Monday, May 31, 2010

"Spring to Finish" Finished

On April 23 I read about the Spring to Finish challenge and boldly laid out eight projects I wanted to finish by May 31. Some were almost there. Some weren't even started. Some were in between. None of them were more than a couple months old, which is still current in my book. (I heard someone recently describe something as a UFO [unfinished object--as in languishing and not likely to ever be finished] if she hadn't worked on it in two weeks. That's crazy. My limit is closer to two years.)

Now I give you the Spring to Finish Finished! list, in order of completion:

3a. Purse: April 25. Something a little different for me. I'm usually hyper-critical of my own projects like this. (What do I mean by "like this"? Well, something with embellishments, something that has to look pretty. Something that may easily look homemade, rather than handmade.) But I really enjoy this one.

Reward fail: I was supposed to treat myself to something at the shop of the woman who produced the yarn. I have not been able to contact her, so the visit is out.

1a. Odds & Sods socks: April 29. What more can a sock be? Comfy. Cozy. Warm. Still love this sock architecture.

Reward: warm feet.

1b. Cabled Fingerless Mittens: May 4. I was able to work on the second mitten during the Stop AIDS Walk and that was fun. I also enjoyed pulling a name and giving them away.

Reward: Randomly selecting the winning name and her delight at winning.
1d. Purple Mohair T: May 6. A dream since last summer. There were many worries and insecurities on the way about fit and how the mohair would feel, but it all turned out good--love it.

Reward: wearing the "matching" skirt. Not quite as rewarding as I was expecting since the skirt doesn't really match. But it was fun pulling the outfit together.

2. County Fair Quilt Block: May 8. Two practice tries and I still had size issues! But overall I am happy with how it turned out. I'm glad I had enough fabric, and I still love paper piecing!

Reward: We will see in August...will I get a ribbon for my efforts?
1c. Whistler: May 19. What more is there to say? It's beautiful. It fits. It's everything I could have wanted it to be.

Reward: An extra night at the Purl. I haven't done this yet. I've frequently been at the Purl recently but no "extra" nights I would count as a reward. Writing myself a raincheck.

3b. Tablecloths: fail. I had promised four. Two were finished (with sewing help) before this challenge even started. One more was almost completed this weekend. I could have gotten it done if I had pushed a little harder. But at some point I decided I needed to try it on the table it's supposed to fit before I go any further. (Theory is all well and good, but I'd rather try it on and see for myself in the real world.) And there's no sense in ripping out more than I have to! The second one has all the pieces cut out (no small feat in itself) and will be sewn once I have confirmed the first one works.

Reward: no Snickers bar for me, almond or otherwise.

4. Siding: fail. This one was really close. We really did work on it regularly. Last time we stopped we really thought there was only one day left. (I mean after working on it that long, we thought we knew our capabilities.) So one day of work plus a long weekend with two work days should equal a finished project, right? It didn't work out that way.

We worked a very long shift yesterday thinking we were going to get it knocked out. But by 9 pm, I said I was done and we thought we'd finish it today instead. Heavy rains and thunderstorms prevented any work today. (Getting wet is one thing, but lightning is quite another!)  But I'm sure we'll get it done in...wait for it...one more day.

Reward: no burger from the joint down the road, but I'm sure they'll make me one when I have earned it.

So final score is six out of eight projects. Not too shabby. Although I feel the work would have all gotten done at some point, I don't think they would have all gotten done this month without this challenge. And the ones that I didn't finish certainly had more progress completed just because of this list. Thanks for reading along and keeping me accountable.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Blocking a Beauty

A week ago I finished the first layer of the Belinda shawl I've been working on. There's a second layer that's going to be picked up along one long edge and knit perpendicular to the first layer. But I decided to not start it because I want to wear this layer next weekend.
Last time you saw Belinda, you only saw a few inches of a swatch sample. On the swatch I kept the colours lined up by adjusting tension, but that was getting me into trouble. For the actual shawl, I used a variety of methods.

