Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Newest Button-up

It took me ages to get around to writing this post. I guess this week I've been more focused on crafting than writing about said crafting. I finished up the button-up that I mentioned in the last post.

I know it isn't a great picture, but I didn't have anyone around to help me take a better one. I'm pretty content with the way it turned out. Next time I am not going to bother top-stitching the collar band because I just don't think it's necessary and I don't like the way it looks, but it doesn't bother me enough to pick it back out. I am very happy with the two inches of added length because I can wear it tucked or untucked to work and know that the tattoo on my back will not be putting in an unexpected appearance. Grading from the size 18 to the 16 from bust to waist was also effective because I don't have even a little bit of pull on the top button (which is a bit of a miracle at my bust size).

I didn't use a proper shirting material for this one, instead I just went with plain old "country cotton" from Jo-Ann's. Although it is thinner I actually think I like the drape of this a little bit more than the shirt I made with shirting. The shirting is nice because it's thick (no worries about a colorful bra showing through) but I also don't like it because it's so thick, it doesn't feel as nice to wear. Plus in my world 100% cotton will always beat fabric with spandex. 

There is a linen-cotton blend with a floral print at Jo-Ann's that I really want to use for another of these tops, then I think I am going to try making the version with princess seams. I don't really care for tight tops, but I think I would like to try something with just a little more fit/shape to it. 

I'll be back tomorrow to talk about finishing my pi-shawl.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Today was a Good Day

Today was a good day for crafting. I didn't finish any projects, but I did make headway on a couple.

I didn't get my pi-shawl done by the 13th like I had hoped. I was going to wear it to a friend's funeral, but by the fifth chart it was taking about 45 minutes per two rounds, and I would have had to skip either work or sleep to get it done. I've got 14 rounds of the sixth chart and the bind-off left to go now. I got 8 rounds done today, so I'm pretty sure I'll finish it this week. I'll post a picture when it is blocked, but right now it just looks like a funny black pile of yarn because I've got it all bunched up on circular needles.

I'm especially eager to get it done because my knit-picks order came today and I try very hard to only have one big project on the needles at a time. Last week I ordered yarn for three new cardigans, I really wasn't expecting it to show up until next week.

I am particularly excited about the light colored yarn in the front of the box. It is 70% linen and 30% cotton. I don't normally do anything but dish-clothes out of cotton because I don't think it has enough recovery for sweaters and I don't like having to wash a sweater every single time I wear it just to shrink it back to shape, but I've never knit with linen before and I'm really excited to give it a try and see what happens. All I know about it is that it's supposed to get softer with every wash. I've picked out a 3/4 sleeve cardi pattern and I think it will make a nice summer sweater. As I make the sweaters I'll link to patterns and talk more about the yarn (oh, and I'm sure it goes without saying, but I am in no way affiliated with knit-picks).

Today I also spent some time sewing. I started with the blue button-up shirt that I cut out a couple days ago. I just need to put the cuffs on the sleeves, attach the sleeve to the body, and do the buttonholes/buttons and then it is ready to go. It's probably only an hours worth of work at most, but I just ran out of steam to finish tonight. I'm sure I'll get it done tomorrow though. 

I do want to call attention to my sleeve placket. This is one of the modifications I made to the original pattern. Instead of doing the sleeve placket the way instructions call for I use this tutorial. It's easy to follow and makes a beautiful placket every time. I used to hate making button-up shirts because I couldn't do buttonholes and I couldn't do the placket. Well, now that I have an automatic buttonhole foot and this tutorial I have no fear anymore.

I think it looks pretty handsome if I do say so myself. I'll post another picture when the cuff is attached/the shirt is done. 

That's it for today, I've got to go make dinner now (stir-fry, yum). I'll write more about my shirt when I finish it tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cutting Project Pieces

As I mentioned yesterday I've been sick. I'm finally starting to feel better, but now my boyfriend's got it. I've got a bunch of sewing projects that I've been meaning to get to, but he was trying to take a nap, so I didn't want to actually run the sewing machine. As a result, I've spent my afternoon cutting out projects, without actually doing any sewing.

Top left is a new cotton button-up, top right is a denim pencil skirt (view C if you zoom in on the picture) and the bottom pile of white fabric will be sewn into two pillowcases. I'll give more details on each project when I actually sew them up.

I've also got a knit that I'm planning on making into a skirt. It's got 3/4" white and 1/4" black stripes. I was originally planning on making it into an a-line, but I hadn't really handled the fabric. I inherited it when my grandmother passed last spring. I love the stripes, but I hadn't realized the fabric was a knit until I shook it out to cut it. Now that I know it's a knit I'm thinking about making a second of my favorite knit pencil skirt. BUT the directionality of the stretch is such that I would end up with horizontal stripes. Not sure I want that in a pencil skirt. Now I'm conflicted. Would you make a horizontally striped pencil skirt?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pattern Tracing

From what I've seen on some sewing forums tracing pattern pieces can be a surprisingly contentious issue. Some sewers think that it is a total waste of time, while others can't imagine using a pattern without tracing a copy first. I fall somewhere in the middle. If I have a pattern that I know I'm going to use a lot I trace my size onto a separate piece of paper. If I'm pretty sure I'm going to make it once and never again I don't bother tracing. I trace for a couple of reasons, first and foremost because I hate trying to cut my fabric underneath the pattern, but I refuse to just cut out the size that I need because what if I gain or lose weight latter? I certainly don't want to have to buy the pattern all over again because I destroyed the size I need. And speaking of destroying, I don't want to wear out a beloved pattern by using it too much. And the third reason I like to trace patterns is that it makes alterations easier.

