Sunday, November 20, 2011

FO: McCalls 6048

Here's the thing about sewing: it goes at the speed of light.  At least compared to knitting.  I got the fabric in the mail on Tuesday, and I wore this cardigan on Friday.  A little instant gratification is just the thing to break up the monotony of long-term knitting projects.

After many years of knitting and learning about knitting, I know a lot about fiber composition and drape and needle size and swatching.  When it comes to fabric, I know pretty much nothing.  So I ordered a Rayon Jersey without knowing exactly what that is.  It's the color of chocolate milk, and pretty much the consistency of chocolate milk too.  It's basically a liquid.  It took forever to lay it out wrinkle-free with matching selvedges.  I'm not one to complain about winding yarn, but even if I were, I'd rather wind a billion skeins of yarn than fight those phantom wrinkles.

I had three yards of fabric, and it took every last inch of it for the large size, view D.  After the cutting, sewing was a snap.  I really didn't have any problems.  I followed the directions exactly.

I really like it!  I know it's very possible that I like it mainly because I made it and because it's the first sewn garment I've made for myself in a million years.  I'm not sure the color is great on me, but I wanted a neutral that wasn't grey.  And the fabric is so drapey and thin.  I like it, but it's a little too thin for the collar/edging.  Maybe I should have added interfacing?  Or maybe that would have made it awkwardly stiff compared to the rest of the garment?

I'd really like to make another one--maybe view C--in a darker color in a heavier weight.  Maybe dark purple?

Next up: McCalls 5974, the perfect wrap knit dress.  The fabric I got for that is a bit heavier and thicker, so maybe it won't take an hour just to lay out.  After that dress is cut and half-assembled, then I'll see about buying fabric for another dress.  Or skirt.  But no way am I going to stash fabric and buy patterns and let sewing take over my life like yarn has.

I also finally finished my FLS!  It's blocking, so maybe tomorrow afternoon I can take some pictures!

Monday, November 14, 2011

long day, good day

One of my favorite lyrics is from a Rusted Root song:  "It's been a long day, and it ended about an hour ago.  We'll get us some milkshakes, and head off and see the show." 

It's been a long day, but a good day.  Our nanny had car trouble and couldn't make it, which threw the day a bit out of whack.  At first, I was annoyed that my day and schedule were disrupted, but I took Little A to work with me for a few hours, and people there had a great time playing with her.  I still accomplished the things I needed to, and I got to spend extra quality time with my little sweetie.  I had a big meeting late in the evening, and that went well. 

It's so comforting to end a long day with knitting.  I'm going to check a few blogs and see what others have finished today, but I will not (Meredith, I'm talking to you) get lost down the rabbit hole of the internet and not get to my own knitting.  So now I'm putting my feet up, getting out the FLS and watching Cheers reruns on Netflix!  I will finish this FLS or fall asleep trying! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

trying something new ...

I went a little nuts this week reading blogs, being inspired and planning projects.  That wouldn't be unusual, except that I wasn't reading knitting blogs.  I read sewing blogs.  Since Little A's Halloween costume was a success, I started thinking I should start sewing a little bit.

One of my favorite knitting/sewing blogs is Green Apples.  I found her through Ravelry about a year ago, but most of her current creations are sewn garments.  She is crazy talented!  Last week, she shared projects that she'd like to make this fall and winter, and this one caught my eye:

This is McCalls 6048.  I love the belted versions of this cardigan!  They look pretty simple, and I found myself saying, "I should do that!"  So I started clicking like a mad woman and found others who had already made it.  This led me to discover lots of other great blogs and other garments I might want to make.  I also added McCalls 5974 to my queue:

Apparently, this was voted the best pattern of 2010.  Scads of bloggers have said how flattering and easy this pattern is.  I have a serious lack of winter work dresses, so I'm going to give this one a try after the cardigan.

