Hausti Shawl

DSC_4694This is an old(ish) project that I finally got around to taking photos of. I bought the yarn while on vacation in the Yukon & Alaska last summer. If you ever get the opportunity to visit Skagway, Alaska, visit Changing Threads (they recently changed their name to Aurora Yarns, but the website seems to be down).

I like to buy yarn when I visit a new place, so when I go on vacation, yarn comes home with me. On this trip, I bought a skein of Raven Frog Fiber Arts Marvelous Merino, which is listed as a sport weight yarn. I picked the Borscht colourway, which has all of my favourite autumn colours in it.

DSC_4683The pattern I chose was Hausti, since the autumn colours called for a leafy shawl.

DSC_4686I learned a new technique while knitting this shawl – i-cord cast on. I’ve never done it before, and it was easy. Tedious, since for every four stitches you knit, you only cast on one, but it makes a really nice sturdy edge that doesn’t stretch, so it supports the weight of the shawl nicely. It also doesn’t curl, which is a common issue with stockinette shawls.

My Ravelry page is here.

Barred Owl

DSC_4633I was walking my dog this morning, and saw one of the resident barred owls in a tree near the pedestrian path through the park. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera, and my cellphone camera photos didn’t turn out. I decided to try coming back. I was lucky, because even though 45 minutes had passed, the owl was still there!

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The owl was sitting in a tree a little way down the dirt path that leads to the hiking trails.

DSC_4649I moved a little, to get better pictures of the owl, and it spread its wings, so I thought it was going to fly away. Instead, it flew into a tree that was closer to me, and not obscured by branches.

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The owl was most definitely not afraid of people. I’ve seen it (or others, I’m not sure how many there are in the park) several times now, and the park is well used by people. The trees the owl was in are immediately beside the paved path.

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Having these birds living in the park is a treat. We sometimes hear them calling to each other at dusk, and they’re not shy, so sightings aren’t really all that uncommon. I believe one of them roosts at the end of the park nearest to our home, because I see them around that end of the park fairly often. I ended up taking about 50 pictures of the owl, and these are the best ones I got. It was a pleasure spending time observing it, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to finally take photos. I left before the owl did – it may even be in the same tree now.

The Magical Button Foot

I have a confession to make. I’ve always looked at the button foot my machine came with and thought “this thing is more trouble than it’s worth, I’ll just sew on buttons by hand”. I finished a blouse recently, and didn’t feel like sewing the buttons on by hand. It is one of those finishing things that I detest. Hand sewing is a big pain, even though I enjoy cross stitching. Go figure.

Anyway, I decided to write up a little tutorial, considering that I know people who have the same opinion on button feet that I did.

DSC_4622 First, mark your button placement. I like to make sure that my chalk lines extend past the edges of the button so that I can make adjustments to the position and still be able to see my markings. I don’t like to mark button placement with a pin, because it creates a bump under the button that makes getting the button in the right position really frustrating.

DSC_4624Attach your button foot to your machine, lower the feed dogs, and select the button setting. Make sure that you have about 3″ of thread tail, because you’ll need it later. Place your button on the location you marked, lower the foot, then use the hand wheel on your machine to lower the needle into the hole.

DSC_4626Adjust the stitch width. Buttons have the holes spaced at different widths, so you’ll have to play with this setting. I find that on the buttons I’ve been using, I have to make the zigzag wider.

DSC_4628It turns out that on this button, I set it a touch too wide. Fortunately I didn’t bend or break my needle, but I did break the button. Oops. This is why it’s best to do the first few stitches using the hand wheel instead of running the machine. You can make further adjustments if needed, without doing damage.

I adjusted the stitch width to 5.5, which was perfect. My machine has an automatic setting for sewing on buttons, which takes eight stitches to sew on the button. I just press the pedal until the machine stops automatically, but if your machine doesn’t have an automatic stop, make sure that you use about 6-8 stitches.  Cut the thread tails at about 3″.

DSC_4629After your buttons are all sewn on, pull the thread tails on the top of your work (where the button is visible) to the back. Tie the tails in a knot, including the tails on the back of the button, and snip off the excess thread.

DSC_4631Using a button foot makes sewing on buttons go much faster. Rather than hand sewing them and cursing at tangled thread for twenty minutes, I got seven buttons sewn on in about seven minutes, so I have no excuse to let a project sit because I don’t want to sew on buttons.

