Wednesday, September 25, 2013

That skein: Hitchhiker

Sometimes you plan out the perfect yarn for the perfect pattern, and the whole thing comes out as inspiring as a Hefty bag.  Other times, an amazing project seams to materialize in your lap without any thanks to planning or forethought.  This is a story of one of the latter experiences.  

When I was buying yarn from Webs for several baby projects last Spring, I was just a few dollars away from getting their big discount, so I bought a single skein of sock yarn to put me over the top.  This is Pagewood Farms Chugiak in the Prism colorway. 

When it arrived, I regretted it.  I had no idea what I was going to do with this highly variegated yarn.  I really don't like pooling, which is when the colors that are so nicely mixed up in the skein clump together in splotches in your project.  So I stuck it in my stash expecting it to stay there forever. 

Then the Yarniacs, a fantastic podcast, hosted a brilliant KAL: knit something using one of the Pantone fall colors.  I searched through my stash and discovered that this skein had about three or four of the colors.  It would be perfect for fall.  But what to knit?  I did not want to take these pretty colors and splotch them all up in poorly planned pooling.

On Ravelry, I like to browse patterns by what's Hot Right Now, or what is getting the most page views.  For basically years, the Hitchhiker pattern has floated around the Hot Right Now page, which is hard to do for a pattern that's been around for a while.  In all those months, though, I never clicked on it.  Something about the cover picture left me as uninspired as that skein of yarn up there. 

When I was looking for a pattern for this yarn, I decided it should be garter stitch to break up the colors.  I wanted to make a shawl for fall.  I searched patterns with these criteria, and Hitchhiker kept coming up near the top.  So I finally clicked around to have a look.  I began to think it might have potential.  In an uncharacteristic move, I didn't over think it; I just cast on. 

This was a breeze to knit.  It was fun and simple, but not boring.  The colors turned out to be amazing, so they kept things interesting, and seeing the shawl instantly take shape was pretty motivational.  The yarn has a very tight twist, which I think would make it good for socks.  It means it's not very cozy for a shawl or scarf, but it's worked out okay.

I think this will be easy to wear, wrapped around my neck like a scarf.  I think I can tuck the ends in if I want it to look more like a cowl. 

I'm pretty pleased with this successful project that came out of nowhere.  Instead of regretting that skein purchase, I wish I'd bought more!  I think I'll be knitting another of Martina Behm's garter stitch shawls in the weeks ahead! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hat trick

That's from a sport.  Is it soccer or hockey?  I can't remember, but it's when you do three of something, right?  Three goals?  Ooh, in bowling, three strikes is called a turkey.  But "Hat turkey" is not as appealing a name for a blog post.

So I spent most of August knitting on this ridiculous sweater that I didn't like very much, and didn't think would look good on me.  Oddly enough, this really compelled me to finish it so that I could just move beyond it.  It doesn't look terrible.  I mean, it fits really well.  But the style is only so-so, and I think the color is not that great.  If you really want to see it, here's the Ravelry project page

Once I got that out of the way, I needed a bunch of instant gratification projects to get the bad taste of that sweater out of my mouth.  (Eeew, eating a sweater!)  Hats to the rescue! 

Rosebud by Jared Flood in Malabrigo Rios.  This yarn is so ideal for hats.  It's superwash, and I don't have much experience with superwash, but can't it get kind of heavy and saggy in sweaters?  I've only ever used it for hats and baby clothes.  This superwash is incredibly soft and squishy, and the tonal colorway is dreamy. 

I knit this hat exactly per the slouchy pattern, and I love it.  I blocked it very lightly, not stretching it at all really, but just to get the cable to relax and pop.  I'd love to knit this one again.  I think it looks great in this bright tonal colorway, but it would obviously be great in the tweedy Shelter for which it was designed.

Rav page

Jane Richmond, this designer, has 501 hat patterns that I'd love to knit.  I'd be happy to knit this one again, too.  This one is a good fall hat, since I don't think it will be quite as warm as the Rosebud in Rios. 

I used Valley Yarn Northfield, a blend of merino, alpaca and silk.  I'd love to use this yarn again, as I think it has excellent stitch definition and is nice and drapey.  It's not as squishy as the Rios, but it works great in this lacy hat.  It would be amazing in a refined, tailored sweater.  That's on my list!