I checked out our local Joann's, the only fabric store for hours, and I was surprised how expensive patterns are!  The fabric selection was so-so, but nothing that I was really excited about.  So I got busy clicking again, and found everything I need online.  I found the patterns for $5 each on ebay, and I bought fabric from

I'm super excited about these patterns!  I grew up sewing, but I haven't really done very much since I was a little kid.  I really had no idea that there were so many people out there sewing fashionable clothes.  I'm excited about the possibilities of making clothes tailored exactly to my tastes, less expensively than buying them.

But I'm also a little apprehensive.  I'm a pretty good knitter, but it took years and years to gather all that information and skill.  I am a pretty inexperienced sewer.  I have all the basic skills, but when it comes to altering a pattern to fit me--sort of the point of sewing--I'm pretty clueless.  I'm of two minds: I'm excited to learn something new, but I'm also not looking forward to not feeling completely competent.  That's good though!  I need to push myself to try new things.

I figured that I could get a little more sewing practice before all my internet booty arrives, so I started on a jumper for Little A.  This is Simplicity 2574.  It has a bunch of different options and adornments, but I went for something pretty simple.

I cut it last night and worked on it for about two hours total today.  Tomorrow, I'll install the zipper and hem it!  It's really dark, so the pictures aren't that great, but I think it's turning out pretty cute!

Meanwhile, I'm still knitting!  No matter how inspired I get with other things, knitting's still my first love!  I'm still slogging through my FLS.  This thing might be the death of me.  I've finished both sleeves, so I just need to knit until it's long enough and call it quits.

I've done the first pattern repeat of my Thundercloud Cowl, and I'm enjoying it.  But I've found two amazing bulky cowl patterns lately that I would love to be wearing right now, since it's finally getting cold.  I cast on for a Super Cupcake in Berroco Ultra Alpaca, but I'm not sure it's the right yarn for the job.  I didn't do a swatch and now I'm kicking myself.  I need to wash a swatch and see how it stretches and blooms.  So I might cut my yarn and swatch, and if the yarn doesn't puff up quite a bit in washing, then I'll frog it and get some Malabrigo worsted, which is what I wanted to use in the first place. 

Here's my goal: finish the FLS before my fabric and patterns arrive in the mail!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

To knit or not to knit?

Should I knit christmas presents?  The last couple years, I've knocked myself out trying to give everyone a hand knit for Christmas.  In a few cases, it's gone well.  In most cases, it's been pretty flat.  It's not always a great experience for me as the knitter and giver, and I fear it's been disappointing for the receiver as well.

For me, it turns a low-pressure elective activity into a mandatory chore dictated by a deadline.  If everything goes smoothly without any hiccups, then it works out okay.  But when something goes wrong--when a project takes twice as long as I'd planned, when I make a mistake, when the FO comes out lame instead of awesome--then I panic.  Since I love knitting and refuse to let myself panic about something that I do just for the joy of it, then I quit.  So last year, when I ran into a few problems finishing all those French Press Felted Slippers, I just quit.  Which is why a few people received slippers in January, and the others received fingerless mitts in February.  (Sorry, sister!)

The other bummer for me is that it takes away a lot of knitting time from things I really want.  Knitting is where I get to be pretty selfish, and I don't like giving up my knitting time for people if I'm not sure they really want it in the first place.

Which leads me to my second point.  I think there are some people who really appreciate the value of the returnable gift.  Obviously, hand knits do not fit in this category.  There are another group of people on my list who really don't need knits.  Now, I know.  Everyone needs knits.  But some people really don't need hand knits.  This group almost entirely overlaps with the group that likes to be able to return their gifts and get exactly what they wanted in the first place.

So with these three reasons firmly in mind--it's too stressful, it takes time away from things I really want to knit, and I don't think people want them anyway--I decided this year that I wasn't going to knit anyone anything.

Except my mom, of course.  She's a knitter, so she'd love something hand knit.

And maybe my sister-in-law, because she is an artist and a crafter, and she's said that she loves handmade gifts.

And I did just find the perfect pattern for my sister, who did hint last month that she might like a handknit cowl.