At first I adjusted the number of selvage stitches, adding and decreasing stitches at will to use up the yarn as needed. (If my yellow yarn came sooner than the yellow stitches, I would decrease a stitch; if the stitches came before the right colour yarn, I might add a stitch or two.)

Later in the shawl I just adjusted my YOs. The pattern calls for double yarn-overs, but I would throw in a few singles or triples over the row as needed. I figured it would all block out (and I turned out to be right).

In preparation for blocking, I allowed myself to purchase a set of blocking wires and pins.
They allow you to block larger projects with very few pins. The work comes in threading the rigid wires through the edges of your piece. But once that's done, it's all easy as pie.

While blocking:
Since this was a rectangular shawl, I figured I could eyeball the width to get it right. After it was pinned into place, I decided just to double check that. (The blocking wire set probably included the ruler for a reason...) One end was 20.5", the middle was 19" and the other end was 20". Not too bad, but I decided I would adjust a few pins and make it all 20".

The pins and wires worked very well. There was no way I was going to use a million pins to get those edges straight and even. It would have taken hours.

Now that you've seen a couple pictures of the "organized" colours, shall I remind you how this yarn started:
Here the colours are well ordered and organized. (You can see the little bits of green that crowd into the yellow and the pink going into the white which later manifest in the shawl.)

Once the yarn was wound up, all organization is lost:
This is what would have happened to the knitted piece if no care were taken in how to knit it up. The colours are still very pretty, but I don't think they would have done much for each other or had a chance to shine. (Let me say again, very prettily coloured clown barf.)

But with careful choice of the number of stitches and some adjustments on the way, everything is in its place, and I think the colours all complement each other beautifully:
I'll try get some "finished object" pictures this weekend and share them with you next week.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Whistler Finished: Part 1 of 2

It took a long time to finish up the Whistler even after the main knitting was done. I'm not sure I've ever made something with so much to do after the pieces were done.

After the cutting, I had to sew the back to the front at the shoulder seam. The pattern had you purl a row before casting off, but gave no direction for what to do with it.

First I tried sewing the shoulders together through the "outside" purl bump (which would put the whole stitch inside the seam) but it was too bulky inside and didn't lie flat. So then I tried sewing through the "inside" purl stitch which left half a stitch on the outside of each of the front and back. After the seam is done, it looks like there is one purl row between the front and back. It looks pretty good and lies pretty flat. (And even flatter after a steaming...more on that in a minute.)
Two half purl bumps come together and look like a purl row.
(Between the arrows.)

Once the shoulder seams were done, I had to pick up the stitches for the collar around the neck and knit that. Compared to the whole body, it should have seemed like just a little bit of knitting, but 109 stitches per row is still no small feat!

Once that was done, I picked up and knit the facings along the front opening. Like the collar, you knit out on the "right" side, do a purl row as a fold line and then knit the same length for the "wrong" side. Then I sewed the facings down which covered the cut edges at the front. Then I sewed the collar facing down, making sure to keep it stretchy. (Not that this collar really has to stretch to get over my head, but it's still a good practice.)

When the collar and facings were done, I couldn't resist adding the clasps. The biggest challenge was to keep the clasps lined up evenly from the edge, and to space them equally. I was relieved that the final result looked pretty even to me! Each clasp is sewn down at three points so there will be no wiggling or shifting out of place.

Next up is sewing on the sleeves. I pinned them into place with safety pins (there's no way straight pins would stay in). My go-to seaming stitch is the mattress stitch which is done from the right side. It's a little different in this case because I was matching the end of rows with the side of the row (think of "with the grain" and "against the grain" in wood) unlike side seams where you match two "with the grain" edges and shoulder seams where you match two "against the grain" edges.

