Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Never Break the Chain Cushion.

This knitting project plan had its origins in a reupholstering project. I was reupholstering the rocking chair you see pictured above for one of the bedrooms in my house. The chair had an accompanying cushion that was upholstered in the "wrong side" of the old upholstery fabric, which had made for a nice contrasting look with the "right side" upholstery that covered the chair. However, the new upholstery fabric did not have an attractive "wrong side", and I thought reupholstering the cushion in the same fabric as the chair wouldn't look right. After some time spent trying to figure out if I could use the cushion as it was elsewhere in my house (and concluding I couldn't), the obvious solution hit me: I should leave the cushion as it was and simply knit it a new cushion cover.

I immediately realized I had a suitable lot of yarn on hand for the project. Several years ago my mother had given me 300 grams of a cream-coloured acrylic DK that someone else had given her. The origins of this yarn are hazy in every sense. An anonymous someone found it when cleaning out the house of an equally unknown elderly woman who had died, and gave it to someone else (my mother has forgotten who), who had in her turn passed it along to my mother, who then offered it to me. I don't know what brand or fibre content this yarn was as it had only unmarked yellow paper bands on it. My best guess is that the yarn is an acrylic produced in the 1980s, as it has a rather coarse texture that today's much improved acrylics don't usually have. The yarn then sat in my box of DK yarn for several years as I tried to figure out what to do with it. The rough texture made it unsuitable for clothing, which meant it should be used for a decorating project, but I never seemed to have a need for it. That yarn's time had finally arrived, as it was perfect for making this cushion cover. I wasn't quite sure I'd have enough yarn to cover what was a fairly large cushion, but decided that 300 grams would surely make at least one side of the cushion cover, and the cushion could be made with a coordinating fabric backing if need be.

The next step in the process was to find a suitable cushion cover pattern. After a Ravelry search for a cabled pattern, I decided I liked the idea of a strip of Celtic knot cable running across an otherwise plain stockinette cushion, as shown above in the Celtic Knot Pillow cover, designed by Jennifer Wilby. After all, isn't a yarn that was passed along a chain of knitters before it reached the one who would eventually use it the perfect yarn to be used for a Celtic chain effect? The Celtic knot technique is a traditional knitting pattern of such long-standing that it's in the public domain, so I used the Celtic cable pattern from the Celtic Cable Scarf pattern, written by Vanessa Lewis, to get the look, and did the math to write my own pattern to fit my specific cushion.

Here's the completed cushion cover, sitting on the chenille-covered rocking chair I upholstered, and against the backdrop of the wall I painted and the chintz curtains I've made. It turned out that I did have just enough yarn to make an entire cushion cover -- I finished this project with less than 40 inches of yarn to spare. I knitted the cover in one long piece, then seamed it on two sides, and inserted an 18" ivory zipper into one long side using the method described in this Frog Knitting tutorial. It's worth going the extra mile to put a zipper in a cushion cover as it means the cover can easily be taken off the cushion and washed.

To recap, I had the cushion and the yarn and even the zipper on hand, and the pattern was free. I did have to buy a crochet hook for the zipper insertion as I had none of a size big enough to grip the yarn but small enough to pierce the zipper, but the crochet hook was only $2.15, so this was still quite a frugal exercise. And the chain of custody for this yarn is finally at an end.... though who knows? The cushion might have a checkered life as well. We never know where our stuff will wind up.

Peacocking in a New Hat

This pattern, the Peacock Tam, designed by Celeste Young and published in Knits of a Feather: 20 Stylish Knits Inspired by Birds in Nature, is one of those patterns that I fell in love with the minute I saw it and just had to make. As a piece of design, it succeeds by all my metrics: it's beautifully detailed, visually striking, has an Art Nouveau-esque feel, and is also quite flattering and wearable.

I had a false start with this project when I first bought yarn for it. I found Madelinetosh Tosh sock in Fjord for the feathers, and I was thrilled with it. But then I picked out a cream yarn for the main colour, and as I should know perfectly well by now, a dark second yarn shows terribly through a yarn as light as a cream or white. I ripped out what I had done, reassigned the cream yarn to another project (specifically, my cowl-neck cream sweater), and bought some Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply in turquoise for the main colour.

