Another Colette Mabel

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Would you believe I made another one? I went to Dressew for notions, and meandered around the fabrics, because you never know what amazing things you’ll find. Lo and behold, I found this gorgeous black and red damask knit, which had to come home with me.

Laying it out was a bit tricky, since I wanted to be sure that everything was lined up perfectly. To do this, instead of laying out on the fold, I traced around half of my pattern pieces with chalk, then flipped the pattern over and traced around the other side with chalk, and cut along the chalk lines. I did the same for the outside waistband pieces. I didn’t have to do the back this way, because it has a seam down the centre, and I didn’t care how perfectly spaced the damask pattern was on the inside.

Hooray for pretty, comfortable clothes! It’s pretty comfortable, too!

Colette Mabel

I’m sick of jeans that don’t fit comfortably. The rise is always too low, and I’m always having to either wear a belt (which is uncomfortable) or pull my pants up every few minutes (also uncomfortable, and not very convenient). In the case of the one pair with a nice, just below the navel rise, the fabric doesn’t have enough memory (2% spandex simply is not enough), so they stretch out of shape after an hour or so, which results in needing to pull my jeans up constantly. No thank you.

I am eventually going to get around to making myself a pair or two of jeans that actually fit, but that’s going to be quite a project, so in the meantime, because pants are STUPID, I have made myself some comfortable skirts that I can wear with tights.

I thought about drafting a pattern, however as my eldest would say, “it would be easy…but, lazy”. I decided to go with the Colette Mabel skirt pattern, with a minor modification… I don’t like my skirts super short, so I added 3″ to the length of the mini skirt. I don’t usually sew with knits, which meant I had very little in my stash, so I had to go to the fabric store. I found two fabrics that I liked, which will go with everything… One was a solid black knit, and the other was a heathered charcoal colour.

DSC_4699After taking my measurements, I determined that I landed exactly in the range for the large size. I made the black skirt first. First lesson with this pattern is that it doesn’t have standard 5/8″ seam allowances, so my usual habit of snipping my notches into the seam allowance meant that I had some fussing to do at the notches, since I snipped too far and ended up with tiny holes everywhere there was a notch. Doing notches this way makes cutting your fabric go much faster, but the time I spent fiddling with the stitching negates any time I saved cutting. Lesson learned: read the instructions before cutting, in case the seam allowances are not standard.

DSC_4698I didn’t feel like making the charcoal right away, so I nabbed this funky, retro heathered print from my stash. I bought it at Dressew a few months ago, from the clearance section. I think it was only $2 per meter, and I couldn’t resist it. I figured if I hated it as a skirt, I could donate it to charity without feeling like it was money wasted. In the end, I rather like it, so long as I balance it with dark tights and a dark top.

DSC_4700After actually wearing the two skirts, I decided that the large was just a touch too big, so I trimmed the pattern down to the medium size and cut the charcoal fabric. The fit is much better, and after making two skirts already, I didn’t need to refer back to the instructions, and I had all of the bugs worked out.

DSC_4701Because my black and charcoal fabrics were 60″ wide, there was quite a bit left over. Not enough for another skirt, but there was plenty to make a colour block skirt! I redrafted the back piece, and cut the centre pieces as well as the waistband out of the charcoal, and the side pieces in black. Talk about making the most of your yardage!

The last two skirts were done assembly-line style, because I could use the same thread for both. It only took me about an hour and a half to make the two, plus cutting time.

As a bonus, I scored on sweater tights at The Bay this week, because they’re clearing them out for the season, so I have plenty of options for comfy tights to wear with my comfy skirts! It was fairly inexpensive too. I spent only about $15 CAD on fabric for four skirts. The pattern is a bit pricey considering that the Canadian dollar is so low, but because I can as many skirts as I want, I think in the end it is money well spent.

Cassiope Shawl

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Back in October, when I went to Knit City, I had the pleasure to meet Caitlyn Ffrench again. We met a couple of years ago at a Fluevog knit night. She’s an independent yarn dyer, using natural dyes, as well as a pattern designer. I’d never seen her yarns in person, so I grabbed a skein of her logwood dyed fingering, without any ideas other than knitting a shawl.

I originally wanted to knit one of her designs, but couldn’t find one that a) called to me at the moment, and b) I had enough yarn to knit. After a bit of Ravelry searching, I came across Cassiope. I knew it would be an easy project, and I had just the right amount of yarn.

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In the end, I had far more yarn than I needed, so I decided to add one repeat of the mesh lace after the chevron lace, and do a couple of extra garter stitch rows before binding off. And guess what? I still have a bit of yarn left over! I figure I’ve got enough to make some lace bracelets.

The yarn was lovely to work with and I’m happy with the finished shawl. The yarn is kettle dyed, so there are slight variations in intensity of colour, which I love. I look forward to wearing it!

My Ravelry page is here.

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.