Sunday, January 8, 2017

Wearing One's Heart on One's Pocket


In late 2006, I bought $40 worth of seconds acrylic bouclé cranberry-coloured yarn at Spinrite Factory Outlet in Listowel, Ontario, where $40 buys one a LOT of seconds yarn. Out of this yarn, I made first an afghan for my guest room, then a hoodie for one of my nieces, then a cowl-necked pullover for a friend (who has told me she loves the yarn so much she wants me to will her the guest room afghan). There was still 250 grams of the cranberry bouclé yarn left, but after three items I had no further plans for the yarn and tucked it away to await its fate. Then in December 2016 when I was thinking about what I could make for my friend's baby girl Olivia from stash yarn, I caught sight of the remaining cranberry bouclé and thought it might be enough to make a little jacket in size 12 months, and would also be an attractive colour on her -- Olivia has olive-coloured eyes, medium brown hair, and fair skin with a slightly olive tone to it (as you may have gathered, she was well-named).





I searched the Ravelry pattern database for an appropriate baby's jacket pattern in a bulky weight yarn. I found some designs that I didn't like enough to use, but their pattern pages at least confirmed that 250 grams of bouclé yarn should be sufficient to make the style and size of jacket I had in mind as long as I didn't try to include a hood, which was so much information gained. In the end I took a pattern already in my library, Smock with Sheep and Shoes, designed by Debbie Bliss (and shown in the Ravelry member project photo you see above), and adapted it.





The pattern called for DK weight yarn, so I kept my calculator and some scratch paper handy in order to rework the given numbers of stitches and rows as I went along. I didn't like the floppy collar, so I went with a flat collar instead. I didn't like the detail on the sleeves, so I made the cuffs in garter to match the bottom hem and knitted the rest of the sleeves in plain stockinette. I would have liked to knit the pockets into the fronts, but I wasn't sure I'd have enough yarn, so it seemed best to stick with the patch pocket technique the design called for to give myself the option of not making them when the rest of the jacket was done. In the end, there was enough yarn to make two pockets, but I made only one as I thought it looked better -- the two-pocket look is too symmetrical. And instead of knitting a moss stitch or garter stitch heart on the pocket, I made the heart in a cream yarn I had left from another afghan to brighten up the jacket's look a little.

I'm pretty pleased with the result. The jacket looks cute and fairly well-shaped and should prove to be an item Olivia is comfortable wearing and that her mother enjoys seeing her in. I don't knit with synthetic yarns very much anymore, but acrylic boucl&eactue; is one of the exceptions: it is amazingly light and cozy and a comfort to wear. But it can be a little frustrating to work with, as one can barely see any detailing one knits into it. It's best to keep patterns simple when working with bouclé -- I wouldn't go any more complex than I have with this jacket. As it was, when I was working on the latticed bodice, I felt like I was constantly squinting at it and spending long minutes trying to figure out which stitches were garter and which were stockinette, and which stitch was supposed to go on top of the other when they crossed. Then again, by the same token, when one is working with bouclé, one's mistakes also tend to disappear into the work, and it knits up very quickly.

Making this jacket took 235 grams of stash yarn, and I had just 20 grams of the cranberry bouclé left. At a tally of an afghan and three sweaters, I can't say I didn't get my money's worth out of that $40.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Boiled and Stabbed Slippers


Several years ago, after I launched this blog, I came across a picture of an irresistibly cute pair of slippers on Pinterest.





The slippers were the French Press Felted Slippers, by Melynda Bernardi. I already had a pair of rather nice slippers I had made out of a bulky weight wool yarn, but it didn't take me long to decide I much preferred the style of these. I then proceeded to take apart the first pair and knit up a pair of French Press slippers.





And here's the result. This yarn is Patons Classic Wool Worsted, in a colour called Tree Bark Mix. The slippers were knitted with two strands on 10mm needles. It amused me to remember that my pair of 10mm needles were the first pair of knitting needles I ever bought and that I'd used them exactly once before: to make my very first sweater, in a tragically ill-chosen candy floss pink yarn, when I was ten years old.