Here's the finished hat. I was quite pleased with how it turned out. I love the colourway. Most of the Ravelry users who have made this hat have gone with the navy and green colourway used in the sample, or something very close to it, and while that is a lovely option, I preferred this one, which suits me and my coats better, and moreover is more peacock-y.

I inadvertently used a slightly larger size needle than called for, which meant the hat turned out a bit bigger than it was supposed to. This wasn't really a problem, as it was still an appropriate size for me. I have a wide face and need to be careful not to wear too small-scale a hat. However, while the hat fit me fine it was too big to stay on the foam head I usually use as a photography model for my hats, so I had to model it myself. My apologies for that.

Monday, December 28, 2015

What I Did With $4 of Thrift Shop Yarn

Back in 2012, I bought 250 grams of teal blue mohair (Nuvoletta by Filatura Di Crosa, which is 70% mohair and 30% acrylic and according to Google has been discontinued since the early nineties) from Value Village for $4. In 2014 I made a pullover from the Nuvoletta and still had nearly a whole 50 gram skein left. This was enough for a hat, so I looked for a suitable tam pattern, and found one in the very attractive Tuscan Leaves Hat, designed by Nina Machlin Dayton and pictured above.

And here's the finished hat. It'll go with several of my jackets and coats -- I'm thinking it will look especially nice with my olive green velvet jacket. The yarn was a pleasure to work with just as it was when I made the pullover, and I was pleased with how well the pattern was written. I'm quite happy with the result, and it makes me even happier to think that I got a sweater and a hat that I love from $4 of thrift shop yarn. There was perhaps 5 grams of yarn left when I finished the hat, which I've put away with my other odds and ends of yarn. Who knows -- I might be able to get even more out of that $4.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Shawl that Pinterest Built

My sister has taken to messaging me links to the things she wants me to make via Pinterest, usually with the words, "Dude. I want this." This pattern, which is the Nae shawl, designed by Anat Rodan, was one of the things my sister wants, and she wanted it, specifically, in "blue, mauve, or taupe, in a soft grayish shade". At least it's a free pattern.

I bought 150 grams of Sandnes Mini Alpakka in a soft mauve for the project, which was supposed to take 140 grams of yarn. But then I ran short by approximately 10 grams. I promptly went down to Romni Wool to get another. They didn't have another in the same shade, but ordered some in for me. Excellent! Except that when it came, it was in a different dye lot and looked like it was a completely different colour. Yes, the woman depicted above is more or less a good representation of me, squatting on the floor of Romni Wool and teetering on the verge of a meltdown. There was no way I could salvage this project without that 10 extra grams of yarn. I'd have to rip the whole thing out and knit it again on a slightly smaller needle. Store manager Jonathon Leonard suggested I try looking on Ravelry, and offered to call around to some other yarn stores to see if they had any. I did check Ravelry, but it proved a dead end.

But Jonathon, bless him, did track down a skein for me at a yarn store in Aurora. I called the store and had the skein shipped to me. Just as in the photo above, butterflies landed on my face and the small varmints who live in (I've got a mouse problem) and around (I've got a raccoon and squirrel problem) my house sang to me. It was just like in Cinderella, except that they told me to make my own damn dress if I wanted a new one, and to not bet on any princes.

I was able to finish the shawl after all. Except for the running short of yarn issue, it really was a lovely project. The yarn was a pleasure to work with and the shawl knitted up in a snap. The pattern told me to use circulars but I soon switched to straights as the circulars weren't necessary, and were in fact a hindrance as the yarn kept wrapping itself around it.

My sister will get this shawl as part of her Christmas present. And though I wrote this post when I finished it in the spring of 2015, it was set to publish on Christmas Day. I don't think she reads my blogs but it would be just my luck if she decided to start with this post.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Devil of a Striped Jersey Top

A few months ago I decided I wanted a classic Breton striped top. I initially looked for a commercially made version, but such tops are usually navy and white, and I don't wear navy or white. I couldn't find one in a colour that would look good on me, which meant either give up the idea or make one myself. I think you know which option I chose.

