From October 2015

Cosplay for Halloween

DSC_4448Happy Halloween!!! My daughter is a big manga and anime fan, and even introduced me to some stuff I quite enjoy. If you told me a year ago that I’d be obsessing over anime, or impatiently awaiting the next issue of a manga series to be released in English, I’d have laughed my head off at you.

Anyway, she decided that for Halloween this year, which is her last year trick or treating, she wanted to be her favourite character from Naruto. Her favourite character is Gaara, who is part demon.

I could have purchased a costume for her online, but as anyone who reads this blog knows, I love a challenge, and would prefer to DIY a project, even if it ends up costing me more. For the record, this costume didn’t – I saved around $90 by making it myself. The costumes run at least $125, and they’re shipped from China, so by the time you add international shipping, it gets pretty expensive.

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My daughter, as Gaara. The jacket and vest were made by me, and the pants & sandals are from the thrift store.

I didn’t want to have to try drafting a jacket from scratch, so I went hunting for similar patterns. Ideally, I would have used the sewing pattern for Neo’s jacket from The Matrix, but it’s out of print, and expensive. It has the right type of collar, slim fit in the torso, and length necessary, but there’s no way I was spending that kind of money on a sewing pattern. Another pattern I looked at was for a priest’s frock, but it wasn’t fitted enough through the torso, and I’d have had to open it up at the back seam from the waist down. What I ended up buying was a civil war reproduction pattern. The seamlines aren’t entirely right for the costume, but it gives the slim fit through the torso, and it had an option for an extension for the front closure of the jacket, which was perfect, since Gaara’s coat opening is off centre. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s pretty darned close.

I bought my fabrics at Dressew, and made up the costume over the course of about four days. The jacket itself is lined, and the only modification I made was to use a zipper instead of buttons for the closure.

DSC_4463The vest was actually more challenging than the jacket, because Gaara’s vest only covers part of his torso. I found a free men’s vest pattern on Burdastyle, and cut off 2″ of fabric from the side. I added the zipper to the front. Bonus is that it gives her somewhere to put her phone, since the jacket lacks pockets. The vest was a real pain to sew, because the fabric was a knit (it was the only thing I could find that was the right colour), so it wanted to stretch, crawl and pucker. Of course, I didn’t think to use tissue under the presser foot as I sewed, until after I’d ripped out the zipper twice. The fabric was a cheap synthetic, and it wanted very badly to melt onto my iron. If I put my iron on a low setting, the seams wouldn’t lay flat, so I ended up having to put the iron on a higher setting and used a pressing cloth. Total pain, and the remainder of the fabric has gone into the trash, because I have no desire to ever use it again.

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I think I did a reasonable job on the haircut. Apparently, people in the sand village don’t smile, so this is how Gaara should look. You’d never know, with all of the goofing off that was going on before this picture was taken!

Unfortunately, the only wigs I could find would have shipped from China, and I didn’t have enough time to order one, so I bought a red wig from the costume store and gave it a very bad, messy haircut. They had the right style of wig in other colours, but Gaara’s hair ranges from bright red to dark auburn, so I didn’t think a cotton candy pink wig was going to be acceptable! I think the haircut worked out fairly well, once we put some hair gel in there to make it spiky. The kanji on her forehead was done with a MAC lipliner pencil, using a stencil I made by printing out the kanji and cutting out the pattern with an exacto knife. The eye makeup was MAC paint pot liner, which was ideal because it’s soft, easy to work with, and isn’t difficult to apply on someone who keeps flinching because she never wears makeup. I had purchased makeup for her, but it was lousy, so I ended up using my own.

Her reaction when she saw herself in the mirror was priceless. She couldn’t believe how different she looks! I’d say the girl is pretty happy with her costume, and she can wear it again when Fanexpo comes through town again next spring.

