Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The "Dress Form vs Me" Top

Last spring sometime I decided I wanted a nice brown top short-sleeved or sleeveless top to wear with my skirts in summer. I had a brown t-shirt or two, but I wanted something a little nicer so that I could dress up the look a little more.

After some looking around I decided I couldn't do better than this view from Vogue Pattern V1387. It looked easy to wear and as though it would be flattering on me.

And here's the finished top. I found a beautiful quality dark brown silk for it. I had to add four inches to the bodice length and then cut the bottom parts down in height -- this is an alteration I have to make in every top or dress with a defined waistline so as to have the waistline at my actual waist rather than hoicked up under my chest. The top doesn't consequently show to advantage on the dress form as it doesn't have the bosom I do, the bodice looks too long and baggy, and the waistline sits on the forms' hips. Oh well, the important thing is it does sit right on me. And that now I have a top that will look good with at least four of my summer skirts and a pair of brown sandals.

Successive Ruffles

I've made lots of knitted dresses for my grandniece Cauliflower over her short life, but she's going on nine now and it's time to make the move to sewing dresses rather than knitting them. This year, for her ninth birthday, I decided to sew the first dress for her.

The dress pattern I chose for her was McCall's M7274. And of course there must be a purse made to go with it, so I used a drawstring bag pattern from Vogue 9893, a pattern I bought about 17 years ago and that's no longer available.

And here's the completed dress and purse. It was surprisingly difficult to find an appropriate material for it. It seemed like every printed jersey fabric I saw in the stores was either too adult or just plain ugly. Finally I came across this pink flowered jersey and picked it up on the spot because Cauliflower's favourite colour is pink, only to learn a month or so later that I'm out of the loop on her favourite colours, which are now blue and turquoise. Sigh.

The contrast fabric was supposed to be a non-fraying fabric such as tulle or lace, but it was difficult to find a fabric that went with the jersey, so I settled on a very light crepe in a coral pink that was a good match to the pink flowers on the fabric. This cost me some extra work in sewing, as that crepe had to be hemmed, and then the jersey flounces had to have a correspondingly deeper hem allowance if the hemmed underlay ruffles were going to show. I had also barely done any ruffling at all in my sewing experience, and I'd certainly never done tiered ruffles, so that was a new experience. Ruffles are actually quite a lot of work, as they have to be seamed, hemmed, gathered, and then first basted and finally stitched in place. And there were six of them to do. It gave me a new appreciation of what nineteenth and eighteenth century seamstresses had to do, given that women's dresses were often ruffled from waist to hem, and why there's so much complaining about sewing ruffles in the novels from the period.

Anyway, the dress and purse are done and it turned out fairly well. I just hope Cauliflower will like it.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Impulse Control Cardigan

Five years ago, I made my last impulse purchase of yarn. My rule now is that I only buy what I specifically need for planned projects, and I'm also trying to move to basing project plans on need, or at least on using up materials I have on hand, rather than on pure whim. Meanwhile, for the entire past five years, my last impulse purchase has served as a wholesome reminder of why I needed such policies.

While spending Christmas with family in Listowel, Ontario, in December 2012, I visited Spinrite yarn's factory outlet and purchased some Patons Decor yarn in a shade called "Rose Temptation", or what I would describe as a dusty rose, as well as some ivory lace weight angora mohair, with the idea that I'd make a dusty rose cardigan with a fair isle pattern on it in the angora mohair, used double. I didn't have a pattern chosen, and estimated the amount I would need. I began the sweater almost immediately, improvising the design with the help of a couple of different patterns, and nearly finished it before I realized I wasn't satisfied with it, that I hadn't shaped the neck right in the front and that the shawl collar consequently wasn't going to sit right. I also hated the thought of having to handwash the cardigan as I would have had to do, due to the presence of the angora mohair. The failed project sat around for a year or two. In November 2014, I ripped out the first design and purchased another cardigan pattern, this one being a garter stitch and cabled trimmed project that was knitted from side to side in only the dusty rose yarn. I got a front piece, a sleeve, and part of the back finished before I ran into difficulties with it as well, and put it aside. It wasn't until this past month that I got back to it, and I realized that not only were there technical and fit problems with my work, but that I didn't like it -- the loose garter stitch required by the pattern was too loose for my liking and looked messy. I ripped the sweater out again and searched Ravelry for a third worsted weight cardigan pattern. It had to be a cardigan because hey, I'd bought buttons.

After some browsing, I found the Forestry or Old Penny Cardigan design, created by Veronik Avery. It's a nice pattern, but so were a number of others that I found. This one won out because I already had the pattern, as I owned a copy of the Vogue Knitting Fall 2008 issue that it was in.

And here's the sweater. Though I finished this third design, it wasn't all smooth sailing either, as the pattern was poorly edited. I had finished the pieces, blocked them, seamed them together, and was picking up the stitches for the collar/button band ribbing when I found a discrepancy in the instructions. I checked the errata on the Vogue Knitting site only to find that there was another mistake in the left front instructions that I hadn't noticed. (I also found some muddled places in the instructions that weren't noted in the errata.) I had to take apart the seams that held the left front piece and reknit almost the whole piece, which is why I didn't manage to finish this project by the end of 2017 as I had planned. From now on I'll be checking Ravelry pattern pages for errata before I begin a new project.