And you know, my dad might like a knit hat, since he liked the scarf I made him last year, and I've been wanting to make Koolhass for somebody. 

And those Christmas buntings I've been seeing look so festive and adorable, and would look great in our new house. 

So now it's the middle of November, and I may or may not have a list of holiday knits that need my attention.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

cast on!

"Before beginning, thread 360 beads onto working end of yarn ..."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

bare needles

So the only thing I really have on the needles right now is my FLS.  I'm feeling pretty bored with it, but I keep on trucking because I want to be done so I can move on to other things.

Somewhere along the way, I think I've become a monogamous knitter.  I think it was with C's vest.  I was so afraid I'd still be knitting that thing at my retirement party that I decided I would just work on it until it was done.  Surprise!  It was done in four weeks.  That method worked so well, I've cranked out one project at a time ever since.

But now I'm getting bored, and I think I need something else on the needles.  Having some variety in projects to choose from keeps my mojo from going flat.

So I think I'm going to cast on a new lace project.  I have all the materials I need to start my Thundercloud Cowl.
Pattern picture from
I'm so excited to use this Knitpicks Aloft!  I haven't used mohair before, but I've always wanted to.  I'm looking forward to these beads, too.  I'm not usually into sparkle, but for some reason, I'm excited about it with this cowl. 

So I think I'll cast this on tonight or tomorrow, and hopefully the excitement of a new project will seep into my old project, too.

Friday, November 4, 2011

FO: Daybreak

At one point, it seemed like everyone on Ravelry was talking about or making Daybreak.  Somehow, I found myself on the shawlette train this summer, and I made a bunch of them.  So I figured I was ready to tackle this one.

After I cast on, my first impression was, "Holy stockinette, Batman.  This is a lot of purling."  Just at the point I was starting to get bored, the stripes started.  Now, it's still basically stockinette, but the variation of the stripes and the slipped stitches kept it interesting.

This shawl is so architectural.  It's lines are crisp and straight, something that's not common in knitting.  I had no idea it would turn out so huge!  But I love it.

I used two different kinds of yarn.  The grey is Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light and the white is Valley Yarns Charlemont.  I enjoyed working with both of them, and they worked well together.  The Ultra Alpaca is a little coarser, with stray fibers.  It's not sheddy, just a little tiny bit fury.  The Charlemont is a bit shiny and very smooth.  I very rarely use two different yarns in one project.  I was a little nervous about them blocking differently, but I had no problems at all.
Ravelry page

Thursday, November 3, 2011

FO parade

While we were on vacation, I started and finished a couple of things.  They need a moment in the spotlight.

On the way to the airport, I bound off the Rose Red beret, a Ysolda pattern.

I used Valley Yarns Deerfield, an alpaca and silk blend in a DK weight. 

This yarn is very inexpensive, but feels like a treat.  Ysolda, of course, has beautiful designs that are fun to knit.  A combination of lace and cables = perfect.

Ravelry project page

I finished Little A's second February Baby Sweater.  It is pretty stinking cute on her.

I lovelovelove this Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern.  It's zippy fast, practical and beautiful.  I used Valley Yarns Superwash in the teal colorway.  I think the bright orange buttons take a sweet, classic sweater and make it just a teeny bit edgy.

Ravelry project page

Then I cast on a Shawl Collared Cowl for my mom using Cascade Yarns Baby Alpaca Chunky.

I'm not quite decided on this one yet.  It seems like there needs to be a button to keep the bottom layer more stable.  If I had a coat on over it, maybe that would keep it in place better.  I have some yarn to make myself one. 

Ravelry project page

I've finished a couple other things since we got home, but I'm still slogging away on my February Lady Sweater.

How wrong would it be to cast on another sweater before I finish this one?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Blocking is amazing.  It's like magic.  I love looking at all those little stitches, relaxing into their new permanent home, all lined up like obedient soldiers.  Seeing pieces on the blocking boards is the first time I see what I've accomplished.  It's almost as satisfying to me as wearing the finished object. 

