Monday, November 13, 2023

The Fraught & Frustrating Felted Slippers


In the spring of 2023, when I was putting away my winter footwear and getting out my summer sandals and flip flops, I discovered that there were holes in the soles of the much-worn felted slippers that I had made in late 2016. I sighed and added "new slippers for me" to my already overly long list of 2023 knitting projects, deciding also to prioritize them and get them done by October, as they were something I actually needed. 

I did an extensive search of slipper patterns on Ravelry, and ended up deciding that the French Press Felted Slippers, by Melynda Bernardi, which I had used to make my previous pair of slippers, was still the pattern I liked best and that I was just going to make myself a new pair. I'd already purchased the pattern, it is a design with a certain amount of style (that is, as much as one could expect from a pair of woolly slippers), and my first pair had both kept my feet warm as toast and lasted for over six years. I could hardly do better than that. 

But I could do better in terms of colour choice. I had liked my old slippers, but had always regretted making them in a khaki green. In winter, I wear dark brown yoga pants (I own five pairs of them), or olive green khakis or corduroys around the house, and the old pair had really only gone with the latter.  In August 2023, I visited Romni Wools, looking for a dark brown worsted yarn that would go with all my around-home trousers. They didn't have anything in just the right shade in a worsted, but in their bargain basement I found some bulky-weight Linie 231 Filz-Wolle in 12 Chocolate Brown that I thought would do -- I would just have to felt the yarn more to get it down to the right size. Knowing I would probably need more of a heavier gauge weight yarn than the 150 grams of worsted the pattern specified, I bought four 50 gram skeins of yarn to be on the safe side.

When I began knitting the slippers, it soon became clear that 200 grams of yarn I had weren't going to cut it. I had to go back to Romni and get two more skeins -- I think they only had three left. When I was finished knitting the slippers, I realized that I should have made the soles with three strands of yarn instead of only two. But this was a mistake I didn't bother to correct, as I wouldn't have had sufficient yarn for it, even if I did go back to Romni and get that one remaining skein -- assuming it was even still there. The two-strand sole was pretty thick as it was anyway, given the yarn I'd used, not to mention of a comically large size. It was a relief to have finished the knitting, as I don't like big needle knits. 

Then came the felting process, another thing I don't enjoy. I have a front loading washing machine with a Fort Knox-like auto locking system, so I thought I couldn't use my washing machine to felt things, but must do it manually. The last time I made these slippers, it took me five and a half hours to felt them. This time I did some reading up and watching of YouTube videos on felting in advance. I started out using hot water in a cooking pot as the YouTube felter had done, thinking I could at least sit down during the process, but I didn't like that I had to keep refreshing the water as it cooled. I ended up going back to the method I'd resorted to for my last slippers: I agitated the slippers in a large pot of water which I kept simmering on the stove, occasionally rinsing them in cold water at the sink to shock the felt into shrinking. This time it took me a gruelling four hours and twenty minutes, during which I endured frequent splashes of  hot water (it wasn't hot enough to burn me, but it was hot enough to sting), but I thought was at least an improvement on the last time, and this time around I'd also done more felting in less time because the slippers had been larger to start with. My hands ached so much that I had to get up in the middle of the night and take ibuprofen, and it took me four or five days to get the brown stains off my fingernails, but it was a relief to think that the felting process was done and I wouldn't have to do it again for years.

With the slippers ready to assemble, I took one of the straps with me to Fabricland to buy buttons for them. It was a pleasant and easy task, I was in the home stretch of finishing slippers I really needed but that I hadn't enjoyed making and then... I lost the felted strap somewhere in the store, and simply could not find it again. And hoo boy, did I look. I must have spent well over an hour looking for it. I retraced my steps through the stores repeatedly. I emptied out and went through the contents of my shoulder bag and the one shopping bag I had with me three separate times. I went through my coat pockets, even taking off my jacket and shaking it in case the strap had slipped down one of my sleeves or something. I told the staff I'd dropped it and they looked for it themselves with a commendable thoroughness and zeal. One young store employee even got down on her hands and knees and crawled around in the yarn area, where I'd been browsing, looking for it. But all of our efforts were for naught. We couldn't find the damn strap. Finally, too tired to look anymore, I gave up, purchased the buttons that had matched the strap while I had it, left my name and contact information with the store staff in the forlorn hope that the strap might yet turn up, and dragged myself home. I waited a few days, and when I didn't hear from Fabricland, I resigned myself to the inevitable, and made a new strap.

At least I had enough yarn left over, and it took me less than fifteen minutes to knit a new strap and darn in the ends. Then came the felting part, which took about an hour, but then I hit yet another snag in the process when I realized the new strap and the remaining original strap were two very different shades of brown. I ended up stewing the slippers and the straps in a pot on the stove for five or six hours, which almost corrected the colour of the new strap. There was still a slight shading difference between the straps, but by that point I was too fed up with the whole process to care.   

The completed slippers in a size 8. (The colours didn't photograph that well, and the buttons actually go better with the yarn than one would think given their appearance in this photo.) After all the trouble I had with them, I'm reasonably pleased with them. But I think next time I make these slippers I will go with a worsted. These fit well, but they are a lot bulkier than my old slippers. 

