In Progress: June Knitting

My summer of knitting has arrived.

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I’m very excited that I finished my #MeMadeMay18 featherweight cardigan. I’ll have a post about this soon. Though I’m sad I can no longer knit with this amazing yarn, this finished object has opened up space for a new cast on in my knitting queue!

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I have a tiny little hem worm of my Tegna sweater by Caitlin Hunter. I am so excited for this top – perfect for summer but suitable for cooler months as well. I am knitting my Tegna out of a silk/cotton blend I reclaimed last fall. I dyed this yarn at Alpacas of Troy with with Sumac berries and Indigo. The result was this lovely teal-blue with green undertones. I also experimented by dying this sweater in its machine knit form. The result was quite exciting, the dye is speckled evenly on the yarn which enhances the shimmer effect from the silk fiber content. This yarn looks like the waves of a lake on a summer day softly lapping the shore; not too much drama but just enough movement to capture my attention and lull me into relaxation.

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I had a little hiccup with my Tegna. I swatched three times to achieve the pattern gauge – starting with a US 5 and finally getting gauge on a US 7. I cast on for the medium, which would have given me about 9 inches of positive ease and knit half of the lace, I realized the bottom circumference of the sweater was far too large for my size. Even with the decreases in the lace, I would have been swimming in this top. Nine inches of positive ease on my petite frame is just a little too much. I also noticed that in my gauge on US 7 needles, the lace was already quite open. I thought this whole top could do with a downsize. I downsized my needles to a size 5 and, after some gauge math magic, cast on, again, for the medium size. This will give me a top with about two inches of positive ease which will probably be more my style. I’m hoping this all works out.

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I have two other projects that are probably going to travel with me the entire summer. The first is my Reyna shawl by Noora Backlund – which I’m knitting because my friend Kate in St Louis decided to cast this on as her first shawl project! After yarn shopping with her and guiding her through the first bits of the pattern, I realized that I really wanted one of these shawls for myself.

I had the perfect yarn – a gift from my friend Anna after her trip to Wyoming during the 2017 total eclipse. This yarn is the most amazing collection of purples. It’s Palouse Yarn Company Merino Fine in the Total Gravity colorway. This color is part of a special collection the dyer made especially for the eclipse and I think the dyer absolutely nailed it. The purples are so rich, but shift in tone from a lavender to an almost black. I’m really enjoying the color of this yarn.

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My second project is this little basic sock – made with a commercial Patons sock yarn I picked up from a reused craft store in Cincinnati. I have yet to find sweaters that I can unravel that are suitable for sock yarn, as I always prefer a tightly spun yarn for my socks. Most of the sweaters I come across in thrift stores end up loosely spun, if spun at all (especially if they’re blended fibers or have any sort of cotton content). Therefore, I keep my eyes out for any commercial sock yarn I can find at secondhand craft stores. One day, I would love to knit my socks without superwash or nylon content – but until that day I’m eagerly watching Mrs. M’s no-nylon sock experiment to glean from her research.

Usually, I knit my socks cuff down and use a heel flap and gusset, however, I started this sock toe up and will probably throw a short row heel on there just for ease. The short row heel doesn’t fit my foot quite as well as a flap and gusset – I have quite a high arch and instep – however, it’s been a while since I tried a short row heel and I want to double check the fit on my tighter sock gauge that’s developed over the last year since I’ve been regularly knitting socks.

I’m quite pleased with the projects I have on the go for June – my Tegna, Reyna, and my toe-up sock. The variety of these projects has kept me interested as I still mourn the absence of my sewing machine. Speaking of my wonderful sonata sewing machine, I’m beginning to miss it so much that I’m thinking about naming it! Naming is a skill that I seriously lack (if you only knew how long it took me to come up with a name for this blog – hint two+ years). However, I think my trusty machine deserves some attention while I’m away. Since my machine was originally owned by my mom, I’m thinking a name from her generation will suite it best. Something like Linda, Karen, Tammy or Denise. Or I might go super 80’s like Heather, Tiffany, or Stacy. As of now I’m leaning towards Stacy or Linda.

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Alex Shirt – 2018 Make Nine

The Sew Over Alex shirt as basic as it gets.