On the body of the sweater I picked up yarn between the rows:
This turned out to be more secure than picking up one of the legs of a stitch since you could pick up both the main colour and contrast colour strands. And it made it possible to pick up either from one row or two rows as needed to match the sleeve.

On the sleeve, I picked up the purl bumps like on the shoulder. This time I picked up the "outside" bump so that no purl bumps were visible from the outside.
The sleeves, by the way, were ended with five or six rows of reverse stocking stitch which becomes a facing.

Here is the seam from the inside after the sewing was complete:
The sleeve is on top with the black facing showing; on bottom is the body of the sweater with the cut edge showing. Next step is to sew the facing down over the cut edge.
Flip the facing over to cover the cut seam, and then sew it down:
keeping the sewing very...relaxed. I don't want to say loose because the facing has to actually stay down. But you don't want it to be tight and show through to the front side either!

After it's all done, you have one incredibly neat (if somewhat bulky) sleeve seam:

At some point along the way, I also tacked down the facing on the bottom hem. Here I used a stitch I had read about once; I'm not sure what it's called.

This stitch gives some stretch because the general direction you're sewing is opposite of the direction of your stitch. Coming up at 1, go down at 2 and across to 3. Then down at 4, and up at 5, etc., making sure you grab only the inside loops of the stitches on the garment body. You don't want them to show through on the front side. On the hem, it doesn't matter, as long as you don't go right through to the garment body. I prefer to stitch along the cast on (or off) edge.

The bottom hem came out pretty nice, but you can see it still  has some puckers, especially on the left side here:

After steaming, it looks much better:
I normally use a wet block to flatten out my knitting, but I had recently read a post by a woman that strongly believes in steam blocking. She had some convincing arguments (one of them being: "It's what the professionals do.") so I thought I'd try it. I certainly was not interested in repeating a complete wet blocking just to smooth out the seams I'd just sewn and the collar.

I don't have a steamer (yet) so I just used my iron. Fill it up with distilled water, turn it on high with the steam on, and hoover it over the work. Do not touch the iron to the surface, and certainly do not press down on it. Just let the steam do the work of heating and dampening the wool. Move the iron away and as soon as you can touch it, pat and smooth out the fabric to how you want it. Repeat if necessary. Worked like a charm. I also used it to flatten the shoulder and sleeve seams.

Whew...well, that was probably more than you ever wanted to know about finishing the Whistler. (Unless, of course, you're making your own and looking for tips.)

What a learning process for me with lots of techniques which may get incorporated into future projects.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Time Spent at the Purl

I've been having a good weekend with two sessions at the Purl already!

Last night I went to sit & knit, show everyone my finished Whistler, and help set up for the "Green Sale." This is the event where people drop off yarn, books, and tools they don't want/need anymore to sell, setting their own prices. The drop off was a couple weeks ago.

The sale itself is running this weekend (Saturday to Monday during shop hours) where you can buy lots of different yarns, books, and tools for good prices. And of course, the "thrill of the hunt" is part of the fun--you can't know what you're going to find!

Then, whatever amount the sellers bring in is not handed over in cash, but in store credit. This is the first year Amy has tried it, and it seemed to be a great success so far. (It helps that I saw that at least four of my own packages have already sold! Can't wait to spend that credit...I know exactly what I'm getting already!)

This morning I went early for the official Green Sale opening. "Bag ladies," as those of us with Red Purl bags are affectionately called, were invited in early this morning for a pre-sale look, tea and yummy refreshments. (And learning that nonpariels are not called parasols.)

I had a very nice time visiting with everyone, drinking tea, and knitting on my pooling shawl--I got the first layer done!! I also ran into the student of my last class and was able to help her get over a hurdle in her socks. I believe she's set to finish now. And yes, I did buy a few things...

In the picture above you can see some red 80/20 bamboo/wool. The bamboo is soft and drapey and the red is the most perfect colour of red. The red you're always looking for and can't find. Well, I found it, and bought it, and don't know what I'll do with it. But that will take care of itself in time.

