Saturday, October 14, 2017

Like Mother, Like Daughter Dress, Delivered

My mom visited recently and was able to deliver the dress my sister and I made for my niece. She wore it the first chance she got:
It fits...there's room to grow...couldn't be better!

And here's the original again, if you would like to compare:

A super big "Hooray" for this project! :D

Sunday, October 8, 2017

I Can See Right Through You

I was given tickets to the Colts game this weekend, when Peyton Manning's jersey number was retired. My two favourite things: football and Peyton Manning. Ok, so maybe that's the same favourite thing, but anyway.

When I finally did some research about getting to the stadium and getting in the stadium, I learned that the NFL has a "clear bag policy". That is exactly what it sounds like - any bag you bring in has to be a clear, see-through bag. (Women are allowed a small hand clutch, but that's it.)

I thought about packing light and putting everything in pockets. It wouldn't be too hard as I usually put all my valuables on my person instead of in my purse when I go to games. But I just couldn't picture going through Saturday (when the same policy applied to the statue unveiling) and Sunday without a bag. What about my extra camera? What about my sunglasses? What about my knitting? (You know, in case of an emergency. Like the 7 hour weather evacuation I had at a Notre Dame game - I was very happy I had my knitting that day!)

Of course, I also didn't like the idea of buying one of the licensed Colts or NFL bags, and I didn't have a clear shopping bag. (Also, ew. They're just not nice to carry.)

So when my eyes lit on a clear case that I was using to store yarn, I hatched a plan. A simple, quick plan - add handles to this zippered case. (It's one of the cases that sheet sets come in.) In addition to being available, it was close to their size guidelines.
I was out of bed a little early on Friday morning and I finished this before going to work. I had leftover strips of black fabric from cutting out another project.

I sewed two together end to end to get the length. Then I folded it in on itself twice the long way so that no raw edges were showing. I then top stitched along all four sides. Repeat for strap two. I sewed them onto the plastic bag and done.

I didn't make the straps very long. In fact, I didn't really measure the length at all. Two of the scrap pieces end to end seemed like it fit in the acceptable range for purse straps, and I didn't consider it any further. (This was a quick project I was doing before work in the morning, after all.)

But much to my delight, when I got ready to go out on Saturday, I discovered that it was the perfect length for wearing over my shoulder. Truly the best way to carry a bag.
I couldn't have been happier!
I have no pictures of it in action at the game, but trust me, it worked perfectly.
I posted this pic on IG and it was of the ones
they displayed on the scoreboard!
 And I did manage to fit in a little knitting before the game and between plays:
In keeping with my habit of attending long football games, this one went into overtime. I'm not going to say it was my awesome clear bag that helped Vinatieri kick the winning field goal in my end zone, but you can't deny it didn't hurt! ;)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Project Roundup

I'm not really up to pulling together a narrative today, so I'm going to give you an overview of the projects I have on the go, showing progress since the last time you've seen them.

1. I'm on the second sock of this pair that I started during a trip in July. This might be the first time you're seeing these.

I think this is the prettiest stitch pattern I've ever made:
It reminds me of stain glass somehow.

2. I'm making steady progress on my "Jeans socks" with the yarn I dyed. It's lovely to work with. The rayon in it gives it a very silky feel to my hand.

3. It took a few tries, but I got the sleeves done on this sweater for Wool-Aid. It's partially assembled, as you can see.

4. I like to sit and sew sets of these squares in the evening. I'm keeping them organized in sets for each star.

5. This bit of kntting will turn into a cowl. I've made the pattern before as a gift and wanted one for myself.

It's actually just a start to the set. I really started on it because I want to use a big fur pompom I bought myself a while ago on a chunky hat that will match.

6. This red and yellow quilt is on my list of projects to work on with the UFO* club on Ravelry.
We make a list each quarter and cheer each other on. And hopefully congratulate each other when we finish projects.

The quilting is finished except for the yellow squares so I've been making my way through them. This morning I got the second of three sections of the quilt done.
And there finishes this virtual tour of projects I have on the go.
*UnFinished Object

Monday, September 4, 2017

Dye Job (and what a job)

Once again, in an effort to clean up a corner of my house, I end up in the middle of a bigger project.