You can use this technique with buttons with four holes as well, just sew the first two holes, then move the work to line up the needle for the second set of holes. Easy!

If you’re using very large buttons that your machine can’t accommodate, obviously you will have to sew on your buttons by hand. The button foot doesn’t work for buttons with a shank, either. If you have really expensive or delicate buttons, you might want to sew them on by hand, just in case you mess up like I did above.

 

 

Snowflake Sweater

I don’t often post about knits that just don’t work out, but I’m going to do so today. Some time ago, I fell in love with the Snowflake sweater pattern from Tin Can Knits (they’re local, woo!) It’s a fantastic pullover, with a nice lace yoke. I never wear pullovers, because I get too hot, but ever since I saw the sample in person at Knit City, I was obsessed with it.

Back in November, Knit Picks had a too-good-to-pass-up sale on some of their yarns. Specifically, Capra, which is normally one of their most expensive yarns. It’s a soft, squishy merino cashmere blend, and has a beautiful, subtle halo after blocking. Only the tumeric colour was on sale, but since I love Autumn colours, I snapped up eight balls of it, along with the wine colour, since I decided this was the perfect yarn for the Snowflake sweater. The funny thing about my colour selection is that I accidentally picked Gryffindor colours, which is the Harry Potter house I was sorted into when I joined Pottermore. It would be my accidental Gryffindor sweater!

As soon as my yarn arrived, I swatched and started knitting. The yoke lace is a little confusing, but I found the help I needed on the Tin Can Knits forum on Ravelry, in this thread.

Once the lace was done, it was time to work out my bust shaping. I tried short row bust shaping, but the picked up wraps were incredibly ugly. Maybe a dark yarn would be okay, but on such a light colour, any imperfections show up and are obvious. I ripped back my bust shaping and tossed the sweater in time-out, until I could find a better way to accomplish my bust shaping.

I re-read Amy Herzog’s Fit to Flatter, but her instructions are typically for bottom up, seamed sweaters. It made my head hurt trying to work out the shaping on my top down, knit in the round sweater. I re-read Ysolda Teague’s Little Red in the City, and it was easier to work with, because she typically writes top down, knit in the round patterns, but I wasn’t really feeling the love on how she suggests that you work bust darts.

Off to the internet I went. Read the post from the Knitty Professors again, but it uses short row shaping as well as darts, and as I said before, I wanted to avoid that. After spending way too long searching, I came across a tutorial written by a Ravelry member named strickauszeit. In the tutorial, she discusses different methods of shaping a sweater bust, using darts, specifically in top down sweaters. Eureka! I did the math, and came up with my bust shaping. I posted the calculations on my Ravelry project page, if you’re interested.

DSC_4617Guess what? It worked like a charm.

Now for the bad news. I’ve come to accept that there’s a very good reason I don’t wear pullovers. They’re hot, and I can’t just take it off like I can if a cardigan gets too warm. We don’t want the decency police coming after me! Granted, I’d probably tell them where to go and how to get there, but that’s another topic. After all of the work I did to make the sweater work, I started having serious doubts about whether I’d ever even wear it. The more I thought about it, the more I came to accept that I wouldn’t. The sweater would sit in a drawer, with its nearly perfect bust shaping, and that would be that.

The other bad news is that I bought far too much of the wine coloured yarn, and not nearly enough of the tumeric. I could buy more, except Knit Picks is out of stock until April, which would mean that even if I did manage to wear my sweater, it wouldn’t be until October, at the earliest. The yarn would also be a different dye lot, which may or may not end up being a big deal. At this point, I completely lost my mojo and decided to frog it.

Is that the end of the story? Nope. A frogged knitting project, while not something I often write about, is not a failure by any means. I learned a lot on this sweater! I now have a bust shaping technique for top down sweaters that works! And I like the results! I also learned that if I have to do shaping on a field of stockinette, I should use a darker colour. Granted, blocking would have helped, but while blocking is magic, it doesn’t remedy everything. I also learned that my reality is that I overheat easily, and pullovers aren’t my thing. I do have a few pullover patterns in my Ravelry queue, but most of the ones I’m likely to knit can be modified using a steek, and voila, I’ll have an awesome cardigan!