I do have a few thoughts on how to make the felting process easier on me next time. First of all, I am going to experiment with using my washing machine to felt whatever material I'm working with, because it's occurred to me that I can work around the machine's auto lock by unplugging the machine whenever I want to check on or remove the items. If machine felting doesn't work for me, I will buy a deep stock pot to use for the manual felting process to prevent or at least reduce the splashing. And lastly, in future I vow to be VERY careful with my samples when shopping for notions, especially if the sample is actually a piece of a project. 

This project was made from newly purchased yarn and I had just 20 grams of yarn left when it was completed, or a stash increase of 20 grams.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Deck the Holly with Dress and Bunny

I do like knitting baby clothes. The projects are so cute, and they are so small that they can be both quickly finished and often made from a few skeins from one's stash. I got a brand new grandniece named Holly in February 2023, which meant I got to make both a birth gift and a Christmas present. Yay for baby-sized knitting projects!

For Holly's Christmas present, I turned to Ravelry to find a dress pattern. I found the Nandi pattern, designed by Triona Murphy. It's quite cute and also very sensible. I have a whole box of worsted odds and ends, and after looking them over, I selected a skein of Bernat Super Value Solids in Forest Green (this was one of two skeins left over after I made my sister a Christmas afghan and matching throw pillow) and a skein of Loops & Threads Meandering in Dark Salmon. The salmon was a DK, but I liked the combination of the green and salmon so much that I made it work by knitting with two strands of the salmon. 

The completed dress, made in size 6 to12 months. I try to learn something new with each knitting project. This project involved a few new knitting experiences for me. I am not sure if I've ever used the mosaic technique before. I enjoyed trying that out. I don't believe I'd ever used a yarn double to increase its weight before either except with a felted pair of slippers, and that's a good option to have. But the most valuable lesson I learned from this piece was that I finally figured out how to pick up wrapped stitches without having them show. The key thing is that when you're knitting the wrap and a live stitch together, you must make sure that the wrap stitch is on the wrong side of your work. You might have to rearrange the stitches on your needle to get them in the correct orientation, but that's easy enough to do.

For the single button on the back of the neckline, I found a button in my button tin, keeping the material cost of this dress at $0. (I did have to buy the pattern.)

I also sewed Holly's a velvet bunny for her Christmas present. I used stretch velvet and a pattern I had on hand and just had to buy a pair of safety eyes for $2.53 and a metre of satin ribbon for $1. 

Last year Holly's older brother Sawyer got a brown velvet teddy bear for Christmas, and I made sure to make his sister a bunny and use a different-coloured neck ribbon in order to prevent any upsetting mix-ups and/or tug of war episodes in their household. I chose a colour of ribbon that would go with Holly's dress. It, er, coordinates better with the contrast colour in the bodice of the dress than it appears to do in this photo.

And when completed, my work added up to not a bad little Christmas present for the money.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

An Olive Sweater for Olivia

Christamas 2023 approacheth as Christmas has a relentless habit of doing every year, and that means I need to put together a gift for my seven-year-old honorary niece, Olivia. 

When I searched Ravelry for a nice pattern for Olivia's Christmas sweater, I ended up selecting the very same pattern  I had used in 2017 for my grandniece Cauliflower's eighth birthday present: Color Me Pretty, by Elena Nodel. It is a very pretty design, and I already had it in my library, so why not? 

I did go with a different colour palette. Olivia's colouring is very different from Cauliflower's. I gathered together odds and ends of eight different colours of yarn (teal, rust, dark blue, tangerine, aqua, peach, dark green, and orange) from my DK stash box that I thought worked together, made a yarn sampler from them, and took it to Romni Wools during their Boxing Week sale in 2022 with the idea that a blue or a green yarn would go well with the contrast colours I'd picked out. I purchased 400 grams of a nice muted sea blue yarn for it. Then in August, when I took the bag of yarn out to begin work on it, I realized I'd bought worsted instead of DK. I've never made that mistake before and I certainly hope I never do again. Not only did it mean an extra trip downtown, it proved to be a very expensive mistake for a couple of other reasons. 

I returned the 20% off blue yarn to Romni Wools and bought 350 grams of Drops Karisma in Light Olive for the main colour at full price. In October, when I finished the sweater and had a skein of those seven skeins to return and looked at the email receipt for that purchase for the first time (I don't have a cell phone and can't check the electronic receipt before leaving the store as I always do with paper receipts), I realized I'd been charged for nine skeins of the Drops Karisma instead of the seven I'd actually bought. And I can't expect Romni to correct the error given that I can't prove it at this point. Sigh. Well, I've been shopping at Romni for many years now, and that was the first mistake they ever made on a bill. From now on when I shop there, I'm going to figure out what my purchases should total on my calculator before I go to the cash register, and if the total the store employee comes up with have doesn't square with mine, ask them to double check the bill.  