The goal was to clear off a window sill of two sweaters that have been waiting to be pulled apart in order to harvest the yarn. After a day's work, I had some nice yarn:
 Wool/angora/nylon from a Carole Little sweater
 and a kitchen-sink blend from Ann Taylor Loft:
 The yarn felt great, but I really didn't think I would use it in this yellow colour.
So I thought I would dye it before I put it away. I set the yarn to soaking and started to concoct plans and sort my supplies. I'm mostly off of KoolAid dyeing these days because the Wilton's dyes offer a lot more control and options.
I mixed up jars of icing dye, water and vinegar in yellow, pink, blue and red.

Once the yarn had soaked, I laid it out in a baking dish:
For the first skien, I poured a little dye from the jars and "smooshed" it into the yarn to make sure there was enough coverage. This looked a little muddy from the colours mixing so for the next skein, I applied the dye mixture with a toothbrush. That took a little too long and there wasn't quite enough coverage, so on the third one I did a mixture of both. Then, on only the third skein, I added some drops of straight yellow and pink icing dye in an attempt for more vivid colours.
Once the yarn was covered with dye mixture, I laid it into a casserole dish with a lid. There was enough liquid from the dye that I didn't have to worry about the yarn drying out during the heat process.
I popped the dish in the microwave and did 2 minute heat and rest cycles. The first two skeins only took three cycles (6 minutes of heat) before the water was clear and the yarn appeared hot enough (~180^).

Here's the yarn fresh out of the microwave oven:
Once it had cooked enough, I set it aside in a pie plate to cool in its own time.
After I had cooked all three skeins,  it looked like I had a weird pasta dinner going on the counter.
Once they were cooled, I rinsed them and the first two skeins were hung to dry. The third one wouldn't stop bleeding yellow, so I ended up rinsing it a lot of times. I assumed it was bleeding excess dye because I added drops of straight colour. When the rinsing wasn't really working, I put it through two more heating cycles as well. Finally it stop bleeding colour.

The colour of the rinse water was yellow or orange, but the extra processing somehow washed out all of the blue dye and caused the colours to spread and mix. The yellow was overwhelmed by the red and pink. Here are the three skeins after they had dried:
Skein 1:
The colours are muddier because they mixed more in the baking pan.

Skein 2:
Applied with a toothbrush, instead of being poured, the colours are more distinct.

Skein 3:
The colours are saturated, but all of the blue is gone and the red and pink overpowered the yellow.

That was the end of phase one.

Phase two was to overdye the skeins with blue while leaving spots of the colours from the first dye. I decided to only overdye skein 1 and 3 because they had similar yardage and it would be enough for a pair of socks.

So I tied some tight cords around the skeins every 6-8 inches or so:
You can see here, that in places I split the skein and tied the two parts in different spots:
I was trying to tie up the particularly bright spots and I wanted to make sure that all the spots wouldn't be spaced the same. (I didn't want them to "line up" when I was knitting them.)

The overdye with blue was a lot of work. Blue is a tricky colour anyway--it doesn't seem to set during the heating process. You have to let the yarn cool in the dye water and the dye seems to set more during the cooling process than during the heating.

So the actual dyeing in a pot was easy enough, but the yarn would not stop bleeding blue. Once again, I'm not sure if it was excess dye in the pot (I used quite a bit because I wanted a dark blue) or if it just wasn't sticking to the yarn.

I did multiple rounds of soaking the yarn, rinsing the yarn and heating the yarn. Finally the rinse water started to clear up.

Skein 3, which came out with the stronger blues:
and Skein 1, which was more on the teal side:
Presumably the strong yellow tones in skein 1 shifted the blue more green

And now it was time for the unveiling...what would the yarn look like under the resist ties?

I unwrapped the white yarn and didn't see much of a difference:
Before I had a chance to get too worried, I opened up the tightly wrapped yarn and saw that there was still lots of colour inside:
Here's a picture of skein 1(left) after it was re-hanked (to mix the colours up) and skein 3 (right), where you can see the colour blocks because it was not re-hanked:
And in case you can't get enough, here they are again:
And a close up of skein 1:
Isn't that so pretty!! The colours are pretty subtle, but I think they'll add just the right punch to a pair of dark blue socks.

Still want more? Ok, here it is caked up:
This is skein 1 and 3 caked together (double stranded). Even though the two skeins came out quite different colours, they will make a beautiful blend as I knit with a strand of each held together.

Here is skein 2 caked up:
Since it was an odd yardage compared to the other two, I left it after the first dye. I decided I would use it for contrasting toes and/or heels on the socks.