Also, this yarn isn’t going into my stash, to be forgotten until I eventually find something to knit with it. Once I’ve gotten all of the kinks out of it, I’ll be knitting Caramel, which is a free pattern, and will be amazing in Capra. I guess buying too much of the wine colour was a lucky accident. It’s also a very forgiving sweater, because it’s draped, so no bust shaping!

As for the Snowflake pattern, if anyone I know produces offspring and I feel the desire to knit for the little one, I’ll reach for this pattern. I’m also really interested in modifying the yoke to make it a cardigan…Just give me some time, okay?

 

Sweaters and skirts, oh my!

I haven’t been posting much lately, because I’ve been busy with job interviews, holiday stuff, and making things. I did say I’d be posting a few projects though, and here they are!

Rock the Lobster is the first project I’ll show you, because it was a milestone. I finally made a steeked sweater! If you’re not a knitter, you probably don’t know what steeking is. If you are a knitter, you may have been avoiding steeking, because it involves cutting your knitting! Tackling this technique was a game changer for me. I love colourwork, but most colourwork sweaters are knit in the round and steeked, so I avoided them like the plague.

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Steeking looks scary, right? The trick is to use a yarn that will felt, so that the stitches stick to each other. You can also run a line of machine or hand stitches along the steek so that you prevent raveling, which is what I did. Knits generally don’t unravel side to side, so steeking is pretty safe, believe it or not.

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The finished sweater. I really love it – the yarn is Knit Picks Wool of the Andes sport, so it’s warm but not too warm. The buttons are fantastic – they’re made of wood with a little bronze  wire accent. I bought extra buttons because I liked them so much. I didn’t bother doing any bust shaping, and probably should have. This sweater doesn’t have any waist shaping, but it doesn’t really need it. My Ravelry project page is here.

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The first time I wore my new sweater was out to brunch with my husband’s hiking friends. I wore it with a chocolate brown wool pencil skirt. Yes, it’s the pleated pencil skirt again, and I skipped the lining. I don’t really think it needs the lining, if you use good fabric.

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Sorry this one is so poor quality, but it was the best photo I got that day, and ran out of time, because I was dressed for an interview and had to leave! It’s another pleated pencil skirt, this time in an olive green wool. Now I have three pencil skirts, which is pretty reasonable, I think. The brown and olive wool were both purchased at Dressew. I still want to make my poppy skirt, but haven’t started yet.

Pencil skirts…again.

So, I was going to try a different pattern for my next pencil skirt, but have found that most of the PDF patterns I like are either really expensive (I don’t much like the idea of spending almost $20 for a pattern that doesn’t even have variations) or print on A4 paper. I bought a Burdastyle pattern for $5, which I printed on letter size paper, having set my printer to adjust for the paper size, but it was cut off, so I know the skirt wouldn’t fit. It’s very frustrating.

Rather than go out and buy yet another skirt pattern, I’m going to make the pleated pencil skirt again… but this time, I’m going to skip the lining. Hopefully I’ll have better luck than I did with the last one. I have fabric for three new skirts, but I’m only going to cut one for now, in case I decide that I hate the pattern. It does make a nice skirt, when you get the measurements correct. I do find that there’s a bit more ease in the pattern than is really necessary though, so if you make this skirt, you might want to account for that.

I also have decided on which fabric to use for my Phoebe dress, which I am hoping to make on Monday. I have decided on skirts today, because they’re a bit more versatile than dresses, and I’ve got a busy weekend, otherwise I’d sew it up sooner.

There are a few knitting projects that I need to post as well – a sweater and two shawls. I’ll get to those soon. It’s getting more difficult to get photographs of my large knits, because the weather has been bad on weekends, and my husband gets home after dark on work days. There just isn’t enough space in our apartment to take pictures of a shawl with a span of more than five feet, since there always seems to be furniture in the way.

Collette Phoebe

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Image courtesy of Collette Patterns

I haven’t sewn many Collette patterns yet, but when I got an email about their new Phoebe dress, I had to snap it up. I’ve been looking for the perfect shift dress, and this is about as perfect as it gets! I love the styling options, and the fact that this dress has a lined bodice. I can’t stand facings, personally, and would prefer to fuss with lining if it means that I don’t have to worry about facings popping out (which they always seem to do).

