Friday, 28 September 2012

Feeding the fabric habit

Unfortunately I am buying a heck of a lot of fabric.  I just can't seem to stop myself.  It is as if I am addicted to poring over fabric, picking and choosing, and then carrying home my haul, - and as if this buying malarkey is the beginning and end of all things sewing related for me.  I just can't understand why I buy so much fabric while I don't get round to anything that even leads up to actual sewing - whether that's dressmaking, patchwork, quilting or making other kinds of fabric item where you would, you guessed it, actually use up some of that confounding fabric!

Here's the latest culprit:

But then again (and that's where the whole problem arises) I am not mad at myself for buying two meters of this specific fabric - because I just couldn't leave it behind!

Here's a close-up of the details, already cut up into squares:

The colours on my monitor are a bit off, what looks like a grey background on some squares is a much more browny/creamy colour (not really my thing) and the background of the other squares is a lot closer to the real colour of a greeny blue.  A mid to dark colour that might be called petrol or teal.

The nice thing is that I've got quite a few bits of fabrics, some fat quarters, some with more mileage in it, that go very nicely with this blueish colour. 

I'm planning on putting framing stripes around these squares, in two rings. One a little lighter and the second a dark colour, probably alternating on half the squares.

I am not sure if I will use the beige coloured squares as well or only the green/blue ones.

I also love the borders between the squares but these stripes aren't very wide.  If I have lots of fabric left then I might be able to use this part of the fabric as well (possibly for another project, not sure yet).  My plan for the squares patchwork does mean that these stripes disappear in the seam allowance.  Shame that.

I was so inspired by the fabric itself that I just had to buy it.  Yes, I'm feeding my habit but...

Picking through my fabric haul at home, putting together combinations of colours and patterned fabrics - it does make me very happy.  I think it's the wonderful potential and lovely promise of it all: with these many different fabrics to hand I can really indulge in all sorts of ideas and plans.

It would be kind of nice to come through with the occasional project (so I can stop feeling quite so guilty and self-indulgent. That more than anything else) but I fully expect to one day decide that I'm completely fed up and in a funk, and therefore need to radically reduce the vastness of my stash.  I'm sure I will make other people very happy by donating the lot (just talking about the excess, not the whole lot of it!) to those friends who are not in the same boat and would like some free fabric, or otherwise the local charity shop.  One day...

Not any day soon though.  For now I'm keeping it all to myself to play around with and indulge.  Sorry.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Coarsewoven patchwork - how to put it together

This turned into a bit of a tutorial - based on all the drawings I came up with.  I thought that I could easily demonstrate how to sew this coarse woven block together with the help of a couple of pictures but that would have fallen short.

So here goes.

Chose three fabrics, cut them into a few strips of equal width. Pick the fabric to use for the vertical strips and cut these into lengths of four times their width.

You may want to cut a couple of squares off the other two strips (one of one colour and two of the other if you're making one block to try this out).  Sew these three squares to a vertical strip each, like so:

Always make sure to press seams open before sewing over them (if you never tried patchwork before: pressing seams open makes a huge difference. You'll be glad you bothered. Honestly)

Put the two strips aside and work with the single strip and square unit.

Attach two vertical strips to either side - but not for the entire length. This is where the partial seams come in - and it's these partial seams that makes this block come together so smoothly.

Start at the top and sew down about three quarters. You want to leave the stepped end open with enough room so you can easily sew another fabric against the end of what are, for now, the outer strips. That's for later though. For now just sew down about three quarters. Or two thirds if you prefer, it doesn't make much of a difference.

I drew in a light grey line where my partial seams end. The broken lines mean seams.

The graphics show the outer strips bent outwards, that's meant to show those ends being loose and not sewn against the inner, central strip yet. Not sure if this makes sense.

Next, sew the strip of the upper colour (bolded in the graphics) against the top of the three strips. I didn't bother cutting the horizontal strips to the right lengths but daisy-chained all my four motifs onto the continuous horizontal strip and then rotary cut them on the mat after that.

Then sew another two vertical strips against the outer sides, again with a partial seam.

Continue in this way (alternating vertical strips and horizontal strips working with the first two colour fabrics only) until you added four horizontal strips.

The next step gets a bit more interesting. This time attach one of the two strips with the square of the third fabric already attached. You no longer have to do a partial seam, you finally get to sew an entire seam in one go!

If you would like to make more than one block/motif at the same time you will want to attach the second block to the side of the first.  The broken line on the right is meant to show that this is a horizontal strip that is really longer than the square I drew.