In fact, here is the toe of the sock I couldn't resist casting on:
I've chosen a subtle textured pattern for the body of the sock which will be done in blue. Not too detailed since you wouldn't be able to see it on the dark yarn, but something that will break up the plain field of knitting. The scattered purl stitches should highlight the pops of colour in the blue.

And that, people, is how you clean off a window sill.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

No Better Project Ever

Directory (in case you're in a time crunch or prefer to read a chapter a day):
Bodice and Collar
The ruffles!
Putting the two halves together
Pics of Finished Dress and Project Stats

I can't believe I haven't written about this project. I have been so excited about it, thought of little else and worked on it a lot over the last couple months month. Oh my goodness, it has only been a month since I started it. I guess I've hardly had a chance to write about it!

I conceived this project in the spring. A bolt out of the blue as I recall. I've referred to this picture (on the right) of my sister and me before. We love it and she remembers that dress very clearly. Remembers loving to wear it. I have since learned that it was a hand-me-down from friends and was brought as a gift to them from the Netherlands. (That gives me hope it was wool and not acrylic. But it was the 70s, so who knows.)

My sister Patricia's youngest daughter is right about the age that she was in the picture. Wouldn't it be just too much to knit a replica of the dress for her daughter? I hope you hear all the angels singing that I did!

But it had to be done for this winter or she would be too old. I was a little concerned I wouldn't get it done and thought I would enlist another sister's help. Then it became a fun collaboration. Or maybe I should say it was fun to have someone in on the secret. Judy was quite clear that I would be designing and she would be following directions!

I found some yarn in the right colours (and superwash) online and ordered more than I thought I would need. Then I had to wait. Oh it was hard. But I was going to see my family in July and thought it would be best to measure my niece first. I was going to have to design the dress, or at least heavily modify a pattern, so I wanted to know what I was aiming for. Once I had the measurement, Judy and I could start knitting right away!

I originally thought of the project as a secret, but I knew Patricia would rather be in on the secret. Judy wasn't sure, but we did tell her and she was delighted. I knew she would be!

In order to persuade her daughter to let me measure her, I told her about the project as well. She was also delighted. The rest of the weekend, she was completely endearing with her little smile, coy look and question "You making Faithy's dress?"

Wendy Darling dress
I had researched a pattern to use as a base. The one on the right had an A-line skirt, basic bodice and set-in sleeves, which is what I was looking for. I would have to eliminate the lacework, modify the neckline, probably shorten the sleeves, and add the strip pattern.

Once I had the measurements, I worked out what was the closest size of this pattern and used that as a base. With my stitch and row gauge (yes I did a gauge swatch ahead of time. I could at least get that much done while I was waiting to start!) figured out, I could plan the stripes.

The overall plan was for me to work on the bodice and Judy to work on the skirt. Since I wanted to work from the waist up and she would work from the waist down, we both started with a provisional cast on. In the end, the two pieces could be grafted together.

It looks like I don't have any progress pictures. You can just imagine me sitting on a lawn chair knitting in the sun (and shade when it got a little too hot). And you may as well imagine my extended family shaking their heads as I spend a campout knitting.

Here is the bodice when it was knit, sewn at the sides and the collar was added.
Instead of doing a turtleneck like the original, we opted for an extended crew neck with a rolled edge (as a nod to the original's turtleneck).
After a couple rows, I added decreases wherever I felt like they were needed so that the neckband would be shaped and not stand away from the body. I didn't try to line them up. Sometimes I did six in a row, sometimes four or five.

Once that was done, it was time for the sleeves. Again, no progress pictures! I knit them flat and seamed them before sewing them to the bodice.
I started with a turned hem at the wrist.
The sleeves fit into the armseye of the bodice very well:
Now that that was done, it was time to figure out the ruffles. She never said, but I think Judy was a little dubious about the ruffles, but I knew I had to have them. They are a defining element of the dress!
It took me a while (a week?) to think about how I was going to do them. Very back burner thinking, but it works for me. There are a lot of knitted ruffles that don't work, and I wanted to avoid them. I decided I had to pick up stitches at the intersection of the bodice and sleeve and work up from there.

This is the "underside" of the ruffle (toward the sleeve).
I picked up one stitch in every row along the bodice. I didn't go all the way around the sleeve but used the photo as a guide of where to start and stop.

I decided to make the actual ruffles by alternating stocking stitch and reverse stocking stitch sections and by doing a lot of increases.
I started with knit 2, purl 2. Every row after that, I increased two stitches in every stocking stitch section. (I.e. every section where I was knitting.)