Phoebe is on sale until December 23, so now is a good time to snap it up! It would make a great holiday dress… It’s easy to dress up or down, in fact. I’m envisioning the double breasted version in a nice lightweight tweed, and the regular version in a nice wool… I even have fabric that would be suitable. It’s a classic design that is very wearable, and I can’t wait to sew one up.

Pencil skirt FAIL

I wanted to make myself another couple of pencil skirts, because I like the look of them and their versatility, so I sewed some up about two weeks ago. I had made the black one a touch too small, so I remeasured myself and made the size I thought I needed.

The two skirts I made, both out of stash fabric, ended up several inches too big. I don’t know how I could measure myself that inaccurately, but it can happen. I suspect it was because I didn’t write the measurements down, and misremembered them. Pencil skirts are a real hassle to alter, so I offered them to friends, but unfortunately, the size didn’t work for anyone that I know. I’ve put them in a donation bag that we’ll be taking to a local centre that is collecting donations for Syrian refugees. At least they won’t be going to waste!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have sufficient brown fabric to make another brown skirt, but the poppy print cotton sateen had enough remaining yardage to make another two skirts, so I remeasured myself today and cut another poppy skirt. I even made sure to try it on when I basted the zipper, to ensure that it would fit (it was perfect). The zipper stuck a little bit at the waistband seam, but I thought “no big deal, I’ll just trim down the seam allowances and everything will be fine”.

broken zipI tried to zip up my skirt after completing the lining, and this is what happened. First, the zipper got stuck in the same place, about 1/4″ above the waistband seam… it wouldn’t go any higher. When I tried the skirt on, the zipper would unzip, but this time, it was STUCK. It wouldn’t unzip, it wouldn’t zip higher. I have no idea what happened to my zipper, because it worked just fine before I sewed the lining into the skirt. I checked to make sure the lining wasn’t caught anywhere. So I did what any frustrated seamstress would do. I tried to convince the zipper to get unstuck. That’s when the zipper teeth burst apart. I tried to fix it, got more frustrated, and ended up tearing the zipper tape. I just can’t cope with tearing it all apart and fussing with it, so the skirt went into the trash. I still have enough fabric to try again.

I think I’m done with this pattern. Between sizing issues and frustration with the zipper (lining up those seams is not much fun, let me tell you), I just can’t say I’m enjoying this pattern anymore. It’s not a bad pattern, I’m just too frustrated to do it again. I’m not too frustrated to make a different pencil skirt though. The next one I’m trying is from Sew Over It, and it doesn’t have a waistband, or even lining, which means it will be much quicker to sew. I can always wear it with a slip if I need to. The only problem is that the pattern is from the UK, so it prints on A4 paper, so before I even buy the pattern, I need to find out what I need to do in order to make it work on letter sized paper. Page scaling isn’t an option, because then the skirt won’t fit.

Blanket for teacherbaby

DSC_4578On Tuesday, my 10 year old son told me that his teacher’s last day before maternity leave is November 26. He said he wanted something for the baby, and asked me to make a blanket. No matter how hard I tried, I could not convince him that a hat would be perfectly acceptable, practical, and most importantly, easy for me to complete before Mrs. C. goes on leave.

No, only a blanket would do! She’s his favourite teacher. He gave me puppy dog eyes. I was done for.

On my way home on Wednesday, I stopped at Michaels to shop for yarn. I had plans to make the Pemberley Blanket, and decided that an Aran weight yarn was close enough, mostly because it was so inexpensive. The yarn I selected was only $2.50 per ball, but at regular price, it was nearly $7. None of the bulky yarns were on sale, so Aran it is!

I don’t normally like knitting with acrylic, but given that baby things get dirty easily and I can’t count on Mrs. C. knowing how to care for woolen knits, acrylic was the way to go. Also, the price was right. I sat down on Wednesday evening to knit, then had second thoughts about the pattern. I had limited time, so did I really want to knit a blanket that would require me to frequently refer back to the pattern? Instead, I decided to knit the Pine Forest Baby Blanket, since it is a two row, seven stitch repeat. I had it memorized by the fourth row.

In the end, I used two and a quarter balls of Loops & Threads Impeccable yarn.

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Before killing the acrylic.

