Aug 262014
 

Greetings Readers, long time no blog!  I have been SO BUSY for several months and sewing has really taken a backseat on the priorities.  The garden is going bananas (see here), the Day Job is bananas (I’m transitioning to a new role and that makes it extra bananas), my knitting has been bananas, and then I also try to ride my bike and do yoga everyday, so there is just no time for sewing.  I’m hoping that once the weather stops being nice, I won’t feel as inclined to putter in the garden or ride my bike as much, so maybe I’ll hunker over the sewing machine more regularly.

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These two projects took me about a month to complete, even though the total time I spent working on them was maybe 3 hours.  This is a Renfrew tee that I made with some fabric in my stash, modified with a peplum that I drafted based on a skirt pattern.  I used the rounded neck version of the Renfrew and cut a few sizes larger to give it some extra ease and I think it turned out very nice.

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Using the gray knit fabric, I also drafted a maxi skirt.  It’s really nothing fancy. I measured the width of my hips and basically cut two rectangles half that width with a bit of flair towards the bottom.  The waistband is 2″ less wide than the total width of my hips, eased into the waist of the skirt.

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Really, so simple.  But I love the result!

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And I love my top!  I know that I’m pretty late to the party on both the peplum top and the maxi skirt, but I’m so pleased with both of them.

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The top just feels so effortlessly flattering.  I actually really like having several inches of positive ease on this – - it’s so comfortable but still has a nice shape.  Obviously, I used contrasting fabric for the peplum and bands for the sleeves and neckband, which I think adds some interest.

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Despite having no time, I have felt very inspired to sew lately.  There are some new Vogue patterns in the latest fall collection that excite me and I’ve identified several pieces that could really enhance my fall wardrobe options.  Coming up is a four day weekend away from the Day Job and I’m hoping to spend some time with my trusty Singer.

What about you, Readers?  Any excitement for fall sewing???

 

Aug 072014
 

Knit Picks has recently announced the released of their fall collection of knitting patterns, Burnished.  The collection includes patterns from several independent designers for sweaters and accessories that are both visually stunning and sure to provide warmth as we transition into the cooler seasons of fall and winter.  I am particularly excited about this collection because I have a pattern included!

Meet Umbra & Penumbra.

Umbra & Penumbra is a top-down pullover exploring the effects of light and dark in an “ombré” style. Typically used to describe celestial shadows (such as solar eclipses), umbra and penumbra refer to two parts of a shadow and may also be used to describe levels of darkness.  The umbra is the darkest part of the shadow and the penumbra is the lightest part of the shadow.  In an umbra, an observer would experience a total eclipse whereas in a penumbra they would experience a partial eclipse.

Featuring a mock turtleneck, Umbra & Penumbra is worked seamlessly in a slip-stitch pattern, using the effects of color dominance to showcase color gradients.  In using two colors for each stripe of the slip-stitch pattern, one color will be dominant (or, more pronounced) and by alternating which yarn is dominant, more color gradients may be achieved in subsequent stripes.

Below is a detailed photo of the slip-stitch pattern and color gradients.  There are six stripes of color gradients visible below, but only 3 colors of yarn were used (just in this bottom half of the sweater).  If you look closely, you can see that different colors are dominant in each stripe.

Here is another detail of the patterning as well as the neckline and fit across the yoke.

 

This pattern would be appropriate for an adventurous beginner or intermediate level knitter.  Techniques include slip stitches, increases and decreases, and knitting in the round.  Short rows are worked at the yoke and shaping at the waist to create a better fit.  The slip-stitch pattern produces a stretchy fabric that is well-suited to both a relaxed fit and a more fitted fit.  The model in these photos is wearing the sweater with 2″ of positive ease, but zero ease or a bit of negative ease would flatter as well, depending on the preference of the wearer.

For fit comparisons, below has 2″ of positive ease.

And here is the version that I worked, with 1″ of negative ease.

Back view, 1″ of negative ease.

(As a side note, this was actually my prototype and includes 2 additional colors that I decided to remove because I felt the additional colors didn’t provide any benefit and were more cumbersome to stay organized).

The pattern calls for six colors of yarn, resulting in 16 gradient stripes.  Combining a sport weight yarn and the slip-stitch pattern, the fabric is lofty without being bulky or dense.  Wool of the Andes is a great workhorse yarn that will keep you warm without needing special treatment.  As a pullover, Umbra & Penumbra would be an ideal sweater for a fall hiking and camping trip as well as a cozy fireside sweater.

