Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Last year, or perhaps the year before (one works on a protracted timeline when one has chronic fatigue), I decided I needed a brown wool coat for winter.
The first step was to pick out a pattern. I didn't happen to much like any of the coat patterns available, but ended up settling for this one, which is the Isaac Mizrahi-designed V1479 from Vogue Patterns. I'd have liked something with a little more shape and without dropped shoulders, but then, as I told myself, a winter coat does need to be roomy and this piece isn't without style.
Then I scoured Toronto's fabric stores and online fabric shops for the right fabric. I wanted a chocolate brown wool, and it was surprisingly difficult to find a plain dark brown wool. Finally I found what I was looking for -- in a cashmere no less. I also bought a dark brown kasha lining for the inside, and plain dark brown buttons because I couldn't find anything more interesting that would do.
But when the time came to begin cutting, I was suddenly seized with indecision. What was the right side of the wool? Was it the nappy side or the smooth side? This was the first new winter coat I'd had in ten years, and I wanted to be sure I got it right. I ended up posting the question to Ask Metafilter, with an accompanying link to the above picture (the nappy side is on the left and the smooth on the right) to ask which the sewers of the Metafilter community thought was the right side. A lively discussion ensued, with people voting for nappy or smooth and giving their reasons therefore, and the end result was that out of the twelve commenters who participated, one voted for the nappy side, six voted for the smooth side, three told me to use whatever side I wanted, and two suggested I use both sides strategically for the sake of textural interest.
Ultimately, I chose the smooth side. The selvage definitely looked better on that side. And given how the nappy side responded to being stitched (it acquired bald spots!), I am confident that I chose the correct side.
I am not thrilled with the result. I mean, the coat certainly turned out acceptably well. But I am suffering from pattern remorse. I wish I'd waited until I found a coat pattern I really loved, or failing that, I really wish I'd at least fixed those dropped shoulders. I would certainly done so had I been working with a knit pattern, but I'm not as confident of my sewing projects as I am of my knitting skills, and sewing is also a less forgiving medium -- knitting can almost always be ripped out and done again, but once that fabric is cut, it's cut -- and this was such an expensive and time-consuming project. So I didn't do it, and now the dropped shoulders give me the look of a quarterbacker.
Oh well, what's sewn is sewn. The coat is done, it's warm, wearable, and presentable, and while I don't love it the way I wanted to, I don't hate it either, and I can certainly live with it for five years or so until I can justify the expense of replacing it.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
This year when it came time to plan my grandnephew Bug's birthday sweater, I began by turning to Ravelry to find a suitable pattern.
I ended up deciding on the ever-so catchily named 1209-08, by Sandnes Design. I had a skein of dark green DK wool in my stash that I thought would come in handy for the contrast colour. But when I went to the yarn store, I couldn't seem to find a yarn that coordinated with it without looking too dark and drab. There were plenty of odd skeins of ivory DK in my stash, so I decided to just buy a yarn that would go with them. My best choice seemed to be a dark blue with flecks of green. The brand is Drops Karisma Mix, for which there doesn't seem to be a Ravelry page.
And here's the finished hoodie, knitted in a size 4. It looks okay. I ran into problems with the reverse stockinette stitch when there seemed to be no way to adequately hide the colour transition loops on the "right" side, so after a frustratingly protracted session of experimenting and ripping out, I simply gave up and knitted the sweater in stockinette. Even when done in stockinette, I still didn't care for the looks of the end of the round. If you make this sweater, I recommend putting the body's end of the round area in the middle of the front where one can hide it under the pocket rather than situating it at the side as one ordinarily would do, though there will still be no hiding the end of the round on the sleeves except putting it at the underside of the sleeve. I also ran short of yarn. I had bought 300 grams of the dark blue as specified by the pattern, and it turned out I needed an extra skein -- or 10 grams of it, anyway. Oh well. It's a wearable, sporty-looking item that I think my grandnephew will be happy to have.
I used up 30 grams of the cream DK in making this project, but I had 40 grams of the new dark blue yarn left, which works out to a net stash increase of 10 grams.
Monday, July 31, 2017
Circa 2008 or 2009, my niece Clementine gave me a big bag of yarn that her mother-in-law had given her to pass along to me. The yarn was Patons Classic Wool Merino worsted in a variegated brown and pink colour called Rosewood, and there were 1200 grams of it. That's quite a lot of yarn to use when it's all one dye lot and such a specific colour, but I felt modestly confident that I was up to the challenge, and happily accepted the yarn. My niece likes brown and loves pink, so the first item I made was a cabled hoodie for her. She was very pleased to get it and I believe she still has it -- I caught sight of it in her closet not too long ago. This project soaked up a lot of yarn but there was still 310 grams left. When Clementine had a baby girl a few years later I thought I'd make my grandniece a matching jacket, but I wanted to wait until she was two or so, and then this plan slipped my mind until it was too late -- Cauliflower is eight now and 310 grams would not be sufficient to make her the kind of sweater I had in mind. But this year I spotted the yarn in my box of stashed worsted and thought it would do to make my friend's daughter Olivia a little jacket.
For this project, I turned to the Lavanda design, a pattern I already owned as I used it in 2016 to make Cauliflower a turquoise version in a size 8.
And here's the finished version, in size 2. This was one of those satisfying times when one has *exactly* the right amount of yarn to make a project. I kept an anxious eye on the dwindling last skein as I was in the home stretch of this project, and I thought I might have to piece out the yarn by making the pocket linings a different colour, but I finished the project and that big bag of yarn with just a half-handful of scraps to spare, with a net stash decrease of 310 grams. Did I do a fist pump, you ask?
Well, no, it was more like this, except with the CN Tower in the skyline.
Sunday, July 23, 2017
In March 2017 one of my closest friends surprised me with the gift of two skeins of yarn bought at Pembroke Farm, Prince Edward Island, while she and her family were in P.E.I. on vacation. The yarn is variegated in beautiful old rose tones that are the closest I can get to wearing pink. There is no gauge or fibre content information on the label, but it's pretty clearly a bulky weight and feels like pure wool. I searched for a suitable pattern for this weight and amount of yarn and came up with the Aunt Julie shawl pattern.
Here's the finished project. It knitted up very quickly -- the only thing that slowed me down was a few errors in the pattern, which kept me knitting and ripping out for awhile until I figured out where the errors were.
Here's a close-up of the detail. I do wish my camera photographed colour a bit better. The colour is much warmer than it is here.
I have 80 grams of yarn left. I thought at first that I'd get some coordinating yarn and make a hat to match, but the colour proved so difficult to pair with anything that I gave up on that after a few months of shopping around. If I were starting this project over again, I would make a scarf from this yarn, one that I could cast off when I ran out of yarn.
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.