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Monthly Archives: December 2013

what a few days’ effort will get you

Sitting in a car and not having to drive is quite a treat. Also, sitting about waiting for cyclists is quite a treat. Watching movies you’ve already seen might fall into that category, too. You can get lots of knitting done!

A quick, easy pattern deserving of beautiful yarn but here made with some stash yarn.

A quick, easy pattern deserving of beautiful yarn but here made with some unexciting stash yarn.

These are Maine-morning mitts, started on Christmas Day and doing very well, thank you. No, they’re not in a beautiful yarn that showcases lovely colours like the proper thing. But they are in colours worn by the intended recipient whose hands they’ll keep warm; for that, a pretty colourway is not the whole story. Something thick and cosy is also important. The decision to knit these having been an extremely last-minute one, I used what I had in stash, pairing some self-striping yarn with a related-in-tone plain yarn to get the requisite thickness.

The fingerless mitts pattern I usually use has a definite left hand and a definite right hand. These do not and, as you’ll observe, I haven’t yet finished the thumb on the first mitt. That requires a bit more concentration than I could muster when sitting in the car and joining in the conversation. I thought, however, that I could probably just leave those isolated thumb stitches and keep going with the second mitt until I had the main part of both done. Seems to be working so far.

How about you? If you’ve been travelling, have you managed to make the most of any opportunities? Good luck with your output.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2013 in Knitting

 

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safely out the other side

There was far too much far-too-late-night sewing, in part because I realised at a very late hour that I’d quite overlooked one young couple! I was able to pull together a little parcel of mixed homewares for them but felt there needed to be something more personal; so I made another Simple Linen Apron. No photos exist. You’ll have to take my word for it.

Long scarves are notoriously difficult to photograph, particularly so late at night. I think you can see the stripes quite well and the colour is probably fairly accurate.

Long scarves are notoriously difficult to photograph, particularly so late at night. I think you can see the stripes quite well and the colour is probably fairly accurate.

As to the rest? The ends were sewn in on the Tarrantino scarf and I wasn’t even doing it while we were travelling. That’s pat-on-the-back territory, that is. The other two aprons were finished and the one with the accompanying lavender bag had it slipped into a pocket. That was mostly before midnight, I think. Sleep? Well, there wasn’t quite enough of that but I wasn’t driving to any of our engagements, so I could have zizzed in the back seat and I doubt if either of the Bs would have noticed. As it was, I started knitting a pair of fingerless mitts. Hours of travelling time is such a productive thing!

Wider stripes and dark ties for this second Simple Linen Apron

Wider stripes and dark ties for this second Simple Linen Apron. The first one had white ties, like the lavender bag in this picture.

I hope you managed to get all your crafting and handiwork finished and celebrate in fine style, as indeed we did on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, both times with family and friends. Youngest Aunt had requested some slightly cooler weather, please, for the Boxing Day feast and the weather gods had been most obliging about that. We had a lovely time out under her pergola, eating baked snapper with the radio tuned to the Boxing Day Test in the background. I hope you had a lovely time, too.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2013 in Knitting, Sewing

 

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just nuts

If I may change sporting analogies for a moment, I’m almost through the red buoys, only about a bow ball away from the finish line with the Tarrantino scarf – that is, it’s knitted and I have only the ends to sew in. It will not be getting blocked. Amen.

The second Simple Linen Apron is almost finished but I foresee a small-hours effort trying to achieve that goal since Dr B’s very late plan change for today’s timetable has thrown everything into chaos of an extremely high order. I wonder, after all these years, why I should be surprised by that; but, you know, he still has the ability to knock my feet out from under me!

You’ll see why it’s back to work I go. Let me say only that, along with nuts, there had better be some chocolates and plenty of cherries. Then I might think it’s Christmas. The Advent calendar today reached the closing punctuation point of “Merry Christmas To You” and so, this must be the time to wish all of you just that: a very merry Christmas, however or whatever you celebrate.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Knitting, Musing, Sewing

 

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then some days I surprise myself

Those of you who do a lot of sewing, especially those who make clothes, will no doubt be familiar with the experience of looking at a finished article and finding it good: at least nicely made, having a quality finish and perhaps fabric, and something that you’d pay a lot for – if indeed, you could replicate it – if you had to buy it in a shop. Me? Well, you saw my recent wearable toile. Really, most of my sewing is mending or small household things. For all my grand plans, I don’t actually get much clothing sewn.