In the middle you have a skein of Noro sock yarn. I've seen a lot of Noro online and in mags, but not in person. She (I think it's a "she" responsible for all that yarn) really focuses on colour-changing yarns and has made people love her stuff so much they don't even mind that the wool often has lots of breaks and "material" in it. (That would be bits of grass, hay, or whatever else might cling to a sheep's fleece.) I've now got about 480 yds of my own sock yarn to try it for myself. As far as I know, Noro was a huge part of the shift from commercial yarn consistent from ball to ball, to small "arty" yarns where each skein may be unique. (And she was able to sell that as a "feature," not a problem.)

On the left is some variegated cotton from Bernat. I have a cotton project in mind for this summer (more on that when I have it more thought out), and this yarn perfectly matches two of the colours I already have from raveled sweaters. See? You never know what you'll find.

All the yarn was at a good price and looks to be in great condition. It'll be fun to start working with it.

I also picked up a crazy little book:
I have no idea what "twice knit" knitting is but I'm very curious to find out. Anything that says you can cut the knitting and not have it unravel is very intriguing. Old books are just interesting anyway. I can't promise I'm going to make the bikini pattern (ha ha), but I'll see what this method looks like, and how much I enjoy doing it. Make life an adventure.

I also picked up a couple old Interweave magazines:
The accessories edition is for my sister who likes to work on small projects like hats, mitts and socks. There are a lot of nice projects in this one. And the other issue, besides having a nice article on "invisible" cast on/cast off (which I think will turn out to be the same as tubular cast on/off), also has a neat trench coat pattern:
in a basketweave pattern. I am going to investigate whether this would be a good pattern for the plarn rain- or trench-coat I committed to making this year. I didn't have much luck knitting with plarn the last time I tried (my broken needle can attest to that), but it'll be worth another go. The crochet pattern I had in mind isn't adapting too well to the project so I thought this would be worth a try. Plus I enjoy knitting more, and crochet uses 3 times the yarn. Knitting would save me a lot of bags and cutting!

All in all, a very enjoyable morning. If you're in the area, I'd recommend swinging by Red Purl to see what you can find for yourself.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Whistler Finished: Part 2 of 2

I didn't want to keep you waiting, so I am posting part 2 before part 1. I usually prefer to show the finishing details before the final project, but I didn't want Bonnie to pass out from holding her breath. (ha ha). I'll post part 1 sometime soon.

The pic to the right is my attempt to imitate the cover photo of the pattern book. [Click link to see.] (Except I didn't mirror image it as they did--you can tell because the letters on the "Dale" patch on his sleeve are backwards. That's me--obsessively observing the details.)

Anyway, enough fun and games, let's see a sweater, shall we?

From the front:
(I have to apologize for the distracting scarf--the wind was blowing it around and I didn't bring a mirror out with me!)

And the back:

Now that you've seen the "big picture," let me show you some details.

The folded hem:
Project Stats
Started
: 12 Feb '10
Finished: 19 May '10
Part of Ravelympics 2010
Pattern: Whistler 2005 by Dale of Norway
Materials: Dale of Norway/Dalegarn Falk (superwash wool) 17 balls ($117.13); 5 clasps salvaged from Goodwill sweater (<$5?)
It's very smooth and flattering. There's ribbing on the inside to keep it snug, but the stocking stitch on the outside maintains a smooth continuous look. I ended up skipping the shock-cord that it called for. First, I bought the wrong type of cord. Second, I didn't really want that "balloon" look. Third, I'm not really going to be wearing this in Alpine conditions. Fourth, I can always add it later if I miss it.

Sleeve details and join to sweater:
These sleeves do narrow to a very small cuff--good thing I have small wrists. It does keep the wind out though!

The front opening (with clasps): It fits very well partly open
and closed.
The clasps are quite heavy but the sweater has more than enough bulk and heft to hold them up. That is very good. (Nobody likes a droopy neck!)