At the end of January, I made a button-up shirt (Butterick 5526 view B if you are interested). I made the size 16, and it fits well enough to wear, I'm not going to pop a button or anything, but there is a little more pull across the bust than is ideal. So today I pulled out the tracing paper to try and alter the pattern a little bit.

As you can tell in this picture I had to tape two pieces of tracing paper together to make it wide enough. I bought the 18" roll of paper because it was cheaper, but when I finally run out I'm going to get a 24" role because the tape is annoying. I laid my tracing paper over the pattern and just traced the lines with a sharpie. It's very important as you are tracing to copy all of the pattern notes and notations as well. You can see in the picture that I copied the button placement, and ease marks. It was super easy, and this way I could easily taper from the size 18 bust to the 16 waist. I also added 2" at the waist. I have a long torso and even though the first shirt I made was long enough to wear, I'm not convinced I could tuck it in and have it stay. I very rarely tuck in my shirts, but I like to know it's an option. 

I'll post more about the actual shirt later. I'm sick right now and just tracing the pattern used up all of my energy. I've got a nice blue cotton fabric waiting to be made into this shirt, and if I like the way the alterations go there is a gorgeous linen/cotton floral print at Jo-Anne's just calling my name. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

ArtChain Day Four

Today I decided to totally mix it up. Instead of my usual fiber related clothing type craft, I'm showing you paper flowers for #artchain day four.

A couple years ago in a fit of insanity/boredom I decided to make some paper flowers. I had been seeing a bunch of internet tutorials and it looked like a fun way to pass an afternoon. I picked out four tutorials, only two of which seem to still be available. I made standard paper roses, calla lilies, spiral roses, and kusudama. I picked up a paperback book at Goodwill for $2.00. I don't remember the name, I just know they had three copies and it was 600 pages of nice thin paper.

I really meant to just make about 30 or so flowers, enough for one vase-full to put on my dining room table. But then I thought they looked a little boring in plain white so I started dying the paper. I used tea, coffee, and some undrinkable bad red wine I had in the fridge. By the end of the weekend, I had about 300 flowers in varying shades of pale pinks, creams, and browns. I don't feel bad about it because I only spent $2.00 on the whole project. Everything else I had around the house already.

This isn't even all of them here, I have more in a box in storage. I keep these on a shelf in front of my window in the kitchen. I would have taken a picture of them there, but it was too dark by the time I got home from work. A decerning eye might notice that you could see some of them in yesterday's picture of my dress though. All in all, it was a slightly ridiculous, but very enjoyable and inexpensive use of a weekend.

Monday, February 9, 2015

ArtChain Day Three

For the third day of my #artchain challenge, I'm posting pictures of a dress that I designed and made in December. As with most dresses, it looks better on me than on the hanger, but I just haven't had the energy for a proper photo shoot recently, so it's this or a really dark really grainy selfie taken the day of the wedding.

I know it's hard to tell in the photo, but the dress is made up of 23 panels. It's all french seams, so it's fully finished. The neck and armholes are finished with bias tape. I hemmed it by hand using a catch stitch. The fabric is an absolutly glorious silk/cotton blend, and it's just a bit more teal and less blue in real life than it is in these pictures.. It's got a light hand, and it's a satin weave. Even though it was a blend it behaved like silk as I was working with it.

Ever heard the phrase that cutting silk is like cutting water? Well, it totally is. I spent ages making sure that my pattern pieces were laid out on grain, but it still ended up off a bit, and even if you are only off by a tiny bit, when you have 23 panels the error compounds. I got really lucky and my dress ended up with about a 90-degree twist that I actually like the look of. It's very obvious when I wear it, and not so clear in pictures. I know this photo is a little silly looking, but I taped the dress to the wall so you could see the way it twisted more clearly. 

Silk also starts to unravel the moment that you cut it. I cut each panel as I needed it while sewing the dress so that it had less time to fray. That also meant that I put the whole thing together in about two days because my sewing room is the living room and the fabric took up the whole floor when it was laid out for cutting. I didn't want to just leave it there, but I also couldn't pick it up because of the aforementioned grain issue. 

Really the most time-consuming part of this dress was doing the math to draft it. Math in schools seems so boring because you are given really silly problems like measuring the height of a flagpole from its shadow, but I love geometry when applied to real life, like figuring out what size to make each piece for this dress. 

All in all it was a great project, and I'm pretty darn proud of how it turned out. One of these days, I'll take proper pictures of it, but in the meantime, here is the dark, grainy, selfie so you can at least kind of see what it looked like on me. 