Up next, Sewaholic Minoru

I need a new rain jacket this autumn, because my old one no longer fits and I handed it down to my daughter. I was looking for a waterproof, breatheable jacket that was casual enough for hiking and dog walking, without velcro, that was lined. Do you think such a thing exists? I tried everywhere, and had two major problems… #1, I was looking for a style of jacket that is available in the spring, but not the autumn. Everyone had plenty of winter jackets, with removeable down or fleece liners, which made them much more expensive… I already have warm underlayers to wear with my jacket, so there’s no point in spending an extra $200 to get something I already have. #2, in order to get a jacket that fit me in the bust, it was too big everywhere else. When you added my requirements for lining (I don’t like the unlined jackets because they stick to your skin when you perspire), no velcro, and a colour that I like, I pretty much had zero options. After much frustrated shopping, I decided that the best course of action was to sew my own. Full disclosure, I’ve sewn outerwear before, but never with water resistant or waterproof fabric. I’m sure I’ll be relying heavily on this post on the Sewaholic blog, regarding sewing waterproof outerwear.

The first thing I did was choose a pattern. I decided to sew the Sewaholic Minoru, because the yoke gathers would make doing my full bust adjustment easy, since I wouldn’t have to add darts to the pattern (which would have led to more seam sealing). I also really liked the style of the jacket – it’s casual enough for walking the dog and even hiking, but still very flattering.

Once I decided on a pattern, I determined what modifications I’d make for my Minoru. First of all, I wanted to stay dry on wet days, so I had to buy waterproof breatheable fabric and seam sealing tape. I also wanted to be safe when I walk the dog in the dark, so I bought some reflective piping. The jacket doesn’t have any external pockets, so I will have to add some. I found this tutorial for adding side seam pockets to the jacket, but I really wanted zippered placket pockets, so that I don’t have to worry about losing things while walking the dog. I want to stay dry, but don’t want to spend a fortune on zippers, so I’m making my jacket with a flap over the zip. I could put the flap on the inside, since that should be sufficient in case of zipper leakage, but I may put it on the outside to cover the zipper. If I do, I’ll be using large buttons. I could use snaps, but I don’t always like the end result, and I’m unable to get more fabric if the snaps make a mess of things.

The next step was fabric, which was surprisingly difficult to find. I had to make things harder on myself, of course, because I really didn’t want a plain fabric. For whatever reason, the fabric absolutely had to have some kind of a pattern to it. After much searching, I discovered that Peak Fabrics had the best selection of patterned waterproof fabrics, and even their selection is limited. Other online retailers had camo fabric, but I am not a fan of camo! I bought some really nice chocolate brown and black textured fabric (I bought the last of it, so I can’t make mistakes), seam tape, and reflective piping from them. Their customer service was excellent, and I highly recommend contacting them if you are looking for performance fabrics. I bought Bemberg lining at Fabricland, at 50% off.

Today, I assembled my pattern, and will be doing my FBA. I will probably also have to add some extra to the upper sleeves, as I find that Sewaholic patterns are a bit snug in the upper arm on me. I plan to make my jacket a little on the loose side, so that I can put a warm layer underneath, rather than having a separate winter jacket. I also need to look into how and where to add the pockets. This looks like a useful resource.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to finish my jacket until later next week, because I need to make a trip to Dressew for zippers and wide elastic, but I should be able to make good progress over the weekend. Because I don’t have enough fabric to make any mistakes, I’ll be sewing up a muslin tomorrow, to confirm fit and pocket placement. Once I’m satisfied with my muslin, I’ll start sewing the actual jacket.

Cancans

In July, mIMG_20150722_155511_medium2-001y husband and I hopped on a plane and went to visit a friend of ours who lives in the wilderness of northern British Columbia. While we were visiting, I completed a pair of CanCans.

I made them with Knit Picks Palette, in the Lingonberry Heather colourway. I’m pretty pleased with them, but they do not fit me! I have slightly larger than average hands, and this pattern doesn’t come in multiple sizes, so I knew I was taking chances. I also didn’t swatch. I decided to keep them for a gift, since you never know when you need something to give away.

