colors.  You can see two of the pillars are being painted black, they do have some leeway with their design choices. They are building a bar (right side of the photo) and are covering up some of the tiles.Staircase in the Stowell Hotel LobbyIt appears that they are removing the white paint from the bannister, interesting, since in the old photo it looked white. Maybe that is why they are choosing black for the pillars, to match the dark bannisters.IMG_3682Also, cleaning up the woodwork, which I think will be a great improvement.PIIR57eVRge7MewgapqbCAHere are examples of the tiles, both plain and decorative. Batchelder is known for unglazed tiles and often uses these wonderful animals, both real (bird) and mythical (griffin).The top image shows how they have covered all but the decorative tile. It’s covered with drywall – so no tiles are being destroyed.

Batchelder tilesExamples of the floor.  Not all the original floor remains but what does is beautiful.

As for the apartment. It is lovely. My hosts asked it I was surprised that it doesn’t have any historical elements. Not at all. The exterior and the lobby of many buildings are beautiful and made to impress. Once you go into the office areas or hotel rooms – they are standard and pedestrian. The need to impress is only in the public areas. I can say that the apartment was light airy and had storage!  The modern developer did a great job but to be fair, had nothing historic to work with.


Downtown LA, Saturday afternoon.

I was asked to give a tour for a private group on Saturday afternoon. It’s amazing how many more people are out and about compared to the mornings. This also means  that we can’t getting into the Edison building but there are always trade-offs.

Like seeing this in the main rotunda area of the Central Library.IMG_3665Yes, I have my little camera on my, I stopped in the middle of the tour and said – excuse me, I have to get  a picture of this bride and groom. (tour goers also took pictures, but they are expected to do so). Another large wedding party walked in at the same time, my picture was so blurry, I’m not sharing it. I love the whole Art Deco look of this bride.

We ended our tour as we always do in Grand Central Market. The market has been going through major changes in the last year, many of the old run down vendors have not had their leases renewed and many new, young hip places have replace them. I know people who dislike the change, me, I feel change can be a good thing. They still have  many of the old vendors. Vegetable, meat and fish stalls. The ‘dollar’ store in the basement is still there.  They are simply mixing it up with new and improved food options.

One of them is Wexler’s Deli, I’ve known Micah Wexler since he was a kid. Been family friends for years. And I’m proud to say he is doing a great job.Wexker's Deli LAThis is a very small space and yet they manage to smoke meat, fish and brine pickles in house.Wexler's Deli LALove the design on the wall.Micah, at Wexler's DeliHere is the man himself behind the counter.IMG_3698Love the star on the door and the neon sign, which unfortunately didn’t photograph well.

Oh and the food? AMAZING! I bought a corned beef sandwich, a pastrami sandwich (yes Langer’s , you have real competition now in the Pastrami dept.) The pickles, potato salad and and coleslaw were also – perfection.  I restrained myself and didn’t buy a black and white cookie. Next time.

The section, of the market that this stall is in, is the old Homer Laughlin building, designed by none other than my favorite LA architect, John Parkinson.

I for one am really enjoying watching Downtown LA change and develop.

Bragging rights

The LA Times finally published the article about The Modern Quilt Movementla-hm-0531-modern-quilts-pictures-004I’m not quite in the picture I am right behind Craig’s head waiting to show my quilt, the Chuppah Yochanan and I made.  

We did get a mention, if not by name: “Quilters of all ages filled seats and stood around the store’s cutting table to admire group members’ efforts, which included a minimalist design inspired by rush-hour traffic on the 405 and a Jewish wedding chuppah created for two future grooms — a collaboration between one-half of the couple and his future mother-in-law, who often attend guild meetings together.

So there is my two seconds of fame in the media.

Sewing with knits and indie patterns

Having a serger makes sewing with knits a breeze. Wearing a knit dress in the summer is also a breeze.Collette Patterns 1028 MonetaFabric, a simple cotton jersey from Michael Levine. The pattern is Moneta by Collette. In the last 5 years a whole crop of pattern designers have emerged.  The sewing world tends to be all excited about these designers and many sewists will praise them to the moon.  This is a very basic knit dress pattern, I like the collar  treatment so I plunked down $18 for the printed version. That is a lot of money for a pattern, when one can find the Big Four (McCalls, Simplicity, Vogue and Butterick)for sale at about $5.