Now flip the whole thing over so your first horizontal (bolded) strips are at the bottom and the side with your third fabric horizontals are at the top (the ones in purple/blue). You want to sew the third colour strip against the top of the three vertical strips.  I am showing one of the three vertical strips with a round edge, that's just meant to show that this side has not yet been sewn to the neighbouring vertical strip.

The next bit you get to do, finally!, is to close the partial seam where I drew the red rectangle in. I should have really done another graphic but I'm sure you get the idea. You need to close the first partial seam all the way down once you attached the second purple strip. Once that partial is fully closed you can attach the next purple/blue strip*, close the next partial seam and so on until you are done.

*: I am saying purple/blue strip because the colour looks purple on one monitor, but blue on another. Go figure.

Please let me know if the drawings and my description makes sense.

I loved sewing this. It was so much fun.

When I make enough progress with this project I will post about what it is going to be. Fingers crossed it pans out the way I imagine and hope.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

Coarsewoven patchwork - the photos

I already posted these pictures to Google+. This block is so much fun to put together, it's like a jigsaw puzzle! I just love this.

Originally I found this block layout at Quilters Cache.  Googling it just now found another example that I love for the use of different fabrics in the vertical stripes and the same fabric in the horizontals, top and bottom. This is from the 1900s! Link to the University of Kansas, Spencer Museum of Art.

I am not yet going to say what I will use these for, but I did make two of them:

Here is another photo showing a close-up: 

The colours are not true to reality (well, except for the black). The patterned purple of the vertical strips is pretty much the same purple as of the unicoloured horizontal strips. They are both less grey-blue and more 'proper' purple.

The secret to putting these together lies in partial seams. At least this is my solution.

I found this block at Quilters Cache. There the bottom "steps" have to be sewn in in one go, in a zig-zag. I haven't tried it but it strikes me as really fiddly and utterly frustrating. I'm not terribly accurate so this would be all kinds of wonky!

I couldn't be bothered to even try.

But partial seams, on almost all the vertical strips, worked like a charm!

Click through to the tutorial I drew up because it's easier shown than explained.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Craftsy online class

Look what I just found on that clever thing called the Internet!

Craftsy do online classes, more specifically sewing classes!  And I enrolled myself in a particularly clever one called 'Jean-ius' or how to reverse engineer your favourite jeans!

Woohoo!  I'm so excited. This is brilliant! I've wanted to do a trousers sewing class for ages but found that they're pretty expensive, or even that the one I could have done didn't have enough people interested and therefore got cancelled.  Such a disappointment.

But here we go: can't do it physically?  Do an online class!

Those good folk at Craftsy deserve a mention:

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Those projects

Okay, I just updated my Ravelry page.  Lots more photos.

And here is my newest Work in Progress, started just yesterday:

Summer break

I've been away for a while, close to five weeks, and I missed my life.  I'm really glad to get back to it.

While away and providing support before and after my parent's hospital stay as well as flat-hunting, I did have lots of time to knit.  Which is nice.  I am surprised that I managed to not just start four projects - but also finish them!  Plus another two that were already works in progress.  I'm really chuffed with myself!

Now I just need to photograph the results so I can post those to Ravelry as well as blog about them all.  Looking forward to that.

And I managed to find a new handbag last week (first week back) that I actually like better and better the more I look at it.  I just hope it works well in its purpose.  The straps are a touch slippery and I sure hope that this is not going to be a problem.  I also can't submerge huge amounts of stuff in it, let alone my crafts projects so I will have to carry a separate project bag.  That's not a bad thing in itself.

Here is the bag:

And just to show scale, with a sock (I have small-ish feet):

Yes, this is one of the new socks

It is a cream colour with glossy black and silver metal bits.  I'm not actually fond of cream, though I love the other colours, but here the effect is slightly vintage or retro, and I love it!

The other thing I'm happy about is that I managed to iron three linen/linen mix blouses last night. This includes my last two sewing projects: the silver grey top and the black and white tunic.  Both hold up well to wearing and washing - and even ironing!  I am delighted.  It wasn't even that bad to have to iron them - but only because I am looking forward to wearing both again and can't wait to give them another outing.

As long as I sew things that I actually like it will motivate me to keep going.  Nothing worse than getting stuck with unsatisfactory progress on your latest projects.  Fingers crossed.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

I learned something new!

I am delighted: I learned something new.

A technique to kind of twist two stitches without changing them around as you would when knitting a cable pattern.  Most intriguing!

This technique can be used to "twist" two stitches though not any more than that.  It involves knitting two stitches together and then knitting one of them again - it will look as if you had parked one stitch on a cable needle, knit off the second stitch and then knit the first stitch from the cable needle.

I had not come across this technique before - I am delighted to learn something new!

