Friday, June 30, 2017
A year or two ago, when in Fabricland, I came across a remnant of the beautiful orange-flowered challis pictured above. Looks like a watercolour, doesn't it? I picked it up on impulse. They wouldn't cut the piece so I bought the whole length, which was a little over three metres, for $12. Pretty and inexpensive as it was, I didn't need it at all. I'm trying to do less of that sort of impulse buying. However, given that I did buy it, I intended to use and enjoy it.
Then this past spring, I began to plan what I was going to do with it. I had enough to make a dress, but sadly I don't have the kind of lifestyle that gives me many opportunities to wear a pretty, floaty summer dress, and I do have several summer dresses in my wardrobe already. I decided to make a top and a skirt that could be dressed down and that I would therefore have more chances to wear.
For a skirt pattern, I turned to an old faithful favourite of mine, Simplicity 5914, now out of print. I've had this pattern for about 15 years and have made option A twice. It makes a skirt that fits well and has flattering, stylish lines. For this skirt I would have to go with the shorter length as I didn't have enough fabric left for the longer length once I'd cut out the top I was making.
Here's the finished skirt in a size 14, seen here with an orange cotton top I knitted some years back. I had not only a suitable pattern but also a zipper and thread on hand, and only needed to buy a length of ivory voile for the lining -- the challis fabric is so sheer it had to be lined. This skirt pattern is unlined, but I just cut the skirt panels out twice, sewed the challis overskirt with french seams, and then basted it to the voile underskirt, which I had made in the usual way with flat seams, before I added the waist facings on the inside and put in the zipper. It's very pretty but I think I'll always be a little terrified when I wear it because such a delicate fabric could so easily be torn or snagged.
For the top design, I turned to option A (right hand photo) of Vogue 1245, which is also out of print. I bought this pattern a couple of years ago to make another top out a thrift shop piece of challis that ended up going in the garbage, as I failed to grasp that I needed to alter it rather severely if it was going to fit me. This time I didn't make that mistake.
And here's the finished top. I made several modifications to the pattern. First, I lengthened the top part of the body by four inches. I have to do this with every garment that has a defined waistline unless I want the waistline to wind up just under my bustline, because I'm well-endowed and my chest takes up a lot of length. Then I shortened the lower body pieces by four inches to keep the top from turning out too long -- I have a short torso. There are supposed to be two layers on the bottom part of the body but my version has only one as shortening that top layer made it so short it looked absurd, and the only remedy seemed to be to simply leave it out altogether. A three-quarter length sleeve is unflattering on me, so I cut the sleeves to an above-the-elbow length. Then, when sewing, I shortened the slit at the neckline by two inches as a deeper slit would have been too revealing. I also shortened the waist tie so that it wouldn't hang down too far, and found I wished I'd shortened the neck tie as well, but it's workable as is, as long as I tie it in a big bow.
The result is a top in an atypical style for me. I usually don't wear anything with ruffles and ties, and the effect is a little flirty and romantic, and probably also a bit young for me. However, when I tried it on, held my breath, and took a wary look at the mirror, I thought it looked okay on me (and hoped fervently that I was seeing it as it was rather than experiencing some sort of narcissistic inability to face reality). I won't be wearing this top with the skirt in the same fabric, though. They seem to need the toning down and grounding that's achieved by pairing them with simple, solid pieces.
And that's how I got my $12 worth out of that fabric, which I still love the look of, even after the numerous hours I spent working with it.
Monday, June 12, 2017
Perhaps ten to twelve years ago I knitted myself a cream cotton cardigan in a very simple twisted rib pattern. It was a nice piece, but I didn't wear it all that much as I gradually realized it just wasn't that flattering on me, and that I didn't really care for its minimalist style. This spring I decided it was time to take it apart and make a new cream cardigan that was better suited to my figure and tastes. The cardigan and the leftover half skein of yarn I had sitting in my stash weighed in at a whopping 700 grams (that twisted rib pattern soaked up a lot of yarn), which meant I had plenty of yarn to work with. I don't have any idea what the brand of yarn is, but whatever it is, it's great quality stuff.
I searched Ravelry for a suitable cardigan pattern and settled on this one, which is Nin's Cardigan, designed by Anne B. Hanssen. It's a nice classic piece with just enough detail to keep things interesting and attractive.
And here's my version of the cardigan. I made only a few small modifications. I found my gauge was a little smaller than it was supposed to be at 5.5 stitches per inch rather than 6 stitches per inch, and I adjusted the pattern to compensate for that. I wanted to use the buttons from the first sweater rather than buying new ones, so I made six buttonholes rather than seven. I was glad I had as I felt the buttons looked quite well spaced that way. I also worked two repeats of lace motif at the waist rather than three as the pattern called for, as I felt three would make for too much emphasis on my waist.
