Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Double Double Take (or A Hat is a Gauge Swatch)

I've started a hat I've had in mind for a while...something with a skull on it for someone I work with. (No, I don't want him dead--it's the haunted house thing again.) He always admires my knitting and extols the virtues of wool and alpaca. There's not much more you can do to make yourself knit worthy! (Ok, maybe actually buying me wool would raise you up a little higher, but that's not necessary.)

I had already decided to double knit the hat for warmth and to avoid the long floats the colourwork would require. I found two complementary shades of brown of the same yarn in my stash and set to work.

The slit in the top is from when I was working in rows.
Once the increases were done, I started working in the
round. It will be short work to sew the seam shut with
the long tails I left at the cast on.
The first start was not very successful. I started at the bottom as the pattern suggested, but the number of stitches was way off--the hat would have been huge. The double knitting part, however, was making it hard to get a good sense of my gauge. I had the brilliant plan to start over from the top so I could just stop increasing when the hat was big enough.

That worked fairly successfully. I did the crown of the hat on straight needles in the flat (i.e. not in the round). It was a new skill to do increases in double knitting, but it went pretty easily. I would increase 8 times around in the one colour on one row, and on the next row I would increase in the other colour. That way I never had to increase both colours at the same time (and I could do all the increases on knit rows instead of purl rows), and each colour got a plain row of knitting in between the increase rows.

By the time I got to the right size, I had one pattern repeat less than the pattern called for (14 sts). No wonder my first try was so big!

Then I followed the pattern's instructions and did 12 rows of plain knitting--no increases and no colourwork.

Then I started the colourwork pattern:
I'm not quite half way through the colourwork, and I can tell that this hat is going to be way too tall. (This is making me think my gauge is way different than the pattern's, but I'm telling you it does say to use worsted weight and that's what I'm using--on smaller needles, no less.) After a brief phone consultation with my hat-knitting sister, we've decided that if I rip back to where the increases end and skip the 12 rows of plain knitting, the hat should come out alright. Maybe a touch long, but that's better than short.

One side:

the other side. Double knitting makes a perfectly reversible hat. I think it's like magic...only real.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fix it Friday!

Ready for another installment of Fix it Friday? So was this tired out "poef" (pronounced like poof). (As I understand it, that is the dutch word for footstool.  I find it handier and more suited to the item than "footstool.")

It's a little hard to make out, but the fabric was once a rich red with ornate gold elephants. With regular use, it become dirty, worn, and faded. You might also be able to pick out that the elephants are upside down on the sides. Oops.

The fabric on the bottom was worn out from being
pushed across the carpet all the time.
So I think we can all agree it needed to be redone! Part of my inspiration to do it now was that I went through my upholstery type fabrics and saw one I forgot I had and really liked it when I saw it again. So with the materials on hand, I asked myself, "What's stopping me?" And I answered myself with, "Nothing."

First step was to cut off the worn out cover. This is actually the third time I am covering this poef. It was something I made in sewing class in grade 5! Let me drive that point home by rephrasing that: this poef is over 30 years old. Can you imagine!?

Here is a shot of the original fabric I uncovered:
What I think of as a traditional type upholstery fabric. (Before you mock me, let me add that I made it in sewing class and had absolutely no choice about it. The materials were presented to me and I was told, "You're making a footstool today." Ok, and I did.

By the way, if you want your own footstool that will last more than 30 years and stand up to multiple makeovers, this one is simple to make. You will need seven juice cans, emptied and cleaned. (You can take off the top and/or bottom if you want.) Arrange the cans with one in the middle and six in a circle around it. Then cut two circles of plywood to match the diameter of the cans. One piece of wood goes on the bottom and one on top. Add padding (foam or batting) to the top and a layer around the outside. Cover with the fabric and you're done.

How do you cover it with fabric? Well first you trace around the bottom to make a pattern for the top and bottom. I used a couple of old file folders taped together because I have a lot of them laying around:
(In case you're wondering, the white stripe is an extra layer
of batting I added at some point because I thought the
sides needed a little extra stuffing. Originally the sides
matched the top.)
 Then cut it out adding a 1/2" seam allowance. (I generally use 1/2" on projects like this because it's big enough, not usually too big, and makes the math of adding seam allowances really easy!)
I then cut out the bottom from the fabric. For the top, I made things a little more complicated (because that's what I do), and cut the pattern into four "slices" and cut them out with half inch seam allowances:
I made sure to line them up on the stripe pattern so that they would be identical when I cut them out. After I sewed them together I had this piece for the top:
 See? Wasn't that extra work worth it for a "target" top instead of just a stripe? I think so.