The pattern for this project, Vogue V8597, was already in my pattern library. I searched several Toronto fabric stores to find a striped jersey fabric in a colour I liked without any success, and wound up ordering a fabric online.

And this is the finished result. It turned out fairly well. The fabric is quite lovely and the colour suits me. It's a nice-looking piece that will go well with with the denim and twill jeans, skirts, and shorts that I wear in summer. The fabric is a bamboo rayon blend and I've put it in the drawer that holds my current cold weather tops rather than putting it away with my summer clothes, as it should prove trans-seasonal.

But man, was this one unexpectedly difficult project. To begin with, the green of this top proved impossible to match in thread. I never did succeed but ended up going with a Gutermann thread that was a good four shades darker. Then when I began cutting the top pieces out, I screwed up the front piece -- the lines were askew. It would have looked bad and there was not enough fabric left to recut the piece. I had to order more fabric online, which was maddeningly expensive.

When the extra fabric arrived, I recut the front and back. I was extremely careful to get it exactly right. But I used tailor's chalk to do so... and then it turned out that the tailor's chalk would not come out of this fabric. I tried every suggestion I found online to remove it and it would not budge. Both the new front and back pieces were marked and unusable. Fortunately there was enough fabric left of the second piece I had ordered that I could recut the front, and I was able to reuse the back piece from my first attempt at cutting.

But there was another difficulty still to come. It turned out that the jersey fabric stripes were very difficult to match up when sewing seams. I pinned and sewed the seams again and again before I got them to match. One especially low moment occurred just after I'd spent the better part of ten minutes painstakingly pinning a sleeve. I had moved onto pinning the second sleeve when I heard a sound, looked up, and saw my cat Trilby sitting on the sewing table, industriously pulling the pins out the first sleeve with his teeth. Perhaps the stripe match didn't meet his standards.

I'm not sure I'll ever make another striped jersey anything. It seems to be more hassle than it's worth. However, I did learn how to work with striped jersey, so perhaps another sewing project will go much more smoothly. For your reference as well as mine, here are my tips for sewing striped jersey:

- When cutting a piece that is supposed to be cut on a fold, cut the piece flat instead. Cut the first side of the piece and then fold the cut side over the fabric for the other side, making sure the stripes match exactly. Then cut the second half of the piece using the lines of the cut side.
- When pinning seams, put a pin each stripe, making sure to centre the pin on the stripe on both sides of the pinned section. The pin should also pierce the fabric on each side of the stitching line. You want to keep those stripes firmly and exactly in place.
- When sewing seams, machine baste them first, as it will probably take you several attempts to match the stripes.
- When basting, leave the pins in place until you've basted the entire seam rather than taking them out just before the machine needle gets to them.

The other lesson that I learned from this project is not to use tailor's chalk on the garment until I have first tested the chalk on a piece of scrap and made sure I can remove the mark. I'd also advise against sewing when one has an evil cat around, but as every evil cat owner knows, evil cats usually insist on being present during all such activities.

Lavender's Blue Dilly Dilly & If I Get Moths I'm Screwed

Last week I found, to my horror, that moths had gotten into my sweater drawer. I did some research on how to deal with the problem, and discovered that while the main preventative measures are vigilance and cleanliness, some lavender sachet bags might help a little. I have such a long sewing list right now that I thought I'd buy the sachet bags. I visited several dollar stores to get those little organza bags that dollar stores always seem to carry, but had no luck. (There ought to be a word or a term for the experience of finding that dollar stores suddenly don't have a particular item that they always seem to have in stock at the time that you need it. The Germans probably have a word for it.) I checked Michaels and found they only sell the bags in lots of 30, and I didn't need that many.