I can finally breathe easy now that I have a basic white button up in my closet. The last time I had something this basic was when I had to wear a school uniform in 2008. This shirt is much better than that uniform.

This shirt is relaxing. I mean, the Alex Shirt is a relaxed fit, but it genuinely calms my worries and soothes my anxieties. I feel like the missing piece has been found. With this basic white shirt, I can shine confidently. My wardrobe has entered a new realm of creativity. This basic has me feeling inspired.

The Alex Shirt is my perfect basic oversized tunic length shirt. Dressy enough for presentations and casual enough for chilling around the house. It has volume, it has sheen, it has drama, but mainly it is pure basic bitch button up.

The pattern was simple to follow. I did make a muslin. I was concerned that my size wouldn’t have enough room for my shoulders. However, I was pleasantly surprised and relieved when my first muslin fit well. I could move my arms back and forth and in circles without busting any seams. The oversized nature of this shirt made it a perfect fit for my unique shoulder situation.

The Alex Shirt is labeled as an intermediate pattern in the City Break Ebook. I’ve been sewing for a year now and label myself as highly adventurous. This pattern was my first shirt yoke, and it was 100% successful thanks to the Sew Over It YouTube tutorial.

The best part about this 100% cotton shirt is the fabric origin: a secondhand bedsheet. Though if you’ve been following my sewing journey it’s probably not surprising as most of my clothes used to be bedsheets. This one is a beautiful satin weave cotton with a high thread count. It’s absolutely luxurious to wear; smooth and silky, but still structured.

I made a couple of small changes. First, I chose to do a regular box pleat at the back, rather than an inverted pleat. I think this highlights the pleat as a central feature of the shirt. Second, I curved both the back and the front of the shirt hem. In the pattern, the back hem curve is exaggerated while the front has a straighter cut. As a petit person, I find shirts that land at tunic length feel more comfortable than those that stop at the hip, a curved front hem helped me accomplish this length without adding bulk to the sides.

I’m pleased to check another item off my 2018 Make Nine list. The Alex Shirt (along with my Mia Jeans) brings my current completed total to two. It’s only February, so I feel comfortable with my progress so far.

Happy Making!

Finished Object: Carbeth

This enjoyable and fast sweater knit has come to a end. My Carbeth sweater is bound off, blocked, and finally dry.

I used two mystery cones of yarn held double for this project. One a wooly, rustic black and the other a soft, smooth blue. These cones were purchased from Scrap It Up, the creative reuse store in Cincinnati. I would highly recommend a visit to this shop if you’re near the city – the diversity of supplies is incredible.

I used the Patty Lyons ssk decrease recommended on MDK: it’s mainly just slip one then pass it back to the left needle then knit through the back loops. Patty Lyons also has a one move version of this decrease, but I found that actually made my stitches looser rather than tighter.

Blocking was simple, I followed the plate method and used a 10″ plate. Surprisingly my sweater took three days to dry. Probably because it’s been raining in STL for the past four days and everywhere is quite humid.

This was a great basic and easy sweater. I think I’ll wear it often in the deepest part of winter as it’s toasty warm (I might even say boiling). Hopefully I can get a few more wears before Spring arrives.

2017 Gifting: Open Waters Shawl

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Boy oh boy, what a project.

Back in September, during a phone chat with my lovely mom, I confessed that I was already thinking about Christmas gifts – making them, that is. I really wanted to get ahead of the last minute make-a-thon that usually takes over my festive spirit. Apparently, she was already thinking about gifts too – she knew exactly what she wanted. It went something like this,

I want a wrap for church when it gets cold that matches my kitchen backsplash.

After digging a little deeper, it came to light that she was talking about a shawl (not necessarily a rectangular wrap) and her backsplash was slate blue (very specific, thanks mom). So I set out to knit her a warm, slate blue shawl for Christmas.

I have never, ever, knit a shawl. Every time I think, “maybe I would like to have a shawl,” I always imagine how I could use that same amount of yarn to knit a sweater… and then knit that sweater. So this gift knit was necessary for me to break into the shawl knitting universe that I know so little about – and for that I’m grateful to my mom for her slightly weird request of a Christmas present.

