Thursday, May 30, 2013

Preparing for Squam

A week from today I will be at Squam, probably eating breakfast (something I never do at home) and wondering how my first class is going to go.

I am in such a tizzy right now I haven't been able to pull myself together to pack or even think about what I need. For a while I pretended it was because I didn't know what the weather would be like, but I think my brain just isn't working right. But I could make other preparations.

For one thing, there was the Squam garden a few people are planning. It's a yarn bombing they will be doing at the Rockywold-Deephaven Camp site. They invited people to send flowers and other "gardeny" type things to them and they would be pulling it all together.

I finally put to use a pattern I bought back when the tsunami hit Japan. (Every disaster now, people will donate profits from their patterns when you buy.) It's for some crocheted cherry blossoms. The pattern had them very artfully displaced on a bare branch and they looked beautiful. Mine are a little more prosaic, but in part because I wanted them to be bigger to fit the larger woody context.

In three sessions, I was able to make 12 of them:
The original pattern called for a different colour for the first round (the centre), but I just couldn't get myself up for all those extra ends to weave in.
I think they're pretty cute in one colour anyway.
I used bits of extra sock yarn and some raveled sweater yarn I had around. I varied the size by using the yarn single, double or tripled (with navaho plying) and changing the hook size to suit.

The flowers are extra clever because you make a little loop on the back of them so they are easy to mount on twig branches, hair bands, elastics, anything really. My niece was visiting while I was working on them and she was doing some crochet, so I passed the pattern on to her. I am looking forward to seeing what she will do with it!

And then I thought I was done my crafty preparations for Squam. I had my lace coat done. I mailed my flowers off to be incorporated into the project. But then...

I had a little necklace I wore sometimes made from little letter beads strung on a leather thong. Usually it spelled out my name. For a while it was "Bonus Mom." I pulled it out yesterday and wore it, and it occurred to me that it would be a handy thing to wear at Squam. It would be like a name tag, but crafty and (dare I hope) a little cool. But it needed one addition:
I added a second strand and spelled out my Ravelry name. You see this all the time on crafty blogs and in the crafting world--you give your Ravelry name like you might normally give out your email. Except it's not just a way for people to contact you, it's the way they know you on the site. Your posts, your projects are all identified with that name. So I thought it would be perfect for Squam.
A bonus of adding the strand is that I redid the clasp and fixed two things: the lobster claw was on the wrong side so I used to have to do it with my left hand, and the necklace was just a touch too short and constricted my neck.

Add a smile:
and I figure I am all ready to be meet some strangers and make some new friends. :)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Vogue Lace Coat Finished and Photograghed

Yes, the lace coat is finished! Knitted, blocked, and be-buttoned. It doesn't seem like such a big piece of work now that it is behind me. I think it helped that it is constructed in many little sections.

I'll give you a couple overall shots, and then we'll review the sections of the garment in the order they were made.

First the hem band along the very bottom was knit sideways. It has two parts which were done at the same time: the horizontal leaf band (on top) and the diagonal leaf ruffles underneath. The beginning edge starts with a funny extra half leaf on the ruffle:
which hangs awkwardly and I don't like it. I didn't know that was how it was going to turn out or I would have tried to do something about it. But I don't know what because it may be unavoidable with the way that the ruffly leaves are knit.

The ending edge is much nicer:
From the top of the that band, I picked up stitches and knit the skirt in the "day lilies" lace pattern:
I added one extra repeat of the lace pattern to make sure it was long enough. Before blocking I was worried that I should have added two or three more repeats, but after blocking, I think it is perfect. The skirt hangs open in the front as it's not really full enough to cover all around.

Next, the waist band was knit horizontally, and the stitches from the top of the skirt were knit together with the rows as I went:
The band repeats the pattern from the top of the lower hem band. I sewed the buttons on at the inner ridge, but I think I may have to move them to the outer ridge. They look a little off-balance here. (I'll wait til after Squam, however, since I'll be looking for better buttons. Depending on whether I find any, I can sew them on in the new position or move these. The eyelet trim along the front is used for buttonholes, so that's no problem.)

Once the hem is done, the piece is set aside and two sleeves are knit from the cuff to the underarm in a "daisy" lace stitch. I knit them two at a time so that I would only have to keep track of the chart one time. That worked well. When they are knit to the underarm, you put them aside and pick up stitches along the top of the waistband to knit the bodice. When the bodice reaches the underarm, the bodice and sleeves are put together on one (long) needle and the top is continued with raglan decreases for shaping.
I think it may have been better to switch to the smaller size for the bodice because it and the sleeves feel a little loose, but that's better than too tight. I debated on the size for a while. It's hard to know if this was the best choice, but it's definitely better than being too small.

