Monday, February 23, 2015

Knitting All the Wool

Apparently when I'm cold I want to knit all the wool and all the things.

In the past I've tried to be pretty good about not having a whole lot of different projects on the needles, because I tend to get stuck in a rut of not knowing which to work on and subsequently nothing gets finished as I spin my wheels in indecision.

Yet, the mercury dropped again (It's been up and down like a yo-yo this winter!), I felt cold and suddenly found myself, over the last few weeks, with a sweater, a pair of socks, a shawl and a pair of fingerless gloves on the needles all at once.  How on earth did that happen??? I also signed up for a sock swap in my "Octo-mamas" group on Ravelry, so need to get another pair of socks on the needles pronto.  YIKES!

After a moment of panic and aforementioned indecision I worked out a system.  The sweater - Laura Aylor's the beach in winter - is for a knit along, but the finish date isn't until March 20th, so I've got lots of time for that.  It has become my weekend knitting.  I work on it from Friday evening to Sunday evening, then I stash it away again until the following weekend.  I'm almost finished the body of it, so I'm on track.  I think...
Trying to decide how much longer to knit before
I start the short rows for the curved bottom...
The rest becomes my weekday evening knitting.  I had put the socks aside for a while because they are destined as a gift - not needed until Christmas.  Sssshhhhhhh.  Don't tell!  They're colour work and they're a gorgeous pattern.  It's going to be hard not to spill the beans early on these ones!  I've finished one sock and am three quarters of the way through the second one.  (And feeling a little smug to be ahead of my gift knitting schedule!)

Once I put the socks aside, I worked on the shawl, Laura Aylor's Sunstruck,  pretty much exclusively until it was done except the border.  I'm procrastinating on that now though because the thought of picking up all those border stitches fills me with more than a bit of dread.  But I love the shawl, so I really need to be brave and attack those picked up stitches once and for all but oh how those 375 stitches for the top border are daunting!! (I'm actually wrapped up in my shawl right now - no border, ends haven't been woven in, but it's big and squishy and cozy and I was chilly after being outside with the dog)

Cozy, cozy wool!
The fingerless gloves were a quick interlude to the other projects.  What a fun pattern.  Treads is a great pattern, that I modified very slightly to eliminate the tipless fingers - I wanted just ordinary fingerless gloves so cast off immediately after the last lateral braid instead of continuing on.  I felt the linen ridge stitch and lateral braid stitches really made the pattern more masculine which is what I was after for this pair of  charcoal grey "Manly Mitts".

Manly mitts.  See how well they go with the tools? ;)
I should actually focus on the gift socks so I can get started on the sock swap socks! I need those 2.5mm needles freed up in order to cast on.  So I guess what I know my focus will be this week!!!

I'm going to ignore the fact that there is also a 3/4 done linen Plum Blossom Tee that is sitting languishing in my closet.  But to be fair,  when the temperatures are in the -30C something with the windchill it's awfully hard to motivate oneself to knit something linen and summery.  It's all about wool.  Warm, cozy wool!!!

I think I'm going to go put on a sweater right now, though, and head down to the sewing room in the basement.  I'm putting the finishing touches on a skirt for G right now.  I hope you'll drop by again in a few days when  I'll be reviewing the wildly "Pinterest popular" Jade skirt from Lisa of Paprika patterns.  If you hurry, and stop by her site, both Jade and her immensely popular Jasper sweater (if you've been on Pinterest any time in the last year you've definitely seen this sweater and probably pinned it and now the pattern is available) are both on sale, 15% off, until February 24th! Go now, you don't want to miss out and I'll see you back here in a couple of days!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Quilting, My Crafty Nemesis

I want to be a quilter.  An honest to goodness real quilter. The reality though is that when I try quilting, in the end somehow, it makes me feel a bit like a little kid playing pretend.

I can sew (obviously) and supposedly I can measure and cut things, but somehow when I put it all together it never works out quite right.  There's always something just a little bit off kilter about the finished product.

I have made a few quilts over the last few years.  The first was for Little Man.  I was bound and determined that he was going to have a quilt and actually, that one turned out pretty well.  There's a few glitches here and there, but really not too bad all things considered.

Then I made a quilt for Baby Boy.  That one also wasn't too bad.  Except it ended up teeny tiny.  Sadly it barely got used because it was so small.  Plus I messed up the binding on it, didn't notice until after the fact and have never had the heart to unpick it all and fix it.