Rav page

Super Cupcake
I am super delighted with this super cupcake.  This has been in my queue for over two years.  I actually started it about two years ago with some Berroco Ultra Alpaca, but it just wasn't the right yarn for the job.  This pattern really needs something squishy that will bloom and fill up all those spaces between the rib stitches.  I lamented that I didn't have any Malabrigo worsted, and although I've been on the look out, I haven't come across any in the right colorway.

I participated in the Yarniacs' Podcast Fall KAL, and discovered that I had an ancient UFO that was in Malabrigo Rios in a colorway that was close to the Acai colorway.  So I frogged it, washed and reskeined the wool, and then cast on for the Super Cupcake.  This yarn is just perfect for this pattern, and the colorway is exactly what I wanted.  And it's been sitting in my house all along!  How amazing is that! 

Rav page  I have two more skeins of this, so I'll have to make the cowl sometime soon. 

So there's my hat trick!  Come on, Fall!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Late summer round up: Antrho knock-off, Carthamus shawl, M6744

While it feels like I get no. thing. done. all day long, my FO pictures tell me I've at least been plodding along in the sewing and knitting departments.  I really want to stick these up on the blog so I can move on to some WIPs.  I'm very chronological like that.  So first up:

Carthamus Shawl

This is the Carthamus shawl by Kirsten Kapur from Through the Loops designs.  The yarn is Louet Gems Fingering in aqua and linen grey.  I ran out of the linen with literally about 33 stitches left, and some kind knitter on ravelry sent me about ten yards so I could finish.  I love TTL's designs and I queued this the second it came out.  It's kind of a hybrid between shawl and scarf, and I think it will be perfect for the colder months. 

I love the construction.  You knit the thistle lace pattern first, then knit the garter stitch shawl on to it, knitting it together with the live stitches as you go.  I just love that method of slowly knitting on (or off, in this case) a border, watching your FO take shape as it slowly falls off the needles. 

With a shawl, the blocking is almost more important than the knitting.  In this shawl, you really need to pin out each YO in the edge of the lace.  In the above picture, you can see that I started pinning the center of each thistle flower, then I went back and pinned out each YO.  Without that extra work, the lace wouldn't shine like it should.  Blocking : knitting : : pressing : sewing. 

Kirsten usually hosts a summer shawl KAL, so you can see more of her amazing shawls in her Ravelry group here

McCalls 6744

This will be known as the summer of the knit dress.  This one was almost a wadder, but I stuck with it.  I should have listened to my instincts.  My instincts said that even though my measurements said I should make a large, experience with the ridiculous amounts of ease the Big 4 pattern companies put in their patterns told me I should make a medium.  So when they were on a crazy cheap sale, I bought both the medium pattern and the large pattern so I could make a hybrid, medium on top, large on bottom.

Ack!  I'm not wearing my beautiful chewbeads necklace!  Just imagine it there. 
When it came time to cut, though, I chickened out and went large all the way.  So when I put it on, it basically would have been a great swimsuit coverup.  The thing is, I wasn't wearing a swimsuit.  I didn't want to give up because the fabric is incredibly soft and drapey and in a really beautiful color of blue.  So I tacked down the bodice where the front cross, and that took care of the top portion.  Maybe the faux wrap of the skirt works if you're making a maxi version of this dress, but in the short version, it was just obscene.  The fronts only overlap by about 6", so it felt like it was just wide open.  I just stitched it down until about 8" from the hem. 

While not ideal, these fixes made the dress wearable, although a bit harder to nurse from, which was kind of the point.  I've worn it several times, dressed up with a belt and some baby-friendly accessories

Anthro knock-off

In those summer weeks when we were moving, it seemed like everyone (mad housewife, aleah, jennifer) was making these cute little mixed print tees, and I was so bummed my sewing machine was hidden behind boxes.  It took me all summer, but I finally made one of my own.

Many people used Skirt as Top's Scoop Neck Tee, but that was too small for me.  I spent 0.5 seconds wondering if I could figure out how to scale it up, and then found the Casual Lady tee from Go To Patterns.  I made a CL tee, but I was worried it would be too small, so I made a bigger size than I normally would.  (Do you sense a theme in my summer sewing?)  HUGE.  I still wear it, but again, it's kind of like wearing a swimsuit cover up.  I used my regular size for my anthro tee, and gave it more of an A-line shape after the bust. 

