Monday, January 28, 2019

Cauliflower's Cardigan

My grandniece Cauliflower is due to turn 10 in August of this year. She got a dress for her ninth birthday, which meant that this year she gets a sweater. When I searched Ravelry for a suitable pattern in DK, I found Pixie Dust, a cute little cardigan that I thought Cauliflower would like, since she seems to prefer plain-ish clothes. Then I bought 300 grams of Sandnes Garn Sisu Solids in turquoise to make it with, since Cauliflower's favourite colours are blue and turquoise.

Here's the finished sweater, which I knit in a size 10. In this pattern, which is knitted seamlessly from the top down, the designer has cleverly hidden the increases in the eyelets. It's a pretty well-written pattern on the whole, though I did have to make the buttonholes on the opposite side to what the pattern calls for in order to place them on the "girl's/women's side". It was also a very quick knit. I was done in just nine evenings, and even at that I lost one evening's work due to my misunderstanding the pattern. I'm pleased with the result, and it goes well with the necklace and earrings I also made for Cauliflower's birthday.

I had just 5 grams of yarn left after making this item, which as it was new yarn, is a stash increase of 5 grams.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Tween Style Jewelry

My grandniece Cauliflower is due to turn 10 in August 2019. I made her a dress for her ninth birthday last year, which meant she gets a sweater this year, and as I was working on that it occurred to me that it would be nice to make her a necklace and earrings set to go with it, given that she's going to be a tween now, and just got her ears pierced. I made a number of trips to Michaels with my "40% off one item" coupons in hand, and tried to pick out beads and come up with an overall concept that would be suitable for a ten-year-old but not be too twee for her several years down the road -- I wanted her to be able to wear and enjoy this set for a good five years. In the end I bought some floral silver-tone metal beads and some assorted glass Czech beads, and from my existing supplies drew some silver-tone spacer beads, wire, a silver-tone magnetic clasp, lever-back earrings, and headpins. Cauliflower's current favourite colours are blue and turquoise, and they certainly suit her. She has fair skin, blue eyes, and hair that is light brown in winter and blond in summer. I'm pretty sure that (according to seasonal colour theory) she's a summer, and she seems to look best in light, fresh, cool colours. These colours also go well with the cardigan I made for her.

The earrings. I took care to keep them fairly small and light.

The necklace and earrings. The necklace is 17.5" long, which shouldn't be too long on Cauliflower now and won't be too short on her when she's full-grown. I'm pretty well satisfied with how these pieces turned out and am confident that Cauliflower will be too. The effect is young and cute but not so little-girlish that Cauliflower won't be able to wear them until she's 15 or even a little longer, provided she doesn't turn goth in the meantime.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The New Snow Hat & Scarf

At some point last year I realized that though I have a number of hat and scarf sets that I love (i.e., this plum set, this peacock feather hat, this teal hat, this variegated set, this old rose set, plus a few more commercially made thrift shop hats and scarves), they were all in such an array of vivid colours and patterns that sometimes I could not find one in my hat and scarf basket that would go with an outfit that had decided colours or patterns of its own. I decided I ought to have a neutral hat and scarf set that would go with all my coats and all my outfits and then I'd be sure to always have a hat and scarf set to wear.

For this project (My very first of 2019! It's like walking in new snow!), I was very practical. Some of my hats are in fingering weight and/or lacy, which may be aesthetically pleasing but is not all that well suited to a Toronto winter. For this project I determined I would use a pattern that was solidly knit and called for worsted wool. I searched Ravelry for a suitable pattern. In the end I settled on one I had used before, when I made this coral hat and scarf set for my sister, the Day's Eye Hat. As for the yarn, I selected Berroco Ultra Wool in a cream shade.

And here's the finished project. It worked up pretty quickly. I began the project on December 31st and finished on January 11th. My only mod was to add five extra rows to the first cable motif for extra drape, as the pattern itself suggests. There's no scarf pattern, but I adapted the motif from the hat, knitted it to the required length on straight needles, and then edged the resulting piece with a twisted ribbing, just as I had done the previous time I used the Day's Eye pattern. The Ultra Wool held out MUCH better than the yarn I used for the coral hat. I had 300 grams of it and was only able to make the hat and a 4' scarf. This time I made the hat and a 5'6" scarf out of 270 grams of yarn.

