Monday, December 2, 2019

A Cardinal Pincushion

This past October I paid a two-day visit to my friend Lindsie's house. A few days before I was due to hop the bus that would take me there, Lindsie messaged me asking if I could make her another pincushion. I had made a paper pieced pincushion for her back in 2017, and she said that it "was always in the wrong place" when she was sewing, and that she wanted a second one so she could keep one by her sewing machine and one on the ironing board for convenience's sake. I agreed to make her a second cushion, but said I didn't know when I would get around to it. Then, the morning I left for her place and was deciding which project to take along, I realized that my current knitting project involved too many annoying little bobbins of yarn to be portable.

I raced upstairs to my attic workroom and quickly picked out a few remnants that would be nice for the pincushion -- I used some of the fabric left over from making supersize Christmas stockings for my family in 2018. The red fabric and cardinal print wasn't too overtly Christmassy to be useable, and it was certainly a pretty combination.

When I was cutting the fabric pieces, I carefully centred each piece on cardinals and whatever those two little brown birds are. The result looks pretty and reasonably intentional.

I orginally didn't intend or expect to finish the pincushion during my visit to Lindsie's place. I had taken it because it made an easily packable project, and because I thought it might be interesting for Lindsie to see the manufacturing process. I therefore didn't think to take polyfil stuffing along with me. But then I did finish it, and when Lindsie had no stuffing on hand, and I said I would have to take it home to stuff it, and give it to her the next time I saw her, her facial expression was that of a child who'd been offered an ice cream cone, and had it held temptingly out to her... only to have the offer and the cone retracted until "next time". In other words, she was not letting that sucker go. She promptly dug up a little airline pillow she had from a recent trip and told me to use the stuffing from it. So I finished the pincushion and gave it to her on the spot, and she said she liked it even better than the first one I had made for her.

I'm not thrilled with my stitching on the project. The pieces can and should be sewn together so that the stitches don't show, and as you can see from the close up, they are embarrassingly apparent, not to mention uneven. It really is best not to rush when crafting.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Chocolate Tart Pullover

If you're a regular reader of this blog, do you remember this brown wool hoodie project? For those who don't remember/don't want to be bothered clicking on the link, I'll just explain that back in the fall/early winter of 2017, I made myself a Celtic motif hoodie out of dark brown Merino Extrafine 120. Or, more accurately, mostly out of Merino Extrafine 120. I had 100 grams of brown DK in my stash that looked identical and I decided to save myself some money by using it to make one of the front side pieces out of it, and return the Merino Extrafine I saved thereby to the store. Great environmentally friendly and frugal idea, right? Or it would have been, had I checked the damn washing instructions on the other yarn, which I believe was Debbie Bliss Cashmerino. It turned out that the Cashmerino wasn't machine washable like the Extrafine was, and it also pilled much more. By the time the hoodie had been washed a few times, the one side was somewhat felted and shrunken, which ruined the sweater for me. After kicking myself multiple times, I decided I would take the sweater apart and make another sweater with the Merino Extrafine yarn. The Celtic Icon pattern I'd used was a real yarn soaker, so there would be plenty of yarn to make a pullover.

After some requisite (and exquisite) Ravelry browsing to find a suitable pattern for the replacement sweater, I chose the Raspberry Tart design you see depicted above, which by my calculations could easily be made with the reclaimed yarn from the brown hoodie, and was also suitable for an around home/running errands type sweater, which the brown hoodie was supposed to have been (and was, before it tragically partially felted).

I took apart the hoodie (which took many exasperating hours), wound the Merino Extrafine into balls, and threw the felted Cashmerino front pieces into one of my yarn stash boxes. Perhaps I may want them for material sometime.

Here's my finished version of the Raspberry Tart, which could probably be more accurately described as a Chocolate Tart. I had some issues with the pattern. The armholes seemed to be incredibly high cut, and the waist shaping when I initially did it according to the directions was above my bustline. I had to reknit the body to place the shaping correctly, and I also had to lengthen the pattern by quite a lot to make it the length it was supposed to be. I have a feeling those problems must be my mistake, but I checked and rechecked the pattern as I was working on this pattern and I can't see what I did wrong. Oh well, the sweater's completed and it fits well enough.

Out of the 650 grams of the Merino Extrafine that I reclaimed from the hoodie, this sweater took 490 grams. I have 160 grams of it left still, but I have plans for that too, as you will see.

Friday, August 9, 2019

A Lacklustre Birthday Gift

My grand-nephew Bug has just turned six, and this momentous occasion called for a sweater.