The intriguing thing is that the outcome is slightly different for the Right Twist [* no it's not] (knit 2 together without slipping them off the left needle, knit the first stitch again and then slip both stitches off) than it is for the Left Twist (knit the second stitch through the back loop, then knit both stitches through the back loop and only then slip both stitches off the left needle).

The Left Twist (LT) results in the working thread slipping back out of the second stitch when you knit both stitches through the back loop.  I can't see how to avoid that.  The good thing is that this is not noticeable on the right side of the work.

The Right Twist* (RT) does not have the same problem because you knit both stitches together first, then the working thread goes into the first stitch without slipping back out of the second stitch.  If you get me.

I tried it different ways but as I said I can't see how to avoid this.

I also tried the LT as knitting the second stitch through the front loop (not worth the effort) as well as changing the first stitch's needle mount first and so keeping that first stitch open (as opposed to twisted) but again it doesn't make enough noticeable difference and may even look a touch more wonky.  Strangely enough!

This all is most intriguing.  I love little itty-bitty details like that.  Very glad I came across the technique.

The book (a Barbara Walker Knitting Treasury book) also suggested that some cable patterns can be adapted to be knit this way so you don't have to use a cable needle.  Not sure yet if I want to try that but there are plenty of Twisted Stitches patterns in Ms Walker's Treasury books.

Update: * Okay for completeness sake I need to correct my false statement above: the exact same happens with the Right Twist as with the Left Twist.  I'm an idiot.  I just didn't look at it properly - the working thread does slip when this is worked in either direction.  I'm really rather silly for not realising.
Still, at least I figured it out in the end.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Black and white linen tunic

And here's a project that only took me two hours:

I love this.  It is the sort of shape I wanted, the length is just right: just above mid thigh, the neckline isn't too wide and sits relatively well (I could do with some loops on the inside to anchor the shoulder seams to the bra straps).

I shouldn't have been in quite such a rush: I forgot to top stitch the neckline before turning it in and stitching it down: it does gape a bit.  I can still do that now, not a problem.

This is the same pattern as the grey damask top, only longer.  My changes: I lengthened the sleeves by extending the line from the shoulder (a touch at the bottom as well) - this changed the angle that the sleeve seams sit at.  Much better!

The sleeve seams are unfortunately rather stiff from turning the hems in twice - this linen is stiffer than I expected.  They look as if I sewed in some embroidery hoops!  I plan on forming an inverted pleat at the top seam: hold it down with a couple of press studs and add a pretty button to the outside.  That should do it.

I will report on my progress.

I could wear it, that was the main thing for me.  A real feeling of achievement that will motivate me to carry on dressmaking!  Bliss!

Grey damask top

I am so pleased.  I managed to make a nice top that's good enough to wear.  What a relief!

I had the fabric quite a long time - absolutely no idea where I got it from.  Shame.  I would love to make something else out of it, except... it doesn't iron terribly well.  So maybe that's a good thing then.

I am not keen on the angle of the sleeve hems, they make my shoulders look huge.  I will change this when I make it again.  It also got a bit big but perhaps the feel of a roomy sack isn't completely bad in itself?  It is supposed to be a top to feel comfortable in after all...

Sunday, 29 April 2012

The need to knit

Why do I knit?  Why do I make stuff to wear and use, - and then don't?

Looking at both my Ravelry project page and a shelf at home, I find that I recently made quite a few garments but I have them folded in a neat stack on a shelf, - basically I'm not wearing what I am making.


There are success stories: I love and wear my grey cable vest.  Bit of luck with that one.

But there are numerous garments I don't wear.  A short-sleeved turquoise top I just (almost) finished, a rose steeked cardigan, several cowls, a plum-coloured very wide but short top, a white slippery yarn jumper...  The list goes on*.

I also started quite a few garments where I will knit like someone possessed and stop when I get to a bit where I need to think things through, really use the focus of my designer eye, my instincts if you will.  Instead it's as if the soothing motion of motoring through acres of stocking stitch is the one thing that attracts me to knitting right now.

This is not a problem: I have so much yarn sitting around that any progress is indeed progress, even if my completion rate is rather miserable.  At some future point in time I will be happy to go over projects and get them done.  It'll be nice not to have the whole lot of work ahead of me, but instead only a little bit to finish.  It will be a quicker route to achievement gratification.

Now I am keen to start yet another project.  Only this time it's not something with oodles of stockinette to keep me happy, no it's a sort of cross between a sock and a slipper, kind of a house shoe type foot covering.  There is a big difference to my usual modus operandi:  I actually need slippers.

Because I can put them to good use, I am highly likely to make good use of them too. So let me at 'em!