Hey!  Here are my chewbeads!

Here's my final anthro knock-off.  I'm pretty happy with it, although my husband doesn't 100% get it.  He said he likes the stripes. 

This pattern calls for a wide facing/lining, which might work well in a heavier fabric.  The white stripes in my fabric were a bit transparent, and I didn't want the navy stripes showing through from the wrong side, so I cut a neckband.  I really should have stretched the neckband a bit more because it gapes too much, but summer was waning and I just wanted to wear the thing already. 

I'd have to spend some more time playing around with the CL pattern to get the fit I want, but for now, I've moved on.  I'll return to it next spring for sure, because I think it could be a good wardrobe builder. 

Those are some of my favorite summer projects.  I have a slew of things I want to do this fall, but I'm trying to be a bit more realistic about what I can do.  It's a lot easier to find time to knit than it is to sew, but there are a few patterns I really want to make.  My first fall project, though, is a fair isle sweater for my daughter.  More on that to come!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Not an early adopter

Guess what I just discovered?  Instagram!  I know.  It's probably old news for most people.  But hey, I'm getting there.  I've also heard they have these new things called cell phones and you can carry them around in your purse or pocket and make calls from anywhere? 

The great thing about Instagram is that it's, obviously, instant.  I can do it all with my phone, all by myself.  It will be a great way to get some WIP shots and document more of the knitting and sewing process, plus a few other things.  It seems like a quick, easy way to capture moments I want to remember, but will otherwise slip through my sieve of a mind. 

So if you're on Instagram, come look me up!  I'm mgrknits.  Eventually I'll figure out how to get a badge over there on the side bar.  Hopefully before we're all driving driverless cars

Saturday, August 17, 2013

FO: Simplicity 1949

I might be the only knitter in history who is a bit ambivalent about baby knits.  (Although I have something on the needles at the moment that may change my mind.)  To me, it seems like a lot of fuss and finishing, and not as much time just knitting. 

Sewing for kids, though, is something I do without grumbling.  Here's the thing: Sewing is all finishing work.  There's no sewing equivalent of knitting's mindless stockinette for me, so all of sewing takes concentration.  Kids garments are smaller, so that equals smaller amounts of concentration.  (If my logic here is not rock solid, sorry.)  Also, I can fit all of a kid's garment on my dining room table when I'm cutting it out, and they take way less fabric.  I also don't worry about fit issues. 

So as we were packing up our old house and getting ready to move, I kept working on this sweet little summer dress for Little A, who is three.  It was the perfect thing to knock out in a few spare minutes during those hectic weeks. 

The pattern is Simplicity 1949, which is apparently OOP now.  Who makes those decisions?  This is a great dress that I'll go to as long as the pattern fits.  I made the largest size, and it fits Little A well with a little room to grow.  She's been wearing it all summer, calling it her umbrella dress.

The dress came together really well, with one notable exception:

Is that not the saddest zipper install you've ever seen?  I'd already been working on the dress for about three weeks, 15 minutes at a time, and I was ready to be done.  I can't remember exactly what happened, but I do know that since, I've watched Sunni's free zipper install class on Craftsy, and I am ready for my next zipper. 

I have a couple more patterns for Little A that I want to get to for the fall.  It's nice to sew her a couple of quick things and rack up some successful FOs!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Use the good china: Thurlow trousers

When I was little, we had dinner on fine china every night.  My mom loved the china they'd received for their wedding, so we used it.  We had thick, heavy white dishes that we used for breakfast and lunch, but dinners were served on graceful, thin plates.  

Mom's china pattern -- Source

We all know the moral of this story : if you save special things for special days because they're too special to use on ordinary days, you'll never use them.  Knitters and sewers know this too, because our stashes are full of special skeins that aren't worthy of any pattern in existence.  We have priceless fabrics we don't want to ruin.

Well, now I have another category I'm waiting to use: patterns.  I keep saying, "I'll wait until I get back to my pre-pregnancy size before I make that."  But I'm tired of all my knit dresses, and even when I try to dress up a bit, I'm still feeling a bit fluffy.  So I decided, whatever.  I'm using the good china now. 