It got a little crazy with the number of stitches on my needle.
I finally figured out an adaptation of magic loop and worked with only a fraction of the stitches actually on the needle at one time as I worked across the row.
I'm working the stitches on the two needles, but all of the
stitches on the right are still on the cable too. I just pulled
out some length of the cable to give me some working room.
Every time I knit all the stitches off the left needle, I slid the next bunch on and pulled the cable through the stitches on the right needle, giving some slack to work.

I also did short rows to shape the ends of the ruffle. Because of the increases, I counted sections for the short rows instead of stitches.
I figured out the short rows by using the height of the final ruffle (so I knew how many rows I had to work in) and how wide I wanted the tallest centre section (that told me how many stitches I wanted to leave unworked in the short rows).

I don't think it could have turned out any better. Look at that ruffle-ly awesomeness:
Until I see Faith wearing the dress and a big smile, this is definitely my favourite part!

Now all that left for my part was the buttons!

I couldn't find three in my brown button jar that were the same, but I didn't let that bother me. I used a pair for the bottom and finished with a dressier one on top:
 I backed them all with tiny buttons. (Three the same this time.)
This is needed to properly anchor the buttons on the knit fabric. It also softens the feeling of a shank button (as the top one is). If you've ever made the mistake of using a shank button on your back (ahem who would ever do that?), you know that it pokes you and is very uncomfortable! With this button behind it, it doesn't poke!

Also, did you know that buttons of any size have the same spaced holes in the middle? They're all the same. That seems crazy to me, but it also makes sense. It must make manufacturing easier. It also makes it easy to sew two buttons together even when they're different sizes and separated by a layer of knit fabric. You can just go straight up and down with each pass and neatly catch the corresponding hole in each button.

Then I was ready for the skirt from Judy and she was ready to mail it. She had started it at the campout as well, but mostly so she could get past the red stripe and didn't need to bring any colour but brown with her. I didn't give her enough and ended up having to mail her more. A minor speed bump.

We also had to solve a problem with the increases. She was supposed to increase all the way down the length of the skirt. But when she was at about 2/3 of the length, she was done all the increases. We decided she couldn't just keep making the skirt wider, so she had to rip out all but about six rows!

Her row gauge was different than mine and that's what we get for not doing a swatch. She ripped it back like a trooper and increased at a slower rate. We had one long conversation where we were trying to figure out how many rows she should add between increases. She said, "Oh...I'll just go from 4 to 5." I said, no we have to do the math.

I proceeded to go through a lot of math, arrive at the wrong answer, realize my mistake, and then arrive at the right answer....which was 5 rows. I still think it was worth doing. I like to arrive at the same answer by two different methods. It's more likely to be right. And in this case it was.

Judy sent the finished skirt in the mail.
She didn't get the most exciting job knitting that expanse of brown, but she did a beautiful job.

The bottom was finished with a turned hem, just like on the sleeves.
I didn't get home until late the day the package arrived, so I had to content myself with a mock up of the dress instead of being able to join the two pieces:
I heard a report that Faith saw this on Instagram and was very excited. :)

The next day, as soon as I could, I sat down and worked on putting the two parts together.
I put the live stitches from each piece onto a skinny circular needle one half at a time. That was insurance so that I would match up the side seams on both sides. I was pleasantly and mildly surprised that we ended up with the exact number stitches on each piece. It went together beautifully!
Then it was time for a bath and light blocking.
It's superwash so it should have been fine in the machine, but there was no need for that. I soaked it in the sink, squeezed out the water, and then rolled it in a towel to get the water out. I didn't pin anything in place, but just laid it flat on the mesh. Those ruffles took a little while to dry! :)

Here are pictures of the finished dress. I'll be sure to add one of Faith wearing it when I get one, but that will be a little while. (I know--I can't wait either!)

I may do more intricate projects than this. I may do more impressive projects. More artistic projects. But right now I can't believe I'll ever do a project I'll love more. The idea, the perfect timing, the connection to the past, the collaboration, the result (assuming it fits!)...can't be beat.

Project Stats
: 28 Jul '17
Finished: 20 Aug '17
Pattern: Personal pattern with a lot of help from the Wendy Darling dress from Drops Designs.
Materials: Knit Picks Swish DK in 24632 Serrano (2 balls) and 24633 Bark (5 balls) and a bit of unknown white from stash.
Co-creator: Sister Judy


May I suggest?

I Say! or at least I did once...