I sent her a few patterns of shawl’s I liked, and ultimately we settled on the Open Waters Shawl my Melanie Berg in Making no. 2. I was drawn to the unique stitch pattern. It looks so inviting and creative. I also liked that most of the body of the shawl is in garter stitch and a smaller section in a more complex stitch pattern – enough complexity to stay interested but enough basic stitches to chill. The dream combo. This pattern is for an asymmetrical shawl, which includes increasing on one side (to create the wingspan/hypotenuse of the triangle). I know shawls come in a variety of shapes (words like crescent and half pie that make me think of baked goods, not knitting), and some folks have strong feelings about which shapes they prefer. My feelings toward shawl shapes are distinctly underdeveloped; I just don’t know which one is best.

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Finding the yarn for this sweater was a minor effort. I traveled out of my usual thrift shop boundaries to a suburban thrift store. After circling the sweater racks for 30 minutes searching for a slate blue fingering weight sweater with good fiber content to unravel, I finally settled for a less preferable option: multiple lace weight sweaters. The first sweater was a cornflower blue 100% cashmere sweater from Ann Taylor LOFT (I always find this brand has fantastic quality sweaters). The second was a graphite grey linen/silk/rayon blend from J.Jill (also good quality sweaters from the brand in general). Both of these sweaters were machine knit with very fine yarn (cobweb/laceweight). I knew unraveling was going to be a *t a s k* but I decided the right color (literally blue/grey) in quality yarn was worth the challenge.

And it sure was a challenge. The cashmere sweater was quite weak, snapped often, and produced a lot of fuzz. This is to be expected of a short fiber like cashmere, but still I was struggling to remain positive through this sweater harvest. The grey sweater was a whole other bag of worms – I didn’t notice that this sweater was machine knit with two separate strands of yarn, which unraveled at different tensions. So one yarn was always a little saggier than the other.

I’ve done most of my unraveling without a yarn swift, but halfway through endless winding of laceweight yarn, I gave in – I needed a yarn swift as soon as possible to finish this project. After maybe about 20 minutes of research one weekday morning I decided to buy an amish style swift. By that evening, I walked out of my LYS with the ChiaoGoo Amish Style swift at a price that just fit within my monthly craft budget (no extra yarn for me).

The yarn swift is a game changer.

I sped through the rest of my unraveling, washed the yarn, stretched it gently to remove any knitting kinks, and was ready to start knitting.

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The pattern calls for a US size 2.5 needle, which I do not have… so I decided a US size 3 metal circular needle would have to do – and my swatch turned out okay, but again, my first ever shawl, so I really didn’t know what to expect.

This shawl was strange to knit. My yarn combo did not want to knit nicely, it was both slippery and stiff. The main part of the stitch pattern is small sections of bound off stitches – this was really difficult to do with my yarn + needle combo. The knitting process felt like it took ages! I’m used to garment projects with their different sections, sleeves, button bands, and the like. This shawl was one large piece of repeating patterns – a new style for me. Once I finished the last pattern repeat I rejoiced at the thought of binding off. But I knew binding off wasn’t the last step of this project. It would need a serious session of blocking to help the stitch pattern shine. I was generally intimidated by this step so I put off blocking for two weeks to try to build up the courage to stretch my knitting.

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I’m pretty unsure about the finished look of this shawl. Generally in the middle. After blocking, the fabric turned into something light and airy. I don’t know if it will actually keep my mom warm, which was a crucial part of her request. I do know that it hits slate blue straight on the head. However, I do worry that I stretched the fabric out too much and that I should have added one more strand of yarn to add a little bulk to the shawl. But, alas, these are all lessons learned for next time. I do think I’ll knit a shawl again, and probably one of Melanie Berg’s designs. For a first ever shawl, I think this turned out just fine.