I'm pleased with the sweater and delighted that it took only 450 grams of the cream yarn, which leaves me with 250 grams to use in a sleeveless fair isle top that I want to make using some odds and ends of cotton yarn from my stash. This means that in the place of one cardigan sweater that I didn't like I'm getting two new items that I do like. Now that's stone soup knitting at its best.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Last year my foster sister Gayle asked me to make her a pair of sneaker slippers she'd seen on Pinterest. I told her I wasn't going to be able to get to it until this year, and when she groaned about having to wait, asked her what had happened to the pair I made her the year before. She told me the heels were out of them.
I planned to get to the sneaker slippers in April. But just as I was nearing the halfway mark on the project before it, Gayle was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The day we were waiting to hear if the tumour was cancerous, I went about the house reminding myself to breathe. It was some relief that the test results indicated that the tumour had a 95% chance of being benign. Gayle was scheduled for neurosurgery on May 1st. I set aside my current project and began the slippers so that Gayle could have them in time for her hospital stay and recovery at home.
I bought the pattern, which was Slipper Socks, by Rea Jarvenpaa, and I asked Gayle what colours she wanted her slippers to be. She told me black and white. I had some "winter white" worsted on hand, so I bought a skein of black worsted and also a skein of gray craft yarn for the soles, with the idea of making these slippers more durable than the last pair, which were made entirely of worsted yarn.
And here, much frustration later, are the finished slippers. The instructions were woefully incomplete. The pattern gives no details on how much yarn is required. Half of the instructions for knitting the black socks that serve as the base for this pattern are simply missing -- there are no instructions on how to work the heel, turn the heel, pick up the stiches along the side, shape the foot, how long to make the foot, or shape the toes. There are separate instructions included for the socks included in the pattern, but as they required a different stitch count from those I'd begun knitting from the slipper instructions, they weren't much use. The pattern doesn't tell you how many stitches to pick up for the edges where the lacing goes. The instructions for the medallion for the ankle are missing. I was not at all happy that I'd paid €5.00(EUR) for a pattern and then had to write a third of it myself. I won't be buying any more patterns from Rea Jarvenpaa.
I also had a problem with making the soles, as they turned out too wide, though that is not a fault in the pattern, as I had used craft yarn for the bottom to make the slippers harder wearing and it was too bulky. I could have more or less fixed this issue by working only four of the five rounds called for in the instructions for the sole, but by the time I figured out that the sole was too wide I didn't have time to undo hours of work and do it again before my deadline. I went on with the job and put the slippers together as well as I could, finally finishing them the day before the surgery was to take place.
Then on the morning of May 1st I went downtown to the hospital where Gayle was to have surgery. I made sure to be there before her check-in time of 10:00 a.m. as I didn't want to miss my chance of giving her the slippers and seeing her for at least a minute or two before she was whisked away for the procedure. Gayle was delighted with the slippers. Her three daughters had brought her fancy ball caps (one had pink sequins!), and her ex-boyfriend a Rolling Stones bandanna to wear over her shaved head during recovery, and we joked that between her head gear and her kicks and having all of us for an entourage she'd be the most street patient in the entire hospital. She was checked in, given two wrist bands (I asked her if they were also going to microchip her), changed into the hospital-issued nightgown and robe and shower-cap-like slippers (her street-style accessories would have to bide their time until after the surgery), and set up with an IV. Then we waited with her. The surgery was originally supposed to be at 12:30, but we were told it would be delayed for a few hours. The extra waiting time did Gayle's stress levels no good whatsoever. It didn't help that she'd had nothing to eat all day, that the IV tube was hurting her hand, and the IV fluid was necessitating frequent runs for the bathroom. When she was finally wheeled into pre-op at about 2:30 p.m., she began sobbing.
And then at 3:00 p.m. we were told that the surgery would have to be postponed to another day because, though the surgical team was all ready to go, there was no ICU bed available for her post-op. Poor Gayle. She left the hospital with her new accessories and her long blond hair intact... but with no surgery date. I hope having the slippers are at least some small source of pleasure and comfort to her during the lead up to the next surgery date.
Monday, April 24, 2017
Back in 2016 I decided I could do with a dark brown handbag, and I couldn't seem to find one I liked for a price I could afford. Dark brown isn't in just now -- it's all about the butterscotch browns. So I thought I'd make a smallish dark brown handbag in vinyl to tide me over until I could find a suitable handbag to buy, but I'd then make sure any handbag I bought was a larger size in order to have both a small and a large brown handbag rather than two the same size.