I could have also added a few repeats of the lace pattern on the bodice to make it longer. When I thought of that (too late), I was surprised it would occur to me for the skirt but not the bodice, because I could use a little extra length there too. Oh well, lesson learned (I hope) for next time.
The front has a deep V neck and it's all edged with a thin eyelet trim. I did a loose bind off of the trim (with a yarn-over every two stitches to keep it very loose). It matches the stretchiness of the lace, which is what I was going for. But now I am wondering if it shouldn't have been a little tighter to give more structure to the bias V-neck edge. As it is, both halves of the bodice like to pull toward the arms, and a tighter bind off may prevent that. Maybe sometime when I am up to it, I will retry the bind off and see if it supports the shape of the front better when it is a little firmer.

The same eyelet trim is used on the hem of the sleeves, but it's so thin as to not be very noticeable. The sleeves are loose and are not holding the blocking very well. (The elbows are already stretched out after two wearings.) When I blocked the garment, I did not pin and stretch the sleeves (you may recall I did a rush job before work one day). I may re-wet just the sleeves and try blocking them again with pins to set the shape better. The trim could definitely be improved and I think blocking them longer (thus pulling in the width) will help with the fit. But it may all be for naught because alpaca and silk do not hold their shape like a good wool will do.

Time for a couple more overall shots for review?

I also make pretty shadows when I wear this!
And for a final word, let me add that I did not come near to running out of yarn on this project!! I used about one fifth of the third skein (out of four), which means I have about 1,575 yards of this lace to use up!! Maybe a matching shawl is in order...

Project Stats
: 05 Jan '13
Finished: 16 May '13
Pattern: Lace Coat by Brooke Nico (Vogue Early Fall 2012, pattern #1)
Materials: Garnstudio DROPS Lace, Light Camel Mix, 2.2 skeins ($29.85)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Buttoned Up

I sat down on Thursday night and went through all my buttons. They still fit into a coffee can, so not too bad of a job. I've got them sorted by colour and went through each colour, one by one. Although I was pretty sure I didn't want a green, blue or purple button, I couldn't be sure there weren't buttons in a very light shade of those colours that would work. So I looked, and sorted.

Every time I pull out my buttons, I sort them a little further. Matching buttons get put together and tied with a thread. Time consuming? Yes. Can I help myself? No.

I saved the metallic buttons for last because I thought they were my best bet. Ok, maybe that sounds backwards, but I wanted to give the other colours a chance.
There were a lot of shiny buttons so I was worried I wasn't going to find anything, but I did find a couple candidates.

From the green bag, a pair of green flowers:
They were from a previous garment and I really like them. But too green and too big for this project.

Next, some not too, too shiny metallic buttons:
Still a little too shiny for this project.

Some metallic buttons that also came from a previous garment. They have a touch of green, but not too much.  The only draw back is that they are pretty heavy. I was worried they were going to be far too heavy for this lace garment, but it turns out I was wrong; they're fine.

I sewed them on to one side, and the open loops of the trim work for the buttonholes.
That's how I assume it's supposed to work. The pattern didn't really say.

Sorry to keep you waiting, but pictures of the finished garment will follow soon. I did wear it to knit group today and it got a very warm welcome!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Another Quick (and Exciting) Update

Remember that knitting group that is expecting to see my lace coat finished? Well, they're meeting this Sunday. So I realized I had better sit down and finish things up. I knew there wasn't much left to do, but I was so geared up for quilting and had that familiar feeling of not wanting to finish a project. (Not because I'm dreading the work, but I think because I don't want the project to end. Sort of not want to finish a book you're enjoying reading.)

Anyway, all that is to say it's a good thing I had a deadline to push me to finish. First thing to do was graft the underarm stitches. I had the stitches sitting on my very fancy stitch holders (aka paper clips), eight from the sleeve, eight from the bodice. I transferred the stitches to some double pointed needles,
and then grafted them together. When I finished the first, I tried to evaluate my work by looking at the graft:
I couldn't find it!! (Can you?). I gave myself an A.

Then it was time to work in the ends. It wasn't too bad. I try to minimize them while knitting, and that helps. Working in ends in lace is a little nerve wracking because there isn't really any place to hide them. One trick I used was to untwist the strand into its composite plies and working them in separately:
This way you spread the bulk around and even though you have double the ends to work in, they're each less noticeable.

I finished all that last night, and then this morning I got up early (thanks to Troy unfathomably having the need to talk to me at 7 am--doesn't he know better by now?) and blocked this baby.
Not surprisingly, I did a little bit of a rush job (and was still a little late for work), but I had always figured I'd be touching this up with an iron. I thought the hem ruffle would need the most work, but it looks ok.

I did try on the coat before blocking. I was very happy with the sleeves, which I thought might be too short while I was knitting them. Even though I added an extra repeat to the skirt, now I'm thinking I should have added two or three. And the waistband seemed to hit a little high, but that may change a lot after blocking. We'll see!