Subtle Kitsch Christmas Sweater

I had no plans of knitting myself a Christmas sweater in 2017. But sometimes a newly released pattern catches your eye – and it won’t leave. That’s what happened with Andi Satterlund’s Julgran – a cute cropped sweater with a striking textured evergreen pattern. The word “kitschy” was thrown around quite a lot with this sweater. I would not readily use that word to describe myself, but that didn’t stop me from falling completely in love with this pattern. However, I had two sweater projects in the pipeline and no readily available options for ethical yarn, and not a lot of funds left in my craft budget. I tried to let Julgran go by telling myself I could wait until next Christmas to knit this amazing pattern. I was fine with this plan, until I found myself at the Perennial Clothing Swap staring at a lovely sparkly greige (that’s grey and beige) sweater from Ann Taylor Loft. It was begging to be unravelled and turned into Julgran – and I listened.

The fiber content is a lovely mix of rayon, wool, cotton, and rabbit hair (Does that mean angora? What else is rabbit hair?). The weight is probably on the lighter side when compared to the recommended worsted weight yarn. My excitement to have this sweater finished before Christmas encouraged me to skip the washing and stretching portions of the unraveling process, but even in my hurried state I managed to squeeze out a gauge swatch. My swatch produced a fabric that was a little loose, but still met the pattern requirements, this was good enough for me to jump into knitting.

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I found the knitting process to be absolutely wonderful. This is my first time knitting one of Andi’s patterns, and I now understand why other knitters describe her patters so kindly. I found the pattern and Christmas tree chart were easy to follow. I made a small modification – after the last sleeve decrease I knit four inches of stockinette the ended my now full length sleeve with four inches of ribbing. I used tubular bind off’s for the sleeves and body. I’ve used this bind off before to mixed results, in this project the edges tend to flare out. I’d really like to find a stretchy bind off that doesn’t produce any flare. I’m thinking the surprisingly stretchy bind off is next in line?

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My favorite part of this sweater was bedazzling the Christmas Tree. I was so very hesitant to sew anything onto my sweater. I want this sweater to be wearable all winter long – not just in December – and I thought adding any ornaments would limit my sweater’s wearability. But after finding some faux pearls at Perennial, and playing around with some designs, I decided that I set the limits of wearability – and if I wanted to wear this sweater after Christmas I very well could. So I committed and sewed on the pearls with some invisible thread. In hindsight I should have used a grey or light brown cotton thread instead of the plastic invisible thread. I reached for the plastic stuff without thinking about how many small little pieces I would cut in the process of sewing on small beads. I don’t have a good way to dispose of those small plastic thread clippings while I often save my cotton thread clippings to use for stuffing in toys.

The thing I love most about my Julgran sweater is that it is made of 100% used materials (the yarn, the pearls, and even the invisible thread). I do love the sparkle that comes with Christmas decorations, and with this sweater I can actually wear that sparkle with minimal waste involved. This sweater is also a great addition to my winter wardrobe. With the long sleeve modification, I can keep warm by wearing this sweater over dresses, high waisted skirts, and high waisted pants (#sewinggoals2018). This sweater took me 8 days to knit (WHAT, AM I CRAZY?). I met my deadline with room to spare. I love my subtle kitschy Christmas sweater.

Tour de Sweater: Half Brioche Sweater

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This is my favorite sweater. Just by number of wears, this sweater overwhelmingly beats out every other sweater I’ve made. It’s everything I want in a sweater: pullover, slightly oversized, white, textured, normal sleeves.

I jumped on the knitalong for the Universal Brioche Sweater by Anna Kuduja. Like the improv, the universal brioche sweater is another sweater recipe. It’s knit top down with a drop shoulder. I think this construction serves my shoulders better than a raglan construction. This sweater hangs nicely and doesn’t shift around. However, I am fully aware that might be because it is a pullover and not a cardigan…

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This yarn comes from a fantastic, very large, vintage (80’s?) brioche mohair sweater. I wore the original sweater around for a season, but it was so large it swallowed me whole, more like a very unshapely sweater dress. I decided to unravel it and knit my own brioche mohair sweater that was more suited to my size. Unraveling this yarn was a sneezefest. Mohair flew everywhere. I had to unravel very slowly because the fibers would tangle in a flash. But I really wanted this sweater, and my determination won.

