Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What Was I Thinking??

It seemed like such a wonderful idea.....add a few beads and sequins to the knitted butterflies so that the finished jacket would catch the lights and give off a subtle sparkle. Simple really. All I had to do was string a few beads and anchor them to the knit.
I even had the perfect window of opportunity -- a week off from work for a much needed vacation. Happily ensconced in the delusion that I would move on to construction of the jacket lining by the following Sunday, I grabbed my bead tray, threaded up a beading needle, and thus embarked on a "beading adventure".
I first decided to outline the antennae of each butterfly with bugle beads. Silly me, I thought I could string a bunch of beads together, anchor each end to the antennae, and then stay stitch the antennae in place. It didn't work. After much trial and error, I determined that I had to literally stitch two beads in place at a time, knot the thread, and move onto the next two beads. Each antennae had approximately 20 to 24 beads. Once I beaded the first set of antennae, I realized the butterflies looked a little forlorn so I used seed beads on each of its individual spots. Each seed bead was anchored with a knot. I then put a seed bead and faceted sequin on each of the lower wings. Although the effect was exactly what I was looking for, I realized with growing horror that it had taken nearly 45 minutes to bead the first butterfly.

One down - 250+ more to go. It was going to be a long, long summer.....and autumn....and winter.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The First Cut is the Deepest

Contrary to what I believed, the Earth did not open up at my feet and swallow me, nor did the yarn immediately run and destroy weeks of knitting when I made the first cut. It turns out that the process of blocking the knit had stabilized fabric and it behaved same as any yardage I had purchased from the fabric center.
Because I intended to add beads to the knit after it was constructed, I had to add extra stabilizer to help hold the weight of the beads. It is quite surprising how heavy beads become when sewn on and the weight can distort the fabric. I solved this dilemma by fusing black iron-on stabilizer to the back of the knit pieces. Once it was fused, I used black thread and "stitched in the ditch" at two inch intervals with the grain of the knit. I then serged around the outline of each piece, carefully following contrast thread. The serger cut away the excess fabric as I serged and tied the stabilizer to the knit piece. That completed, I sewed the individual pieces together and pressed the seams flat.

In the photo of the right sleeve above, you can see the black stabilizer, the "stitches in the ditch", the serged edges, and the pressed seams.
At this point, I was ready to begin construction of the ultra suede bands. I chose to combine both the black and the turquoise ultra suede into the same band. Ultra suede is wonderful to work with because it is fairly forgiving. Unlike true leather, if you make a mistake with the sewing machine, you can simply pull out the stitching, brush it up and start over. With leather, the holes the sewing needle made will be present permanently. The best advise when working with leather is to get it right the first time.

Ultra suede has a nap so it was important to determine the direction of the nap and cut all of the pieces in the same direction relative to the nap.

The sewing pattern called for both neck and front bands. The bands had a front side and back side so the button holes needed to be set in place before the band was completed. It is also important to plan exactly where the buttons are to be placed on the band before making any cuts. Finally, when placing a buttonhole, remember that a button will sit at the top of the buttonhole when it is buttoned. The wrong placement of the button and band can skew the entire neckline.

I next pinned the bands onto the knit part of the jacket so that I could check how it lined up on the jacket. I also wanted to see how the buttons looked now that I could see the actual jacket. I liked the effect of the turquoise center band but immediately saw that my original choice of buttons (small, shiny and solid black) was not the effect that I wanted. I decided to shop for different buttons before I completed the band. Eventually, I found a set of blue and black oval buttons with a beige stripe. They were exactly the look I wanted so I bought them and was back in business.
At this stage I also tried on the jacket and marked the length of the sleeves and the length of the jacket. You can see the pins in the sleeves and on the bands marking the proper lengths.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Blue Butterfly Jacket

Well, here goes nothing. This is my first try at "blogging" and I am still trying to figure out all the steps in creating a blog. Please bear with me as I try to make this work.
By way of introduction, I have been knitting and sewing since the mid-1960's but I never thought of combining these passions until I met Manon Salois. Manon is a wonderful fiber artist who authored "The Haute Couture of Cut and Sew", a book that focuses on Cut and Sew knits. When she offered classes teaching her techniques, I was able to attend four week-long sessions over the course of four years. I love to knit and I love to sew. Most of all, I love creating "one-of- a-kind" knits that combine all manner of fiber arts.
The Blue Butterfly Jacket was designed several years ago and combines knitting, sewing, beading, and embroidery. This jacket was my epiphany because as I constructed it, I realized the versatility of knit fabric and its endless possibilities.

The pattern was Vogue's Oscar de la Renta #2188. My favorite color combinations are blue and black. The jacket I envisioned was versatile and warm. The fabric needed to be fairly sturdy when knit because I wanted to add sequins and seed beads to the design.

Ultimately, after sampling numerous fabrics and color combinations, I chose turquoise and black ultra suede for the bands, a blue satin for the lining, and a bright multicolored cotton fabric contrast. The knit fabric is a turquoise chenille yarn and black superwash wool. The final addition was to be black bugle beads, black seed beads and black sequins. My test swatch produced a fabric that was dense, but still maintained the integrity of the butterfly design.

Because the jacket is "cut and sew" no real shaping is involved in the knit. Generally, the knit fabric simply has to be knit at a gauge that is pleasing, has good drape, and is wider and longer than the pattern piece. All pieces need to be properly blocked prior to cutting out the pattern pieces.

The first step was to cut out the pattern pieces and pin them in place. Care must be taken to line up the arrows on the patterns with a line of stitches, otherwise, the knit fabric will pull and have an "off" look. Once the pattern was pinned into place, I used a length of white contrast yarn and outlined the pattern with a long basting stitch. When I removed the pattern, the outline in contrast yarn was plainly visible. I then threaded my sewing machine with a contrasting color of thread and a stitched along inside of the yarn guide using a long basting stitch. That done, I removed the contrast yarn.

Now came the moment of truth. It was time to take a pair of scissors and cut out the outline of the piece leaving a one-half inch selvage. As a knitter who is used to shaping garments as I knit, this project was somewhat unnerving to me for two reasons --- (1) I just knew that the second I cut the knit it would immediately turn into a twisted mass of meaningless threads, and (2) I knew I was going to has scraps left over after the piece was cut which meant I was going to waste yarn. As true yarn addict, wasting yarn was a bad thing. So it was with great trepidation that I picked up the pair of scissors and poised them on the knit.