I then resigned myself to sewing the sachets. I found this tutorial, which also has some helpful advice about how long the lavender will last (a few years at least) and tips for making it last longer (massage the bag with your fingers, or add a few drops of essential oil)

And these are my version of the sachet bags. They look rather pretty, it took me less than two hours to make them, and it was nice, after all, not to have to buy a single thing for this project. I used some fabric I had left over from making duvet storage bags for the linen closet, a reel of ribbon I had in my ribbon canister, and dried lavender from my own garden. I treated the cut ends of the ribbon with Fray Check -- always a good idea when decorating anything with fabric ribbon. And then the sachets got tucked away in each of the shelves and drawers that hold my sweaters as well as in the scarves and hats basket that sits on the hall closet shelf, as I once had moths in there too. May the sachets work as intended. There's nothing like moths to strike terror into the heart of a knitter.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Sweater I Hope Never to Spill Tomato Sauce On

Earlier this year I decided I would like to have a plain cream pullover in my wardrobe. They're such a staple for me that I've been through a number of them over the years, as I wear them so often they tend to either become ratty or get something spilled on them before too long. I did technically have one already, but it was one I made back before I clued in to the importance of waist shaping, and it was knitted in an intricate rib pattern and in a DK weight, which made it too bulky. Nice as the sweater was in itself, it did not look good on me and I consequently had only worn it two or three times in the ten or so years I'd had it. So my existing cream pullover got taken apart, I washed the yarn, and I knitted it into a little dress and purse for my grandniece.

Then I got to select a pattern and yarn for my new cream pullover. Turtlenecks don't look good on me, so I looked for something fairly plain with a cowl neck, and in a fingering weight. After some searching on Ravelry, I decided that the design pictured above, Echoes of Winter, by Ruth Garcia-Alcantud, would suit. I bought 500 grams of Schachenmayr Merino Extrafine 170 and some little pearlized buttons for the project.

And here's my version of the sweater. I made quite a few mods. I knitted it on 3.5 mm needles rather than the suggested 4.5 mm needles. I found the heart motifs in the lace pattern too young and twee for my liking, so I went with the Rowan's Leaves Lace Pattern, as reproduced from Kathleen Kinder's book The Technique of Lace. I didn't use the shaping given in the pattern as I didn't want such a fitted look, but instead shaped it as most of my sweaters are shaped. I wish I'd added another repeat of the lace pattern to the waistband and cuffs. I also wasn't thrilled with the way the collar turned out. I shaped the neckline as the pattern indicated and calculated the number of collar stitches so that my collar would be the same length as the one in the pattern, but I must have gotten the latter calculation wrong as it is bigger in my version. The collar doesn't look too bad in the photo because I arranged it to my liking before taking the photo, but I doubt it can be relied upon to sit exactly that way through a day's wear. However, I am going to try test wearing it a few times, and just see how I like it before I fiddle with it any more.

I paired this sweater with a little tartan skirt I made earlier this year, but looking at them together I'm thinking I probably won't go with this combination, as it's a little too schoolgirlish, and I'm more than two decades too old for that look.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Vinyl, Baby. Vinyl.

Recently I went through my assortment of handbags, got rid of a few, and decided I could use some new ones, or more specifically three new ones: one in cream, one in dark brown, and one in a caramel brown. I bought the caramel handbag, and after much internet browsing and Pinterest research decided to make the cream and dark brown handbags. The very sharp sewn vinyl tote bag above really caught my eye, and there's an excellent tutorial available for it. I decided that it would be the model for my cream handbag.

And here's my version. I chose an ivory vinyl for the exterior, oval tortoiseshell plastic handles, and when I couldn't find a fun patterned fabric I liked for the lining, I went with a brown satin kasha lining. I'm pretty pleased with the combination. I also really liked that one can tailor the pockets to hold anything one likes. As you can see, my sunglasses fit nicely in one slot and I also created a pen slot. And my wallet nearly matches the lining, though I never thought of that when I was picking out fabrics. When you plan a wardrobe around a certain colour palette, things just do tend to work together well.