I finished the sweater on Wednesday. Since then, the weather has turned very warm and sunny (I'm not saying that's a causal relationship...) so I haven't had any opportunity to wear it. Tomorrow night, however, I'm headed to Red Purl so I'll have to have it with me. First thing in the morning might be just chilly enough to justify putting it on!

But before its first public debut, let me show you one more view, especially showing off the maple leaf on the sleeve:
Was it worth the wait?

I certainly think it was worth my work and time!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What Starts with "W" and Ends with "histler"?

That would be: "Whooping long time to finish my Whistler"

It really is. Is a long time. Is dragging.

Usually I'm the one smiling serenely as others complain about sewing together their knit projects. Complain about all that seaming, all that finishing, while I smile because it doesn't bother me. Not today. I'm tired of it.

It's harder when you have thought, "I'll finish it tonight...Tonight's the night." and it's not. And then harder still when you have done this a couple times.

Sunday I finished knitting the collar and then picked up and knit the plackets. Still not done.

Monday I sewed down the sleeve hems, and then sewed down the placket facings. Still not done.

Tonight I sewed on all the clasps (yes, I went with clasps instead of the zipper--just wait til you see it!!), sewed down the collar facing, sewed down the bottom hem, and sewed on the first sleeve. That is a lot of sewing, and yet: Still. Not. Done.

Maybe tomorrow I will get to sew down the sleeve facing, sew on the second sleeve, and sew down that sleeve facing. Right now, I think that's all I have left. (I've been known to delude myself before though, so that's not necessarily the final word.)

In any case, you can see that I am working as hard as I can on it. It is just a lot.

But it will not get the better of me. Because what else starts with "W" and ends with "histler"?

We can't wait to finish the Whistler!

We won't be outdone by the Whistler!

We want to hear cheers for our Whistler!

Until then, I'll just keep slogging on...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cutting up the Whistler

I've finally done it! Gotten myself to tackle the sewing and cutting of my Whistler sweater.

I got an early start this morning, figuring if anything went wrong I had all day to either fix it, make up for it by succeeding at something else, or drinking a lot of beer in an attempt to forget it.

But never fret, your beer supply is in no danger because things went well!

I started by measuring the width of the top of the sleeve and then measuring that far down on the side seams so I would know how far to cut. I tried to err a little on the small side because it'll look better to have the sleeve a little gathered than the body of the sweater.
I should clarify that I don't really have side seams since the body is knit in the round, but you can see where I inserted a purl stitch. It makes a little gap running up the side edge which 1. makes it easier to keep the body from twisting and 2. provides a guideline to sew straight in the following steps.

But first I had another thing to deal with. While blocking, I noticed some of the white stitches were too loose at the top of the sweater. I was going to leave it because it wasn't too bad, but then I realized that I was about to cut this sweater so I could fix this with no ill effects at all.

So I pulled the white wool from the front and back toward the side seam until I had the right tension and left all the extra wool looped at the side seam:
Now, I didn't want to sew it down like that--I mean that's a mess!! So then I thought of using some masking tape. I pulled all the loops to the side I wasn't sewing and taped them down:
Then I sewed down the one side of the gap from the right side.
I set the machine to a narrow close zig zag and followed the left half of the first knit stitch to the right of the gap (marked by the grey line).

Here's the first side sewn down:
Then I removed the masking tape, smoothed the loops down to the other side, and taped them down again:
Then I sewed it down, following the stitch on the other side of the gap. At this point, I cut off all the extra white loops since they were sewn down on both sides and secure.

Since I'm using superwash wool which doesn't stick to itself like untreated wool, I sewed down each side one more time and across the bottom for a little extra security. For the second pass, I moved out from the gap and sewed down the other side of the knit stitch.
After two passes with the sewing machine, you can see on the wrong side the two lines of stitches and the nice column of knit stitches which will be my guide for cutting:
Cut right down the middle of that"gap" stitch and you get this:
Now I am set to sew in the sleeves, sew the shoulder seam, and sew down the sleeve facing.