Then there was my Summer Mommies Friendship Quilt.  OK.  That one I love.  It's on our bed year round.  But don't look closely.  Oh boy!  Some of those pinwheels just refused to line up and the actual quilting is a bit crazy too.  I don't see those mistakes too much though, because mostly I'm just darn proud of finishing a queen sized quilt and one that I figured everything out for by myself and didn't use someone else's directions for.

Of course there was G's Memories of Paris Quilt too.  Not too bad - but again with the wonky squares.  What happens between the measuring, cutting and sewing???  I'll never know!

Rag quilts are good.  I've made two of those! One for Baby Boy and one for a gift for one of (BF)G's co-workers.  I don't think it's possible to have anything go wrong with a rag quilt.  They are truly the easiest quilt ever. I've even got a tutorial on how to make a rag quilt it's that easy!  (It's almost cheating they're so simple!)

Anyways.  I'm rambling here.  All this is in light of my latest sewing project.  A simple little mug rug.  I decided that since I often make them for gifts, but have never made one for myself it was high time I rectify that.  So I started searching for a design I liked.  There's about a million and one snowman mug rugs that I'm dying to make, but I didn't want to really do a seasonal one right now.  I wanted something more... quilty. Is that even a word?  Likely not.  I digress though.

So I perused quilting sites.  I perused Craftsy.  I perused Pinterest.  And finally I found one I thought I liked, and followed a link, that led me to another link that led me finally to The Happy Zombie site, which I promptly lost a few hours of my life to - it's a great site!  The Happy Zombie had a tutorial for a "Magic Hourglass".  I was smitten.  I'd found the mug rug for me.  And it looks so magically simple to do.  I followed her instructions to a tee.  I measured everything so carefully so each one would be identical.  I carefully pressed with steam as I was advised.  I even used pins. I NEVER use pins.  And yet? Wonky. Three out of four are not lining up. One is way off in left field not even pretending that it can behave and line up with the others.  What on earth happened?  Where did I go wrong?

Oh well.  I'm just going to cover up the big spot that went awry with a cookie or a doughnut or something and put my mug over top one of the others and pretend it's a perfect little quilt block mug rug.

I refuse to be beaten by this whole quilting thing and will conquer it someday.   In the meantime, I'll be eating snacks, drinking tea and dreaming of making one of those quilts like I see all over the blogosphere where all the blocks behave properly and all the points meet where they're supposed to.

Do you have a crafty nemesis that you refuse to let get the best of you?

Friday, February 06, 2015

Just For Me Challenge

I've raved about Scientific Seamstress/Sis Boom patterns here on the blog before.  I absolutely love using them because they are just so darn perfect.  The PDF patterns are some of the easiest on the market, allowing you to print out exactly what you want and to quickly put together once they are printed, the garments are flattering, have a huge range of size options, excellent instructions and they fit so, so much better than any of the BIG FOUR pattern companies patterns ever do.  Carla Hegeman Crim does a great job creating her patterns.  These are patterns for real bodies of all shapes and sizes. If you want to venture into sewing for yourself or are tired of having to do a billion alterations to commercial patterns just so they might fit you, give these a try.  I guarantee you won't regret it, they are well worth it!  To see some of my previous versions check out herehere, and here!

When Jeanine announced on the blog that the Scientific Seamstress Lap Group on Facebook would be hosting a "Just For Me" sewing challenge during January I was really excited! Pretty much the only stipulation of the challenge was that whatever you decided to make it had to include at least one Scientific Seamstress/Sis Boom pattern. I decided that not only would I take the challenge but that I would add an extra dimension to it.  I was determined not to buy anything in order to do it - I do love myself some thriftiness! So using only things in my stash and using only patterns that I had already in my collection I set to work.

Week one was "Chic And Casual".  I decided to keep it fairly simple for myself and just make a top that I could easily pair with jeans and a cardi.  I have been coveting the Tortola tank since it was first released last summer as part of a bundle.  I didn't purchase the bundle so had to wait for the individual release and by that time was swamped with other projects so it sat untouched on the computer for a few months.  I finally printed it off during week one of the challenge, grabbed a piece of knit fabric out of my bin that I'd bought for $5.00 out of the clearance section earlier in the fall and sewed it up.  I'm pretty happy with it, although think I should have gone down a size and shortened the length just a touch.  But it's comfy and definitely wearable - I've worn it a lot in the weeks since making it!  I've paired it here with my Marion Cardi that I knit in the fall KAL in Andi Satterlund's Untangling Knots Ravelry group.