I do have a few notes on the tutorial. The instructions for the pocket placement will tell you to put the pocket too high -- so high that there won't be room at the top for the magnetic clasp and anything that goes in the pockets will stick out the top of the bag. I followed the instructions exactly and then wound up having to redo the lining completely. If you should use this tutorial make sure you don't make that mistake. Then the instructions tell you to pre-stitch one end of the tabs to the bag, and then put the handles on, fold the tabs down, and keep the tabs and handles in place with binder clips while you stitch around the top edge of the bag. The problem with this is that the binder clips make it impossible for one to stitch around the handles. I did it the way the tutorial said, had to take the binder clips off while stitching by the handles, and consequently got the handles on crooked. When I was redoing the stitching in the handle areas, after I put the handles on, I secured the tabs by folding the end of the tabs inside the bag and, when I had them folded just right, tacking both sides of the tabs together by hand with a few darning needle stitches. I made sure my hand stitches were placed lower than where the lining stitching line would be, so that once I had the lining stitched into the bag, the hand stitches I had taken were safely out of sight underneath it. Vinyl is a little nerve-wracking to work with, because any holes you make when working with it are permanent. You basically only get one chance to get a line of stitching right, and you can forget about using pins to keep things in place while you're stitching it.

However, it turned out well in the end. Looking at this cream bag, and looking at the pattern I've got picked out for my dark brown handbag, I'm rather regretting the purchase of my caramel bag. It cost more than both my sewn handbags combined, and I don't like it as much.

Update October 8, 2018: The vinyl handbag I made somehow got stained while sitting in my closet. Don't even ask me how, because I have no idea how that could have happened. I did my best to clean the blue and dark marks off it, but nothing that I tried worked. And so I took the handbag apart, salvaged the handles and magnetic clasp, and remade it. This time I used an ivory linen decor fabric for the outside. I also interfaced the bag so that it would stand alone. I didn't do it the first time around, and really regretted it. I'm quite pleased with the new version of the bag. It's the perfect summer handbag. I doubt I'll ever work with vinyl again. It so wasn't worth it.

The inside of the bag. I used a dark brown jacquard decor fabric that I'm so in love with.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Bartók Tunik Postink

This is the Bartók Tunik, designed by Julia Farwell-Clay. I've had my eye on this one since I reviewed the Interweave Knits Spring 2013 issue that it appeared in over two years ago, and finally got it done after I happened to find the yarn I liked for it on sale at Michaels one day. This pattern looked like a good pick for a sweater intended for wear around home: warm, casual yet attractive, and suitable for wear with the jeans, khakis, and yoga pants I wear around the house in winter.

And here's my version. For this sweater, I used Lion Brand Vanna's Choice in Olive for the main colour, and Lion Brand Lion's Pride Woolspun in Moss Mix for the accent colour. I used metal clasps to fasten the neckline rather than string ties, and added waist shaping, neatened up the fit, and nixed the longer back hem. I made the sleeves more fitted at the cuff as the loose fitting sleeves of the original would have driven me crazy. I hadn't a circular needle in the right size, so I knitted the body in two pieces on straight needles rather than on circulars as the pattern instructed. Looking on the finished item now, my regrets (I always have a few) are that I didn't choose a better quality yarn for the main colour, as well as one that was a lighter green so as to be more of a contrast with the accent colour. I also wish I'd made it in a slightly more relaxed fit. Oh well, worsted acrylic does stretch out somewhat over time, and the sweater's warm, machine washable and dryable, and presentable enough, so I'm not too displeased with my efforts.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Slippers for a Sister

Some months ago my foster sister Gayle flipped me the link to these slippers and asked me to make her a pair in the colours shown here. I agreed to do so, and tracked down the Ravelry page for them. They proved to be the Non-felted Slippers, designed by Yuko Nakamura, and to be a free pattern.

I couldn't have easily tracked down the yarn used in the sample shot above, so I went with Bernat Softee Chunky in Grey Ragg and Grey Heather. The slippers took just two evenings to make and though I don't like the yarn I used as well as the sample yarn they turned out pretty cute. I tried them on once for size and found them snug, which was ideal, as Gayle's feet are a full size smaller than mine. I also found that they would definitely stay securely on the feet, which should make them quite wearable. Then I duly wrapped them up and mailed them off to my sister, whose Facebook response was all delight and emoticons.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Ribbon Trimmed Polka Dot Dress, Take Two

This project plan began several years back when I decided I really ought to have dark summer dress in my wardrobe that would be suitable for a funeral if I should have to go to one. There have been three deaths in my family in the last four years, and I can tell you that when there's a death in one's family or circle of friends, the last thing one wants to do is scramble to find something to wear to the funeral.