The neck required some stitching and cutting as well, but was less trouble. I set the zig zag just a little wider and straddled two stitches for the neck. I ran up and down once on either side of the center stitch (no "gap" stitch here).
I decided not to sew it twice since it seemed to be holding really well, and this area will get less wear than the sleeves.

A trip down the center stitch by the scissors gave a nice slit down the center front.
Stitches will be picked up along these edges to knit a facing and then the collar. And then I install a zipper or Norwegian style clasps.

Then sew down the hems of the sleeves and body, insert the shock cord, and it will be done!

I don't think I'll be making any more progress on this today, but I feel like I've pushed this project over a big hurdle and now progress can continue at will!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Purple! Mohair! Lace! Ruffles!

I can't imagine any one who would try to classify my "style" would ever put this T shirt in it.

But I love it irrationally. Ever since I first saw the pattern. Ever since I found the perfect purple mohair. Ever since I first put it on. It's luscious, I can't deny it.

The lace pattern was slightly modified from the pattern. (A mistake I decided to embrace instead of correct!) I think the outlined diamond shapes look a little like stain glass windows.

It was pretty easy to memorize, although I definitely had to use a row counter as it was 12 rows long and "reading" the mohair proved very difficult.

I finished the shirt last Thursday after blocking it twice. The first time was after everything but the bottom hem was done. It looked like it might be a little short, so I wanted to make sure blocking could make it right before I went any further. Although not perfect, it was close enough.

So then I picked up and knit the picot hem around the bottom.
Then I had to block it again. The picot edging curls up like crazy and that drives me crazy. After blocking, it was a lot flatter, but it still tends to a little flip.

The same picot edging was added to the neckline:
And look at that sweet ruffle! It was cleverly made from short rows of alternating garter and reverse garter panels. The short rows mean there is more fabric on the two sides then there is in the middle (making it gather) and the alternating garter and reverse garter make it alternate between concave and convex curves (making it gather nicely). Project Stats
Started
: 20 Mar '10
Finished: 6 May '10
Pattern: Lace Top by Erika Knight from Glamour Knits ($5)
Materials: 127 g of Mohair in Motion by Betty Todd ($39)
The pattern called for some organza but I couldn't find anything that matched. And I like it as it is.

I was hoping for mother of pearl buttons but I didn't find any in my button tin. These will do nicely, and if I see ones I like better some day I can switch them then. (I can't believe I went to Soutache recently and didn't pick up ribbon or buttons there! What was I thinking?!)

This is the fifth item off my "Spring to Finish" list. I'm really banging them out and quite pleased about it, I must say! Today is "Halfway There" check-in day at Jacqui's blog, Tallgrass Prairie Studio. I'm happy to have five of eight done, although I think the ones that are left are the harder ones! But I have three more weeks and am confident I will get the Whistler and tablecloths done. Yes I will! (The siding, I'm not promising...)

Meanwhile, another look at this luscious T:
Oh yes, and my reward for this item was finally wearing the skirt I had bought last fall to go with the as-yet-not-even-started shirt. When I pulled it out of the spare room closet, I couldn't see why I thought it matched this shirt. The threads running through it look blue not lilac, lavender or even purple. But then I saw that the lining matches the shirt quite closely. Fooled by lining again!! Or maybe those threads are lavender, but only look blue because of the surrounding colours. (It happens!)

But I still liked the style of the skirt--seems a little retro. So I went with the theme and pulled out some T-strap shoes, and a old crocheted purse, and gloves. Yup, I went all out. But it was practical too...it's a little cool yet for Tshirts, and full length gloves do help keep bare arms warm. The rest of me did great with what felt like a big hug of purple mohair!

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