The second week was "Date Night".  I didn't get that one done on time, unfortunately.  I had a slight mishap in the fact that my iron died and there is just no way to get a facing ironed sufficiently enough with a curling iron (Why yes, I tried. Of course I tried.  Desperate times call for desperate measures!).  It's all good though.  I finally bought a new iron this past weekend, and got it done this morning.  Another stash find - this one came from a Valentine swap a few years ago.  It's shimmery and has a texture to it, but it was pretty easy to work with, not too slippery like I feared it might be.  I'm not sure I actually like this top too much yet if I'm being brutally honest.  The fabric is a bit itchy on me and doesn't feel quite right, being a bit stiff in spots (I think it doesn't like being ironed at all).   I think my next venture into the Patricia will be in something gauzy or floaty.  Maybe a cotton voile.  I did shorten the pattern by quite a bit and completely eliminated the side vents at the bottom.  I wanted it to be more of a blouse than a tunic.  As I said, I'm not really sure how I feel about this one just yet. Oh well.  You win some, you lose some.  It's not the pattern's fault and I will revisit it again, and maybe this top will grow on me in the future.  So not all is lost.

The third week was "Cozy and Comfy" and I am all about comfy.  No doubt about it!  This time I pulled out the Tortola once again and a men's size 4xl tee that I bought on a clearance rack at Walmart last year for $3.00. I did the regular cutting line instead of a full bust option for my size and the 26" length instead of the 28" I did my first version. Instead of fussing with woven facings (mostly because I couldn't pull stash fabric out that I felt matched well enough) I used a light weight denim bias tape on the neckline and just serged and then hemmed the armholes.  For the bottoms I used Jocole's yoga pants pattern in the capris length and a .7 metre remnant of sweatshirt fleece I'd bought ages ago in a buy one get two free sale. I think  it worked out to being about $2.00 roughly? Maybe less.  Add a bit of elastic and some rib knit I've had kicking around leftover since I made Baby Boy a pair of pants when he was three and I was good to go! Yay! Comfy and cheap. Perfect for lounging around the house or maybe running on the treadmill in. (It's alright.  You can laugh.  We all know that it's likely not going to ever see a work out and more likely going to see a whole lot of the couch and my knitting needles...) Because I had no iron at the time that I did week three and I'd given up on the curling iron as a substitute, I just serged both the shirt and pant hems and called it a day.

Week Four was "Knock it Off" and my very, very favourite week of all.  It made me go beyond my comfort zone and try things out that I've not done in ages and have, quite honestly, lacked the confidence to even contemplate doing for a long time. To make my knock off I had to combine patterns and do some changes to them as well.  I modified the bodice from Simplicity #2180 and used the waistband and skirt from the Jamie Dress to make my knock off of Modcloth's I Love Your Dress.  I've been desperately wanting the Modcloth dress, but a) it's way too spendy for my budget especially with the Canadian dollar right now and factoring in shipping and b) they've been sold out of my size for weeks.  So Knock it Off week was perfect timing.  I had a 1.5 metre cut of knit from another of  Fabricland's buy one metre get two free sales and thought it would work well as well as fitting my "cheap" criteria - I got three metres for a whopping total of $10.00 that  particular day. Hello $5.00 dress! Whoot!!!!  It's a nice drapey knit, but not too flimsy that it would be see through or stretch from here to eternity.  No one wants to make a knee length dress only to find by the end of the day it's pretty much become a maxi dress. (I have had this happen.  It wasn't pretty.)

To make my dress, I rounded off the back neckline of the bodice, eliminating the v-shape, which allowed me to simply use the front yoke pattern piece as the back yoke pattern piece as well.  I added about three inches to the centre front of my bodice pattern for gathers and gently straightened the bottom edge since I was eliminating the darts. Oh and for some reason, and I do remember this too from a few years ago when I actually made the Simplicity pattern, I had to add 3/4" to the straps of the front bodice in order to have the yoke piece fit properly.