You get bonus points if you recognized the shawl that I'm wearing as the shawl from yesterday's artchain post. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

ArtChain Day Two

Today's Artchain picture is a more recent project. Back in October my boyfriend and I went on a date up in Bellingham, and because he is wonderful and loves me very much he agreed to go into a yarn shop that we found. The upper level of the shop was all spinning fibers. I got really excited because they had all sorts of delightful exotic fibers that I had never gotten to touch in real life before. The absolutely most amazingly soft one was baby camel. I didn't get any at the time, but I kept thinking about it.

About a month later my birthday rolled around and as a special treat to myself I bought eight heavenly ounces of undyed baby camel commercial top.

I bought the top with the intention of spinning it into yarn to make a shawl to wear to a wedding about six weeks later. I'm actually sort of shocked that I made it with a couple weeks to spare and about 200 yards of yarn left. I think the rest of the camel will get knit into a cowl. It's so soft that wearing it around my neck sort of feels obligatory.

And there is the shawl, plus the left-over skein of yarn. It's a bit of a departure from my usual lace shawls, but the solidity of it was nice for a late December wedding and I felt like the yarn was displayed better this way. The pattern is The Winter Sparkles Shawl, with smaller yarn and more repeats. It was a pleasantly brain-less knit and I'm pleased with how to the shawl turned out. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

ArtChain Day One

I don't know if y'all have seen it, but there is a hashtag making the rounds called #artchain. I have never used a hashtag before today, but my friend Holly tagged me so I'm participating. Even though I made this blog with the intention to document current projects I thought I would go ahead and post my artchain projects here in addition to facebook. Today I posted the knitting project about which I am most proud.

I designed the skirt, socks, and gloves myself. The skirt won me a blue ribbon from the county fair last summer, and I got third place for the socks. 

All the yarn is a lace-weight recycled cashmere/silk blend from the Etsy shop Penelopes Fine Yarns (with which I am in no way affiliated). Check out the shop if you want luxury yarns for affordable prices. The owner is super nice and the yarn ships quickly.

Anyway, the socks were made on size 000 needles, the gloves were made one size 1 and the skirt and shawl were size 6. I used about 3000 yards of yarn and I have no idea how many hours it took me. I tried to keep track, but I lost the exact number. If I had to hazard a guess I would say I spent more than 200 hours, about 100 of which was just one the socks. 

The skirt comes just below my knees, the socks come a couple inches above them. The gloves around a couple inches above my elbow. 

I have a confession to make about these clothes. Other than trying them on to make sure they fit, I've never worn these items. They are my most time-consuming and labor intensive project of all time and I'm afraid of ruining them. I guess I just haven't had the right occasion. Even if I never do wear them, I think that might be okay. They were made for the art of it, and they make me happy just to look at.

So there you have it folks. ArtChain day 1. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


It's official, I'm back to where I was before I frogged my shawl, and taking it apart was the best decision I could have made. It looks a million times better on the larger needles. And I realized that I had reversed the symbols for k2tog and ssk on my first go round. It looks much nicer not having the stitches reversed. In case you ever wondered the direction of decreases really does make a difference when you are looking at the finished project, especially with lace. It's also knitting up much faster this time. I guess familiarity can be a good thing. I'm hoping to have the shawl finished by Friday the 13th. Wish me luck.

Monday, February 2, 2015


At what point in a project is it too late to go back? When do you decide that you've now invested too much time and you are just going to finish it no matter what it ends up looking like?

For the last week, I've been working on The Heliotaxis Pi Shawl. Right off the bat I want to say that it is a beautiful shawl with well-written, easy to follow instructions. That didn't stop me from screwing it up though. By the time I finished the first chart I knew that I should have used bigger knitting needles. I cast on on size 1 thinking I would like the look of the lace better, but I should have gone with the size 3 that the pattern recommended. But having completed a chart I was reluctant to start over again. I thought I could still make it work.

Here is a picture of it, on the needles after completing the fourth chart.

As I was attempting to do the second repeat of the fourth chart I realized that I had screwed something up somewhere because I had an extra stitch in each pattern repeat. I thought I could fix it but the error kept compounding. 6 rows later I knew I would have to go back and try and find and fix the original error. But here's the thing, I don't use lifelines when I am knitting. So I was either going to have to tink (for those not familiar with the word that means knit backwards) 6 or more rows, which would be simultaneously boring and difficult and would take hours. My only other option was to rip it all the way out and start over.

Here it is, of the needle and about to be ripped. I know unblocked, black, lace is hard to see, I just wanted you to get an idea of how far I had gotten. It's about a foot in diameter, unblocked here.

And here is my yarn, all wound back up into a ball. I don't know why it looks so blue, this is definitely black yarn. Lighting is weird. 

I think if I had started off on the right sized needles I would have tinked. Ripping out a solid week's worth of knitting just isn't any fun at all. But if I had persevered in the end I would have saved myself a week's worth of knitting, but I might have ended up with a project that I was never really happy with or never wore. That seems like a much greater waste of time to me. 

What do you think? Would you have ripped, tinked, or just kept going?