The knitting part of this slipper project went quickly and easily (last January!) and then the slippers spent nearly an entire year in my work basket, waiting for me to sew them together and then felt them. I had never felted anything before (not on purpose, that is), and kept putting off the task of finishing them the way I tend to do when I don't know how to do something. Finally at about 6:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve I started work on the felting.

I hadn't read anything on felting aside from the instructions in the pattern, which was a mistake, especially given that I wasn't felting the slippers in my washing machine as the instructions say to do. I have a front loading washing machine and didn't think it would work as well as a top loader with a central agitator. I thought I could do the felting in the kitchen sink. I was making some progress, but it was too slow, and as I was using my hands to agitate the knitting, that limited how hot the water could be. I then got the idea of felting the pieces in a measuring cup of hot water heated in the microwave, using a wooden spoon to agitate them. This worked better but I was having trouble keeping the water hot, so I switched methods again and began felting the pieces in a saucepan on the stove. Whenever I wanted to try the slippers on for size, I'd lift them out of the saucepan with tongs, douse them in a sink full of cool water, and squeeze the water out as best I could. This method proved fairly effective, but did it ever take a long time. I had initially thought I'd be done the job in half an hour (felting with a machine is supposed to take 20-25 minutes), but I worked on it for four hours, partly because I had taken awhile to hit on the right method, and partly because I made the mistake of doing the slippers in three parts: the straps by themselves, then one slipper body at a time.

Not only did doing the pieces separately make the process much longer, it also proved a bad idea because the colour of the felted fabric changed. By the time I was done the second slipper, I realized to my horror that I had two different colour slippers: one was a grayish khaki green, and the other was a dark olive green. However, it was 10:30 on New Year's Eve, I'd just spent hours standing over a boiling hot saucepan repeatedly stabbing my knitting with a wooden spoon, and I was NOT going to keep working and trying to fix that mistake that night. I turned off the stove and cleared up a little and left the kitchen to go relax for the rest of the evening.

The next morning I checked the slippers again and found that, besides being two different colours, they still were a little too large for me. I boiled both the slippers and the straps on the stove for an additional hour and a half, checking for size every half hour. After that hour and a half they were a perfect fit... and, thankfully, the same colour again. Though that's a grand total of five and half hours of felting time. I don't think I spent that long knitting the slippers.





As you can see from the above photo of one of the slippers with the leftover yarn it was made from, the finished slippers are a completely different colour from what they were originally. I'm still astounded by this colour change. How on earth did the colour become so much darker and richer? I would have expected it to fade if I'd expected any colour change at all, which I didn't. Fortunately, I still like the resulting colour. Unfortunately, the buttons I'd bought for the slippers looked terrible against this new colour, and I had to make a quick trip to Fabricland to get some different ones. Another problem arose: I was supposed to use unfelted yarn to stitch the end of the straps on, and the stitches were bound to show. I looked in my stash for a similar green but didn't find a yarn that would be less conspicuous -- green is a difficult colour to match. I settled for trying to make my stitches as hidden and inconspicuous as possible. They don't look as bad as I feared, and no one is going to look that closely at my feet anyway.

The instructions recommend spreading some puffy paint on the bottom of the slippers, for the sake of traction. I am reluctant to do this. Someone gave me a pair of those socks with treads on them for Christmas one year and the treads hurt my feet when I walked on them (Moreover, the treaded socks would not stay on but kept working their way off my feet -- I had to keep reaching down and yanking them back up. I wore them once, for about two hours, and then put them in the garbage.) I'm afraid the puffy paint will be uncomfortable to walk on. On the other hand, I have all wood and tile floors in my home and am very accident-prone. Perhaps there are other traction options.

I'm not sure there's any more felting in my future. I definitely won't tackle another project without first making sure I'm more informed about the process. Even without doing research, knowing about the stove top boiling method and doing all the pieces at once would cut my time in less than half... so perhaps.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Burnt Tomato Blouse


This project plan began when I decided I could use a blouse to wear with a particular, hard-to-match vest I had knitted for myself several years ago.