It states very clearly that this is a beginner pattern, which means tips of the trade about working with knits and very detailed instructions.P1020442I liked the instructions about how to line the bodice with knit lining. I like the result of the clean armhole. There is a link to a how to video on how this is done. Another good tip is using clear elastic to gather knit fabric for the skirt. These tutorials are available for free, so why pay the $18? Because Collette is one of the better indie pattern designers out there, and I’m happy to support their effort. No, I won’t be buying another beginners pattern, but they do have some nice intermediate ones.  My paying full price allows them to offer their videos and tips for free. Collette, MonetaHere it is, an adorable little summer dress.P1020446I like the fit, it is snug, since I have the figure to show off, why not!back of MonetaI’m a little disappointed in the collar. I didn’t pay attention very closely when looking at images online, I thought the points met in center back – didn’t overlap. I have to remind myself, this is a beginners pattern, and overlap is much easier. It is cute but I originally wanted more sophistication.P1020452I do like the way the collar looks from the front. Also, this dress has pockets, something very nice to have in a little casual dress.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the result. Since I have the pattern, I will probably use it again for a version with sleeves.  I highly recommend this for beginner sewists. If you are a moderate to experienced seamstress – it probably isn’t worth the money. Next post I’ll talk about another knit dress I made last year from a McCall’s pattern. I’ll compare the indie to the Big Four patterns.


Have I mentioned how much I love my Juki TL2010Q? The quilting was just so much fun.close up of quiltingHere is the section of the background.  Doing swirls and circles. It just went so smoothly. I used Aurifil thread. Yes, it’s the go to thread for quilters these days and I’m on the band wagon.fmq on my JukiWhen I quilt, things are much more bunched up, but hey, here you can see quilted vs. the unquilted section yet to come.P1020396I used a special quilting  ruler and a special quilting foot to get the straight lines.P1020426I did not switch to the walking foot, two many turns.  I love all the other quilters and crafters with blogs, I learn so much about the different tools out there. This ruler and 1/4″ thick quilting foot really make  a difference. Using quilting gloves helps as well.quilting feet for Juki TL2010qI needed a special quilting foot as well. The one on the right came with the machine, you can see it has a thin narrow  foot that sits on the quilt.  It would just slip under the ruler and that defeats the whole purpose. I paid a lot of money for the foot on the left, simply because it stated that this is for the Juki,  I am being very careful not to use something that might damage the machine.  As you can see, the foot part is 1/4″ thick itself and glides smoothly next to the ruler.P1020415Quilting done! My SIL mentioned that the straight lines reinforce the box-car while the swirls look like smoke.Box-cars on the RailsI bound the quilt with the solids, a nice colorful touch.P1020417Spiderman has place of honor on the back. I put a line of box cars there as well, I actually like how they blend into the background fabric. And of course, the remainder of the train tracks.P1020420Just a close-up of the quilting from the back.

The spray-basting worked! I don’t have creases on either the front or back. I have since learned a few new tricks that I will use on the next quilt I need to baste. Always learning, there is never a point where I can say I know it all.

So it appears the project is done, not quite. I need to make a label as well as do a final wash. I really want to see how pre washing the batting affects the quilt. That will happen very soon.

Linked at Freshly Pieced

More pre-wedding

All the preparation and the wedding is over.  I will be sharing many pictures, this next set is the hours right before the guests arrive and the festivities start. The center piecesHere is how all those flowers ended up. The Dads have a wonderful succulent garden. Three months ago they planted 22 pots, which gave them time to get established. Yoch found these jars at Michaels’ and as you can see, what a great way of marking the table number. Candles wrapped in burlap and rocks, each with a saying or image on them.Place setting cards, rocksEveryone got their own rock with their name and table no.  At the end of the evening most were left behind. They will end up recycled into the landscape  at camp.Proud parentsHere we are in all our finery. No I did not make the dress!  I bought it at a vintage store, Playclothes in Burbank. That stretch of Magnolia Blvd has some excellent stores. I have never seen anything this green! It’s from the 1960s’ and is some kind of polyester. IMG_3645 - Version 2I love the shawl collar and the pin!  Such a simple vintage piece.IMG_3656Last year’s wedding couple already have a baby bump! 20140526-071533Nice thing about having a wedding at camp, who doesn’t love a swing?IMG_3658Grandkids put on their fancy clothes. Aytan didn’t take the bow tie off all evening, Shira lost the flower quickly.image_7Signing the Ketubah, Jewish marriage contract.imageWalking the groom down the aisle. Yes, grandson with Spiderman were part of the procession.image_2Under the ChuppahimageThey are married!image_5

With some of the girlfriends.