Another advantage of Wool of the Andes is that it comes in a wide variety of colorways.  If brown isn’t your favorite color, there are many alternatives!  I worked a second version in a selection of purple colorways.

(From top to bottom: White (25269), Haze Heather (25657), Sprinkle Heather (25659), Amethyst Heather (25304), Blackberry (25300), and Coal (25268)).

Below are some ideas for colorways I might use if I were to knit either a green version or a blue version.  The basic idea for finding color combination would be to start and end the sweater with white and coal, and then find four additional colors to create the gradients from light to dark.

 

Umbra & Penumbra is sized from 32″ – 64″ bust:  32 (35.25, 40.25, 43.5, 47.25, 51.75, 55.75, 60.25, 64)”.

Needles: US 5 (3.75mm) 24″ or longer circular needle and set of DPNs, or size to achieve gauge.

Gauge: 25 sts and 48 rows = 4″ over slip-stitch pattern worked in the round.

Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport (100% Peruvian Highland Wool, 137 yards / 50 g)

  • White (25269) – 1 (1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2) balls
  • Oyster Heather (25276) – 3 (3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5) balls
  • Camel Heather (25277) – 3 (3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5) balls
  • Chestnut (25273) - 3 (3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5) balls
  • Fedora (25272) – 3 (3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4) balls
  • Coal (25268) – 3 (3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4) balls

Lastly, but most definitely not leastly, I would like to give a HUGE thank you to Knit Picks and their extraordinarily talented team for their work on this pattern collection.  When I first saw the photographs they took of my sweater design as well as the finished book, I was BLOWN AWAY.

Burnished and Umbra & Penumbra are both available from Knit Picks.

On Ravelry, find them at:

Jul 072014
 

Do you ever wonder why some knitting techniques get a bad rap?  Or are you one of those bad rappers who rap before you wrap?  Sorry, wow, bad pun!

I have been a bad rapper about intarsia in the past, assuming it to be overly cumbersome and annoying to manage all of the yarns.  In my knitting history, I have worked one project using intarsia and the experience was totally fine.  Still.  Whenever I see a pattern that uses intarsia, I always write that pattern off as something I wouldn’t want to knit because intarsia = blech!

For some time, I’ve been mulling over a few different ideas for designs I have but have stalled on them because they all would involve the dreaded intarsia.  I tried to brainstorm alternative construction methods but ultimately decided that the optimal method was with intarsia.

So I took a deep breath and cast on.

About four days later, I am over halfway done with the body of the sweater, having been blowing through the knitting of this project at lightning speed.  With this project, I am managing six different yarns and I am surprised to discover that the cumbersomeness of managing multiple yarns is overstated.  Yeah, so there are a bunch of yarns that sometimes get tangled.  And yeah, I have to spend approximately two seconds twisting them at the back of the work to join the colors.  Big whoop!

I’ve experimented with a few different yarn management techniques but my preference is to simply divide my yarns according to where in the work they will be used and then not really worry if the yarn tangles.  A big plus for my current intarsia project is that it requires little attention whilst knitting, and is great for kicking back with a beer and a friendly conversation, or my latest bing-watching program, whatever my druthers.  I have even successfully brought my intarsia project to public establishments and have worked on it with ease.

What about you, Readers… any crafting techniques that you avoid for possibly no good reason?  How do you feel about intarsia?

Jul 022014
 

I finished the second knitting of my Almond Pullover this weekend and I love it!  What a difference knitting the correct size made.  (As a reminder, I originally knit this in the wrong size.)

Pattern: Almond Pullover by atelier alfa
Yarn: Knit Picks Gloss and Schoppel-Wolle Crazy Zauberball
Needles: US 6
Modifications: Stripes along the yoke and one sleeve, turned hems instead of garter stitch, circular neckband (with turned hem) instead of buttonband and garter stitch
Ravelry Page: Link!

This is an awesome pattern and the sweater was so much fun to knit!  The sweater is knit from the top-down, starting at the sleeves, and then there are a lot of increases to form the yoke.  The pattern designer is a graphic designer in real life and has included a lot of diagrams to help clarify the unique construction of this sweater.  I saw that some of the test knitters for this pattern worked the yoke in stripes and I felt the stripes nicely showcased the  construction.  My contrast yarn was a fingering weight, so I held it double to achieve gauge.  I only had enough of the contrast yarn to work the yoke and one sleeve in stripes, but I love the way it turned out!

The way that this sweater is constructed, each shoulder is similar to the toe of a sock when worked from the toe-up.  As a result, there is a bit of a pucker along the cast on (I used Judy’s Magic CO rather than the recommended Turkish CO, so that may have made a difference).  Also, my finished sweater is narrow in the shoulders.  I have narrow shoulders so this works out for me (though, I did give the sweater a severe blocking to try and widen them), but I’m not sure this sweater style would fit well on someone with wide shoulders.