I normally don’t like knitting with acrylic yarn. Call me a yarn snob if you will, but I don’t like how stiff the yarn is while working with it, or how it feels knitted up. The stiffness never seems to go away. This photo shows the finished blanket. While the lace is visible and open, rather than crumpled and closed like it would be if I’d used wool, it is also very bumpy and stiff. Not the nicest to have against a baby’s delicate skin. Normally, you’d block any knitted item, but you technically cannot block acrylic, because it doesn’t behave like wool does. It simply springs back to its original shape, and still feels stiff and bumpy.

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After killing the acrylic.

This is when the magic of “killing” acrylic yarn comes in. The trick is to use a lot of hot steam to slightly melt the acrylic fibers. Acrylic yarn is technically plastic, so you have to be really careful when doing this for two reasons. One, you don’t want to melt the yarn onto your iron. Two, there’s no going back. If you mess up, you can’t just steam it back to the shape you want it to be. This is fine for my blanket, because I wanted it bigger and more stretched out, but in a garment, you need to be accurate when killing your acrylic. You can see the difference between the before and after photos. In the second photo, the lace is opened up, and flat. It even looks softer. Unfortunately, you can’t feel the difference, but I’d happily wrap a baby in this blanket now, since the yarn has lost its stiffness and itchiness after being killed. The blanket grew by about a third in the process, which is great, because it’ll be useful for longer than if I hadn’t killed the acrylic.

This was my first go at killing acrylic. If you want to read more about it, there are loads of tutorials about it, but this is the one I used. Does this mean I’ll use more acrylic in my knitting? Probably not often, because it makes my wrists ache, but for baby gifts, I’d be willing to do so again. Just don’t ask me to knit a 600 yard blanket in less than a week.

I hope Mrs. C. likes the blanket. My Ravelry project page is here.

Completed Minoru

DSC_4559 I finished my Minoru jacket last week, and have worn it every day since completing it. It has been difficult to get pictures of it though, given that it is dark by the time my husband gets home from work, so we took advantage of this morning’s beautiful weather to walk the dog near the river and get pictures of my jacket.

I didn’t change anything about finishing the jacket, other than making the interior pocket an inch deeper, to accommodate my phone, and serging the raw edges inside the collar, as the edges remain exposed inside of the collar and I didn’t want them to fray over time.

I’m quite pleased with the finished jacket, and wore it for the first time last Friday. It’s a very comfortable jacket – it doesn’t bind at the arms, it’s roomy enough in the bust, and has a really flattering silhouette. It even saw rain on Saturday, and I stayed nice and dry. There’s also plenty of room to wear my down underlayer with it in the winter, so there’s no need to buy a separate winter coat this year.

DSC_4563Would I make this jacket again? Absolutely. I think it makes a fantastic all-purpose jacket. It’s sporty enough for walking the dog and light hiking, but stylish enough to wear around the city or on your daily commute.

There are a few things that I’d do differently next time, however. The side seam pockets are a little too far to the back, thanks to the elastic at the waist, which pulls them away from the front. On my next Minoru, I’ll take the time to do the welt pockets I discussed previously but decided not to do.

The hood is really big. In fact, I don’t like it all that much. I’d make a different style of hood altogether the next time I make this jacket. The hood has a seam down the center, but I find that a hood that has three pieces fits better, and I’d draft my own hood in that style the next time around.

I’d also consider doing a tie belt next time I make this jacket, instead of the elastic waist. It gives you a bit more comfort when switching warm layers underneath the jacket, as it might be a touch snug with my heavier down layer.

Much as the elastic cuffs were a pain in the rear end, I’d leave them as is, because they look nice, and are comfortable to wear.

My pockets need some tweaking, as every time I take my hands out of them, the pocket lining pops out. Tacking them to the hem of the jacket will fix that problem though. I also didn’t make the bottom outside seam high enough when I sewed them, as the pockets aren’t really a secure spot to keep things. When I crouch to pick up after my dog, sometimes stuff falls out of my pocket (such as my phone, the day I didn’t put it back in the interior pocket).

I’m pretty happy with this jacket, considering it was my first time sewing this type of outerwear. Am I 100% happy? No, but I’d say I’m 90% happy, which is more than I can say for anything I’d buy off the rack! I’ll get a lot of use out of this jacket, and when it is time, I’ll definitely make another.

View all of my Minoru Jacket posts here.