The completed sweater, in a size 8. I think the colour scheme works pretty well and will be flattering on Olivia, who has brown hair, hazel eyes, and a slight olive cast to her skin. This design is a good way to use up some odds and ends of various colours, because if you're using eight different colours, you will only need to do two or three rounds in each colour. 

The matching hat. Which I predict Olivia will be more excited about and wear more than the sweater. She doesn't care about clothes at this point -- when she's opening her gifts from me, she just takes the sweater or dress out of the gift bag and turns around to hand it to her mother without so much as a second glance or even unfolding it -- but she does really enjoy accessories. 

I used 5 grams each of the rust, dark blue, aqua, dark green, and orange, and three grams each of tangerine and peach, and 20 grams of teal, or 51 grams of stash yarn. Or so I'm estimating. (I do wish I had a more reliable and precise scale to use for weighing yarn than the decades old thrift shop plastic Weight Watchers number I'm using!) I had 30 grams of the newly purchased olive yarn left (plus one skein to return to the store), so that's a net stash decrease of 21 grams. 


Some books and a sort of outfit designer kit that I picked up at the thrift store and Dollarama to go with the sweater and cap.  


The gift so far. There is another component to Olivia's Christmas present that I'm not quite finished making yet, but will be writing up in its own post once I am. Still, even incomplete, it doesn't make such a bad showing. 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

A Passion for Plum

Usually I can remember how I came up with the idea for a project: whether I had a genuine need for the item, or I had supplies on hand I wanted to use up, or I came across a pattern I loved. This time I can't remember. Did I come across the pattern I loved for this one first, or did I decide I wanted to use up some yarn I had on hand before I found the pattern, or did I initially decide I needed a cotton summer dress in plum? In this case, it could have been any of the three. 

However it came about, I definitely wanted to use the design you see photographed above, which is the Simply Striped design by Arenda Holladay, to make myself a striped cotton dress. The shaping is flattering and classic and the dress is one that could be worn in a number of different settings. The only thing I didn't like about it were the three-quarter length sleeves, as that's an unflattering sleeve length on me, but that was easily remedied.

As to the yarn, I had the contrast colours on hand. In 2017, I knitted a green and cream cotton shawl for myself that I never once wore (I am simply not a shawl person, and there's no use my pretending otherwise), and sometime in 2021 I decided I would resign myself to inevitable and take it apart and use the good quality cotton yarns that had been used to make it to make something that I would use. I really liked the idea of a plum dress with cream and green stripes. It took me about a year and a half after that to find the right yarn for the main colour. 

I've become a devotee of plum in recent years. To be clear, I should probably begin by describing what I mean by plum, because what I call plum is probably more commonly described as magenta. It's a shade that's neither purple nor pink but occupies its own territory between the two. Some years ago I had a cognac brown leather Fossil wallet with a plum-coloured lining. While initially I wasn't thrilled with the lining colour of the wallet, I was seeing it every single time I opened my wallet, and it began to grow on me. I don't usually wear purple because it's a cool colour and it doesn't suit me, but plum is a warm shade that would work on me and with the autumn colours in my wardrobe. I began to think I would like to have some items of that colour in my wardrobe, and to keep an eye out for it when shopping. It's not often that I find anything in plum, because it isn't a common shade. Usually the things I find are too pink or too purple. It didn't help that my plum-lined Fossil wallet got stolen out of my backpack by some shithead one day when I was shopping in Value Village in March 2019 -- it had been so helpful to have a colour sample of that shade in my bag to whip out and show sales associates when necessary. 

But, even minus the wallet, and after a number of years of being on the alert for it, I have found a few things in plum. I have a plum windbreaker/rain jacket I lavishly bought new and full price from L.L. Bean (it's so seldom that I make any regular retail clothing purchases that it still makes me a little breathless to think about my audacious purchase of that jacket). I have a plum t-shirt I paid six or seven dollars for at a Banana Republic outlet. I have a plum handbag (shown above), a ribbed cotton v-neck plum sweater, and a zippered Adidas jacket all bought secondhand from Value Village. And, of course, I made some things. I knitted myself a sweater that was mostly plum, and a plum hat and scarf. I have a plum jersey beach dress I made for myself, and some cute undies made with plum jersey and cream lace, as well as a printed velvet skirt I made for myself with some plum in the pattern. I have more of that velvet left, and intend to make myself a few more things with it. I also have some plum jersey on hand with which I plan to make leggings (they'll go with the Adidas jacket), and some plum silk mohair yarn that I intend to use to knit myself a pullover (to go with the velvet skirt). And I still want a wool dress in plum, but I probably won't acquire too many more items in that colour. It is a shade that one could easily overdo.   

Anyway, this is to say it wasn't easy to find some yarn for this project. But eventually I found something that would work, and purchased 500 grams of Sirdar Snuggly Replay DK in Currant Fun for this project. It was a slightly lighter shade than I really wanted, but I liked it well enough, and it went with the green and cream yarns I had set aside for the contrast yarns. Which, for the record, were 100 grams of Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima in Sage, and 100 grams of Berroco Modern Cotton DK in Sandy Point.     