Months ago, I searched Ravelry for a suitable pattern. I had come across the one pictured above, which is Metamorphic, designed by Lisa K. Ross, several times before when searching for a pattern for Bug, and always liked it. I decided this year was its turn -- and that I may make him another when he's older, as the pattern runs from sizes 6 months to 3XL Adult. For yarn, I purchased 100 grams of Drops Karisma Uni Colour in Blanco, 50 grams of Sandnes Garn Perfect in grayish blue, and 100 grams of Sandnes Garn Perfect in charcoal during Romni Wool's July sale. There was a pearl gray Sandnes Garn Perfect that I would have liked to switch out for the white, but Romni only had one skein left and I needed two.

And here's the finished item. The pattern seemed fine as to accuracy and clarity in general. I did need to go back to Romni and get a third skein of the charcoal yarn, as I ran short by half a sleeve -- to my great relief, they had some left. I'm not thrilled with the result. The colourway looks a bit dull. I took longer than I should have to knit it because it was such a blah project to work on. I wish I'd put a contrast colour with a little more zip in it -- such as a bright blue or a red -- in the centre section. Oh well, what's knitted is knitted. I am sure Bug will think his sweater is fine and will be willing to wear it, and that in any case he will be much more taken up with the pirate kit, dinosaur activity kit, and Spiderman light he's getting with it.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Pointing Up Poppies

At some point last year I picked up a needlepoint kit at Value Village for $2.30. You can get needlework kits in thrift shops for very little sometimes. Usually they are decades old. This one had a date from 2000 written in ink on the package. I always wonder about the back story. Did someone intend to do it and never get around to it? Did they die with their needlework unfinished? This is a lesson to us all.

This kit was unusual in its technique, at least in my experience. Usually needlepoint involves a single diagonal stitch and fine mesh canvas. This one required a cross stitch technique and had a canvas that was more like a rug hooking canvas. The kit was easy enough to do and it certainly went fast: I finished in just a week.

The finished cushion. I made one change to the design, which was to replace the yarn provided for the floral designs you see in five places on the canvas: the two buds in the top right corner; the larger and smaller flower to the right of the poppies, and the flower at mid-left edge. The yarn provided for that was a hot pink. I gave it a chance, and worked all those areas in it, only to decide it was an abomination onto the eyesight. I bought a skein of tapestry yarn in a apricot or salmon shade to replace it, and though it was slightly smaller gauge than the yarn that came with the kit, it worked well enough.

This was an inexpensive project. When it came time to turn the canvas into a cushion, I found I had a suitable fabric remnant on hand (left over from making a handbag). I had a zipper of suitable size in my zipper box. I've used purchased pillow forms in the past when making a cushion, but this time after I priced pillow forms I decided making my own would be more cost-efficient, particularly given that I had some remnants of white linen on hand to use for ticking (left over from a jacket I had made). I did have to buy some stuffing for this project as I didn't have enough left in the bag of stuffing I had among my supplies, but then polyfil stuffing is one of those items I always keep in on hand.

The finished cushion in its natural habitat: the guest room. I considered putting it in the kitchen as it is to be poppy-themed, but a kitchen is not the best place for textiles.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Row on Row of Poppies

This project plan began to form when, in late 2018, I decided I wanted an afghan to go with my planned bedroom decoration, which is to have a poppy theme.

I searched Ravelry for an afghan pattern that would accord well with the poppy print linen fabric I'd bought for my new curtains and bedskirt, and eventually settled on Floret, by Norah Gaughan. Gaughan hasn't specified which species her floral motif is meant to resemble, but I think that even if it's not a poppy it bears a very passable resemblance to one. The pattern is for a lap-sized afghan, but of course given its paneled construction it would be dead easy to enlarge it to the size I wanted.

Next, I chose the worsted yarn. After much looking about, I decided on Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash, in Provence (shade 1975). I would have preferred a cotton yarn, or even a cotton blend, but there didn't seem to be a cotton worsted in the warm poppy red I wanted in existence. I also had some difficulty figuring out how much yarn I needed for my sized-up version of this pattern. I first bought 11 skeins, and then once I got some squares done and became alarmed by my calculations as to how much yarn I was going to go through, I went back to Romni Wools to get two more skeins. In the end I used just under 12 skeins (1200 grams), and will be returning the thirteenth skein I bought for store credit.

And here's the finished afghan. It went together pretty quickly as I was able to knit a square a day. As you can see, I did not use the garter stitch border Gaughan's design calls for, but instead went with a seed stitch and eyelet border. I got the idea as well as some very helpful instructions from this project page after I spied the Ravelry user's lovely mulberry-coloured version in the list of projects for this pattern. I quite agree with her comment that the seed stitch echoes the seeds in the middle of the floral design, and it certainly is a much prettier edging than the original flat garter stitch border. When I blocked the afghan (on my guest room bed mattress;)), I put a pin in the point of each scallop, allowing the edges in between to assume their natural curve.