And you can't even tell that I had to redo a bit of topstitching where I ran off the edge!

And you can’t even tell that I had to redo a bit of topstitching where I ran off the edge!

I’m not sure if an apron is necessarily clothing, either. Some might argue that it’s an accessory since its main purpose is to protect clothing. Whichever school of thought you support, I made a really nice, stripey one the other day. It’s a Christmas present, of course, and its manufacture had to be slotted in around the usual chores of domestic life because I can’t sew at night (that’s a matter of simple household logistics, not so much that I wouldn’t be happy to sew all night).

Next morning, when I went back to the sewing room to check that it was properly finished – no threads hanging off or things of that unruly nature – I found myself pleasantly astonished by what a fine-looking apron I had in my hands. Wow, the pocket lines up. All the stripes align, except where I had fun playing with a contrasting alignment for the pocket, as you can see in the photo. How regular are those half-inch hems? And, gee, isn’t that a tidy bit of topstitching?! Quite a lot of tidy topstitching, in fact, all around the apron. Impressive.

All praise to my walking foot for managing to skate over so many layers of mattress ticking, which was the fabric I used to make the apron. Thanks, too, to the Purl Bee‘s wonderful Simple Linen Apron pattern and instructions. I have a favourite, tried and very true apron pattern that I’ve used to death for many, many years but decided that it was time to do something different. This is simple but satisfyingly elegant and I’m sure the intended recipient will love it. Because it’s cotton, it might have a slightly lower protective factor than a plastic or coated fabric, but it will be cooler; and when you’re slaving away over a hot stove on a 40-degree day, that’s important.

And you know that old saying about pride going before a fall? Let this be a lesson to you to look at the pictures, chickadees. I had a moment of doubt when cutting out the neck straps, because there didn’t seem to be a sufficient measurement differential but pushed ahead and followed the instructions. I even went ahead and constructed and attached according to the instructions. And, yeah, the instructions are wrong! If you go back and look at the pictures, as I did only after the event, you’ll see that one neck tie is a lot shorter than the other, not just a few inches. Oh, well, a small bit of retro-engineering was able to fix that, but I was cross with myself more than cranky with the pattern because my usual way of dealing with D-rings ought to have given me the tip.

Fabric: perhaps half a metre of cotton mattress ticking (nominally 150 cm wide, I think) bought at Spotlight in the city at least a year ago, possibly two. I prewashed, knowing it was very likely to shrink; and it did.

Thread: Coats Drima Polyester in an ecru colourway, which I’ve had for years and is no longer available (no, not white. I like that small contrast and, to be truthful, I wouldn’t have been able to see what I was doing if I’d used a white thread that completely disappeared into the fabric.).

Size: Adult; but one size given that consideration.

Changes to pattern: I stitched the hem on the pocket piece before attaching it to the apron.  That helped avoid the fluff-collecting extra flap of fabric in the pocket and made for a slightly tidier finish (just my opinion; but since ticking is very prone to fraying, I thought too that the zigzagged edges alone might not do the job). And, you know, there was the thing with the neck tie.

All in all, I’m very happy with this. I should have spotted the problem with the neck tie earlier, but it was easily fixed. So, okay, here we are a few days away from Christmas and I’ve finished one gift. Right! Will I have to resort to gift vouchers from Bunnings for the boys (they’re all tinkerers of one sort or another) and Dymocks for the girls (who are mostly rapacious readers), do you think? What’s your emergency plan?

Good luck with it all, anyway.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2013 in Sewing

 

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perhaps that was an exaggeration

You know how I said the end was in sight with that purple scarf, the garter stitch one I’m making with Moda Vera’s boucle-style Tarrantino yarn?