For the waistband, since Jamie doesn't have a back waist band piece, I used the Simplicity pattern for width and the Jamie front waistband lining for height.  The skirt is cut much narrower than Jamie because of my fabric constraints and a minor prior cutting error (for some reason I initially thought I should completely line the bodice - thankfully I came to my senses before finishing the dress and eliminated the lining completely. Phew.  That was a narrow escape from TOO MUCH BULK - imagine that said in ominous radio announcer voice.)  I am happy with the width of it as it is. Too many gathers on my midsection isn't the most flattering look for me and I thought it would drape much nicer with less fabric rather than more.  The waistband is self-lined and the yoke is lined with a quilt cotton for stability.  I also used the same quilt cotton to make bias tape binding for the armholes.  I love, love, love matchy, matchy bias tape.  It makes me happy even if no one knows it's there but me.

I LOVE this dress!  I want one in every colour!!!!!  I'm wearing it here with my Hetty, which is another one of Andi Satterlund's amazing retro vibe cardi patterns!  If I were standing up straight, like a normal person instead of propping up the wall as I seem to be in the photo my dress would be hanging much better and it would look fairly close to the real Modcloth one in the collage. (Honest!)

It was definitely a great challenge.  So much fun and really motivational!  With the added bonus, of course, that I now have three new tops (at least two that are getting a tonne of wear already), a new pair of bottoms and a new dress added to my wardrobe all in a matter of four weeks.  Not bad all things considered!

How about you? Do you ever take part in sew along, knit alongs or challenges?                                                                  

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Stitching Away the Blues

So, it's been awhile!  What's new with you? I hope winter is treating you well.

Things have been busy here.  Lots of little stresses piling up, a few big ones too, plus never ending illness that has seemingly plagued our little household since early fall.  The latest round of ear infections and chest colds has left me feeling more than a bit drained.  But true to form, when the going gets tough, this girl drowns herself in her crafting to cope.  Each stitch off the needles, each seam sewn seems to ease the pressures of day to day life just a little - or at the very least gives me a focus beyond what's going on at the time.  I always say it's better than therapy or other vices one could venture into (although not necessarily cheaper as I'm sure my husband would attest too - I'm pretty sure he has heart palpitations every single time I say to him, "I need to stop by the yarn and/or fabric shop for a minute"...)

So I've got a few projects finished and a few projects (even a super secret Christmas one!!!) on the go since I last stopped by the blog.  You might remember how I knit the boys' teachers fingerless gloves for Christmas.  They were all super appreciative of them, but one in particular loved her pair so much she asked if I could knit a few more pairs so her friends could have fingerless gloves too.  I felt pretty honoured by that!  I'm always a bit nervous to take "orders" in like that because the minute I get the notion that I'm obligated to do something is the moment all enjoyment in it ceases to exist, but I'm happy to say I really enjoyed knitting these.  She told me to go ahead and pick whatever pattern, yarn and colours I liked so having that freedom really helped in keeping it fun and interesting!  Plus fingerless gloves are just always fun to knit.

Clockwise from top left : Magic Loop Mittens in Valley Yarns Colrain , Karin Wristwarmers in Sandnes Garn Alpakka/Ull, Give Em The Slip Mittens in Patons Decor and One Cable Mittens in Cascade 220

I hope she and her friends love them as much as I do! (I kind of want to keep them for myself...)

Another project I've been working on is Laura Aylor's Sunstruck for myself.  It's a squishy asymetrical garter stitch shawl.  You can choose anywhere from two to 13 colours for it and Laura, in her usual awesome pattern writing fashion makes everything so easy and clear to plan out.  I'm doing mine in just two colours - Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Maple (that J and M picked out for me as part of my Christmas gift!) and Berocco's Ultra Alpaca Fine in Pea Soup Mix.  I am absolutely loving how it's shaping up.  The pattern is quite addictive with it's short rows (Ha! Who would have thought I'd ever extol the virtues of anything containing short rows.  I used to be so scared of anything that so much as hinted at utilizing a short row.  Now I love them!)  I'm really looking forward to getting this one off the needles and onto my shoulders! This is an older photo - I'm actually half way done now, but this one shows the squishy loveliness of it so much better than the more recent photo I took so you'll just have to imagine the total of six alternating sections done!

I've also been doing some sewing this past month. But I think I'm going to save that for another day. I've so much I want to tell you about the sewing that it deserves it's very own post I think!

In the meantime, I hope everyone is healthy, happy and enjoying the little things in life!  I'll see you back here in the next couple days to talk about the Scientific Seamstress "Just For Me January" sewing challenge that I participated in!