I took the vest to Fabricland to match it to the fabric. Then I picked out this pattern, which is Vogue V887 -- and decided to go with option F in the shorter length. And then there was the problem of buying buttons for it. Nothing matched this odd shade of... what should one call the colour of this blouse's fabric? Orange? Rust? Burnt tomato? After looking in Fabricland and every store on Queen Street that carries buttons, I settled for a pack of buttons that were a suitable colour, though they were larger than a blouse's buttons usually are. I also had to buy twice as many buttons as I needed.





Here's the finished blouse with a skirt that it just happened to work with perfectly. The only alteration I ended up making was to shape the blouse a little through the waist -- it was going to be too unflattering otherwise. The buttons still look too big to me when I look at the blouse itself, but judging from this photograph they won't to the casual observer. The blouse took much longer than it should have as I seemed to make so many mistakes. My first attempt at running the tucks was a disaster and had to be taken completely apart and done again. I had to redo the edgestitching on the collar several times -- it turned out the problem was that my sewing machine needle was too dull, which caused it to skip stitches. I also had some problems with the buttonhole and button bands. But in the end I prevailed. I like the blouse and am pleased that it will go with a number of other items from my wardrobe.





And here the blouse is with the vest it was specifically chosen to go with. They do pair well. I especially like how the necklines work together. But that dark brown skirt doesn't quite go with the vest, and neither do any of my other skirts. I think I might have get the vest a skirt too.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

An Elementary Christmas Present


Over a year ago, my sister flipped me a link on Pinterest with the words, "Dude. I want this."





"This" being a crocheted Sherlock Holmes amigurumi, designed by Vilma Ilona. The doll, of course, is based on the character played by Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC's Sherlock, a show that (if her Pinterest board is any indication) my sister is obsessed with. She told me she wanted the doll to keep on her desk at work, so that she "could use it to talk to people with."

Yeah, I don't know either.





I dutifully added the doll to my project list, and here is my version of it. Most of the Ravelry members who made it seemed to use worsted or even bulky weight yarn for this project. I used sock yarn for it, because I didn't have the right colours in any other weight. I worked with two strands so that it wouldn't turn out too small, and I think the finished doll was just an inch or so bigger than the designer's sample was (I forgot to measure the finished doll, but I'd estimate that it is about 8" long). My version has some shortcomings. I didn't quite have the right gray -- Sherlock's overcoat is supposed to be a charcoal gray rather than this medium gray, but I thought it was close enough. I also didn't get the hair right -- this doll's hair looks more like eighties-era Kirk Cameron than current day Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes -- but again I thought it would do.

I can't say I enjoyed making it. I don't like crocheting and I don't like working on such a small scale, and the combination of the two drove me right up the wall. This little project took weeks because I simply couldn't keep myself at it. It was a huge relief to finally finish it in time, on Christmas Eve, and then to wrap it up with the things I'd bought to go with it and put it under the tree. Originally I'd planned for this doll to be a stocking stuffer, but then it occurred to me to expand on the concept and to make my sister's present a throughgoing fangirl kit. I bought first the notebook folder, and then the official Sherlock calendar with accompanying vinyl sticker that appears in the photo at the top of this post. I made sure to get a notebook folder with the "Get out. I need to go to my mind palace," quote on it because it's the sort of thing my sister would say. And judging from the way she chortled as she took each separate item from the package, the fangirl kit idea was very much on point.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Biased Sweater


This project plan began when I fell in love with a design.





Four years ago, the Arc-en-Ciel Pullover, designed by Maria Leigh, appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Knitscene. The pattern has been in my Ravelry favourites ever since, and I bought that issue when it was on the stands because I immediately decided I had to make it. It took me awhile to get to it, though.





In July 2015, I took a trip to Romni Wools to get yarn for this project. I did really like the suggested yarn, which is Noro Taiyo Sock, but Romni didn't have it in the sample colour. So I scouted around for a substitute and settled on the yarn you see pictured above: Drops Fabel Print, in a shade Ravelry informs me is called Red Chili. I ended up being quite satisfied with my choice. While I loved the rusts, reds, plums, and greens of the Noro Taiyo Sock yarn, I wasn't too thrilled with the accompanying strips of gray and mustard yellow. The Fabel Print had not only the rust, red, plum, and greens I loved in the Noro, but also some brown, cream and peach that I liked, and though it didn't offer quite the same self-striping effect, I preferred its colourway to that of the Noro. It also turned out to be quite a pleasing yarn to work with and wear.