The finished dress. As mentioned above, I shortened the sleeves, and I also moved the waist shaping down a bit so it would sit at my waistline. I also changed the stripe pattern so that it involved more and narrower stripes. I ran short of the cream yarn, scoured the yarn stores of Toronto for more, and when none of them had any skeins of that yarn in that shade, ultimately had to order another skein from The Creative Knitter in Fort Erie, Ontario. (The shipping cost was more than the price of the yarn, sigh). When I finished the fourth stripe of green with just 15 grams of that yarn left and that wasn't going to be enough to knit a fifth, I finished off my stripe pattern with two stripes of cream and a coordinating second stripe of cream on each of the sleeves. I'm happy with the effect, and with the dress as a whole. Stripe patterns are more interesting if they're irregular in some way, and this is quite a flattering as well as a practical, comfortable dress for me to have in my wardrobe. 

I used just under half of the plum yarn I bought for this dress, will be returning five of the ten 50 gram skeins I bought to Romni Wools, and have just 5 grams of plum left. I used 85 grams of the green yarn. I used 100 grams of the cream stash yarn, and have 60 grams of the new skein left. So, that's 185 grams of stash yarn used, and 65 grams of new yarn left to tuck away in my yarn stash boxes, which is a net stash decrease of -120 grams.   

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Sweater No. 10

My grandnephew Bug celebrated his tenth birthday this summer, and of course there had to be a sweater made to mark the occasion... the tenth I have made him in his life.

When I searched Ravelry for a suitable pattern for a ten-year-old Canadian boy, I quickly narrowed the search down to this one, which is the 452 Round Neck Zip Sweater, from Bergère de FranceIt's a free pattern. It's more contemporary in style than the patterns I usually go for, but I thought it rather sharp, and it looked so good in the sample shot that I decided to replicate its colour palette rather than selecting one myself, something I don't often do. The one thing I didn't like about the design was the zipper, which I thought looked rather crude, so I decided I would make Bug's version with a buttoned placket.

Once I'd selected the pattern, I searched my DK stash box to see if I had some of the contrast colours on hand. I did indeed have more than sufficient amounts red, cream, and charcoal yarn on hand that would do. I had no black (I never wear black and seldom work with it, even when making gifts), and I had to buy the main colour yarn. From Romni Wools in Toronto, I purchased 300 grams of Estelle Double Knit in shade Q65503, which I would describe as a sort of slate gray, and 50 grams of Drops Karisma Uni Colour in shade 05, which I would describe as black. And I also bought a card of three buttons from Fabricland.    

Here's the finished item, in a size 10. This was quite a straightforward knit, even with the added complication of my having to wing the button placket modification. The body pieces are just stockinette, and the sleeves are mostly just a simple stripe pattern with the chevrons added in duplicate stitch.  

I did run into one snag in that I had not enough gray yarn for this project. I used a little more than the designer intended to do the placket, of course, but I wouldn't have had enough even if I had made the sweater with a zipper as the pattern directed. And I needed just 10 grams of the extra 100 gram skein I had to buy, sigh. To make this sweater, I used 10 grams of charcoal yarn, 10 grams of cream, and 10 grams of red that all came from my stash. I had 90 grams of the new gray yarn and 30 grams of the new black yarn left, so that's a net stash increase of 90 grams for this project. 

As for the rest of Bug's gift, I bought him a solarium kit from Dollarama. He'll be assembling and painting it himself, which he should enjoy, and it might be a fun way for him to learn the names and positions of the planets. Bug loves Harry Potter, and while I refuse to buy any new Harry Potter merchandise given J.K. Rowling's rampant transphobia, when I came across a perfect condition Harry Potter notebook at a thrift shop, I decided I could buy it for him in reasonable conscience, as she won't make any money from its resale. 

I also picked out a gift bag with an outer space theme to go with the solarium kit, and then decided the gift was complete and Bug's tenth birthday had been duly marked. 


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Introducing Miss Rainbow Sparkle Unicorn-Animals


Shortly after my honorary niece Olivia was born in 2016, I came up with the idea of making her a doll and a little wardrobe of outfits and accessories for the doll. I decided to save the idea until she was old enough to really enjoy and appreciate having a doll like that, and I designated four as the ideal age. Olivia turned four in 2020, but I didn't get to the project at all that year. In 2021, when Olivia  turned five, I began doing some work on the project, but I didn't get that far. In early September of 2022, when Olivia was nearly six and a half, I began working steadily on the doll project with the idea that Olivia would get it for Christmas that year, but though I spent four months straight working on it, the end of the year found the doll knitted but not assembled, and three of the outfits not quite finished. It wasn't until early summer of 2023 that I finally finished making the doll and her wardrobe of seven outfits, and then in July 2023, I visited my friend Lindsie's home for two days for the first time since October 2019, and gave her seven-year-old daughter the doll and its accompanying accoutrements. I suppose seven isn't such a bad age for such a gift -- Olivia should still have about three doll-enjoying years ahead of her -- and at least the thing finally got done.  