Overall, I’m delighted with how this sweater turned out.  I’m still not sure how I managed to knit the wrong size the first time but I’m glad that I decided to frog the first finished sweater and knit it again, in the correct size (the first time I knat this, I knat a smaller size, which was 3″ smaller in circumference around the bust!)

I also love my yarn combination!  The two yarns compliment each other nicely and I like how the contrasting yarn is a self-striping yarn, giving my stripes added interest.  I also like that this was a good stashbusting project for me, as I had had these yarns in my stash for YEARS.

 

 

Jun 262014
 

Since my last progress report on the reknitting of my Almond Pullover, I have knit both sleeves and re-knit the collar.  All that I have left to do is knit down the body, weave in my ends, block, and enjoy wearing it!  I suspect that I will have this project complete in less than a week.

Now that I’m on the home stretch of this project, I’m daydreaming about what my next knitting project will be.  It’s been a while since I knat some cables, so perhaps I will cast on for something with texture!

While working on this project, I’ve finished several of the books in the Avalon series, and most recently Lady of Avalon by Marion Zimmer-Bradley, all of which I have LOVED.  The next book in the series is Priestess of Avalon, published posthumously by the author’s co-author.  The description indicates this is a “spellbinding historical romance” which makes me feel more inclined to barf than to read the book (the other Avalon books are categorized as historical fiction/fantasy, which is more up my alley than a “spellbinding historical romance”) so I think I might call it quits with the Avalon series for now.

Trying to decide what book to read next is similar to deciding on my next knitting project.  I spent hours on Goodreads the other day reading book descriptions.  I have been on such a fantasy kick that I felt like reading something different, of the non-fiction variety.  I finally picked up this book: Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis.  The reviews on Goodreads are mixed, but the book sounded fascinating to me.  It’s about the first person to summit Everest and how that journey was inextricably linked with World War I.

Have a great week everyone!

Jun 132014
 

Happy Friday!  I wanted to do an update on the reknit of my Almond Pullover.  This is about one week’s worth of progress.  As I mentioned before, this sweater is worked from the top-down starting at the shoulders.  Below is the right shoulder and you can see how working it in stripes really shows off the construction.

And below is the left shoulder and how it connects to the right side.  I’ve knit down the body to just about the waist and am currently working on the neckband.  I’m modifying the neckband a bit – - the pattern has it worked in garter stitch and I’m working stockinette with a turned hem.  The first time I knit this, I worked all of my hems turned and liked the effect, so I want to mirror that at the neckband as well.  Once I finish the neckband, I will work the sleeves and then finish off the body.  That is my preferred order for working top down sweaters.  I don’t have enough of the contrast yarn to do stripes for the entire sweater, just for the yoke and one sleeve.

Knitting this sweater for a second time has been a cinch!  Though, I did forget to work the buttonband because I just took it for granted that I knew what I was doing, so I’ll add some after-the-fact button closure.

I’ve also been wanting to blow the dust off my sewing machine.  I have this pattern for a pretty peplum blouse that I want to sew up in this lightweight purple fabric.

And I’ve been thinking really hard that I want to sew some jackets.  I have these two spring-weather jackets that I’ve been wearing almost as blazers at work and they’ve been a nice wardrobe addition.  The Vogue pattern seems more advanced for what I can currently handle, patience-wise, and I don’t have the right fabric in my stash.  But the Butterick pattern has good reviews over on Pattern Review and is said to be a very easy-to-sew pattern.  I have some brown corduroy in my stash that I think would be nice for a first version of this.

I’m excited to spend the impending weekend catching up on all of my crafting loves.  And ride my bike.  It’s about a month until my next big race and I need to get my legs hammering!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Jun 042014
 

Yesterday, I was confident that I would have a knitting project to show you.  Today, I have  only a pile of recently frogged yarn.

I finished knitting my version of the Almond Pullover last night and it turned out wonderful.  I used Knit Picks Gloss in the Blackberry colorway as the main yarn and also a ball of the Schoppel-Wolle Crazy Zauberball held double for a contrasting stripe.  I was SO EXCITED about my new sweater and went to bed mentally composing my blog post about it, wherein I would rave about what an ingenious design and well-written pattern it was.