Turns out, one of the lovely people I have met online over the years needs a new pair of fingerless mitts. She’s got arthritis in her hands, so she’s not able to knit anymore. I sent these on to her, to keep her aching hands warm.

Ravelry project is here. The pattern is an easy knit, but I don’t like how the cables turned out according to the pattern. The pattern has you cabling without a cable needle, and some of the corners come out a little sloppy that way, so I used a cable needle instead. It slows you down, but the results are much nicer.

 

Denise 2 Go Knitting Needle Review

I was recently asked to write a review on Denise 2 Go knitting needles. I’ve never been asked to do a product review before, so I was pretty excited to take them for a spin (pun intended) and share my thoughts on them. I chose to try the small set, which includes US sizes 5-10, a 4mm crochet hook, three cables in different lengths (14″, 16″ and 19″), end buttons and an extender which allows you to join two cables together, in case you need a longer cable. The medium set includes sizes 10.5-15. There is also a crochet hook set available.

Initial Thoughts

DSC_4422Upon opening the box, I was surprised by how small the set of needles was. These needles are marketed as being portable and “petite”, and even if you carry a small purse, you could certainly toss the whole set of needles in and run out the door, prepared for any knitting emergency! I’ve never had a knitting emergency, but the small size of the set means it is perfect for travel. The set is lightweight, and weighs in at only 70 grams (about 2.5 ounces).

DSC_4425The needles are made of plastic, so again, they’d be great for travel. I don’t fly often, but I always limit myself to wooden needles for travel, because my stainless steel circulars are expensive to replace, and I’d hate to see my needles confiscated at security.

The small set includes US sizes 5-10 (3.75-6mm), which are the most common sizes. I personally use a size 4 needle quite frequently, so would have liked to see them in this set, but it is not a deal breaker for most people.

The needles fit snugly into the pockets, so that they don’t fall out easily if you turn the case upside down. Even when open, the case is small, and holds all of the essentials. The pocket beside the cable pocket only contains the end buttons and cable connector, so you could easily put stitch markers or a small pair of embroidery scissors in that pocket.


DSC_4429The needles are quite short, at a mere 4″ in length. I thought that the short length might make them challenging to knit with, but it didn’t, because of the thickness of the cable. The sizes are stamped into the plastic on each needle, making finding the size you need simple. There’s a groove at the base of each needle, to give you some grip when you attach them to the cables. There’s a hole in the connector, which is helpful if you use lifelines in your knitting.

 

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The connector is very effective. Rather than being threaded like my last two sets of interchangeable needles, the Denise 2 Go set has a plastic connector on the cable that you insert into the needle and twist slightly to lock. I’ve had issues in the past with threaded needles coming unscrewed, and the connection on these needles is nice and secure, which is fantastic. You don’t need a cable key to connect the needles to the cables, and there is no key included with the set.

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The Denise needles are reasonably pointy, with smooth tips. The needles themselves are quite smooth, considering that they’re made of plastic. They are pleasantly slippery, enough to allow the stitches to slide easily, but not so slippery that dropped stitches become an issue. The needle on the left is a size 5 stainless steel needle, from the set I use for all of my knitting. The needle on the right is the same size, from the Denise 2 Go set. You can see that the Denise needle is not as sharp and pointy as the steel needle, but it does have a nice, smooth point. There are no snags or rough spots on these needles.

When testing these needles, I did find that they weren’t sharp enough for tricky decreases (ie: purl three stitches together through the back loop, and knit three together) or knitting nupps, but they perform well for most decreases.

DSC_4426There are three cords, measuring 14″, 16″ and 19″, as well as an extender and two end buttons in the event that you need to take the needles off the cable for another project, or you need to use the cable as a stitch holder.

The cords are quite thick, and a bit stiff, so they are not suitable for magic loop knitting. Because of the stiffness of the cords, they do tend to hold their shape out of the case. I didn’t find that this interfered with knitting with them, and in any case, a bit of heat will straighten them out if needed. I found that running them under hot tap water was sufficient to get the bends out of the cable.