And now I am sure to have a hat that'll go with any outfit I cobble together, and I'll never have to head out the door looking, as my mother would put it, "like a bald buzzard".

I had 30 grams of the cream yarn left. It was new yarn, so that's a stash increase of 30 grams.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Cosmetic Cases Are In Plastic; It's Fantastic

Over a year ago my sister asked me to sew her a vanity case and a makeup brush storage case, using tutorials that she flipped me links for via Pinterest's messaging system. My sister isn't really a crafter, having never gotten beyond the beginner levels of sewing, knitting, etc., and doesn't often make things herself. But then I suppose why would she when she can just put in an order with me or our mother and have whatever she wants custom made for a birthday or Christmas present? It's a system that works quite well for her if she doesn't mind a relatively long lead time.

But I was game to make her the cosmetics set, and I asked her what kind of colour scheme she wanted. She told me "black outside, and a colourful fabric inside". Okay then. I went to Fabricland, found their vinyl laminate, and batting for inside the brush case, then found some black fabric and double fold black bias tape. When I then looked for a bright print that would look good with the black, I found the above hot pink print on the clearance table, with its cute print of beads and little silhouetted heads. I wasn't sure how my sister would feel about the hot pink but hey, it was colourful, she didn't specify colour, and she had told me in the past that the only colour she really didn't like was lime green.

But once I got the fabric home and began working with it, the unfortunate truth began to dawn on me.

The fabric was Barbie fabric. I had bought Barbie fabric to make a makeup brush case and vanity case for my 42-year-old sister, and she was probably going to be less than thrilled about it. I wanted to kick myself for not having clued in faster, but at the same time... it was hilarious.

By the time I realized the true nature of the fabric it was too late to turn back; I'd made the vanity case, and it was a bit of pain I wasn't willing to go through again soon. The vanity case instructions don't call for covering the lining with vinyl laminate, but I did anyway. I know from experience that vanity cases get stained on the inside with makeup, and that it looks bad. The laminate made the project slightly more difficult to turn inside out, and I left the turning gap on the bottom seam of the *outer* fabric rather than on the bottom seam of the *lining fabric* as the instructions say, so that I wouldn't have to handsew laminated fabric. I was able to slip stitch the bottom seam closed very unobtrusively.

The next step was making the makeup brush case. The instructions only called for laminating the bottom layer of fabric, but I laminated the pocket too, as it would be likely to get some makeup on it as well. The project went pretty smoothly, as the Sew4Home tutorial is well-written. I did have difficulty sewing on the bias tape, and never was able to get the machine to stitch around the corners properly. After several attempts I just said screw it, ripped out the corners a final time and then stitched them in place by hand, working one side of each corner at a time -- a time-consuming job, but I got the results I wanted.

The finished set. At least the cases look the way they're supposed to look from the outside. My plan for Christmas morning present time is to see whether my sister notices the Barbie heads or not. If she doesn't, that will allow her to decide whether she likes the set without prejudice. If she does start to figure out that something's amiss, I suppose that'll be my cue to bolt for safety. Either way I'll probably have to promise her a new, non-Barbie set a few years down the road to smooth things over. My sister is not a Barbie girl in a Barbie world.

ETA: I gave my sister this pair of cosmetic cases for Christmas, and she neither figured out that it was Barbie fabric on her own nor seem to care when I told her it was. She seemed reasonably pleased with this set -- not as pleased as she was with the Sherlock fangirl kit I gave her two years before, but pleased enough.

The Birthday Necklace That Showed Up at Christmas and Went Out for New Year's Eve

This year for my sister's birthday I decided I'd like to make her a necklace and earrings set. I'd never made a pair of earrings before, but what the hay, it was time I learned. She likes black, so I wanted to make a necklace that was primarily but not wholly black, as too much black gets heavy and funeral-looking very quickly. I find the bead section at Michaels, or any bead store, rather overwhelming, so I did what I usually do: I found a pendant or a string of beads that I love or that at least especially caught my eye, and then built the design around it.