All through my doll-making endeavour, I thought of the doll provisionally as "Little Olivia", with the expectation that Olivia would want to name her doll herself. I looked forward to seeing what that name would be, and was gratified when Olivia promptly named her doll... wait for it... Rainbow Sparkle Unicorn-Animals. Lindsie tried unsuccessfully to get Olivia to go with a nice Scottish name, such as Isla, but while that would have been a pretty and suitable name, Olivia's choice is peak seven-year-old girl in a way that makes me crack up whenever I think of it. And, now that Miss Unicorn-Animals is finally finished, duly named, and enjoying life with her mommy, let's take a tour through the process of making her and of her completed wardrobe.  

When I was in the early stages of planning this project, I kept an eye out for suitable knitted doll patterns and ideas for its wardrobe. I set up a Pinterest board entitled "Little Olivia and Her Wardrobe" to keep track of the cute knitted dolls and doll outfits and other ideas I came across. When it came time to plan more definitely, I searched Ravelry for knitted doll patterns. Its database contained some real cuties, but I soon zeroed in on the "Knit a Teddy" constellation of designs by Sarah Gasson. Gasson has designed an entire collection of stuffed dolls, bears, cats, bunnies, etc., with numerous outfits designed to fit them all (the stuffed toys are all the same size through the body and the patterns have options for adding tail and ear openings if one is knitting for a stuffed animal). The dolls are darling, with hair that can be styled in multiple ways, and the outfits are amazing, with outfits for every day as well as a number of theme outfits. One can start by knitting the basic doll and then proceed to make any number of outfits. If you want to make a cheerleader, firefighter, nurse, doctor, paramedic, police officer, soccer, golfing, graduation, elf, fairy, bride, superhero, princess, Christmas, or Halloween outfit, Sarah Gasson has you, or at least the stuffed toy you've made, covered.   

Prior to beginning this project, I'd been wanting to make a doll and a wardrobe for it for awhile. Whenever I did my weekly tour of the thrift shops in my neighbourhood, I would often see an array of those "collectable" porcelain dolls (i.e., of the type intended more for display than for playing with) on the shelves among the knickknacks, and I would think about how much fun it would be buy one, take it home, and then research, design, and make some period accurate wardrobe for it as a gift for one of the little girls in my life. And then I would remind myself sternly that I have very limited physical and mental energy due to my chronic fatigue issues, that I'm not making a living, that its costs would add up, that there is so much that needs doing around my house, and that I don't like sewing or knitting in the very small scale at all, and I keep walking. But then the same scenario would play out again the next week.

This particular doll and wardrobe project seemed like an acceptable way to scratch that "I want to make a doll wardrobe" itch. I'd only be working on it in the evening when I don't have the energy to do much else anyway, and it wouldn't take much research, or much money. It would be easy and fun to plan it and come up with little creative touches for it, it wasn't on such a small scale that I would mind working on it, and it would be a good way to use up my boxful of odds and ends of DK yarn. 

So, I bought the Sarah Gasson doll pattern, and some of the outfit patterns, and got started.  

The above photo is the sample shot from the Pink Stripy Dress design. I wanted this doll to have some everyday type outfits as well as some theme outfits, and this was one of the first of its everyday outfits. 

I wanted the doll, or Rainbow as I suppose I should call her, to look as much like Olivia as possible. Little girls mother their dolls, and they tend to especially like having a doll that looks like them. This doll's facial features being set by the pattern, I could only make the doll look like Olivia by simulating Olivia's colouring. Olivia, who is a strikingly beautiful little girl, has gorgeous long brown curly hair with lots of blond and lighter brown highlights, as well as a slightly reddish tone to it, olive-coloured eyes, and a slight olive tone to her skin. I used two different shades of brown yarn for Rainbow's hair and tried to choose skin and eye colour yarns that were as close to Olivia's colouring as I could get them. The result, while not photo realism accurate, wasn't bad. Lindise commented that the doll really did look like Olivia.

I goofed on the hair by knotting it much too thickly over the back of the doll's head. The pattern called for 50 grams of yarn to be used on the hair, and I used 110 grams of yarn. I suppose it's not such a bad thing for Rainbow to have what we'll call very luxuriant hair, but it's not as easy to style the doll's hair when it's this thick, so if I make another doll like this one, I will not put as much hair on it. 

The body of this doll was knitted from a single 100 gram skein of Premier Anti-Pilling Everyday DK in Linen, which I purchased for this project. (I did also make the mistake of ordering 200 grams of another skin tone-like shade of that yarn online that I didn't like at all when it arrived at my house, but that hapless new 200 grams was accounted for when I used up a good chunk of it in the sweater I made Olivia for Christmas last year, so I won't add it to the tally for this one.) For the hair, I used up 40 grams of Sirdar Country Style DK in 530 Chocolate that I had in my stash, and when that proved not to be enough, I bought two 50 gram skeins of Debbie Bliss Rialto DK in 23005 Brown. The eyes were done with a unmeasurably small amount of green yarn of unknown make that I had in my stash, and I used embroidery floss that I had on hand to do the eyelashes and mouth. When the doll was done, I had 25 grams of the new linen yarn and 35 grams of the new brown yarn left, and when I subtract the 40 grams of stash brown I used, I find that this project added 20 just grams of yarn to my stash. Not bad.    