I am so pleased to be starting a supremely useful item.  You never know it might kick off a trend!  Though I wouldn't exactly hold my breath...

* the problem with most of those projects is that they don't fit as well as I'd like (whereas the grey vest does), or it's not the right time of year, or I've simply forgotten that I have it.  Darn.

The problem with the turquoise top, pictured as a WIP, is that I put the shoulder seams in the wrong place, they ended up too far back.  So not a good look.  I also knit the sleeves with the wrong needles, thinner ones - no idea how I managed that mistake (severe case of absent-mindedness?).  And I'm not all that happy with the general fit to begin with.  I have a feeling that I might rip this one down and start over.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Wahey! Version 2

And... voila!  Version 2

In pink this time.  Loads better than the blue one, still not as good as I'd like so I won't be making another one exactly like it.  It needs further refinement before I can use this as a template.

There is some diagonal pulling going on from the bust point downwards.  To be honest: I'm not really sure what causes that nor how to fix it.  I'll need to pop this on my tailor's dummy and investigate.  Maybe the bust darts need to be a bit deeper?

I am still glad how this falls from the shoulders, so that's a good starting point.  I'm happy with that.

I find the side picture the most interesting: I can see that the angle of the dart is rather too steep, I will raise the starting point.  The armhole is pretty baggy towards the top, that needs tightening up by taking the side seam in a bit more, both front (quite a bit more) and back (not nearly as much)

A spontaneous improvement on version 1: I used facings to sew behind the hems too - I did curve the front hem and wouldn't like any creasing from turning the hem just over.  I would have needed to steam the life out of it to get it to lie flat.

I am going to add a fastener at the top corners, just not got round to it yet.

The shoulders are definitely still too broad and I didn't cut the slimmer version rounded enough, I need to go in towards the middle a bit more because this bulges out a bit.  The centre back could do with a touch more cinching in than I did too.  Not sure if this will take care of the bunching up at the back of the waist - there is too much fullness there still.

All in all: quite happy with the improvement.  It was really interesting to work with a much stiffer less drapey fabric: much easier to sew but not as nice to wear.

I will have another try, again with a wearable muslin because I need to use up my stash fabrics.  I wonder what other material I have?  This one was a sort of quilt quality of cotton, it's a little on the stiff side for this type of top.

What I did hate about this are all the facings that need to go in.  I naively thought that this consisted of only two pieces: front and back, but when you count every single facing as well there are actually 12.  I must find out if there is something else I can use to prevent raw edges near the edges of the garment.  I don't want piping (don't like the look) but isn't there some kind of ribbon or braid that you can sew onto the inside to hide the overlocked edges turned inside?

I was even tempted to try rolled hems but that wouldn't be suitable.  I supposed I could just line the whole thing - I would grudgingly do facings for the neckline to make that sit better, but the rest?  Just bung in some lining in the right sort of colour on the inside.  I didn't mind the hem facings so much, they do improve the look of the garment no end and were much easier to deal with than turning the hem over twice but I did hate doing the armhole facings.  Just never-ending!

Maybe I should have a break from this top and start on my simple skirt template next?

Friday, 30 March 2012

I sewed something!

Oh my gosh, I am so relieved I cannot even begin to say how much.

I have been obsessing about sewing, dressmaking more specifically, for the last 3-4 years.  And yet: I just didn't get anything done.  Not finished I should say.

But look at this:

I broke through the block, I got out from under the jinx!  Yes!
I am so pleased.

It is by no means perfect, in fact the photos are very useful so I can tell where this pattern needs to be adjusted.  My plan is to get this right as much as I can - and then to put the two pieces onto some stiff paper (like wallpaper lining paper, that should do the trick) so I can use this as a template for all sorts of other designs: different necklines, with sleeves, buttoned at the front, wrap style, you name it.  I can embellish this by adding roses, origami shapes or flounces to the neckline, I can add a collar, or piece it together out of different fabrics, I can crop it or lengthen it - lots of possibilities.

Best of all: once I get the fit of this right I should never have another fitting issue as long as I want to make this simple style.  And I think simple suits me best.

I can see from the frontal photo above that this drapes well from the shoulder (thank goodness! That's the most important aspect that I think needs to be right first, everything else is secondary) - but I might tighten the side seams near the armholes just a little bit, lose maybe a centimetre at most.

The side photo: I am really aghast at how overweight this makes me look, I'm not that big!  So perhaps the side seams do need to be just a touch tighter down to about half way?  I'm not sure if this would work, I need to try that out.