In TV or movie funerals, all the female characters are generally shown in plain black dresses of a conservative cut worn with black hats, black stockings, black pumps, and pearls. In real life, people wear whatever they already have to funerals, and many women don't own those items. I wasn't about to put together an outfit like that even in advance, as it would be absurdly over the top compared to what other people would be wearing. I also don't wear black. Dark brown sounded like a good alternative. After a search for a suitable fabric, I ordered a brown cotton print with cream polka dots online. I then chose this pattern, which is Vogue 2900, for the dress, and decided I would trim my brown polka dot version with cream ribbon.

Here's the finished dress. It required 30 pieces of fabric -- how typical of Vogue Patterns! The pattern called for grosgrain ribbon, but Fabricland didn't have cream grosgrain ribbon in the right width, so I went with satin ribbon. The pattern also specified that I should stitch the ribbon on with a single line of stitching through its centre, but when I tried that it looked horrible. I found I needed to stitch the ribbon along both edges.

I made the slit neckline one inch shorter than called for, and I also had to lengthen the bodice to make room for my chest (otherwise the waist would have been just under my bustline), and then I ran into problems when it came time to put the zipper in. The 22" invisible zipper I'd put in it only went to the waist and then I couldn't get the dress on as the waist would not fit over either my chest or my hips. I then went on the hunt for a 26" invisible zipper. To my dismay I learned that it is standard for fabric stores to only carry up to 22" zippers in dress weight zippers. There are longer jacket zippers, but they are too coarse to put in a dress, and there are 50" duvet zippers, but they only come in a few colours. I finally found a 36" zipper in a shop on Queen Street West and cut it down. Even then, it was just a regular zipper, as invisible zippers don't come in that length. I think from now on when I make dresses for myself I'm going to have to put a 22" zipper in the back and another 8" at the waist on the left side, as that'll be a lot easier and less expensive than tracking down a longer zipper in the right colour.

I was pleased when I was finally finished. The result was a dress that is quiet enough for a funeral and yet not so sombre that I can't wear it elsewhere. As I was finishing it I had a sudden remembrance of a similar dress my mother made for me when I was about 14, circa 1988. That dress was a navy blue cotton with white polka dots and several rows of white grosgrain ribbon trim around the neck, sleeves, and hem. It had short sleeves and a round neck, but like this one it had a fitted bodice and hip section with a flared skirt, and it too was a Vogue pattern. I was very fond of that dress, and now I have a more adult, contemporary version of it to both remind me of it and enjoy on its own merits.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Filial Offering Slippers

This project plan was a very straight forward one: I decided to make my mother some slippers for her birthday in December, I selected a pattern, bought a skein of yarn, and knitted them up. The pattern I chose was the one pictured above: the Peach Basket Slippers, designed by Wendy Gaal, and priced at $5(USD). My mother is allergic to wool (I can't be thankful enough that I didn't inherit that allergy), which meant that I had to go with an acrylic yarn. I bought a single skein of Caron Simply Soft, in Ocean, which is a sort of teal.

And here's the result. I am pretty sure that this was the first time I had ever done any double knitting. It proved quite easy and practical and I'm not adverse to doing more some time. The construction was interesting. The body of the slipper is knitted in one piece, and then one picks up stitches around the slipper and works the cabled band in a continuous strip. The sizes come in narrow, medium, and wide, and the length is set by the knitter. My mother has wide Irish feet (which again fortunately I did not inherit, yay genetic lottery!) so I went with wide, and knitted them to be approximately a size 7. The result is a comfortable, sturdy, well-fitted, attractive slipper that should be fairly hard wearing. I'll be making these again even if it should turn out that my mother doesn't think these fit right and/or feel right and/or look right, and takes them apart in order to make herself something else with the yarn. This is, unfortunately, not at all unlikely.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tip of the Hat

In the spring of 2012, when I was buying the materials for this linen jacket, I thought it would be nice to make a linen hat to go with it. I selected Vogue pattern 8405 and bought extra linen for the project. I very much liked the shape of view D of the pattern, as well as the manner in which it was trimmed. Using a bit of extra ribbon to hide the seam of the ribbon band is a very clever idea, and looks so good.