And it was!  Ingenious and very well-written.  If you haven’t considered this design before, it’s a sweater pattern that is worked from the top-down starting at the shoulders.  You begin with a Turkish Cast On (or another similar CO) and work the shoulder much like you would for a pair of toe-up socks.  Then there is all kind of increasing to transform your sock toe into a sweater yoke and the way it comes together seems like magic.

Because of the unusual construction, there are lots of diagrams and visual aides to help to clarify the pattern instructions.  There were a few times when I felt like what was happening was a total mystery, but I just followed the instructions and it worked out beautifully!

The only problem was that the sweater was a wee bit too small.

This morning when I tried the sweater on again, my suspicions were confirmed – - definitely too small.  It’s possible that, despite my gauge swatch being spot on, my gauge on the sweater might have been off.  Gauge swatches have a tendency to lie.  It’s also possible that I too quickly skimmed the sizing recommendations.  It’s also possible that some of the modifications I made had unanticipated consequences to the fit of the sweater.  I take full responsibility for the outcome of my sweater.  Yes, I tried the sweater on as I was knitting it, but sometimes it’s hard to really tell if a sweater fits when it is still in progress.

The armhole depth was too shallow.  The pull across the bust flattened and smooshed my already flat chest.  The circumference of the body was sufficiently narrow that it really didn’t look good unless I sucked in my gut (who has the time and energy for that?!?).

I think I could have lived with the sweater and I know that it would have looked awesome to other people, but for me, it was just too small.  I frogged the whole sweater and plan to cast on and reknit it, one size larger.

On the one hand, this feels a bit silly of me and perhaps not a great use of my limited knitting time.  I’ve been putting pressure on myself to get my head back in the game and work on some more of my own designs (I have about five patterns that are in various states of non-completion).  But on the other hand, I’ve been really busy lately in my non-knitting life and knitting on this sweater has been so relaxing because I haven’t had to think very hard about it.  Now that I understand how this pattern works, I think reknitting it will be a cinch and might even be more relaxing than it was the first time.

Incidentally, while I knit, I’ve been listening to all of the audiobooks in the Avalon series by Marion Zimmer-Bradley.  Last fall, I read the Mists of Avalon series and just LOVED them and then recently, I discovered that there is a whole series that takes place before the timeline in the Mists books.  Right now, I’m reading Lady of Avalon and love it.  I think that if you enjoy the Game of Thrones series but dislike the portrayal of women therein, you would really appreciate the Avalon books.

Update:  I took a better look at the sizing in the pattern instructions and I did too quickly skim that section the first time around!  Turns out that I knat the size 27″ bust when I should have knat the size 31″.  No wonder it turned out too small!  Let this be a lesson to you all – - read the sizing information carefully!

May 072014
 

Today’s post is going to be a little wild and unexpected, but I thought that I would post about some knitting on my knitting blog!  You might want to sit down for this… maybe brace yourself!

Having recently been preoccupied with some big projects in my non-knitting life, I’ve been gravitating towards smaller / portable / easy knitting projects.  Specifically, hats.  While I’ve knat several hats for Josh, I’ve only knat a few for myself.  Having felted my most favorite knit hat this spring, I decided that I wanted more hats.

I whipped up this garter stitch striped hat in just a couple of days, using size US 6 needles and Knit Picks City Tweed yarn.  I’ve been on a stashbusting mission and I wanted to use up every last bit of the off-white (Snowshoe) and grey (Orca) colorways that I had.

I love how the hat turned out.  It has the perfect amount of slouch for me and is so soft and cozy.

Using the same yarn and in also just a few days, I was able to knit up each of these two hats with vertical stripes.  I knat a hat very similar to these for one of Josh’s brothers (who was my “secret santa giftee”) for our holiday trip to Florida, and it turned out so well that I wanted to make one for Josh and I.

The red one has a little more slouch than the grey one, so I think I’ll take that one for myself, since Josh seems to prefer well fitted hats.

I’ve been enjoying my hat knitting.  They are so easy stuff in my bag to carry around and then can easily be worked on while, say, in a waiting room or in between different appointments, and are very easy to fit.  I am working on two more hats right now, but I am excited to return to sweater knitting.

 

Mar 052014
 

I’ve always understood that, in order for my crafting to be successful (and for me to actually finish projects), the process needs to be enjoyable and satisfying.  This is not to say that every single moment of the process needs to be filled with delight and joy, but that most of the moments need to be so.  This project is a good reminder of that.  For the entire month of February, I was working on a sewing project (for my quilt curtains) that I did not enjoy at all – - actually, I worked on the project hardly at all because I did not have a desire to spend time with it, but the project remained in progress for the whole month.  Over the weekend, I forced myself to finish that project, and I hated every moment of its finishing, but my motivation was to begin work on a project that I was certain would be enjoyable and satisfying to work on.