And this is my finished Arc-en-Ciel pullover. The sizing gave me some trouble. It's difficult to assess gauge on a bias-knit sweater. I thought my yarn was a little finer than the Noro, and I was between sizes, as the pattern offered sizes 36 and 40. I adjusted the instructions to make a size 38 and knitted on a pair of 3.25 mm needles to compensate for the yarn weight. The bottom of the sweater seemed to be just the right size, so I stupidly proceeded to knit away until I'd finished the front and the back and part of one sleeve... only to realize that the sleeve was way too big, and then that the chest measurement on the front and back was way off as well -- I think it was 45", or maybe more. Upon checking the pages of other Ravelry members who had made this design, I found out the pattern's sizing was off -- everyone was complaining that the size 36 turned out to be close to a 40. Sigh.

The project got a long hiatus -- over a year -- and then I ripped the whole thing out and began again, knitting on size 3.0 mm needles and working according to the instructions for size 36. I also added waist shaping. This time I finished the sweater and though it is indeed a size 40, I think it's just as well for a bias-knit sweater in this style to be a little on the generous size. I am very pleased with this piece and don't even care that it will only look right with a dark brown bottom piece. After all, it's such an interesting piece in its own right, and I have quite a few dark brown skirts and trousers: this suiting skirt, a velvet skirt, velvet leggings, a pair of faux suede trousers, and a pair of suit trousers, so I can dress it up or down. I'm also thinking my little collection of peridot jewelry (it's my birthstone) will look nice with it.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Stash Slippers


For some time now I've had my eye on the knitting pattern for these little numbers, which is the Knotted Slipper, designed by Julie Weisenberger. I do love a knitted slipper with a bit of style, which these definitely have. They are made with fingering yarn, and I have plenty of that sitting around, so this year I thought I'd whip up a pair of slippers for my little sister for part of her Christmas present. I actually made these slippers and wrote this post in January 2016, but have set the post to publish on December 25, 2016 so as not to spoil my sister's surprise. I don't think my sister reads this blog, but it would be just my luck if she should decide to start this year.





This is the finished pair of slippers, looking as crumpled and unimpressive as possible. To photograph these slippers to any advantage, one needs either a pair of antique shoe trees or a pair of photogenic feet, and alas, I have neither.





The finished pair of slippers on an improvised model -- a pair of my flats. The yarn is Bouquet Sock & Sweater yarn, which according to Ravelry is discontinued. Perhaps five or six years ago a former co-worker of mine gave me quite a large bag of Bouquet Sock & Sweater yarn in blue, gray, and burgundy that she said she was never going to use. So far I've made two children's sweaters and this pair of slippers from it -- which has barely put even a dent in the total amount. It's a good thing yarn keeps!

This pattern whipped up very quickly -- I was done in a few evenings -- and used just 60 grams of stash yarn.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Leftover Red Yarn Sweater


Back in 2012, when I made a panda dress, jacket and purse for my grandniece Cauliflower's fourth birthday present, I had over 350 grams of red Sirdar Country Style DK yarn left over from this project that couldn't be returned. This year when I spied the red yarn in my stash, I started thinking about using it to make a sweater for my three-year-old grandnephew, but I soon realized there was too much of it to make a sweater for him and it seemed like a shame not to make a larger project that would use almost all of it up at once.





A Ravelry search for a design that would require about 350 grams of DK yarn led me to this pattern, which is the Verthandi's Knotwork Sweater, designed by Catherine Waterfield. I thought it a simple, attractive, and wearable, and definitely the kind of design that suits a bright solid colour yarn. I'm a sucker for a Celtic knot pattern, and I also liked the unusual belled cuff shape that is more commonly found in blouses than in sweaters.





And here's my version of the Verthandi's Knotwork Sweater. It hasn't photographed well here and looks a bit as though it were sized for the Incredible Hulk rather than a slightly top heavy woman, but it looks quite satisfactory in person.