Here's the finished necklace and earrings. I found the pendant first. It's some kind of polished stone. Then I found the glittery beads that I thought echoed the rhinestones around the pendant, and then some plain-ish black beads. The silver bale on the pendant led me to decide on silver spacer beads. And then I learned how to use head pins and clasps to make earrings, and came up with a configuration of beads that pleased me for them. It's not like that's rocket science. I'm pretty pleased with the set -- it even strikes me as rather glam -- and I'm going to give it to my sister for Christmas instead of her (January) birthday so that I'll get to see her open them. Besides, she might want to wear this set out for New Year's Eve.

Once I'd finished making these pieces, I spent some time reorganizing my box of beads, findings, and tools, and thinking about my approach to beading. I don't think I'll ever get very into beading. If there were a way to make decent money selling my jewelry I'd consider it, but beading supplies are too expensive to make competitive pricing possible. It's reasonably cost-efficient to make jewelry for yourself or a gift, but selling handmade jewelry is a different matter because one needs to charge enough to be compensated for the value of the work (and the shopping) involved, and then the resulting price will be too high to attract anyone who might buy it. I plan to keep making jewelry because I do enjoy it, but only when I can justify the cost of a new piece for myself, or need a gift for someone. I've resolved that my beading supplies must continue to fit within the confines of the box I keep them in -- there will be no more impulse buying of beads to use "someday" as I have done sometimes in the past. But I'd like to develop my skills, and I feel I can certainly do so within the parameters I've set for myself. My next jewelry piece will probably be quite an elaborate affair -- for me, that is. All I've made so far is simple one-strand necklaces and this one pair of earrings.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Alchemical Scarf

This post contains an account of my first foray into a craft I haven't previously tried: dyeing.

In August 2017, I received the gold scarf you see photographed above for my birthday. I was dubious about that greenish dull gold shade from the moment I saw it, and a look through my closet and in the mirror confirmed what I'd feared: that it didn't go with anything I had, and that the colour looked awful on me. However, the scarf was pure silk, which made it both possible and worthwhile to dye it a different, more flattering and wearable colour.

I have almost no experience dyeing textiles, so I posted to AskMetafilter that day asking for advice on how to proceed. Some months later I bought a tin of Dylon dye in Tangerine (39). But that was as far as the project got for about a year. The tin of dye sat in my kitchen junk drawer. I tend to put things off when I'm afraid I won't be able to do them right, and as a crafter I know how beginner projects are all too prone to turn out, especially when the beginner crafter doesn't do sufficient prep to be reasonably sure of what the process entails. That tin of dye hadn't even come with instructions, and there was no way for even an experienced dyer to know what kind of colour might result from using it in combination with the existing gold.

In mid-October 2018, I visited G&S Dye and Accessories Ltd., on Dundas Street West in Toronto, for some knowledgeable and in-person advice. I showed the sales associate the scarf, explained that I didn't like the colour and that it didn't suit me, and asked for help in selecting a dye. The store associate, who made a distressed face at the sight of the scarf against my face, was very helpful. She suggested different colours, gave me a copy of a sheet of instructions for various dyeing methods, and pointed out that it couldn't hurt to try dyeing the scarf given that I couldn't possibly make the scarf's colour worse than it already was. I decided I'd use the tin of dye I had on hand first and see how that went.

A few days ago, armed with my instruction sheet and the tin of Dylon dye, I applied the dye using the stove top method that's supposed to be the best method. I dumped in the tin's contents (there was approximately one tablespoon of powdered dye in it) and then, when I saw how dark the water and the scarf looked, spent the entire dyeing time kicking myself for having used what I thought was too much dye. Of course I reminded myself that I wouldn't know what the actual colour was until the scarf was rinsed and dried, but that didn't help all that much. The scarf appeared to be a dark rust while simmering in the dye pot.