I began work on this dress Sunday evening, cutting out all of the pieces.  I took Monday off from work and spent the day sewing, mostly filled with joy, and finished this project less than 24 hours after I started it.

This is Simplicity 1882, which I’ve made before.  I am so delighted with how well it turned out.  As a recap, I used the smallest bust cup size with the “curvy” skirt pieces, it fits perfectly

This project was a 100% stash busting project!  The main fabric is an Amy Butler cotton print, the yellow is some linen, and the lining fabric is a generic poly lining (for the skirt – - not shown), and they have all been in my stash for years.  I’m participating in a stashbusting sewalong, and I’m finding it motivating to get my stash down to reasonable quantities.

This dress has some really nice pockets.  On the last version, I added the pocket flaps (and love them) but when I was working on this version, I forgot that the pattern instructions for the pocket flaps don’t make any sense to me and I became so frustrated trying to install them that I threw the flaps away in frustration (this was the moment while making this dress that I was not filled with joy).  Considering that I made the other version of this dress in January, one might think that I would have remembered this frustrating pocket flap business, but no, my memory is apparently very short.

Except for that pocket flap business, this dress came together so easily.  I’m thinking that I should write down some sort of sewing mantra about only working on projects that I enjoy the making of, because otherwise they will sit on my sewing table, in progress, until I force myself, literally kicking and screaming, to finish them.  Incidentally, I will not be blogging about my stupid quilted curtains because, even though they “technically” turned out okay, I really just hate them because they remind me of frustrating times.  In fact, I want to throw them away and just buy curtains from the store… they have such bad memories for me.

What about you, Readers… are you able to motivate yourselves to finish a project even if you dislike working on it?  Do you have any crafting mantras or ways to stay motivated to work on projects that are not fun?

Jan 302014
 

Happy Thursday everyone!  I am in the most fantastic mood today, primarily because we had a big storm blow through and scour out the gross inversion (which many compare to a Dementor’s Kiss in its ability to remove all joy for life, causing people to exist merely as empty shells… so we actually have blue sky and sunshine today!) AND ALSO because I’ve finished my first knitting project of the year!  This is the Monomania pattern by Anne Weaver and I think it’s the greatest thing ever.

The pattern combines stripes and chevrons into a flattering cardigan.   The yarns I used are all special to me.  The darker purple yarn is Malabrigio Sock, which Josh bought me for my birthday a few years ago.  And both the silvery and the lighter & variegated purple yarns are Sophie’s Toes Merino sock yarn, which I procured at Sock Summit a few years ago.  I’ve been saving up these yarns for the perfect project and I am very pleased to have paired them well with a great pattern!

As per my tendency, I made a few modifications, including altering the stripes.  For one, I wanted the light and dark colorways to flow together – - light, medium, dark, medium, light – - for balance, and I interspersed smaller stripes into the larger blocks of color.  I’m not sure if this makes the cardigan too busy, but I am fond of it.

I’m kicking myself for the other major modification I made…  Rather than work the buttonholes, as written in the pattern, I decided to be clever and NOT work buttonholes and instead hammer in some pearl snaps.  I really thought I was being SO CLEVER!  …My snaps didn’t work out for several reasons.  One, I don’t think this size of snap was designed to work with this thickness of knitted fabric, and so not only did I have a difficult time getting them all hammered in, but several of the clasp thingies have continued to fall off.  Secondly, I’m not exactly sure what this was all about, but my multiple attempts at hammering in some of the snaps resulted in the knitting stitches actually being sliced by the sharp prongs on the clasp thingies.  I spent upwards of an hour mending all of the holes that I had caused.  Obviously, I felt extremely disappointed in my snap snafu!

So then I had another really awesome idea!  I would crochet a button band thing and pretend that my pearl snaps were buttons!  I did end up carefully removing the snap thingies from the one side of the cardigan (and was relieved that there were no more sliced stitches to mend!), keeping the decorative pearl snaps in place.  Then I did my super well-done crochet button band (you all know that I have no clue how to crochet, right?).  After getting it all ready and done, I donned the cardigan and found that using snaps as buttons just doesn’t work.  I was convinced that it would work, but “snaps as buttons” is not a thing that works in real life.  This cardigan is apparently not going to come together unless I remove the decorative pearl snaps and affix buttons – - and I’m just not in the mood to do that so it will be an open and swingy cardi for a while, which is just fine with me.

Despite my snap snafu, I really do adore this cardigan!

Some details on my Ravelry Page.