This striped dress, bloomers, and shoes outfit was made entirely from stash yarn. I made the dress from spring green and coral yarns, which used up all the coral. I then made the bloomers and the shoes in the same green with cream trim, and to pull the outfit's colour scheme together, I crocheted a cream flower with a green centre, and tacked it to the waistline of the dress.  

I forgot to weigh my odds and ends of stash yarn before I began this outfit, but it weighed 120 grams when completed, so that is a stash decrease of -120 grams.

The second "everyday" outfit that I picked out for Rainbow (after some deliberation, because there are so many cute outfits one can hardly choose) was Sarah Gasson's Flower Pinafore design. 

I built this outfit around an unidentifiable skein of dark green yarn that had been sitting in my DK yarn box for years and years. I had some red and some assorted cream yarn that went well with the green, so I went with that.

A shot of the sweater and bloomers by themselves, since the sweater design isn't visible under the pinafore. Fortunately Olivia will be able to mix and match her doll's outfits somewhat.

This outfit was made entirely from stash yarn, and weighed 180 grams when completed, so that's a stash decrease of -180 grams. 

Olivia's father's last name is Wallace, he is of Scottish ancestry, and he and his family are quite into their Scottish heritage. They talk about it frequently at family gatherings. I asked Lindsie if they do face-painting and kilt-lifting at their family gatherings as William Wallace's men do in Braveheart, and she said, "Thankfully, no." Lindsie's father has only gone so far as taking up the bagpipes, and marching in town parades, all kilted up, with whatever little bagpipe regiment he's in. 

When I saw the Highland Dress pattern among Sarah Gasson's collection, I decided it should be one of Rainbow's outfits, because it would be a nice way for Olivia to celebrate her Scottish heritage. It's adorable as is, but when I made it I did end up adding some tweaks. 

The first change I made was to the tartan pattern itself. I thought it would be nice to make the doll's kilt, sash, and tam in a Wallace tartan if I could. I googled the Wallace tartan, and found that I could get the kilt's tartan design quite close to the modern dress Wallace tartan you see pictured above by simply changing the colours from red, green, and white, to red, black, and yellow.  

I was pleased with my version of the Wallace tartan. Tweak number two was the result of my thinking, wouldn't it be cute if the kilt had a little kilt pin in it? Some online and in person comparison shopping later, I found I couldn't buy a kilt pin of the right size unless I bought a hundred or so of them, so next I looked into the possibility of making a single kilt pin of the right size. In the end, I made one in fifteen minutes using this very helpful video tutorial

I haven't worn a kilt since my elementary school uniform days, so I did some more googling on the topic of correct kilt pin placement. From what I understand, a kilt pin is supposed to be worn clasp down on the right side, and two inches from the bottom hem. I adhered faithfully to the first two sipulations, but had to cheat on the "two inches from the bottom" rule because that would have put the kilt pin more than halfway up the kilt.   


Tweak number three came about because I didn't have any silver or gray yarn suitable for the buttons, didn't want to buy a whole new skein of it when I needed such a tiny amount, and didn't particularly like look of the crocheted ones anyway. I used some tooled metal buttons from my button tin that I thought were just perfect for the jacket.

Tweaks four and five happened when it occurred to me after I'd made the bow tie that Sarah Gasson's design was the masculine version of traditional highland dress. I did a little googling to find out what the feminine version entailed. Did women even wear sporrans, sashes, and bow ties in traditional highland dress for women? According to my googling results (and I could easily be wrong about any of this!), in traditional highland dress, women don't wear sporrans or bow ties, but  they do wear sashes and shawls, and sometimes lace jabots. I nixed the sporran and the bow tie that the pattern called for, made the sash, and cobbled together a lace jabot out of a few scraps of lace I found in my ribbon cannister, using some photos of lace jabots that I found online for reference. I thought the result was, if not up to lace jabot industry standards, pretty decent as a finishing touch on a doll for a seven-year-old.

The finished highland dress outfit. Olivia will be able to take Rainbow along when she goes to see her father play bagpipes in her town's parade, and sit her up at the table when she and her parents are hosting a Wallace family gathering. 

When I was visiting Lindsie and we were watching Olivia with her doll, Lindsie asked me which of the seven outfits was my favourite. I said I didn't know if I had a favourite, but that the Scottish outfit was the one I was proudest of. It wasn't until I was writing this post that I realized that I totally forgot to make the flashings for the socks, which is seriously undercutting that sense of pride, sigh. Well, I suppose if it bothers me enough, I can make some, take them with me when I go visit Lindsie in October, and sew them in at that point.