By comparison with where I was when I started it, that’s perfectly true. Really, though, the amount remaining to knit is probably more akin to a few laps of the oval at the end of a marathon. I’ll get there and despite the hot weather I’m finding opportunities to keep at the knitting – sitting up late waiting for YoungB to come home from the beach, those sorts of times – but, yeah, not quite the home straight.

How’s all your Christmas handiwork progressing?

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2013 in Knitting

 

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prototype or wearable toile

Yalta top in a stiffer fabric than suits it with a bigger cowl than I wanted; the faults are mine!

Yalta top in a stiffer fabric than suits it with a bigger cowl than I wanted; the faults are mine!

I think the galactic fabric – really; it’s described as photoreal and, things cosmic being always hot topics in our house, it seemed to be good choice – turned into what ought to be considered a wearable toile. Therefore, since it won’t meet the stringent demands of the challenge I set for Sewlutions, I might as well carry on and make a few comments about it now.

Firstly, the fabric is quite strange, having an almost rubbery feel to it. I chose it because of the colour. I needed a knit fabric and would have been happy with a plainer one but there was nothing to be had that was at all appealing (and certainly nothing in my stash, which was the first place I looked). The slight rubberiness makes it surprisingly warm (not always a good thing in an Aussie summer) and it holds shape well. In fact, for the pattern I used, a softer fabric with a correspondingly softer drape might be a good thing. No matter. It’s a toile, however wearable (and of course I’ll wear it; I’m like that) and the whole idea of such a thing is to learn from what you have done so that you can improve when you do it again. Yes, I like the top enough to want to do a better job.

I’ve nutted out a lower profile way of having the gathered effect on this fabric – using good, old-fashioned gathering threads, which didn’t cause too much bulk – and I ended up hemming it for the sake of tidiness. I haven’t yet rescued the armscyes but may do so at some stage. It’s wearable and all right. Its many errors of construction mean it’s less than brilliant but the fault is mine, not the pattern’s. The pattern, the ladies’ Yalta top by Lena Merrin, is great. And when I make my next one – perhaps not immediately but fairly soon, I think – I’ll take a bit more time to do it properly. Whether I’ll use the required self-tape to obtain the gathered look I’m not too sure. I might go with clear elastic to reduce bulk. Or perhaps when I take a bit more time, finish things properly and use a less bulky fabric, there’ll be no problem.

Sometimes you throw caution to the wind and go with the flow, which is rather what I did on Saturday afternoon because time was pressing. I decided that, if I spent any more time trying to look up hints on the computer, I’d never get anything sewn. I’d looked at the tutorial on how to do the cowl which was not a lot of help to me because there’s insufficient contrast in colour for it to be easy to follow; but I think the idea is what I’d arrived at as the answer (only after a third attempt, which took me to a different solution, was the one I’d decided would have to do or we’d never be getting to the party at all): a pillowcase-style closure method.

Next time, I’ll be careful to cut the cowl to match whatever size I’ve decided on for the shoulders, rather than what I decided would fit for the bust, as I think perhaps I did this time. That should give me a smaller cowl, which was partly what attracted me to the Yalta; I do like the softness of a cowl and the slight variation of neckline that’s achieved with only a small alteration but am perhaps too small myself to carry a large cowl with much confidence these days. Plus, you know, cleavage-visibility problems are much likelier with a larger cowl. Acceptable at 17, perhaps, but 40 years later? Not so much.

And, although I can’t measure across my own back, I’m not so truly indolent that I hadn’t checked any measurements. I had measured my circumferences and checked against the chart Lena gives and I can see that there’s a significant mismatch for me and/or the pattern runs quite large. It’s voluminous on me, except at the hip (which is probably about right). Do I care? Not much. It’s a bit different, the fabric is fun and a pretty colour and, all in all, if every garment I made, toile or not, turned out as well, I’d be very happy. Yes, there are a few bumpy bits of sewing, and the fact that – of course – they occur where the black thread crosses the patches of pale fabric means they’re quite obvious, I don’t suppose many people really will notice, particularly if I’m wearing a jacket.