I found this bag in a secondhand shop on Bloor Street for $20. As you can tell, I bought the bag for the purse frame and handle alone. In the months it took me to get to this project, I kept seeing the bag in the chest where I keep my materials, and every time I opened the chest to take something else out, I'd think, "Man, that thing is as ugly as sin."
Once I had the frame, I bought some brown vinyl. I already had a suitable lining fabric on hand. I re-used the old bag's cardboard insert and also used a heavy interfacing to give the new bag some stability.
I wasn't crazy about the daisy detailing on the frame -- it's a little too girly and fussy an effect for my tastes -- but I decided I could live with it. I was unlikely to find a purse frame online for $20 or less.
The first step in the bag-making project was to take the purse completely apart so that I could use both the the outer fabric and the lining as the pattern for the new brown vinyl bag.
Here's the finished bag. It's definitely much less of an eyesore than the previous incarnation.
The purse also has a chain that can be tucked inside the bag if not currently wanted. I had to tie a slip knot in it to make it the right length for me.
A side view.
The lining with its pockets. The old bag had only one small pocket, but I improved on that.
And a few weeks ago I finally found a nice, new-to-me brown leather shoulder bag on eBay. It arrived in the mail last week, and I've finished this smaller bag, so now I'm all set for dark brown handbags.
I've also had a hard time finding dark brown shoes, but alas, I am no shoemaker, so I'll have to keep looking for those.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
Sometime back I decided I wanted a sewing kit that I could keep in my suitcase in case of any possible wardrobe malfunctions that I might experience when away from home. They sell such kits at Fabricland and at craft and dollar stores, but I never felt inclined to buy any of those kits because they weren't attractive and often didn't appear to have decent quality items. I know from experience that commercially made sewing kits sometimes have very poor quality thread. Then one day when looking for fresh knitting post shares for my knitting blog's Facebook page, I caught sight of some of the homemade sewing kits on Pinterest (I seriously cannot believe what some crafters can do with old Altoid tins), and decided to put my own little kit together.
First I bought this eyeglass case from Value Vilage for $1. I picked a coppery brown one because it matched my brown-checked luggage set. Then I made a list of all the things I'd like to put in it: scissors, a thimble, a measuring tape, a stitch ripper, a thread card, and a needle book containing pins and needles.
I bought the scissors, the thimble, and the tape measure as a kit from Fabriclands. I got it 75% off, and even at that I was still paying too much for it, but it *is* such a perfect and pretty little set of tools for my purpose.
I got the stitch ripper at a discount at Fabricland too. The thread card I made myself out of an old greeting card and a selection of the threads I had on hand. I tried to include every reasonably possible colour. Then I just needed to make a needle book, which is something else Pinterest has a jaw-dropping array of.
This is the needle book I made. For the sake of accuracy, I might as well say that this is the *second* needle book I made. The first I made out of a scrap of gold-embroidered satin I had left over from an ugly old secondhand purse I took apart so I could use the handle. Hideous as that satin was when part of a purse, it was the perfect fabric to go with the rest of the kit. And the needle book turned out pretty well except for one thing: I used glue to attach the felt pages to the embroidered satin cover, and the glue showed through the satin as black smudge-like marks. It ruined the look of the needlebook, and I had no more suitable pieces of that embroidered satin.
For take two of my needle book project, I hunted through my fabric remnants to see what I had that would go with the rest of the sewing kit. The best I could do was some pieces of red velvet. I decided to link it to the other things by detailing it in gold. So, as you can see, I made little gold embroidery thread ties, and added two little gold beads to the end of the ties -- the last two of that kind that I had left in my box of beading supplies. I also embroidered a little floral design on the front in gold embroidery thread, even though I'm not much of an embroiderer -- it had been many years since I'd done any real embroidery, and I never did know more than a few basic stitches. My stitches look a little crude, but I suppose they'll have to do.
I also stitched the felt pages together with embroidery thread. And this time when it came time to attach the pages and the cover, I used sewing thread to tack the outside page and the cover together at the corners and in the centre. I was taking no more chances with the glue.
There are much cuter and more artful hand-assembled sewing kits on Pinterest, but this one is presentable enough, and will certainly prove as handy as any other sewing kit should I ever have to deal with a popped off button or ripped out hem while away from home.
Sunday, April 9, 2017
This project plan began to form when I happened to see these two skeins in my box of worsted yarns, and was struck by how well the shades went together. I thought a third shade in a different shade of orange or teal would really pull it together, as well as making it possible to knit anything I liked. I've had these skeins a long time and their ball bands are long gone. I am almost certain the orange yarn is Patons Classic Wool Worsted in burnt orange, but I don't know what the teal yarn is, though I do know it's pure wool.