For this outfit, I used some white yarn I had on hand, and I also purchased some skeins of Patons Astra DK in Cardinal, Black, and Maize Yellow. I had 40 grams of the black left, and 10 grams of the yellow. I used up the remaining red in one of the other doll outfits, so I won't count that in my tally for this outfit. But I have no idea how much white yarn I used, because it seems I forgot to weigh it before I started work. I have a note on one of my patterns that says a completed sweater of this type weighed 50 grams, so I think it's safe to say that I would have used at least 60 grams of white to make the shirt and socks for this outfit. I'm going to estimate that this outfit resulted in a net decrease of -10 grams 

And we come now to another too-adorable outfit of Sarah Gasson's. This is the Christmas Jumper design. How freaking cute are those little Timberland-style boots? And this is one of those (rare!) nitting design samples that has such a perfect colour scheme that I just have to replicate it.

My version of the Christmas outfit, with which I am very pleased. For this outfit, I used the remaining red yarn from the Scottish highland dress outfit, and I bought more Patons Astra DK in Cardinal, Navy, and White. For the reindeer face and antlers and the boots I used tan and brown yarns from my stash.

When I was done this ensemble, I found I had used 15 grams of the brown, 10 grams of the tan, and that I had 25 grams of the new red and 5 grams of the new navy left. (Whatever white yarn I had left went into an upcoming outfit.) So, that's a +5 gram stash increase.   

This is the Snowflake Gown ensemble from Sarah Gasson's collection. I decided to make this one because one of my nicknames for Olivia is "Princess Olivia of Bolivia". (No, Olivia is not any part Bolivian and yes I am aware that Bolivia is a democratic republic -- I just happen to like the rhyming aspect of it.)

I had to improvise a new colour scheme for Princess Rainbow's outfit out of the offerings at Michaels. I thought a white and a pretty soft second colour would be a nice combination, but they didn't have many options. A lot of the inexpensive acrylic colours are downright crude and ugly. After some traipsing back and forth through their aisles, I bought Loops & Threads Baby Cuddles in Lilac, and Loops & Threads Snuggly Wuggly in White. I also used a very small amount of a light green yarn from my stash for the device on the bodice. 

The tiara is supposed to be sewn to the doll's head, but I didn't want to do that, as the tiara would definitely not go with all, or for that matter any, of Rainbow's other outfits. Instead, I knitted the tiara twice and stitched it together at the ends, turning it into a crown that could be worn and taken off. I also raided my beading box and found some amethyst chips and some purple stone beads, and sewed them onto the crown. I wish I had found a more artistic arrangement of the gems on the crown, but again, and as I often reminded myself while working on this project, this is just a doll for a little girl, not a PhD level dissertation in costuming.   

I used up the white I had left over from this project on my last two projects and I had just 20 grams of the lilac left, so that's a stash increase of  +20 grams for this princess outfit.

Almost from the beginning of this project, I had planned to make the doll some sort of nightwear, such as a nightgown and cap, so that Olivia would be able to put her baby properly to bed at night. When I saw this Onesie pattern in Sarah Gasson's Ravelry store, I knew it had to be one of my selections.

For this pattern I used the white I had bought for some of the outfits you've already seen, and some medium blue, light blue, and old rose I had in my stash, as well as a very small amount of cream yarn and a little dark brown embroidery floss for the detailing on the teddy bear slippers. I had to be a little creative about making the odds and ends of yarn I had picked for this onesie suffice to finish the job. My first attempt at striping this sleeper had me running out of colours so quickly I knew halfway in that I'd never be able to finish, so I ripped out what I had done and began again with a more white-dependent stripe pattern. When it turned out that I didn't have enough of the old rose and light blue left to stripe the sleeves, I made them plain white.

I'm pretty happy with the result, and so was Olivia. When I was visiting Lindsie for those two days, Olivia undressed Rainbow and changed her into her onesie and slippers before carrying her off to bed on both nights, and then she would have her doll dressed for the day in one of her other outfits by the time I came downstairs in the morning. Lindsie told me via email that Olivia has continued to do this since my visit.

For this project I used 15 grams of medium blue, 20 grams of light blue, and 30 grams of old rose, so we'll call that a stash decrease of -65 grams.


This was the last outfit I made. For this one I used the basic sweater, pants, and slippers instructions from my other patterns, and improvised the rest of the design. It was intended to be a sort of Valentine's Day outfit, but it's not so theme-oriented that it doesn't work as just a cute outfit for every day. Again, I had to be a bit creative to make the yarn I had suffice, which is why the pants look a little on the skimpy side. I wish I'd made the last few rows of knitting on the slippers in rib instead of garter, as it would have made their fit more secure.

For this outfit I used the last of the white I bought for the other doll outfits, and (at a guess, because I don't seem to have documented this) 45 grams of blue yarn and 15 grams of burgundy yarn from my stash. I had nothing but a handful of scraps of the three colours left when I finished, so that's a -60 gram stash decrease.

Another idea that occurred to me early on in the project planning phase was that Olivia would need a place to keep all of her doll's clothing and belongings. My first thought was that I would get her a little wooden box, and paint and decorate it in such a way that she could still enjoy using the box after she'd outgrown the doll. I kept an eye out for a suitable box when doing my weekly thrift shop tour, and eventually bought one. But once I began working on the doll's wardrobe, it soon became clear that the box was far too small for such a purpose, so much so that I don't understand how I ever could have thought it would be adequate. (I stowed the box in a drawer in the attic for a few years, with the idea that I would be using it for some other project, and I have indeed come up with a good use for it, which I'll be posting about by the end of this year.)