I made just one modification to this sweater, which was to add buttonholes and use buttons instead of snaps as in the sample knit. I am pleased with the design and how it turned out and I am sure I will get plenty of wear out of this attractive and sensible cardigan.

But whenever I'm tempted to buy yarn on impulse, I will remember this project: how the design idea I came up with on the spot didn't work, how I didn't need the sweater and took years to finish it, how I had nearly 200 grams of yarn left when I finally finished it that I couldn't return.

I'm going to count this yarn as stash yarn since it was bought so long ago. This project used up 500 grams of stash yarn.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

An Iconic Hoodie

The project plan for this item was based on a need: I had a beloved dark brown thrift shop hoodie that I basically live in in the winter months but that had become too worn and shrunken and pilly to be presentable any longer, and decided to knit a replacement.

I searched Ravelry for a good hoodie pattern in a DK weight, and found the Celtic Icon pattern, designed by Fiona Ellis. I bought 750 grams of a dark brown Merino Extrafine 120 to make it with.

This was a seriously time intensive project, but it was worth it, and it's so much nicer than my old ratty hoodie that I no longer regret its passing. When I had finished pressing the seams and had taken a few photos of the finished hoodie, I put it right on and wore it for the rest of the day. I'm wearing it as I write this. I'll be wearing it for much of the winter and for winters to come until it wears out. Man, is it ever satisfying to make a project that beautifully fills an actual need.

And there was an unexpected stash busting, money-saving bonus. After I'd begun knitting the hoodie, I came across 100 grams of a virtually identical yarn, a dark brown Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, in my stash while I was looking for something else. I ended up using that stash yarn to make one front piece, one side panel, and to sew the sweater together, which meant I could return two unused skeins of the Merino Extrafine 120. Can you see the difference between the two yarns? I can't. It's really astounding that two yarns from two different brands, with two different fibre contents, and purchased a decade apart, are so similar. They even had exactly the same amount of twist.

I had nothing but a few scraps of yarn left when I finished, so this project, which was supposed to be made out of entirely new yarn, subtracted 100 grams of yarn from my stash.

The Cat on the Back

Last year I tried to use up some green wool DK I had on hand by knitting it into a pullover with some new yarn I'd bought for the purpose. It turned out that the yarn refused to spring back -- nothing I did to the finished sweater fixed the rumpled and rutted look of its green stockinette. I used the second yarn I had bought to make two new projects this year, and with that done, it was time to see what could be done with the green. I thought I could felt with it. I didn't even have to use the Ravelry project database to pick out a pattern, as I immediately thought of one that I had on hand.

This is the Panda Backpack, designed by Linda Cyr. It appeared in a nineties-era issue of Family Circle Knitting, which I had in my knitting library. And how cute is it? I thought it would be the perfect thing to make for my friend's toddler, my honorary niece Olivia. I found some teal yarn (actually, small amounts of several very similar types of teal yarn) to accent the green, and some cream yarn to go with them both. But rather than putting a panda on the bag's pocket, I decided to put a cat on it. Olivia is cat-fixated. Her first word was "cat", and she gets very excited whenever she sees a cat anything in a store. And hey, why not feed her obsession, since that's the kind of aunt I am? For the cat image, I used the graph from The Cat's Out of the Bag felted tote bag pattern, designed by Deborah Tomasello.

Here's the finished bag. I ran into a few snags during the process. For one thing, the green yarn refused to felt, despite my most strenuous efforts. I put it through a hot water machine wash twice, tried felting by hand first in hot tap water and then in a steaming pot of water on the stove, and also put it in the dryer three separate times. No dice. I don't know what kind of yarn it is, but I do know it is 100% wool, so it must have been superwash wool. I can't say my efforts were entirely wasted, though, because I did manage to get rid of that awful rumpled look -- the yarn sprang back. This at least meant it was worth proceeding to finish the project. It's bigger than it's supposed to be, of course, but it's still a very suitable size for a toddler.

The other problem I ran into was that I couldn't seem to find a toggle that looked right. Rather than buy one of the ones Fabricland had, I decided I'd save my money and make a knitted flower that would serve as a toggle and echo the flowered print I'd chosen as a lining. The pattern doesn't call for lining the bag, but my unfelted version really needed lining to give it shape and structure, because it was sad and limp-looking and would stretch all to hell as soon as Olivia put any of her little treasures in it. I used a cotton floral print and the stiffest interfacing I had on hand. The bottom interfacing is hair canvas, and the body and top flap has some sort of thick, soft, fleecy interfacing. The lining I made ended up looking so good and fitting so smoothly into the bag that I was half-tempted to turn it inside out. And it gave the bag quite a good shape and body -- it can nearly stand alone.

So, all's well that ends well, but I wasn't too thrilled with this one. It's okay, but it's not as cute as the sample bag. But Olivia will probably like it, and that's what matters. As you can see, I also got her a book to go with it. I would have put a cat-themed print lining in the bag too, but couldn't find one that went with my colour scheme.