We will get professional pictures soon, but I so excited. Had to share what we have right away!

Wedding weekend, the rehearsal dinner

Wedding festivities have begun.  Went out to the venue on Friday to help set up the centerpieces.  I’ll only be able to show those after the wedding, we want this to be a surprise after all. I can say that everything looks wonderful.

Last night was rehearsal/out of town dinner and boy did we have a good time.proud parents Here are most of the parents, Joel and myself, the Dads. (yes they officially adopted Yochanan a few years ago). We are missing his mom, one day of festivities is enough.IMG_3622Yoch didn’t want to wear the groom button (or should I say, massive badge). Joel was able to reuse his Father of the groom hat from last years wedding

IMG_3625 The dads and the grooms.IMG_3623 I am extremely pleased with the dress, love how well it came out. Love wearing it at such a wonderful occasion.IMG_3628 Here we have last years couple, Elk and Mandy with a five month baby bump! Yay!  It’s another boy.IMG_3633You can just see the joy on their faces.

IMG_3635Guests look happy too, even Mickey mouse. Also, you notice that I have my handiwork around the house, it’s not just for show.

And now, onto the wedding itself!

Basting the quilt

It didn’t take long to finish the top.IMG_2375I don’t have a design wall to pin up my quilt. I use the floor, yes a messy floor with the fabrics lying all around.  This way I can see if the distribution of colors is working. As the quilt grows I do have to move out to the living room for more - box cars on the railsBox Cars on the Rails, I think that will be the name of this one. I went outside to photograph in natural light. Hence the shadow of the camera. I have no interest in learning photoshop – I’d rather be sewing, so the shadow stays.Pre-washing cotton battingOver at Mama Loves Quilts Nicole gives a very good tutorial on pre-washing and drying cotton batting. Since I like the idea of a smooth quilt with well defined stitches I gave it a try. Of course I also pre-washed the fabrics. I’m hoping that this will take care of the shrinkage so when I wash the whole quilt – there won’t be too many changes.P1020375Assembling the items for basting. One thing that is missing is the masking tape. It’s there, just not in the picture.taping the battingThere are quite a few quilters out there who have posted about this kind of basting. I’m not sure I like doing this for a large quilt. One of my big problems was that the batting got heavy and pulled away from the wall. So I moved to the grass.P1020380I think I should have tried to smooth the batting out more, I was able to smooth out the top and the backing, but there are some creases in the batting which hopefully won’t be noticeable  once the quilting is done.

I try and use as many of the fabrics from the top in the backing, I’m sure you noticed a new fabric that has nothing to do with trains or Mickey Mouse. Yes, that is Spiderman. Aytan is loving everything Spiderman right now. I didn’t want Spiderman on the front, I’m hoping this quilt  will last a long time, so I figured, the back is the place for him. That way in five years Aytan can look back and remember what his favorite thing was from when he was four. At the moment he seems more excited about the back, he wanted to take it home, luckily I managed to get it away from him without tears.P1020379Looking good, now onto the quilting itself.

Linking up with WIP Wednesday


Sock yarn Bunny

sock bunny6 weeks ago I bought this pattern and yarn on the LA Yarn Crawl. I’m proud to say that it didn’t take long to dive in and make this fun bunny.bunny in progressI love knitting animals, there is something so satisfying about making a soft squishy three- dimentional animal.  This one is also a reminder of a fun day.Sock yarn bunnyWhat a good use for stripping sock yarn. I prefer making my socks out of solid or variegated these days.  This fellow will probably join the pile of things I’m making for the new grandson, or if I need a baby gift for someone else – he is perfect.pompom made on a forkLove his little pom-pom tale.  One of my WeHo Stitch and Bitch friends is getting married in August and has asked us to make pom-pons, they will be thrown after the ceremony instead of rice.  She linked to a tutorial on how to make pompoms with a fork, so I’m getting my practice.

Finally, a sad noteLaurie Ann Miller and BernadetteThis is my friend Lauri Ann with her beaver Bernadette. I am still in shock that  she died last week.  We will all miss her terribly.  She directed me to a number of wonderful patterns for these adorable little knitted animals.  Last time I saw her was on the LA Yarn Crawl. Bernadette was our group mascot and was photographed in every store.  Bernadette has gone to live with Jenna and will be henceforth  known as St. Bernadette The Beaver, Mascot of the West Hollywood Stitch and Bitch group.