I can see here that I need to make the centre front longer but keep the side seams the same length.  I want to shift the bust dart  at least an inch (bit more) further down - it's just plain wrong for it to end half way between the bust point and the armhole seam (who are these patterns made for?).  The front shoulder can be a bit less broad if I want a more close-fitting style.

I guess I need to look into a swayback adjustment (I think that's what it's called.  Not sure what it is nor what it does) and I can see from this photo that the back piece is much, much too wide at the waist. I think I applied my bigger waist measurement all the way around but I need to keep the front piece as is but use a smaller dress size (or two!) for the back.

The shoulders at the back are way too wide, they make me look rather broad-shouldered.  Carrying on from a slimmer shoulder at the front, I will probably want to go a lot further in - this will probably end up as quite a rounded armhole shape for the back whereas the shape at the front needs to remain quite straight down.

I am not sure if I am keen on the shape of the back neckline but I think this is quite easy to change.

I used this fabric because I have plenty of it and can't think of a suitable project, it seemed perfect to use it for what is really a muslin (or toile).  I didn't appreciate that the fabric is quite soft and is quite easy to pull out of shape - I would much rather use a plain cotton next time I do a muslin.

Now I just need to look for another piece of suitable fabric from my stash (I got plenty!) and then I can go for version number 2.

Oh, this is fun!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Thick and thin blue summer top

I finished this in January 2011 but actually forgot to blog up. Here's the Ravelry link for anyone interested in the yarny details etc: Blue summer top.

Another project that finally made it from 95% to all done:

I tightened up the thread a bit more on the left hand side then the other when I sewed it up.  I will do that as well with a bit of spare thread to even things out on the other side.  When I get round to it...

Closer-up shots of the details:

If you don't have access to Ravelry, the yarn is a thick and thin acrylic by Texere called New Fancy.  It is a good price and I like that it looks quite glossy.

But I felt a bit of a fool for ordering one cone for evalution, liked what I saw and ordered more before knitting up a tension square.  How silly of me!  I would have realised that it is thick and thin - just from looking at it that fact hadn't jumped out at me.  Uh-oh.

I do like the effect of this in the resulting fabric. I just would have preferred this to be a smooth yarn.

I had to do some fancy foot work on the hem and the armhole facings.  Neither of those would lie flat: both kept flicking over.  Acrylic has that annoying characteristic of not blocking well.  The hem was initially only half the height - I picked up stitches and knitted downwards, repeating the same yarnover pattern, finishing with a purled turning ridge row and knit up an inside stocking stitch facing that I sewed up.

The armholes started out with a three stitch wide garter stitch that I worked in while knitting this.  The result was that they kept turning to the inside.  So again I picked up stitches and even though the orientation is different to the garter band, I just knit out a K1 P1 rib.  That seems to do the trick and stay in place where it's needed.


I still have some of this yarn left. Ponderations...

Friday, 23 March 2012

Rebecca Wrap Update

A quick update on how far I got with the wrap top from the Rebecca magazine.

I had motored through the back at such speed, I was quite sure that this would be a quick project!  I just love knitting this even though the needles are tiny and the yarn pretty darn thin.  I just love it: the stitches seem to firmly flow off the needles.  I think it may have to do with the yumminess of the JC Rennie lambswool - it feels very nice on your hands as you knit.  I'm sure you could take it double and get through it much quicker, but hey.

There is a bit of a hold-up on this.  I have already blogged about the three sleeves I produced to make sure they're both the same - these two are still at the same stage: just at the point where the side seams go into the armhole seams.  I need to see what shape my back and front pieces are before I continue.

It is the front piece that's giving me the most trouble.

I am on version 2.  I had to rip one of them down quite a bit too, so this is really version 2.5, or higher!

The problem is that my yarn and therefore gauge is so very different to the pattern instructions.  I also seem to be quite a different shape to the young, svelte slip of a girl model in the magazine - that might have even more to do with it!

The front piece is knit from the top down: you start making the two shoulder pieces and then join them together with newly cast-on stitches for the bottom of the neckline.  Then it should be full steam ahead in more stocking stitch until you start to introduce the ribbing from both sides - slanting inwards so the ribbing meets in the centre a bit further down.  The ribbing does not just run in one direction - there are increases alongside what would be a seamline on a sewn dress: this should run across the bust point and then straight down.

This is not what was happening with my first version.  The ribbing and the 'seamline' unfortunately didn't hit the right spots but ran down the sides of my boobs, rather emphasising them in the process.  This is completely the opposite effect of what you would ever want to achieve!  It just looked really horrid and dilettante.

