Saturday, January 31, 2015

Let's Talk About Socks

Nothing seems to convince a non-knitter that you are a nutjob faster then telling them you knit your own socks. The reactions are predictable and feel inevitable. "Why make them when you can buy socks to cheap?" "Why would you spend that kind of money on socks?" I've gotten everything from scorn to open-mouthed staring when knitting my socks. Well, I'm here to tell you that if you have to ask why bother then you have clearly never had the pleasure of wearing hand-knit socks.

The most common reaction seems to be to question the amount of money spent on socks. And yes, you can easily spend $40 or more on enough yarn for one pair of socks. I've drooled over plenty of skeins of hand-dyed sock yarn (The "Supernatural" inspired line of colors by Playat Life Fiber Arts comes immediately to mind, although it's pretty reasonably priced for what it is) but I've never been able to justify forking over that kind of money. I think the most I've ever spent on sock yarn was $26, and I was using it in a sweater. Usually, my socks cost me closer to $10, which is less than I've seen women's wool socks go for in stores like Cabela's or REI.

I also want to point out that my first pair of socks was lace (which can wear out quicker than a more solid fabric), it was done with a single-ply yarn (which I later learned was bad for socks because it wears out too quickly), I've thrown them in both the washer and dryer (another sock no-no) and yet after three and a half years of constant wear they are still in good shape. If I wear a hole in the socks I'll darn them and probably get a couple more years out of them. So if these are socks where I did just about everything wrong imagine how long a decent pair will last me. Not bad for a $10 investment.

Here is a picture, in case you wanted to know what they look like:

I also get a lot of people asking me why bother making socks. I have a couple of reasons. 1) They are comfortable. Seriously. I spend my entire work day on my feet and I nice cushy pair of socks really does make a difference at the end of the day. I wear my wool socks all year round too. A lot of people think that all wool does is keep you warm. That actually isn't the case. Wool wicks moisture away from your skin far better than cotton so on hot days when your feet are sweating you will be happier in wool socks. And reason 2) I find the process of knitting socks enjoyable. I've always got at least one pair of socks cast on. I keep them in my purse so I always have something to do with unexpected downtime. They also typically don't require that much attention on my part so I can watch TV and still work on them. I like working on double-points, and I like working with finer yarns. I've made at least a dozen pairs of socks in the last three years and I am still amused by turning the heel. In short, knitting socks makes me happy.

Here is a picture of a sock that I made last week. I named it "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot" because the original pattern was called Earl Grey which naturally made me thing of Star Trek and Jean-Luc Picard (even though I'm pretty sure it was named after the color of the original yarn).

And these are my all time favorite socks. I've made this pattern twice. It's called Hermione's Everyday Socks. I love them so much that I've just cast on a new pair of socks by the same designer. They are also Harry Potter themed (Also, sorry for the background in this picture, I didn't know I would someday be posting it in a blog when I snapped it). I'll post a link the pattern and a picture when I finish them.

Point being, I really like socks. Especially socks wish slightly nerdy names. So be prepared for a lot of socky goodness on this blog.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Tatting Borders for Handkerchiefs

My grandmother gave me a couple tatting shuttles so long ago that I don't even remember how old I was. I've made a lot of strings of rings, but I've never managed to stay interested long enough to actually finish a tatting project. That changed a couple months ago. I was in an antique shop with my boyfriend, he was looking for hand tools, I was just looking at the beautiful items on display. I found a handkerchief with the prettiest tatted border I had ever seen. I'm a fool, so I didn't take a picture. I am still kicking myself for not buying it. I've got no problem blowing my nose on a hanky or handwashing them later, but I do not like the idea of blowing my nose on something that a stranger has used, no matter who or how many times it's been washed since then. So I walked out without the hanky, but with a sudden desire to make my own.

I've used handkerchiefs for years, but I never thought about actually making them myself or adorning them. I'm not sure why. My personal philosophy is that just because something is meant to be functional doesn't mean it can't also be beautiful. And so I went to my local fabric store. I really wanted handkerchief linen, which they didn't have, but they did have some batiste. Y'all, I am now obsessed with batiste. I want to make everything out of it. I had never worked with it, or really heard of it prior to my trip to the store. I got cotton, although it also comes in cotton/silk blends. It's very lightweight, with an even weave and it is delightfully soft. My nose is so happy.

So I bought a yard, at all of $4.95 and I cut 8 12"x12" squares out of it so that I would have 10"x10" hankies. I decided to go ahead and hem them by hand using a hemstitch. I figured if I was going to tat edges for them I might as well really go all the way and hem them by hand too. I used this tutorial from Little House in the Suburbs to figure out how to actually do the hemstitch because I had never done it before. It came out really beautiful if I do say so myself.