The joins on the cables look like they would catch your yarn as you knit, but they are surprisingly smooth.

A nice bonus is that the set includes a 4mm crochet hook. I always forget to bring a crochet hook with me when I travel, and sometimes I do need one. The crochet hook also can be attached to the cable.

The cotton fabric case is small, and seems well-constructed. The light colours of the case make it easy to find in your purse or knitting bag.

Swatches

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I knit these two swatches in bulky weight acrylic/wool blend yarn on size 9 needles. The swatch on the left was knit on the Denise needles, and the swatch on the right was knit on my stainless steel needles. The gauge on the Denise needles is 21 stitches and 14 rows = 4″ (left). The gauge on my stainless steel needles is 20.5 stitches and 13.5 rows = 4″ (right). I expected the gauge on the Denise needles to be looser than on my steel needles, so I was pleasantly surprised by how close the gauge was. I know the swatch on the right (with a tighter gauge) looks larger, but that’s because I knit a couple of extra rows.

Projects

DSC_4416To do a fair review, I decided to knit a couple of projects with the needles, with a variety of different types of yarn. The first was a Grandmother’s Favourite dishcloth, made with cotton yarn. Cotton yarn typically hurts my hands, because I’m a tight knitter, but these needles made knitting with cotton comfortable. I whipped up the dishcloth in under two hours. I managed to get two dishcloths out of this ball of yarn, knit on size 7 needles.

 

DSC_4438My second project was a New Bittersweet Cowl. I chose this project because it incorporates lace, so I would have to work yarn overs and decreases. I decided to knit this project using Berroco Ultra Alpaca, which is a 50/50 wool and alpaca blend. My Ravelry project page is here. Again, I had no issues with decreases on this project. The cable is thicker than I’m used to, so it felt a little unwieldy for the first few rows, but I got used to it pretty quickly. I found knitting this project quite enjoyable on these needles, and I’m happy with the finished cowl.

Both of these projects were done with reasonably thick yarn, and the needles were great. I decided to really torture test them, and pulled out some laceweight yarn. Unfortunately, there’s no project for this, because I got three rows in and discovered that laceweight yarn gets hung up on the join, and will not slide down onto the cable. This surprised me, because the needles performed so well and I had no issues with the joins while knitting with other yarns. I tested with Knit Picks Palette (a wool fingering weight yarn), and had no problem. I wouldn’t necessarily want to tackle a lace project on these needles anyway, because they’re not quite pointy enough for lace knitting.

Final Thoughts

For many of us, knitting is a very personal hobby, and it affects many of us emotionally. Some people knit because they find it soothing, so having quality tools makes all the difference in the world. I enjoyed working with these needles, and would definitely use them for future projects. The small size of the case is fantastic for travel, so I’d bring these with me on future adventures, especially if I’m flying. They don’t replace my stainless steel needles, but they’re a great set for most projects, comfortable to knit with, and they’re a good value.

You can purchase your own set of Denise 2 Go needles here.

Pros

  • Small size
  • Plastic is great for travel
  • Lightweight
  • Tips are reasonably pointy
  • Good variety of sizes and cable lengths in the set
  • Most yarn weights do not catch on the join (I tested with laceweight, fingering, worsted and bulky)
  • Good for knitting in the round or flat
  • Comes with a crochet hook
  • Easy joins that do not come loose
  • Sturdy cables
  • Made in USA
  • Compatible with other Denise interchangeable needles

Cons

  • Not suitable for Magic Loop
  • Needles are not pointy enough for more complicated decreases (ie: purling more than two stitches together), or making nupps.
  • Laceweight yarn gets hung up on join
  • Feminine colours (not all knitters like pastel colours)
  • Cables retain their bent shape when they come out of the case, but are easily straightened using heat (ie: blowdryer, sitting in the sun, running under hot water, etc.)
  • No size 4 needles in the set (I frequently use this size, but not everyone does, so it may not be a big deal to you)