So I ripped and re-knit.  I started the ribbing higher up and introduced the line of increases further in towards the middle.  This adjustment made it necessary to make a further change.  Either side of that 'seamline' the instructions called for one portion of the ribbing (the outer one) to run downwards in parallel ribs and all the increases to occur on the inner side where increasingly more ribs would run down at a slant -if that makes sense.

Exactly that wasn't working for me - so I switched it round.  Unfortunetely that in turn means (it never ends, does it!) that the ribbing wouldn't look right once the seamline reached the bust point, the slanted line would carry on slanted whereas I wanted it to run straight down.  So I reversed direction: now the increases occur on the outer ribbing side of the 'seamline'.

And do you know what?  I think it works!

I was really nervous that all these changes wouldn't work out.  I am still not completely convinced that this top will work as it should, but I can't see any obvious error so I'm still keeping my fingers crossed.

I got to the stage where the ribbing meets in the middle.  I did another slight adjustment here by twisting the central two ribs (like a cable) for further interest.  I like it!

Then shortly below this point the front piece is split into two halves.  I am chosing to knit both at the same time on one needle with obviously two balls of yarn.  I like circular needles but you could use straight needles just as well.  I knit two rows on the right half and then two on the left half - this way I can increase in the same places and I did end up with the same number of stitches for both without having to put in lots of effort of counting and checking.  Much easier!

I also decided that I would gradually increase the ribbing further at the side seams - stocking stitch and ribbing obviously gives you quite different widths.  I don't want the ribbing to flatten out too much because I don't think this will look good.  But because ribbing pulls the material together quite a bit more I need more stitches and that's the reason why I decided on increases at the side seams.  It might look a bit odd.
Like I said: I am not at all convinced that all these adjustments will result in a good look.  It might come out rather strange looking.  On the other hand: I will have learnt a lot about shaping and what things look like when you use ribbing.  That's a new learning experience.
I can't say that the top will look terribly similar to the photo in the magazine though... Story of my life.

I got to the point where I need to cast off some stitches for the bottom hem of the front.  I am a little unsure how many - the remaining stitches will continue on into long ties to wrap round for a knot at the back.  I think that I need to cast off more than the outer ribbing stitches, that will look a bit odd but it would be worse if I tried to make the ties too wide.  They are bound to bunch up at the hem and that would draw attention to my tummy.  Again a look I am exceedingly keen to avoid!

Once I decide how much to cast off it will be a case of some anxiety until I can see how it works and what it will look like!  It's all very exciting but also induces some nail-biting!

I guess I like challenges, this sure is one.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Sock Sisterrs, guy knitters welcome - Dates & Details

Here is a summary of the Sock Sisterrs dates and how you can access further details about the monthly sock knitting group, - meeting in central London, UK.

Mon 12 December 2011
Mon 9 January 2012
Thu 9 February 2012 - Royal Festival Hall
Thu 15 March 2012 - Caffe Nero, 83/84 Long Acre
Thu 21 Feb 2013 - Royal Festival Hall
Thu 21 March 2013 - Caffe Nero, 83/84 Long Acre

Check out the following for more info:

Meetup group - you can set your RSVP here and also find out about any last minute changes
Ravelry group - this is great for sharing pictures of projects. Discussion board available.
Google+ page - sharing sock related G+ posts from around the net
Blog Page - I will update the summary on this blog page

There is also a Facebook group (please access via the Blog Page link above).  I will not be able to update this on a regular basis so the links above are much more helpful.

Let me know if you have any questions!  You can email me via the Meetup group, or message me on Ravelry.  It would be lovely if you would let me know that you're coming along (short notice is absolutely fine).

This is a social get-together to sit, chat and knit. Unfortunately I will not be able to teach anyone to knit.  Feel free to pick my brain if you're stuck on your instructions or any other question - that's what the group is there for: exchange of ideas, tips, advice and being able to admire what socks other people are making.

State of play mini knitting update

Just to ruminate about where my knitting is at these days.  Here's a mini update on the two works in progress that I'm the most excited about (and let's just leave the other 16 or so aside for now, shall we? ...oh lovely. Glad you feel the same way).

I bought this German knitting magazine, called Rebecca.  It has a long-sleeved wrap (with long strips that tie at the back) in it that literally made me gasp when I saw it: I want to make that!  This edition of the magazine uses only GGH yarn (not sure about any other editions) - this one looks great and the fibre composition sounded even better.  Only problem: could not be got anywhere in the UK, and I only found two places in Germany that were anywhere near where I was, which was still too far away for a quick trip during my jealously guarded holiday time.  So I won't be using this yarn.  I also prefer using a yarn that won't be discontinued this time next year, just in case.