My version has 12 floral squares in it, and since I made the border as wide as that twelfth skein would hold out for, the finished result is roughly 4' x 6', which is perfect. I make all my afghans 4' x 6' as, at that size, they are large enough to comfortably cover most adults and yet small enough not to be cumbersome.

I finished this project with just 10 grams of yarn to spare, which as this project involved new yarn bought specifically for this project, means a stash increase of 10 grams.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

'Mo Mohair

This project began when I decided to take apart a sweater I'd made years ago out of 125 grams of Debbie Bliss Angel and never worn.

The original sweater was this one, made from the Lace Cardigan in Eyelet Pattern, designed by Margaret Stuart. It's undeniably a beautiful piece, but I never once wore it. At first I didn't have any clothing that looked right with it, a problem that I sometimes ran into back in the day before I began making it a rule to plan how to style an item when planning to make the item itself. Eventually I bought a lace camisole-type top to wear underneath it, and made a few coordinating skirts and trousers that should have made the cardigan wearable. But I still didn't wear it because I didn't like the way it looked on me. No matter how I styled it, it looked frumpy. In 2018, I decided to bite the bullet and rip it down and get some good out of the yarn.

I searched Ravelry for a suitable laceweight pullover pattern, and came up with the Shirley sweater, designed by Snowden Becker. It has such an elegantly casual look.

And here's the result. This sweater took me something in the neighbourhood of eight months of on-and-off effort to make this, unusual for me because I normally finish knitting projects within a month, or two at the outside. This was partly due to the fact that laceweight lacy knits are slow going, and partly because I wasted some time in trying to figure out what to do with the neckline. You'll notice that my version of the Shirley sweater doesn't have a scarf tie. I lengthened the sleeves because the three-quarter length isn't flattering on me, and then I had less than half the yarn I needed to make the scarf tie, and given that the yarn was bought over ten years ago, it was impossible to get more to match it. So I had to settle for a basic ribbed neckband. Such a shame, because omitting the scarf tie turns a distinctive design into a much more ordinary one, but sometimes one must knit one's sweater to suit one's yarn. It is still a very decent-looking piece, and I am looking forward to finally getting to wear it with the camisole and other pieces I made that will go with it. It may not have a scarf tie on it, but it will look pretty with a certain peridot and gold necklace that I own.

The remaining reason this project took so long was that the pattern has a number of errors and lacks clarity in places. There were so many errors and my efforts to figure them out were so fraught that I didn't document them, but I can tell you that for one thing I lost hours of work in the repeated attempts I made to get the lace pattern to work out around the bottom of the sweater, and that I eventually resolved the problem by adjusting my total number of stitches in the round so that there were no extra stitches and I could just repeat the lace pattern non-stop. I left a comment on the Ravelry pattern page circa December 2018 asking if there was errata available for the pattern, and received no response. I see that other Ravelry members who have made this pattern have complained on their project pages about the errors and confusing directions in the pattern, so this designer has been informed of these mistakes, and yet they remain in the pattern.

Please note that I'm not blaming this designer for having errors in their work. Mistakes happen, even in Vogue Knitting, where the patterns are checked by professional proofreaders. What I do blame this designer for is their lack of good faith response to complaints about the errors. If a knitting designer receives complaints about errors in a pattern, they owe it to their customers to make a reasonable effort to fix them. Not doing so shows a lack of respect for the time and effort that their present and future customers, who have paid money for the pattern, will waste trying to figure out how to make the pattern work. Regrettably, I won't be buying any more of Snowden Becker's designs in future, or recommending them on my blogs.

This project used up 125 grams of what was effectively stash yarn. I had just a few scraps of yarn left when done.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Olivia's New Spring Ensemble

My honorary niece Olivia has a third birthday coming up, and I felt such a special occasion required a dress and matching purse.

For a patter, I chose McCalls M7769, in the version on the left. It's a cute, light, wearable summer dress. I liked the idea of mixing cotton prints for it, but in the end decided to go with a single cotton print in a dragonfly pattern, as that was less expensive and less wasteful. This would be a good pattern to use up small amounts of coordinating cotton prints if you happen to have any on hand, though.

And here's the completed dress made in size 3, with a little purse I whipped up to go with it. The dress went together quite easily and I am very pleased with it. I had a small amount of green cotton on hand, so I used that for the exterior of the purse, lined it in the dragonfly print, and then used some grosgrain ribbon that I had on hand to make the drawstring and the rosette. A small green bead from my beading supplies added a nice finishing touch.

I am defintely looking forward to seeing Olivia open this gift. Though I suspect she'll be much more focused on the gift bag that this gift is to go in, since she is cat-obsessed and it has a photo of kittens on it, and the dollar store activity books and crayons that will also be in the bag, as she is about her new spring ensemble. Three-year-olds have their own priorities.