One of these patterns I really wanted to make was the Thurlow trousers by the darling Sewaholic.  I was craving something that would stretch my skills a bit, something with some tailoring and some precision. This pattern was exactly what I needed!  I had so much fun picking the pocket lining, turning welt pockets, figuring out all the mechanics of a zip fly, that I realized it wouldn't even matter if these shorts didn't fit.  I just wanted to make something nice. 

I read and reread Lauren of Lladybird's Thurlow sew-a-long posts from last fall, and I couldn't have done it without her!  While Sewaholic's directions weren't unclear, they did cram a lot of detail into each step and picture.  Seeing full size pictures of the step-by-step double welt pocket gave me confidence to just do it.  Even with the zip fly tutorial, I didn't really know how to do it until I just did it.  I'm not even 100% sure what I did, but it works, and it looks good, too!

Since I was breaking out the fine china for the pattern, I decided to not go crazy with the fabric.  I used some very humdrum cotton broadcloth in my stash and some quilting cotton my mom gave me.  If it got ruined, no big deal.  I also traced the pattern, so I wasn't risking messing that up either.  The only thing to lose was my time!  And even that wouldn't be a loss, since I'd be gaining some methods and fitting skills. 

So do they fit?  I think so!  On my next pair, I might add half an inch to the front inseam to give just a bit more room in the crotch.  Is that the right adjustment to make?  Also, after wearing these for a few hours, they stretch out, but not so much that I can't wear them.  Would using fabric with stretch solve that?  Should I use a smaller size? 

The biggest mistake I made was in attaching the waistband.  The point seemed to be shorter than the fly extension by about half an inch.  I actually took a little tuck out of the fly extension to make it match the length of the waistband, then I sewed the waistband on.  Well, when I finished that seem, I realized I had been worried about the raw edges matching, not the stitching line matching.  That half an inch was supposed to be there because at the 5/8" stitching line, the point actually matched the edge of the fly extension perfectly.  I didn't go back and fix it, but now I know for next time. 

At any rate, they're very comfy.  It's great to have a pair of shorts, and to have a clothing option that isn't too tight and a little dated.  I'm really looking forward to my next pair.  I'd love to make a pair of denim trousers for fall.  I'll be on the lookout for some nice fabric for that. 

So here's to not waiting! 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

memory keeper

Today, I'm feeling grateful for knitting.  I'm grateful that knitting is a slow process.  I'm grateful that any project takes a long time, and that becoming a Knitter happens over many years, or even a lifetime.

There are a lot of changes happening in my life right now, and some of them are a bit challenging.  But knitting helps me take the long view.

March 2011
I browsed through ravelry today, looking at my previous projects.  I looked at a simple scarf.  No one has favorited it, and it's such a simple project, it's rather forgettable.  Except that at the time I knit it, I was so delighted with so many things, and when I look at those project pictures, I see how happy I am.  I remember winding the ball with my infant daughter in the back seat, and that memory is precious.  I'm so grateful for that little forgettable scarf, because it's helped me remember something very valuable.

October 2010
I looked at pictures of my first wearable sweater.  I'm amazed how long it took me to knit that sweater--months and months!  I know now that I could knock it out in three weeks.  And I would take more care with fit and modifications and yarn selection.  But I was so proud of that garment.  And I see in those pictures that I was still dealing with baby weight 6 months after my daughter was born.  So I should be patient with myself, 3 months after my son is born, and give myself a break for not being down to my pre-pregnancy size.

I like to write, but I've always felt guilty that I don't journal.  I just can't get into a rhythm.  But I knit.  And my knitting is turning out to be a pretty good memory keeper, reminding me of who I was, and the good things and the struggles.  It reminds me of who I want to be, who I've planned to be, how those plans have changed and what things I need to rediscover.

I'm grateful for my queue, and even though it becomes overwhelming occasionally, I'm grateful that it's so long.  I'm glad that there is more out there that I want to do, things to learn, simple projects that just look like fun, things that will trap memories I've yet to make.

I'm grateful for the long view, and I'm grateful that knitting is one thing that keeps me looking up, toward the person I was and to the life greeting me on the horizon.