I cut out a strip of fabric the same height as the poef (plus seam allowances) and long enough to go around the poef. I then sewed it to the top:
Usually I cut the strip extra long and don't pin. I match up the edges of the two pieces an inch or two at a time as I sew. I leave the ends free and sew the seam when I've nearly completed the circle. This way I don't have to worry too much about fitting a square piece to a round one. BUT, in this case, I cut the strip from a leftover piece of fabric and it turned out to be just long enough (with a 1/4" seam).

So in this case, I sewed the seam first and then pinned it together, matching the half way and quarter marks. Lots of pinning, but it made it work so it was worth the extra work.

Next step is to pull the top and sides over the poef:
It should be really snug, so you'll have to take some time to work it down. But finally the top and side will be on, and just the bottom will be left:
Lay the bottom fabric over the bottom and tuck it under the sides:
Then work your way around the sides, tucking under the 1/2" seam and pinning. There will be some fiddling and adjusting, but eventually you'll get it. Having a stripe pattern made it easy to know where to fold, but it also made it hard to "fudge" where necessary because it would be noticeable. But I persevered:
Once it's all pinned, it's time for some hand sewing:
And then you're done!!

Except if you're not. I've noticed the fabric on the bottom wears out quickly from being rubbed on the carpet so I decided to add some little feet. I looked for something more decorative, but the store I was in only had  utilitarian slides. I chose these:
I nailed them on in a square pattern and tried them out.
It probably would be better to have five (for the same reason office chairs work better with five wheels than four), but they come in packs of four and I decided to accept that. Next time I'll put them much closer to the edge as well because now you can tip the poef and I find that annoying.

But overall, I am very happy to have a rejuvenated poef:
I should be set for another 10 years!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Helpful Advice

In this time of year when we might nostalgically look to the past and carry on family traditions, enjoy reading this advice from a 1949 Singer Sewing Manual:
Prepare yourself mentally for sewing. Think about what you are going to do...never approach sewing with a sigh or lakadaisically. Good results are difficult when indifference predominates. Never try to sew with a sink full of dirty dishes or beds unmade. When there are urgent housekeeping chores, do these first so your mind is free to enjoy your sewing...When you sew, make yourself as attractive as possible. Put on a clean dress. Keep a little bag full of French chalk near your sewing machine to dust your fingers at intervals. Have your hair in order and your face looking fresh. If you are constantly fearful that a visitor will drop in or your husband will come home and you will not look neatly put together, you will not enjoy your sewing as you should.
I dare say some things do change...(although I'd have to agree that good results are difficult when indifference predominates.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Finish?

I realized I've been reluctant to share that I finished the Snowflake sweater last weekend. I don't really understand the reluctance, but maybe it's because I can't be sure it's done until the client accepts it. Or maybe it's just that I only get excited about things I get to keep? :)
I have the sweater blocked to size, but haven't done the finishing of working in all the ends. If I have to adjust the length of the sleeves or body, I don't want to have to find the ends I've woven in. I'm pretty sure the sleeves are going to be too long but I hope everything else works out. I sent an email to the client early this week and we're trying to find a time to meet up the week after Thanksgiving. We'll see how it goes...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Getting Close to Finished

Here's how my Snowflake Sweater is looking these days. Yup, getting pretty close. I started the sleeve cuffs tonight and I'd say they're about half done. Only thing left then is the collar. And I'll probably do a little duplicate stitch on the pattern where the sleeves and body meet. But more on that later.

This was about my last chance to show you how I do my sleeves two at a time:
It's the same thing I did with my Whistler sweater sleeves. Doing them this way saves on trying to make the second match the first one; and you spend half the time counting between decreases because you only have to do it once for both. Of course, you waste a lot of time if you do a sleeve wrong, and you have to remember to do all four decreases on the rounds (two for each sleeve). It's easy to miss one.

So how does it work? You knit the first half of the stitches from sleeve A onto a cable needle and then (with a separate ball of yarn), you knit the first half of the stitches from sleeve B onto the same needed. Then with a second cable needle, you knit the second half of sleeve B's stitches and then the second half of sleeve A. You then proceed to knit in the round on the two cables, making sure to use the right ball of wool for the right sleeve. I tuck my balls into the actual sleeves, which not only helps to keep them from getting confused, but also does a bang up job of keeping the strings from getting tangled. It's brilliant. I can say that out loud because I didn't think of it myself.

And why do I have two gold needles and two green ones? Because I don't have four needle tips the same size. Since I use an interchangeable set, I can set up a cable needle with the proper size tip on the right side, where I'm knitting the stitches (and determining their size) and a size smaller tip on the left side, where it doesn't matter what size it is. So in the picture above there are two cable needles each with a gold tip and green tip.

Ok, now that I am this close to finishing, let's have a little contest...I invite you to make a guess in the comments here of how many hours I will have spent knitting (and ripping) on this sweater by the time I finish. Don't worry about the time spent planning or pattern making, just the straight knitting. Leave your guess in a comment and you know I'll let you know how it comes out in the wrap-up post! Good luck guessing...

May I suggest?

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