I felt the need to go visit my local yarn shop: Nest in Weston Park, London.  I can only recommend this shop, it is wonderful!  Near Finsbury Park in case you were wondering (if you're anywhere near North London and haven't been yet: go. Take it as an instruction, not a suggestion).

And would you know I found some absolutely lovely, gorgeous JC Rennie yarn in the most yummy, intense, sumptuous, delightful, sigh-inducing dark purple that I've ever come across.  The photo makes it look lighter and bluer: imagine the colour of dark cherry jam, only a touch more blue.  That colour.

I hesitate to say the next bit: they had an offer going on this yarn! (that was in December, sorry) and I got the 16 balls (of 25 grams each) at a much better price.  I am just so darn lucky - thank you Nest! (needless to say: I will be back.  This yarn comes in lots more wonderful colours)

So I immediately got started: the back is knit from the bottom up and I can only say that I enjoyed this so mcuh, I actually finished the piece in three days!  -Including!- blocking!  My goodness, I must have been feeling a bit funny, I've never blocked anything this quickly in my life.  Still: you live and you learn.  Apparently, wow.

Then I started the front which is knit from the top down!  Love that.  Really intriguing construction.  I am having to convert the number of stitches because my yarn is much finer.  No problem, calculator in hand, tension square in front of me: converted number of stitches were arrived at in no time! As I said: not a problem, love it.  Bit of a maths person, you see.

Except the pattern wouldn't play ball as nicely as I'd hoped.

The front piece is started in stockinette and then has a K2 P2 ribbing come in from the sides and meet in a nice V shape in the centre a bit further down. The increases within the ribbing are knit to the right and left of a specific line which should run across the bust to achieve the right fit.  (You can see the front piece laid on top of the back in the photo.)

Ahem, mine didn't.  It's still not a problem, just a bit of a hurdle.  I'm not terribly terrific at getting my second wind once I got a bit stuck.  The version 1 front piece sits pinned to my tailor's dummy right now and I've gone onto the sleeves until I get my mojo back for progressing to version 2.

The sleeves were a story in themselves. I seem to be knitting three of them. Yup.  Silly of me.  I didn't realise that switching to different needles (albeit of the same size) might result in a fabric that's just not the same.  And I would quite like to get both sleeves to be as similar to each other as I can.  I'm funny like that.  So I started a third sleeve with the exact same needles and the result is a bit better.  Same number of stitches but strangely enough a little wider that sleeve No 1.  I'll have to make sure that I'm doing the same number of rows, or otherwise (if I'm knitting a touch looser this time) fudge it that way, we'll see.  Can't fudge things too much, but just a tiny, itty-bitty little bit?  Might work.

Getting on well with the sleeves.  Not completely sure that they are wide enough at the top, will have to wait and see.  Next stop: cast on for front piece No 2.  At this rate I'm really puzzled that I managed the back piece on the first attempt!

Oh well.  I'll get there in the end.

I'll blog my other pet project WIP in a separate post.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

A mini sewing update

I'm quite excited: I've wanted to start sewing, (dressmaking really but at this stage I'm not fussy: any sewing will do), for absolutely ages. About three years counting from when I got myself a new sewing machine.

It's been going... not well.

Out of five projects I failed on five.  I think.

I got all sorts of things wrong: I hadn't figured out how to set the stretch stitch properly for the first project right ouf of the gate. I cut out the second project with an extra seam allowance because I'm used to having to do that. I cut the next one on the fold as opposed to two separate pieces for the front and somehow ended up with an extra three inches across which makes the sides under the arms stand off like a funny suit.  What else?  The last project has sleeves that hang down to the knees (not quite but you get my drift) and I can't even remember the project in between.

I got things wrong with each and every single item I tried to do.  At least I'm getting more practice with my sewing machine, that counts for something.

On Saturday (a few weeks back) I went to Brighton (that ought to become another blog post) and bought the local crafts shops emtpy.  There are such nice places to poke around in!  And they've got such nice stuff so 'unfortunately' way too much of it made its way home with me.

The nice thing is that I started a bit of sewing on Sunday: it is only some patchwork but it came out beautifully!

Just look at it:

Isn't it completely and utterly pretty?  I am so proud of this.  It's my own design too.

You're probably a bit puzzled about what this is.  This is going to be an inserted strip in a simple sleeveless top for the summer.  Round neckline, relatively fitted.  Perhaps a little bit along the lines of an Empire Line dress that's gathered under the bust.

The strip will be placed under the bust all the way around.  I already sewed another plain black strip to the top of it and I am planning on cutting the top half of the garment in the same black.  I will put in bust darts that originate from underneath the bust and go vertically upwards.

I suppose a side zip would be easiest for getting in and out of the top - it will be plain, non-stretching cotton.  I don't want a front opening and I find back zips or buttons a bit difficult to get to.