And the final thing: I need to find buttons. I've shopped around a bit, but not seen anything that I really thought would be good. On the other hand, I have yet to raid the big button jar, so maybe I already have something. The pattern calls for two buttons, placed at the top and bottom of the waistband, but I think it would also be nice with a row of maybe six or eight small buttons. I'd better find something quick...Sunday is a'coming!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I've Been Quilting!

In early April, I signed up for a group in Ravelry for those of us with numerous unfinished quilting projects we want to get done. The point of the group is to challenge ourselves to work on UFOs, encourage each other along, and cheer when things get done. The deadline for this particular sessions is the end of June. They do this every quarter and some people are signed up every time with 20, 50, 100 or more unfinished projects!! The minimum is five and I signed up with that many because I wanted to make a point of finishing the tshirt quilt and my Big T quilt. (The other ones I listed were my Kaffe Fassett quilt, the Hawaiian Star and the Kentucky Top. I don't think much will get done on those before June, but who can tell?)

I had the Big T quilt layered and pinned for quilting (blogged here), but then I rolled it up and put it in the closet when I had to clean up all my quilting stuff. I was flirting with different ideas for how to quilt it, but I've settled back on my original idea. Straight lines that will make a T shape when I'm done.

So one day recently when I was stuck on further progress on my tshirt quilt, I changed to my walking foot, threaded the right colour of thread, and started in. I sewed five lines the first evening. I was going to do all the quilting completely ignoring the blocks (that is, not taking the block pattern into consideration when deciding where to quilt), but with straight lines on straight blocks, that's almost impossible. (Or at least it is for someone like me obsessed with patterns.)

The lines ended up being 1-1/8" apart and this dissects each part of the block nicely. In the plain alternating squares, I used pins to mark my path. Eyeballing it just doesn't work!
The red and pink pin mark the line I want to sew and give
me something to aim for with the needle.
Then Friday evening I picked it up and did five more lines. One of the times that I was using the ruler to place more pins, I noticed that I could line up the ruler with the previous stitch line, and run the foot along it while holding the ruler in place with my left hand:
It's a lot faster than pinning and easier. But I do have to watch that I don't let the ruler slide.

It's very exciting to be on the final stage (Well, ok, there's binding too.) and I really hope to be finished by June. If I can get this and the tshirt quilt done, I will receive two fat quarters from four of the other participants. Packages in the mail are always fun!!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Wham. Bam. Thank You, Ma'am.

I've wanted a nice denim skirt for a while now. I've kept my eye out in second hand stores, but haven't found anything. Then I considered making one from a pair of jeans. Amy at Red Purl has one and I thought it was cute. The race was on...find a skirt or find some good jeans for it.

Finally I found a pair of jeans I thought would do. Things I liked about them were that they had embroidery (so as to make a fancier skirt), they were made from stretch denim (nicer fit) and were a little snug (I thought that would make the skirt fit better). The jeans sat in my drawer for quite a while, but yesterday I was on a mission to get things done, and pulled the jeans out.

Sometimes these projects get held up by nothing more than my mental hemming and hawing about how they're going to turn out: afraid of the project not working out, I don't even get started. But yesterday I jumped over the mental hurdle, and made myself try it. After all, never getting started is already a failed project.

So first thing was to deconstruct the garment.
I ripped out the inseam from the crotch to below the knees and the crotch seam from the bottom of the zipper in the front, and up to where the seam stopped curving in the back.
This took a long time and nearly wore me out. Those seams are stitched no less than four times!

Then I laid the one side over the other and pinned in place.
I then tried it on and considered in a mirror.
I had to adjust the pinning, and would recommend a fitting to anyone making one of these. (Unless your body doesn't have curves!)

Before I sewed it together, I added an insert to the front to fill in the gap. It was too high, and I hate front slits--you can't sit in them. I used a piece of the leg that was cut off previously, taking advantage of the existing hem.
You can see I made the inset a little shorter than the final length. Yes, that was on purpose, but you could make yours match if you want. I then top stitched all the seams, tracing the previous stitch lines.

I tried it on again and decided it was good. I then cut away the excess from the wrong side.
Yes, I left the edges raw. This isn't going to get a lot of hard wear.

I then marked the hem, cut, folded and sewed. I marked the center back about an inch lower from the waistband than the front and that's seems to be about right. (This gives room for the skirt to go over my tush without riding up at the back hem--I always hate that.)

Sewing the hem gave me a chance to pull out a rarely-used accessory for my sewing machine:
Ever wonder what this tool in your toolbox is for? It's to help getting over those big bumps when you sew over a denim hem. (12 layers of denim gets pretty bulky.) While sewing, stop just as the foot is getting hung up by the seam. Put your needle down and raise the foot. Put the tool underneath and lower the foot. Sew across the seam with no trouble! The tool is thinner on one wing than the other so it's more versatile.