It took me over three years to get around to actually sewing this project, and after I had actually worked with the linen to make the jacket, I decided linen wouldn't work for the pattern after all because the required hair canvas interfacing would show through it. I bought a half metre of ivory twill instead. Finding a ribbon for the band proved somewhat challenging. This band is created by sewing a checkered ribbon on top of a plain satin one, but while the satin ribbon was easy to find, tracking down neutral-coloured, attractively patterned ribbon in the right width proved unexpectedly difficult. I looked in Fabricland and in the ribbon stores on Toronto's Queen Street West, and had no luck. Finally I ordered a metre of ribbon I liked from an Etsy vendor.

And here's my version of the hat, in twill with a tartan band. It turned out quite well. It fits well and is becoming to me, and I like my ribbon and fabric choices better than those of the sample. Mine is not as evenly top stitched, though. I never can seem to get top stitching just so.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Thirties Style Sweater

I came across this old pattern, the Smart of Course design, a pattern that originally appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly in 1934, during some research for a post on 1930s knitwear for my knitting blog. I was immediately taken by its cleverness. This design has tabs around the neck to allow for the addition of a scarf, which seemed like a terrific way to both freshen up a basic sweater and pull one's entire outfit together. Thirties and forties fashion documentation is a veritable goldmine of ideas on how to put together a good wardrobe for very little outlay.

Here's the finished item. I used 4 skeins of Cascade Yarns Heritage Silk fingering in a dark brown, as I wanted a neutral sweater. I did have to do some reshaping. At 19" long and with a 36" chest, it was way too small for me. I made it in a size 38, lengthened it to 23", decreased the height of the waistband considerably, and also opened up the neckline some to make it wider and lower. I crocheted around the tabs to make them larger and more finished-looking. I liked the stitch used, which is a kind of broken rib, as it is incredibly elastic.

Here's an outfit I threw together so as to get the whole effect, and it's not a bad look. This sweater and skirt wouldn't look all that good together on their own, but add the scarf and it's suddenly an integrated and polished outfit. I'm going to be keeping an eye out for some long narrow scarves that will work with my skirts and trousers when I'm at thrift shops so as to maximize the potential of this versatile sweater.

A Schiparellian Outfit

The story of the recent sewing project that this post is nominally about began over five years ago when I decided to make myself one of the most iconic knitwear patterns out there: the Schiaparelli bowknot sweater, as pictured above.

Of course, I had to put my own stamp on it. I don't wear black, nor pink, so the original black or shocking pink colourways this sweater was made in were out. I considered brown, but that seemed too dull. I browsed around Romni Wool looking for inspiration and found some skeins in Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, in a burnt orange. It had a tweedy look to it, which would lend the sweater the flecked look it has in the original while sparing me from having to knit the sweater in the stranded method the pattern called for. For the intarsia bowknot, I chose Sublime Yarns Cashmere Merino Silk DK in cream. I am very far from having the boyish figure that was considered ideal in the 1920s and for which this sweater was designed, so I reshaped the design to suit me, widening and shortening it, adding waist shaping, and lowering the neckline. I also crocheted around the neckline, bottom hem, and cuffs to make them look more finished. The result was still very recognizably a Schiparelli bowknot sweater.

But then it turned out I never wore the sweater because I didn't have anything to wear with it. The Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool is a rather offbeat shade of orange, and moreover, the proportions of any potential coordinating pieces never looked right. These days I try to be better about planning ahead and making sure that whenever I make anything, I will be able to pair it with other existing items from my wardrobe to make at least one outfit, and preferably several. In this case, since I failed to think about such considerations in advance, the planning had to take place after the fact. Last winter I decided it was time I bought or made something to go with the sweater so that I could wear it.

I was at a loss to figure out what kind of bottom pieces would go with the sweater, so I did some online research to see how other people were styling their bowknot sweaters. I ended up concluding that other bowknot sweater knitters had also been less than successful at outfit planning. Some were putting their black bowknot sweaters over jeans, which looked okay, but I didn't think mine, being orange, would look right. The only outfit I found that really worked was in this old 1920s photo, and from it I got the idea that I should make a pleated skirt, as a sweater with such plain lines needed something with width and interest at the bottom for balance.