It also took me about three hours per handkerchief. These are labors of love that I blow my nose on. 

So, having completed (all but one) handkerchief I decided it was time to start working on the borders. As previously mentioned I've done a lot of shuttle tatting, but I've never actually finished a project. I decided to do a youtube search to figure out how to attach a border to the hanky. And thus I found RustiKate. First I was a little jealous that she had come up with such an awesome play on our shared name, then I was blown away by how clear and easy to follow her videos are. 

Now, she doesn't shuttle tat, she needle tats. I had never tried needle tatting before, but I liked the idea of tatting directly onto my handkerchief because if nothing else it meant I couldn't get bored with/loose the project before I finished or I would loose my hanky and when you already three hours invested in something you don't want to give it up that easily. 

And so, on the 25th of January I completed my first tatting project.

I thought it would be best to start simple and learn only one or two new skills at a time, so for this handkerchief I just did an easy chain border. This one is just 4ds p 4ds p 4ds p 4ds. Despite it's relative ease I am pleased with how it came out. If I did it again I would space the loops a little further apart but by the time I realized it would look better that way I was already committed. It took me a couple days to finish the tatting, but never worked on it for very long in a sitting.

Having successfully completed that one I'm on to hanky number two. This time I wanted to learn how to make and attach rings, and reverse my work to attach and chain to a ring.

This is what I've done so far, I just started working on it yesterday. This picture also lets you see the hemstitch a little more clearly. Despite having barely started this one I'm already thinking about my next project. Next time I want to learn how to join the picots. Having discovered how quick and easy needle tatting is, I'm not sure I'll ever go back to shuttle tatting, but never say never.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mending Jeans

Let me tell you about my favorite pair of jeans. They are Lucky Jeans. They fit like they were made for me specifically. I am literally loving them to pieces. My mom found them at a thrift store and wore them until she couldn't anymore, then she gave them to me and I wore them to work almost every day for ages. Last week I used the essential jean mending method from the blog Create/Enjoy to fix a hole on the right side of the inner thigh, today I sat cross-legged and ripped the left side so this time I took pictures as I fixed it.

Here is the hole in my pants:

Step one was to cut out piece of heavy fusible interfacing (projects like these are a good reason to keep your interfacing scraps) a bit bigger than the hole and ironed it on. 

The next thing I did was sew around the edge of the interfacing. Even though in theory the interfacing is now fused in place, let's be real, that stuff doesn't actually stay very well and you don't want those edges coming loose the first time you wash the jeans.

And then you just stitch back and forth over the hole. You can do this from the right or wrong side of the pants. The first time I used this method I was too lazy to get my jeans out from under the pressure foot on my machine after sewing the edges of my interfacing so I sewed from the wrong side.

Pro tip: try not to sew the leg of your pants shut like I did. If you do, no big deal. Just clip those stitches and re-do that part. 

Here is what it looked like after I finished fixing my goof-up:

And here is the fixed hole from the right side:

I love this way of fixing jeans. It took all of about five minutes, even with me screwing up and stopping to take pictures, and it requires no hand-sewing. I'm telling you, the gal who came up with this is a genius. It's my go-to for extending the life of my jeans.

Operation Dress Nicer

Have you ever woken up one day, gone to get dressed, and realized that you hate all your clothes? I don't know how it happened, it sort of snuck up on me, but I started to really look at the things I was wearing and I realized they were all, torn, stained, didn't fit right, or I just didn't like them anymore. This realization came to me in November, and that was when I came up with a new mission: Operation Dress Nicer. So this year I've got a simple goal, spruce up my wardrobe.

Now, I know I could just go out and spend a couple hundred dollars (that I really don't have) on some new clothes, but that idea doesn't really appeal. Clothes these days are made to be disposable. Spending my hard-earned money on something that is designed to only last a couple of months and then be thrown away rubs me the wrong way. And frankly a lot of what is available is really ugly. Call me old-fashioned, but I'm still not convinced that leggings can be worn as a substitute for pants, and a lot of the shirts I'm seeing seem to be missing the bottom half. The prints are odd, the colors even weirder. I just wanted some good, basic staples that I can wear to work. Jeans, t-shirts, some button ups. The more clothing I tried on, the more frustrated I got though. And finding anything that was actually made in the United States? Forget about it.

So, realization number two: if I want nice clothes, I'm just going to have to make them myself. I've started this blog to keep track of what I make over the course of the year, and to help me figure out what clothing I actually use, and what I can live without. I've been using Ravelry to track my knitting for a few years, but I'm curious what my year of sewing looks like, or how much time I spend doing other crafts. Operation Dress Nicer begins now.