Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My First Sewing Project is Complete!

My husband gave me a sewing machine for Christmas and I loved the idea of it.

Learning how to use it proved to be a little more difficult.

So I signed up for a 4-week class at the local high school's "continuing education" program to get me farther than reading the instruction booklet did.

The class was great. We had to bring with us our sewing machines (duh), a beginner pattern, fabric and the sewing essentials (scissors, seam ripper, measuring tape, etc.) and for three hours over the course of four Monday nights, Alicia, from Sew-It-All, spent time with each student walking us through the often confusing process of sewing our projects.

When someone in the class got to a point where others could learn, Alicia would say: "If anyone would like to learn how to make a button hole (zipper, dart, etc.), gather 'round." (OK. She doesn't really say "gather 'round like Tim Gunn...")

I signed up for the next session of sewing classes because I haven't scratched the surface of what's to know about this craft. But just as knitting was overwhelming when I first started, I'm hopeful that I'll
eventually turn a corner. I have to -- I've already bought a few more patterns and some really fun fabric.

Here's my first project, finished last night at class. (Thanks to Terry for the perfectly matching monkey sock slippers!)

Sock Monkeys on Pogo Sticks PJs

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Blue Sweater is Officially a FO

I loved this yarn when I saw it at the Knit and Crochet Show in Northern California a few years ago: Lisa Souza's Sock Merino and Kid Mohair. Lisa suggested that I knit the two yarns together for a sweater, which was a great idea. My friend Marissa bought the same yarn combo in a beautiful green. After the fact, we both wish we swapped colors, but now that I'm finished, I'm happy with the blue.

The pattern is the T Shirt Sweater from Ella Rae Book One:

T Shirt Pattern

Pattern Book

The pattern was easy. The front was fast to knit, but I made some adjustments. Of course, I never wrote the adjustments down, so when it came to knitting the back, I stopped at where I knew the adjustments began and stuffed the whole thing in a bag for "later."

Well, "later" turned out to be almost two years. I finally picked this back up again a few months ago and was determined to figure out what adjustments I made and to repeat them on the back.

This was the first sweater I had to seem together. (The two previous completed sweaters were top downs with no seems.)

Damp sweater waiting for blocking

Knitty.com helped a bunch with their articles on mattress stitch and shoulder seeming.

I also used blocking wires for the first time. While a total PITA to put the wires through the knitted fabric, the edges dried nice and straight, vs. the scalloped way they normally dry when just using pins.

Drying on the blocking board

Overall, I'm pleased with the results. The waist shaping is a little too high on my body vs. where my waist really starts to shape, but a little steaming might fix that.

Blue Sweater completed

Since I've started knitting, I've been on the lookout for the "perfect simple sweater" pattern that I would make a few times in different colors with various changes to neckline and sleeve and bottom stitches. This pattern is a good base for my perfect sweater. With a little reworking of the waist shaping, I'd definitely refer to it the next time I start a sweater.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Seamless Sweater Redux

I finished this sweater three and a half years ago. It never saw the outside world.

Since then has been sitting in a drawer in my closet. In the back of the drawer, I might add, squished behind other stuff so I could forget about it.


Because I hated it.

I didn't want to admit it that I hated it. What would it say for my love of the craft if I acknowledged that after spending so much time and money on this sweater I couldn't stand it?? What would it say about the zillion skeins of yarn that lay un-knit in my various yarn compartments and drawers?

I often thought about ripping it out completely. But then I'd have to face the curly, trying-to-look-normal, rewound yarn every time I opened my stash. It was all to much to fathom. So in the drawer the hated sweater stayed.

Until it hit me:

Re-engineer it! Figure out what I hated so much and make it better.

So, what didn't I like?

Other than the fact it was too big under the arms (something I knew could not be fixed), I really didn't like the button-less cardigan style that just flapped open. It reminded me of my friend's mom's famous line:

"Touches you everywhere, flatters you no where."

I didn't like the tassel-y thing that tied the top of the cardigan together.