I searched Ravelry for a pattern that required 100 grams of two contrast colours, and found this one, which is Frost All Grown Up, designed by Unnur Eva Arnarsdóttir. Then I went to Romni Wools and bought 500 grams of Diamond Galway Heathers yarn in teal. My colourway, instead of being the stark, wintery colours of the sample, would be in the warm and vivid tones that look best on me.
And here's the result. The pattern was pretty well written and the sweater knitted up with no problems. I was a little disgruntled that the project didn't require nearly as much yarn as the pattern said. I used about 315 grams of the teal heather (the pattern called for 500 grams) and about 25 grams of the dark teal yarn and approximately 20 grams of the orange worsted (when the pattern called for 100 grams of each). This means that this project, which was supposed to reduce my stash size, increased it by 40 grams -- I can at least return one skein of the Galway Heather. I do love the resulting sweater, but I didn't really need it, and the lesson learned is that I need to be more careful about planning my stash busting projects. I should have realized that this sweater would use up less yarn than specified, and I also need to avoid buying a lot of yarn to use up a small amount I already have.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Back in 2016 I knitted a sweater out of some reknitted green DK wool and this Manos del Uruguay Alegria, pictured above with a ball of the green yarn. The project turned out to be a huge mistake, as the green DK utterly refused to spring back the way reknitted good quality yarn usually does and the finished item consequently looked awful. I knew right away that I would never wear it and that I'd now have to come up with a project plan for *two* lots of stash yarn instead of one. That first stash busting effort had spawned two further stash-busting projects. Good thing that I really loved this Alegria yarn for its own sake.
I searched Ravelry for a pattern that called for 200 grams of fingering yarn and came up with this one, which is Trestle, by Grace Ann Farrow. It only required 100 grams of the contrast colour, but I decided that would be fine as it would leave enough Alegria to make a pair of socks. My next step was to visit Romni Wools and pick out a main colour. I decided on 400 grams of Alpaca Merino Fine by Estelle Yarns in colour 411, which is a beautiful dark olive green.
And here's my finished sweater. I'm pleased with it. The yarns work together well, and though I don't have any skirts that will go with this piece, the sweater will look good with jeans, olive khakis, and a certain pair of olive velvet trousers that I made some years ago. Though I left the look of the sweater unchanged, I made a few technical modifications. I have the Ravelry users who also made this item to thank for saving me some knitting time, because when I checked their project pages I noticed that so many of them complained that the waist band was too tight and that gussets that were inserted under the arms were unnecessary and made the underarm area too bulky. I sized up my waistband and skipped the gussets accordingly. I also shortened the body of the sweater by two inches, as it would otherwise have been 25" long, when 23" is the perfect length for me. Good thing I did, as I would have run out of yarn otherwise. I had just 30 grams of the Estelle fingering left, and I doubt that would have been sufficient to make the body of the sweater two inches longer. I also used 130 grams of the Alegria rather than the 100 grams the pattern specified, but fortunately I had the two skeins of it.
Both the Alegria and the Estelle were lovely yarns and a pleasure to work with, but they do have one shortcoming each. I noticed that the Alegria faded rather significantly when it was washed (I'd run the Alegria and spring green sweater through the wash twice in an effort to get the spring green yarn to rebound). There was a dramatic difference between the ball of Alegria yarn that had been used to make that ill-fated sweater and the ball of Alegria yarn that hadn't been used at all yet. I didn't think to get a picture of it at the time, but the difference is visible in the detail shot above -- I used up the pre-used yarn first, and the chevrons at the top, which have been knitted with the virgin yarn, are noticeably more vivid than those below it. I assume the old and new yarns will more or less match after a few more washes.
As for the Estelle fingering, it turned out to be one of those yarns that are prone to attracting hair. As I knitted I was constantly picking my hair and my cat's hair off it, which doesn't bode well for future wearings. Oh well, I'm still glad I made this piece. This really is a beautiful sweater design. As I've often said in my knitting design reviews, garter stitch projects tend to look like beginner projects, and it takes an accomplished designer to create a garter stitch project that looks professional and sophisticated. And, like the Amande Tee design I made in 2016, it's a contemporary sweater with a certain 1930s vibe.
When I completed this project, I had 30 grams of the new Estelle yarn left, and had used 130 grams of the stash Alegria yarn, which amounts to a net stash loss of 100 grams. Not bad, and I think I have enough of the two yarns left to make a pair of socks.