Off I went to the Vogue Pattern website, where I looked for a pleated skirt design. I didn't find one, as pleated skirts are not in at present, but I did find the pieced, full-skirted, bias-cut V9031, pictured above, which I decided would pair very well with the bowknot sweater. The next step was to find the right fabric. I took the bowknot sweater to Fabricland and carried it around comparing it to the fabrics for sale in an effort to find something that went. I found a brown plaid with the same burnt orange colour in it that went admirably. It was on sale, and I had a $5 coupon I'd printed offline, so I wound up buying the fabric and the zipper for $3. Score.

But then it came time to make the skirt, and it turned out that making a skirt that called for thirteen pattern pieces out of such a bold plaid is not a particularly good idea. WHO KNEW. I'd never worked much with plaid. I think the only plaid things I ever sewed were either things like plaid flannel bathrobes and pajama bottoms (that no one bothers to match), and very subtle plaids (that don't need to be matched). And now I was having my first experience of plaid matching on project that required ninja level plaid matching skills. I soon realized that I was going to have to pick my battles: I wasn't going to get a perfect match on the front or back pieces but was going to have to settle for creating a visual through line of that bold central stripe, and I wasn't going to be able to match the sides at all. Accomplishing even this much was difficult. A skirt that I would ordinarily have been able to knock off in an afternoon took several months, as I kept getting frustrated with it and abandoning it. The only things that saved this project from ruin were that I had enough fabric to be able to cut out a couple of pieces a few times each, and that this was a very tough fabric that stood up to many repeated stitchings and rippings without ever showing wear and tear. Eventually the skirt got done, and I'm pretty pleased with the result. This is a rather smart skirt that I will be able to wear with quite a few other items from my closet.

This skirt was designed to be left unhemmed, but I hemmed it. My mother did not raise me to go around with my hems undone.

And here's the completed outfit. It works, but I'm not sure I'm done with it yet. Looking at my Schiaparelli sweater, I am wishing I had taken the modifications steps further to make the sweater more appealing by contemporary standards.

I may at some point reknit the sweater to make it look more like this (crocheted) one, but we'll see.

Update: I did indeed reknit my Schiaparelli sweater with a new design. You can read all about it here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cauliflower's Dress & Purse

This project began with a need, or rather a want, as I wanted to make my grandniece a dress and matching purse for her sixth birthday and she needs another dress about as much as Princess Charlotte probably does. I decided that I could use some cream Naturally Loyal 8ply DK that I had lying around after having taken apart the sweater it had originally been knitted into. This pattern from my library, which is pattern #18 from Family Circle Knitting's Fall 1997 issue, seemed like a good fit for the yarn. I've made it before. Years ago I made it in a lilac colour, decorated with with purple and green beads, for a niece of mine. This time it would be made in cream, and I bought some iridescent blue and green beads to go with it.

And here's the finished dress. I changed the shaping of the dress slightly by adding armhole shaping in order to raise the dropped shoulder. I used beads instead of buttons, as I thought the buttons have a kitschy effect and the beads look much prettier and dressier. I did wish I'd bought one set of beads in a different shape to add to the visual interest.

Once the dress was done, I thought about the all-important matching purse. I wanted to do something different from the usual drawstring purse I usually do, so I selected the Teeny Bag pattern, designed by by Pierrot (Gosyo Co., Ltd), decided to knit it in a plain stockinette pattern to match the dress, and to decorate it with knitted flowers and leaves in blue and green, with some of the leftover beads for further embellishment.

I selected this Knitted Flower pattern, designed by Ravelry user Miss Crafty Fingers, and this Small Leaf pattern, by Lesley Stanfield.

Here's the finished purse. I altered the flower pattern slightly, making it a few inches smaller. I could have done better with the arrangement of the leaves, but oh well. I sewed a snap just inside the opening to keep Cauliflower's little treasures secure. I meant to line it with some pale blue satin I have lying around, but I kept putting off finishing the bag and then ran out of time.

The dress and purse together. I'm pretty sure Miss Cauliflower won't have to be made to wear it.