With the box idea ruled out, my next thought was that I would make Olivia a tote bag for her doll's things, which was an even better idea than a box because she could carry it around with her. And I knew immediately what fabric I wanted to use for it. Back in 2021, I had made Olivia a quilt, and when I went fabric shopping for that project, my first choice of fabric was the one you see depicted above. I thought those interlocking Os in an olive green colour made it the perfect fabric quilt for her. To my disappointment, there wasn't enough of the fabric left on the bolt for the quilt. I did find another pretty fabric for the quilt that I was happy with, but that disappointment was clearly still lurking in my mind, because when I came up with the idea for a tote bag, I was so glad that I had a chance to use that perfect first fabric for something else for Olivia. Back to the fabric warehouse place I went, and I dug around determinedly until I found the interlocking Os fabric. 


And here is Rainbow Sparkle Unicorn-Animals, with all of her things packed and ready to go to meet her mommy for the first time. I put each of the outfits in a separate zippered plastic bag so that Olivia would know what items goes with what other items, although I don't expect they'll stay that way.

 This was a decent stash-busting project. Let's review the numbers:
  • doll +20 grams
  • striped dress outfit -120 grams
  • pinafore outfit  -180 grams
  • Scottish outfit -10 grams
  • Christmas outfit  +5 grams
  • princess outfit  +20 grams
  • onesie and slippers -65 grams
  • Valentine's Day outfit -60 grams
According to my math, that's 390 gram stash decrease. Not bad at all, and I definitely saw the difference in my DK stash box, with a number of odds and ends that had been sitting there for years finally used up. 

This was a seriously time intensive project on a scale I will almost certainly never attempt again. I think this project must have taken a total of six months of my knitting time. Admittedly, I am toying with the idea of making my grandniece Holly a doll like Rainbow in a few years, but she'll only get two or three outfits with it, not seven, and then maybe I'll make her one outfit a year to add to her collection until she's ten or so. And... I will be making Olivia more outfits for Rainbow, but again, it'll be just one a year, and only for a few more years. I also no longer pine over the porcelain dolls I see in thrift stores in the same way, so I consider that itch to be successfully scratched.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

The Secret Garden Dress


When it came time to plan my honorary niece Olivia's birthday dress for her seventh birthday in May of 2023, I began by ordering three sewing patterns online: one for this year, for for next year, and one for the year after, in order to save on shipping. It was still way too expensive, but I suppose I can at least save the patterns to reuse for my new little grandniece when she gets older.

My choice of pattern this year was the very classic Vogue V1857, view B. I went to the warehouse-type store Fabric Fabric, at St. Clair West and Keele here in Toronto, to pick out the fabrics for it. I found a beautiful cotton print -- the one depicted above -- that I fell in love with immediately. It was so William Morris. It wasn't the easiest print to coordinate because of its offbeat shades of green and blue, but for my contrast fabric I eventually picked out a textured cotton fabric in cream, and then, when I couldn't find a suitable third fabric to use as lining, I bought extra of the textured cream to use as lining. 

Here's the finished product. It's crisply, delicately pretty. The sewing went reasonably well on the whole, though I was stalled for quite a while when I had some difficulty with the sleeves. I had never been able to make the "baste and draw the stitches to gather" technique work for me, but when my usual method of minutely pinning the sleeve didn't work despite multiple attempts, I tried the gathered basting stitch technique, and to my amazement, it actually worked for me for once. 

Whenever I make a little girl's dress, I like to make a matching purse for it. I wanted to make this one out of the print, but I hadn't enough of it left. I hadn't enough left for even the facing. But I did have lots of the cream left, and I made a very simple, plain bag out of that. Olivia will be able to use this purse with other outfits instead of having a purse that's tied specifically to one outfit.

My formula for Olivia's gifts, either birthday or Christmas, is "something to wear, something to read, and something to play with". This past winter I had the great good luck to score a pristine condition, deluxe edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden (shown on the left in the photo above) at my neighbourhood Value Village. It has artistic, interactive inserts throughout it for the reader to enjoy as they read the book, such as postcards, or letters one can take out of the the envelope and read, a drawing of the floorplan of the house, etc. Then, about a week after I bought the book, I came across a copy of The Secret Garden cookbook (shown on the right) at the dollar store. I thought Olivia would really enjoy getting to make some of the foods mentioned in the novel, or the kind of foods the characters would have eaten (that is, if one of her parents is up for such a project), so I snapped up the cookbook. And then I realized the print of the dress, which I'd selected before I bought either the novel or the cookbook and never thought of when I bought the two books, was very much in accord with The Secret Garden theme of this present. How fortuitous is that?

But, you ask, looking at this photo of the dress, purse, novel and cookbook, as fastidiously in thematic accord as it all is, where is the something to play with? A cookbook isn't exactly a toy. Rest assured that there's more to the gift yet to come. The toy Olivia is getting for her seventh birthday is handmade and rather elaborate, so it's getting its own post. Watch this space for that!