Thinking about it: I'll have to find a suitable pattern first (or draw one up) and then spend a bit of time with my tailor's dummy trying to figure out if the pieces will give a good fit.  There is no point in making yet another item that doesn't fit and that won't be made to fit, just to be awkward.  Well, I could adjust some of my mishap items but that's just so tiresome!

I also started another border, in three fabrics.  Two plain ones I had lying around and a patterened fat quarter that I bought in Brighton.  The pattern I made is not as pretty as the one above so this may make it into a quilt as the border around it.  Maybe.  One day.

I also have a hankering to make something in purple (I have plenty of fabrics in my stash to give this a whirl) - I am torn between another border strip or perhaps quilt blocks, something not too big, maybe for a lap quilt.  I could do with one of those.  Keep me nice and cosy as it gets colder out.

I did start another quilt in black, grey and a really great pink but I hadn't thought my design idea through: I used the three fabrics in strips and then turned every second square up.  This forms a windmill shape in both the grey and the black fabric, I didn't realised this would happen! (Lesson: lay the elements out together, then step back and take a proper look!).  I haven't done anything about a border for this yet so it's languishing too.

(Maybe do something different: instead of a patterned border, just a single-colour strip? Hm, might work)

I am hoping to give this black/grey/pink quilt a back in a different pattern.  If I wanted to use a single backing fabric I would have to buy yet more fabric (that's a big, fat 'no') so using some more of the fabrics out of my stash is a much better idea.  That means more patchwork.  It also means reversible!  That's a win-win in my book.

Life lessons in knitting matters

Two's company, three's a crowd

Guess what this is! Yes indeed, it is three sleeves (for my wrap top from the Rebecca magazine).

How did that happen?  Well, here's where the lessons in knitting come in:

Once you knit sleeve number 1 with specific needles, then do go ahead and knit sleeve number 2 with the exact self same needles!  It will save time and effort.  It will!

This is because:

  1. Even though short DPNs and long DPNs say that they are the same size does not mean they are
  2. Putting both needles through a needle gauge at the same size don't mean nuthin.
  3. When you find that one sleeve is way bigger than the other on the self same number of stitches: stop and think
  4. Instead of ripping back to the cuff and re-knitting the whole lot with less stitches: do check the cuff size against each other too.  This might just be a really good idea!
  5. Yes: when a sleeve is a different size with the same number of stitches as another sleeve, then the cuff with the same number of stitches as the other cuff is also a different size!
  6. And no: do not think that it'll be all right because a different number of stitches does indeed mean that you get a different result, only imagine!  What a surprise.
  7. And with all of the above having been said: do check the actual fabric you're getting by comparing what it feels like when you actually touch both sleeves!  You know: rub them a bit between your fingers - do the tactile thing.  Yes: the fabric you get with less stitches is lots thinner and even awfully more floppy than the fabric you get with more stitches!  D'uh!!

Longer DPNs on the left, shorter DPNs on the right


How could I?  I just kept on knitting, thinking: I am getting the same size now that I'm not increasing, I am, aren't I?  Surely it'll be all right?

Nooooo! It won't!!!  Don't be so daft.

I realised that I was getting knitted fabric where the stitches felt more 'spaced' out for want of a better word, and still: I kept on going!  I just don't believe myself.

Now, I am not convinced that those two kinds of needles really are slightly different in size - they are both supposed to be 2.5mm and seeing as the needle gauge also says they're 2.5mm I do tend to believe that they are.

But very obviously I am getting different results and the lesson has sunk in now: if you use short DPNs the first time round, then for God's sake: use the blasted things for the second sleeve as well!  What was I thinking?  Oh yeah: longer DPNs will mean that the stitches won't slip off the needles as easily as happened on the first sleeve.

Instead it might be a good idea to just use more of those shorter DPNs, I do have them after all (I like knitting two socks at the same time so I have two sets of most size sock needles). I wonder if the problem lies in stitches spacing out a bit more on longer needles?  Or the longer ones are indeed just a touch bigger?  At this thinness it could make a difference.  Regardless: I won't be making this mistake again.  I hope.

This is particularly galling because the front piece did not work out yet either.  I will blog this separately but I will have to rip this down quite a bit, or best yet like here: start over and keep comparing to the first version so I don't repeat my errors.

I am lucky that I have a tailor dummy in my measurements so I can pin a piece to it to check for fit.  No use for sleeves, but at least the re-doing of the front won't be a huge pain.

Having motored through the back in three days flat (including blocking! Wahey!) did set me up to think that this knit would be an absolute breeze.  Famous last words!