So if I could consider that a successful toile but probably not suitable for a place of employment or perhaps a really decent top, then I’m still well behind in my Sewlution sewing! How about you?

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2013 in Sewing, Uncategorized

 

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process not product

Great potential for placement problems but too spectacular to resist

Great potential for placement problems but too spectacular to resist

I’m dead terrified of upsetting the Mistress of the Jar. So I’m not going to talk about whether or not my finished top would be appropriate for my response to the challenge she set us. It might be. It might not be. I’m more blogging about getting there, not what “there” might be. So I firstly want to have a little whinge about PDF patterns! Yes, in the big scheme of things they’re fantastic. It’s fabulous that you can download them instantly and it’s truly wonderful that so many designers do make them available at little or even no cost. Those are big gains indeed.

All of those gains, however, can disappear in a fit of the grumbles when you spend two days crawling around on the floor trying to match up all the squares to glue one of them together so you can actually use it. After that, there’s the usual having to trace your pattern off that so that you can then pin it – or weight it; whichever method you use, there’s an added step –  to your fabric and then cut out the garment. That might normally take [me] a day; but if you’ve just spent two getting to that point, all of that additional, ordinary stuff seems like a very great deal when you’re working on a deadline. And, let’s be honest, who ever works to anything but a deadline? Some might be tighter than others but we’re always trying to do more than we can realistically fit into the hours we’ve allocated for the task. We might plan to be ahead of ourselves but life gets in the way. That’s just how life is!

For me, there are other deterrents. We don’t have a decent floor in the place (the carpet is old and bumpy and if we continue to store pushbikes in the hallway and use the lounge room as a substitute gym in the winter, I can’t see that changing), the lino in the kitchen is a bit the same and there’s certainly not enough space in the kitchen for it to be a possibility even were it not, you know, the kitchen) and certainly no table large enough for gluing together large expanses of paper. That’s definitely a factor in my lack of enthusiasm for PDF patterns.

I like to think you’re all a great deal better organised than I am, even though I know it’s not the case, and that you’d never be battling PDFs and cutting out and sewing up your new garment a few hours before the party at which you need to wear it (because, heck, if you don’t wear that, then what on earth will you wear?). I’ve seen evidence around the blogosphere that there are others who are also of the school that thinks hems on knits are optional at a pinch; and therefore, knowing I’m in good company, I’m about to reel off a few of my heinous actions.

So what if I ended up using a shoelace as a tie because I didn’t have time to make a cord? Under a jacket, the shoelace wasn’t visible. So what if the garment wasn’t hemmed? I think most would agree that’s sometimes a deliberate choice for a very stable knit fabric. I might hem it eventually, along with sorting out a better way of achieving the desired gathers because I found the effect of the shoelace quite bulky and don’t imagine that a self-fabric cord would be any less so. The not-so-good fit across the back? It’s sleeveless but I’d always intended to wear it under a jacket. Given time, I might put a Chanel trim on the armscyes to tidy things up and bring in the profile to a better fit. Then again, I might not. The drape on the cowl? Far too deep to be a good look, but I take the responsibility for that because it relates to my absolute indolence with regard to measuring myself properly.

I know I’m a funny shape – I’ve had a lot of years to accept that! – and that my proportions make adjustments tricky. Still, I could have been more careful with starting out at about a size 12 across the shoulders on both back and front and then deciding how on earth I was going to ensure that the rest of the garment was big enough for the rest of me. You know how I was in a hurry? Yeah, well, that’s it, you know. I was in a hurry, so I did the best I could in what little time I had. I certainly graded from a smaller size at the shoulder to a bigger size at the bottom; it just might not been the right size in either spot. Oops.

Despite all the dramas and problems, the finished garment looked okay under the jacket. The colour is pretty and was appropriate for the evening (chosen carefully to reflect one of the favourite colours of the birthday girl) and if my top was a mess under the jacket, then only I knew. Another guest, someone who wouldn’t care about any of those shortcomings even if she’d known about them, said how nice it looked and particularly loved the cowl. 🙂

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2013 in Sewing

 

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