Another thing I did on the hem was to work around the embroidery:
I wanted the embroidery to be right above the hem, but I didn't want to sew across it. (It seems so rude.) Since it was such a short piece, I went around the embroidery. I don't think the hem will unfold there, and it looks much better!

I wore the skirt today and I have to say it was so comfortable. It wears so easy; no need to fuss with it and it gave me no trouble. I didn't get any comments, though, so perhaps it wears better than it looks.
And what about my fears about how the skirt would turned out? Well, the best part of the whole thing was that it was done in one evening. You can't beat that. The back doesn't quite sit right, but I'm not going to let it bother me. And the front insert is a little uneven. I guess I should have measured. (But I did mention it was done in one evening, right?)
All in all, I'm very happy with it and hoping to get a lot of wear out of it this spring and summer!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

No, don't panic. It's not really Mother's Day yet; you haven't missed it. But my family is celebrating a week early. And so I had to have my present ready.

This year I knit her a pair of slippers. I knit her a pair before (click here to see) but they were in garter stitch and she admitted once that the ridges hurt her feet when she wore them. I didn't think of the solution right away, but one day while I was enjoying the cushy sole of my "travelling slippers" I realized that was the solution. The soles of those slippers were double knit, so they were twice as thick and none of the bumps were against your feet.

I didn't want to repeat that pattern, however, so I modified a basic sock pattern. I started with a basic short row toe, but once it was half done, I joined a second strand and started double knitting the bottom.
Part way up the foot, I added a gusset to give a little extra room. I started with too many stitches the first time, but over compensated a bit so the slippers are a little snug. The extra stitches really helped with the fit. Once I worked far enough over the top of the foot, I worked back and forth across some of the top stitches on each side of the foot and the sole stitches.

When they were long enough, I did a couple short rows to shape the heel and then knit the sides around the back, knitting stitches together with the heel stitches as I went.
After that was done, I picked up stitches all around the top and knit about eight rows before casting off.
The stocking stitch curls back on itself which makes it a very durable finish. (All the wear isn't on one line of yarn.)

Here you can see the knitted sole inside the slipper.
I hope she enjoys them.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Quick (and Exciting) Update

I have been working so diligently on my Lace Coat. It's almost like the ladies at the Sunday afternoon knit group told me I had to have it done by the next meeting to model it. Almost like I glibly said, "Oh that will be no problem" thinking the next meeting was in June. Only later did I realize they meant the next meeting, like the one in May. Oh. Anyway, I have been knitting on it.

Last Friday I had a young friend friend over who is working on her very first knitting project. She has 12 stitches going (well, usually. Sometimes we have to bring it back to 12 by tinking a little), and when I looked at the next step in my Lace Coat, I told her that I would have 353 stitches going (just to impress her). She was impressed. And so was I because that might be the most ever. Or not. Troy's sweater probably had more by the time I had the front, back, and both sleeves going. Anyway, 353 is still a lot.

Fortunately for me every other row had me decreasing 4 stitches, plus occasional decreases on the neck edge. So it wasn't very long until I had a more manageable number of stitches. And then not so long after that  when I had so few I wondered if I was going to run out of stitches before the required number of rows. But no. It all worked out and this evening I finished the bodice with exactly the right number of stitches: 53.

To  my delight I realized this means I have to pick up stitches on both front edges, knit four rows, and cast off, and then I will be done all the knitting on this project! Wow. I have to admit that when I realized that, first, I was happy. But then I thought, "This project was supposed to be epic. But now it's done. And it was the same as all the other projects...It got finished one row at a time. One stitch at a time." But I guess that's the only way any of them get done, isn't it.

So now I'm half way through picking up the stitches and have interrupted myself to tell you about it before it gets too late. This is one of the few times I am actually measuring and marking along the length so I can evenly balance the picked up stitches:
I do this simply by folding the length in half and placing a pin at the fold. Then folding each half in half and placing more pins. Etc. Until you have a small enough distance between pins that you can pretty reliably space out the number of stitches you have to put there. In this case I have to put five stitches between each pin. Easily managed.

This is quite different from my usual procedure where I pick up a stitch in each selvage stitch and then increase or decrease evenly on the next row to get the required number of stitches. That won't work in this case because the gauge is changing quite significantly. The bodice was knit on the smaller needles with one strand of yarn, and the edging is being knit on the larger needles with a double strand of yarn. So I pulled out the slower but more reliable method.

Here's the edge I'm working on:
Follow the top edge of this mass of knitting and you can see all the stitches I've picked up and knit on the right side and in the center. I still have to pick up the edge on the left marked with pins. And that's what I'm going to do right now. Toodles!

May I suggest?

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