And I didn't like that the sweater hung oddly on the body when worn. It just wasn't shaped properly.

Thankfully, the tie-thing was the last part of the sweater to be knitted, so it was a cinch to make it disappear. That and and the two or three rows of the neckline it was attached to.

To fix the hanging open problem, after re-knitting a new neckline, I seamed the front of the cardigan closed and turned it into a pullover. Because the left and right fronts on the cardigan were done in seed stitch, the seam is virtually invisible.

Then, since I was not aware of the concept of blocking when I first made this sweater, I blocked the sucker, in hopes of having it lay evenly and take the shape of an actual sweater.

Cardigan-turned-Pullover re-inventing itself

I am very happy with my re-engineered results and can admit this sweater has seen the light of day on more than one occasion. It's still a little big, but I look at that as experience in knowing how to size seamless sweaters better in the future.

In fact, I "tested" it by wearing it to work the day after it finished drying on the blocking board. No kidding, three people commented to me at different times before the clock struck Noon.

"Wow," they said.

"That's a really nice sweater. Is it new?"

Felted Winter Tote

A few years ago I bought 10 skeins of orange Jaegar Como online for a pretty sweet deal. I planned on using it for a sweater in the Jaegar book. But once the yarn arrived, I wasn’t sure I liked it for a sweater. It felt kind of acrylic, even though it’s 90% merino.

(Note to self: buying yarn cheap online is only good if I'm familiar with the yarn...)

I'm lukewarm on the sweater now, too. Not sure if that cable on the neckline would look nice or ridiculous.

Since the yarn has a high wool content, I felted a small swatch of it to see if it would (despite its 10% nylon) and it did. I decided to save it for something felted. My friend copied a pattern for me (I know, not Kosher...but we all do it) from the Holiday Knits book, and I planned to use the yarn for that project. I even (because I'm sick) ordered more of the yarn in pink, so I could make the bag with an accent color. This was after I knew I didn't even like the yarn much...

Fast forward three or four years, enter my obsession with either getting rid of yarn I know I'm never going to use, or starting the projects that have been waiting for me for so long. I cast on for the Felted Winter Tote.

I believe that the authors of this book from where the pattern comes own the store Noe Knits in San Francisco. I was there a few years ago, and remember they had the book on display in the store with an errata note that the yarn should be doubled for this pattern.

I'm only a few rows into it at this point but will make a swatch of doubled yarn and re-felt -- just to make sure it doesn't turn out too thick. Because knitting the whole thing and discovering that after the fact would truly be a drag.

I'll order the suede handles and bottom online and see where this project goes...wish me luck. At the very least, I'll clean out some of my stash.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Knitty.com, What Were You Thinking?

A recent email from Knitty.com included three special patterns. The third they described as:
"...a little something to amuse you...and perhaps inspire you to give your heart away this Valentine's Day!"
I thought they meant something like this:

But no. They were talking about a knitted heart, heart:

Um. Why??

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Jessica Had a Little Lamb

A co-worker and I were at a company dinner this week, and somehow (really, I don't know how) knitting became part of the conversation.

Jessica: "Oh, you knit?"

Me: "Yes, I do."

Our other co-worker Greg, until this point an active participant in our discussion, rolled his eyes and turned the other way to talk to Marco. I think I overheard him say "Hey. How 'bout those 49ers..." (OK. That last part is a total lie.)

Then Jessica added, "My boyfriend and I are getting a baby lamb this Friday!"

A baby lamb! How cute. I want one! This baby's mom didn't take to her and wasn't feeding her or the siblings. The farmer bottle fed them until old enough to get adopted.

Jessica and her boyfriend live on a multi-acre piece of land about an hour from Portland, and want to keep the lamb as a pet.

Meet the new baby:

I don't know her name yet. For now she can just be known as Jessica's Little Lamb.

I checked on eBay, and in case she ever wants to sell her sheered wool, it seems like the going rate is about 10 bucks for a pound of wool.