 

OS2A5945My sweater has around 4 inches of positive ease, a scoop neck, and sleeves that fit! I chose to make the armholes longer than I ever expected. I thought by making a larger armhole than I have ever made before, I might be able to avoid my tight sleeve curse. It worked, sort of. I ran into a brioche specific problem when starting the sleeves. When picking up stitches in brioche stitch, the picked up fabric tends to puff out. I experimented with fewer and fewer stitches, and finally came up with a combination of picking up stitches every 2 out of 3 rows, decreasing (k1, k2tog) the next row, and starting a drastic underarm decrease immediately. After three half sleeves, I finally produced a sleeve that made me happy: enough ease to be comfortable, but enough shaping to follow the actual shape of my arm. Can I confidently say the cures is broken? Not yet…

 

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This sweater actually took ages to knit. I didn’t realize before I jumped in, but brioche stitch takes double the time to knit as stocking stitch. Because brioche involves slipping stitches, every row basically takes two rows to complete. I was also using lace weight mohair on size US 5 needles. I began this sweater on February 16th and finished May 1st.  Um… What? Two and a half months on a sweater? While my internal assembly line is freaking out at the time it took to make this sweater, my slow fashion brain is trying to kick it aside. I wear this sweater all. the. time. This is the first sweater I pull out when the weather turns cool. It is the first one I put on when I’m feeling a little sick, and also the first one I grab when I want to feel classy and effortless. This sweater is everything to me. It was well worth the time and, to be honest, the frustration.

 

Tour de Sweater: Improv Cardigan

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This next sweater in the lineup was an exercise in knitting confidence. I’m talking about my Improv Cardigan using Karen Templer’s Improv recipe. Her recipe is an introduction to knitting any top down raglan sweater. There is a ton of room for improvisation (hence improv). She details how to use measurements, gauge, and a little math to create the sweater of your dreams.

Stumbling across this recipe on her site will probably mark an important day in my knitting life. This is the kind of autonomy I always search for in knitting. Someone who will take the time to explain why things work the way they do, and how I can make exactly what I want. This recipe is all of that and more, plus tons of projects on the ravelry page to inspire you to take chances.

I didn’t exactly dive into this project. I actually took my time to read through every blog post before starting. Preparation seemed imperative when branching out into improv territory. I found the recipe on the very edge of my capabilities, so I drew out every step to visualize the process.

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I was equally excited about my yarn choice as I was my newfound knitting autonomy. I spotted this sweater at a thrift store about a year before, immediately bought it, and was waiting to finish languishing sweater wips to cast on. It is mainly natural colored lambswool with a strand of gold spun in to add the perfect amount of shine. It’s girly, but not over the top (how I usually describe myself). Unraveling this sweater was a dream, there were no instances of armpit felting or difficult necklines. It just wanted to be released from its current shape.

The knitting process was a bit arduous. I think this was my first fingering weight sweater. I remember thinking “this sweater is taking so long” but in reality I knit it up in about a month. Upon reflection I was probably being dramatic.

I have detailed notes about my improv choices on my ravelry page, if you’re interested I recommend checking them out.

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The rubber really hit the road for this cardigan after a few wears. I found that the sweater wanted to shrug back off my shoulders. Also, as usual, the upper sleeves were too tight. The sleeve problem is understandable given my history, but the strange thing with this sweater is that my armholes were actually too large. I’m still at a loss to describe how armholes could be too big and sleeves could be too tight. I just don’t know. So, fit issues were a major factor that prevented me from enjoying this sweater. I wore it often, I just didn’t enjoy it.

As I’ve considered the fit of this cardigan, I started to wonder if, perhaps, raglan cardigans aren’t for me. Maybe my shoulders need the support and structure of a seamed garment? I don’t know enough about fit to be confident in this conclusion, but I’m suspicious.

This fall, I made the decision to frog this version and knit up a different little white cardigan in its place. I chose the Honeyflower Cardi by Hannah Fettig in Making No. 3. The finished version of this cardigan will be on the blog soon, and I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts to share.

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Even though I’ve transformed this sweater into something new, I’m still overjoyed that I stretched my skills. By stepping into an unknown world, I realized I want to learn more about good pattern construction, fit, and sweater design. The best thing about this realization is there is no deadline. I have all the time I need to think more about patterns and what I want.