It does take some effort.  I spent about 40 minutes blocking this piece--longer than I've spent blocking anything else, even whole sweaters.  It took that long because I threaded blocking wires through every edge.  I wanted to avoid the little shark teeth that can result from blocking a smooth edge with pins.  When the piece dries, it pulls in a bit, leaving the fabric pinned down looking jagged.  So I spent the time with the blocking wires.  And in the scheme of a two week project, 40 minutes to make it look finished is nothing.

I learned about blocking from my mom and the internet.  It used to sound so complicated and mysterious, like it was this warp zone that only the really good knitters knew about.  But it's actually one of the easiest knitting techniques you can use.

I wet block everything.  I let the item soak in warm water for 15 minutes.  Longer if I forget about it.  Then I gently squeeze it out, not wringing it, since this can damage fibers.  Then I lay it out on a towel, roll the towel up, and kneel on it.  It's very important to make sure the cats are locked out of the room from this point on, since wet wool drives them bonkers.

Next, I spread the piece out, either on my blocking mats, or on an old sheet spread out over the floor if the blocking mats aren't big enough.  We have a spare bedroom with plenty of floor real estate for blocking, but before we moved to this house, I used the dining room table to spread out the blocking mats.  Then I'd put the mats on top of the fridge.  They were out of the way, out of the cats' reach, and--bonus--it was nice and warm up there.

Then it's just a matter of pulling and squishing into shape.  It's pretty important to have a tape measure with you so you can make sure your pieces match your measurements or schematic.  For the number of tape measures I own, I find myself without one an inexcusable number of times.  Even with shawls, where size isn't very important, you need a tape measure to make sure everything is symmetrical.  I always let my pieces sit for 48 hours.  I figure, even in the most humid of weather, they're totally dry.  And it's good to practice patience. 

I blocked my Daybreak two nights ago, which means, it's time to take out the wires and see what I've created!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


It's not an original thought, but what are the interwebs for if not for stealing other peoples' good thoughts?  This month, I'm going to attempt to blog each day. 

The challenge, I think, will be pictures.  It's getting dark earlier, which means less time for pictures.  And for some reason, getting out the usb cable feels like a chore.  Remember when you had to drive to the drug store, wait three whole days, and then pick up a little bundle of paper with your pictures on them?  So I don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to complaining about opening up one drawer and plugging in one cable. 

So here's what I've been up to lately: sewing!  I made my little girl a sheep costume for Halloween.  I used Simplicity 2068. 

I took sewing lessons when I was little, but it's been a while since I really sewed anything.  I have an adorable little toddler now, and it seems like I should do what I can to capitalize on the cuteness.  This learn to sew with big fuzzy felt pattern seemed like a good way to get back into it. 

This pattern was definitely incredibly easy.  I think it took me three hours from cutting to hemming.  Which is good, since I started the whole project on October 29.  I made size 2, and I think it will fit for next year!  I love how it came out.  I recommend the pattern!

She was a sheep.  I was a shepherd.
I have a couple of other things in my queue for her now.  I'm in the middle of making Simplicity 2016. 

I started it a couple of weeks ago, but ran into a problem.  I was trying to put in a zipper without a zipper foot.  (Remember how bothered I am when it comes to getting out my usb cord?  Yeah, driving all the way to the fabric store for a replacement zipper foot wasn't as appealing as just trying to do without.)  I accidentally hit the metal piece at the top of the teeth, and my machine died.  The repairman said that I had an electrical problem and a timing problem, and he fixed everything for $65.  And now my machine works beautifully! 
I got it back just in time to make the Halloween costume, so now nothing's stopping me from finishing up the dress.

I also am thinking about some jumpers from Simplicity 2574.

When I was dressing Little A the other day, though, I tried to put on a new purple jumper and she howled!  She cried real tears, like a jumper was too much of a life disappointment to tolerate at 7:30 am.  So I don't know if she's against jumpers or against the color purple or what.  I might see if I can get her to wear another jumper before I invest time in this one. 

The only problem with the sewing is that I can't knit at the same time.  Choices, choices.