Here's the final result. The silk took the dye beautifully, the former dull, greenish gold turned a beautiful, rich copper colour that's extremely becoming to me, and I could hardly be more pleased with such an alchemical coup. One of my fears was that I'd wind up with a mess in my kitchen, but I didn't spill a drop of dye and never even got any on my hands. When I hung the rinsed, washed, and squeezed scarf to dry over the shower curtain bar in the bathroom, I carefully shifted the shower curtain and bathmat out of dripping range, but if that scarf dripped at all it was only clear water. The process couldn't have gone more smoothly and the results were awesome. I was left with the urge to dye everything in the house.

Here's the now copper silk scarf styled with one of my dresses, and with a skirt and top outfit. This scarf goes with two of my dresses, two of my skirts, and one pair of my trousers, besides some plain basic pieces. I'm sure I'll have plenty of chances to wear it. And now I'm looking into making and dyeing/painting a silk scarf in the coming year, since I want one in a very specific colourway and can't seem to find one that's commercially made.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Many Shades of Brown Sweater

Late this summer I began to think that I could really use a simple dark brown sweater that I could wear with a number of my skirts and trousers. I do have this sweater, but it needs to be worn with a scarf, and the brown yarn it's made from isn't quite dark enough that it goes with the items I wanted to wear with a brown sweater.

To digress here for a moment, brown can be a challenging foundation colour. Black is black unless it's faded, and always goes together with a snap, but there are no end of shades of brown out there, and they don't all work together, which can make it difficult to assemble outfits out of separate brown items. However, I look terrible in black, so brown it is and must continue to be. I've recently made it a rule to buy brown clothing, shoes, and accessories in either a dark chocolate brown or a butterscotch/cognac brown – if I the item that I want to get in brown isn't available in either of those two shades, I don't buy it at all. If I abide by this rule, I can at least be reasonably assured of having just two uniform shades of brown to work with, which will help a lot when I'm mixing and matching. Dark chocolate brown is my first preference, and I have a number of basic clothing pieces in it as well as bags and shoes and belts, while the butterscotch/cognac brown is mostly just for shoes and bags, and even then is generally intended/reserved for summer wear, because it looks better in all that hot summer sunlight and with my lighter, brighter summer clothes than the chocolate brown.

Having identified the basic type and colour of sweater I wanted, my next step was to search Ravelry's pattern database for a solid colour pullover design in a fingering weight. I further narrowed the search by selecting the neckline styles that best suit me: v-neck, scoop, cowl, possibly ballet. After some wavering between two finalists, I selected the Obsidian pattern, designed by Lisa Mutch, that you see pictured above. It's more minimalist and contemporary than the kind of style I usually go for, but it would go really well with all the pieces I wanted it for, it has an undeniably sleek, modern appeal, and I loved that the funnel neck could be styled as a cape, a cowl, off one shoulder, or as a hood. That's a serious amount of style potential for one simple little sweater.

The next step was to buy the yarn, and there I ran into the "many shades of brown" problem again. It proved so difficult to find a machine washable fingering weight yarn in a dark chocolate brown at Romni Wools that even the store associate who was helping me gave up the task as a lost cause after twenty minutes or so, but I kept searching and hoping, refusing to settle for the too light or purplish(!) brown or handwash only yarns I came across, until I found a yarn in the right shade. In the end, I bought 400 grams of BC Garn Soft Silk, which is 100% slightly raw silk and proved quite lovely to work with.

And here's the finished item. The pattern was pretty well written and I encountered no serious problems in knitting this project, though I did have to experiment with different cast ons in order to find the stretchiest possible one for the neck so that it would fit over my shoulders. I made just one modification, which was to make the sleeves full length rather than elbow length, as that's an unflattering length on me. I did wish the designer had included instructions for different sleeve lengths, but it wasn't like it was hard to figure out how to lengthen them. This sweater looks very small when lying flat, but that's how it needs to be as garter stitch has a lot of give. Making this sweater in the size that would ordinarily fit me would have saddled me (literally) with a sad, baggy sweater instead of the svelte, figure-hugging piece it's supposed to be.

And now I have the basic but stylish brown sweater that I wanted, and that goes with so many of my skirts and trousers that I can use it to make any number of outfits.

This sweater was made with newly purchased yarn and I had 50 grams left when I finished it, which leaves me with a 50 gram stash increase.