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Where does the time go?! I hadn’t intended to leave the blog unattended for so long, but, well, I blame this little beauty:

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It’s an Alfa, a Spanish brand, though a “model twin” for the Janome 2160. And here’s the first FO I’ve made with the new machine, for a certain beloved 101 year-old. (Liberty fabric brought by Sister #2 when she popped down from London over Easter.) Always stylish, my Gram!

Gram Bday Blouse

I may manage another post next week, between work and vacation wardrobe sewing, and then I’m off to San Sebastian for a week. I need to unmelt and unwind! But I’ll fill you in on my adventures when I get back.

Hope you’re all having a good summer…

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I’m planning to make myself a knit dress this weekend, and am feeling pre-freaked out, since I haven’t sewn with knits in ages and don’t have good memories, especially of hemming! (All those wavy waves, oy!)

Atomic chic, here I come!

Atomic chic, here I come!

While the online tutorials I’ve found have been helpful (hemming through tissue paper – who knew?), I also wanted to ask you to pitch in with any ideas you might have. I’m making this cute dress from my pals at Hot Patterns in the gorgeous 1950s style print (above) I found at Sawyer Brook, and I really want to get it right.

I’ll be sewing on the old faithful Alfa my friend let me adopt; it’s got straight and zig-zag stitches. I don’t think it allows double-needle stitching, so let’s leave that out of the possible techniques, SVP.

On hand already, I have ballpoint/stretch needles, light-weight knitted fusible interfacing, and straight Stay-Tape. (I found it in my stash — my good fairy must have told me to buy it at some point, but who knows when or why!)

What do you think, sewist friends? Can you help me overcome my tricotphobia?

Many of you will be familiar with the aphorism that the definition of madness is doing the same thing time and again while expecting different results. I would like to amend that slightly to create a knitter’s version: the definition of madness is knowing that you aren’t getting gauge on a project where gauge matters, and carrying on anyway.

Sigh.

The beautiful Suvi Simola “Baby Cables…” pullover was going along nicely, with the body nearly finished, when I decided I’d measure it. I didn’t have a very good idea of how big it actually was because I haven’t been able to get my hands on a circular needle with a long — 80 cm — cable, despite having visited four different knitting shops. (This in the capital of a developed nation. And my friends here wonder at my willingness to mail order craft supplies from the U.K.!) The result was that I knew I had a ton of stitches, but they were so bunched up that I couldn’t really tell how big around the beast was.

So I measure it and discover that it’s 130 cm at the bust. My bust, if you’ll pardon the sharing moment, is 110 cm. Room for company!

It took me about half an hour to frog the sweater that had probably taken 20 hours to make, up to that point. The yarn is neatly wound into balls and back in my work bag. I don’t have the next smaller size needle. I don’t have time or the mental energy to do the rounds of all the knitting stores in Madrid just to not be able to buy one.

I think I need to have a lie-down. Someone please pass the smelling salts.

 

I’ve been deep in the knitting weeds the last few weeks, which has cut into my blogging time in a big way — but there are finally some results to show for all the effort, with more to come.

First up, a present for a friend whose birthday is at the very beginning of the month. She has kept a pair of fair isle mittens I made for her birthday some 25 years ago in very, very good condition. I thought she was was due something new!

The floppy beret is Cassidy’s Cap, from Chic Knits — a very easy, very pretty pattern for worsted weight. The mitts are One Cable Mitts, from Blue Sky Alpacas, an absolute whiz-bang of a pattern that takes all of four hours to finish. Here’s a close-up of the mitts, modeled on my paw.

Paw

The yarn is Wool of the Andes (Knit Picks) in a kettle-dyed colorway called Wine Tasting. There is a metric ton of this in my stash — alas, the kettle-dyed type has been discontinued by the company, though they still have plain colors and tweeds. It’s a great yarn — a real workhorse, and excellent value.

Making the mitts and the hat gave me a good idea of how the yarn will knit up for the sweater I want to make out of it — should be a bit less stripy, of course — but making small items rather than dinky 4×4 swatches helps in project planning.

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I think I have a hit on my hands!

Neki and I are going to do a knit-a-long with Winnie Shih’s “Swiss Cheese Scarf” — let me know if you’d like to join us.

Those of you who like to play with yarn, fiber, and cloth probably all have a stash of some sort, and know what it means to have a stash (both denotatively and viscerally). You may even have a vague idea of how you ended up with a closet (or room, or barn) full of whatever it is you are stashing. You can skip ahead to the * if you want to.

For those not initiated in the ways of the stash, here’s a little insight into how they get that way.

In theory, a fiber-crafter thinks of something s/he wants to make, finds a pattern, and goes to buy the materials. When one is a newly-minted fiber-crafter, this is, in fact, usually the way it works. But as a crafter completes a few projects, something happens. Their creativity grows in ways they may not have expected, and a shift takes place. They see the material or yarn first, and decide what to do with it later. If it takes a while — say a few years — to figure out what the stuff (in the textile sense of “stuff”) wants to be, the stuff goes into hibernation. If this “finding stuff first” pattern persists, the crafter ends up needing a fair amount of space for the hibernating stuff to live in.

Stashes also grow for two additional reasons. One scenario is when you get everything you need for a project and then decide that the stuff doesn’t go with the proposed end-product. When this happens, the material gets stashed to wait for inspiration. The other is when a crafter buys or has a “little extra” left over and saves it for a future project. Personally, I cannot bring myself to throw away an amount of yarn bigger than a walnut. I also keep bigger scraps of fabric from patterns I cut out — anything bigger than 4 cm by 4 cm, though there’s no hard-and-fast rule. I might want to do something with it later, so into the stash it goes.

[Another sub-set of the stash is a crafter’s collection of Unfinished Objects (UFOs), or what one of my sisters refers to as The Department of Incomplete Projects. We can talk about them another day.]

*Stash-havers, you can start reading again here.

Most of my stash is in a storage unit in Vo Dilan’, having crossed the U.S. twice, but not yet having made the jump across the Atlantic. I have a little stash here. There’s some silver-grey worsted weight yarn that I thought was going to be an intricately cabled pullover, except that I could NEVER get it to gauge — a rare occurrence for me — and so got parked. And there’s a small mountain beautiful hand-painted merino that I bought because I couldn’t help myself, waiting for inspiration to strike. Happily, both piles of yarn now have projects coming.

The grey yarn is going to be this pullover, though a bit longer.

Suvi Simola's "Baby Cables and Big Ones, Too" at Ravelry.

Suvi Simola’s gorgeous “Baby Cables and Big Ones, Too” at Ravelry.

And the hand-paint is going to be a turtleneck. In my next post, I’ll explain how I discovered that the yarn wanted to be this particular sweater.

Lori Versaci's extremely clever Ribbed Turtleneck

Lori Versaci’s extremely clever Ribbed Turtleneck, also at Ravelry

These two patterns are Rubi-approved already because they are knit in the round and are beautifully shaped. Like Elizabeth Zimmerman before me, I refuse to knit anything in pieces and sew it up — if there’s a flat-knit pattern that I really want to make, I usually rewrite it to work in the round. More than that, these designs  also have lovely fitting details that make them appealing — no knitted feed sacks here. And! They’re going to knit up quickly (worsted weight FTW), so I might even get to wear them this season.

Stay tuned for progress reports and FOs. I’m just about ready to cast on the turtleneck.

There has been a lot of knitting going on around here of late — little projects to keep me amused while I try to figure out what I’m going to do with two big piles of stash yarn — and one of them was the tam you can see below. I had ordered the yarn from Jamieson’s in Shetland for a different tam last winter and then stashed it, so it also counts toward de-stashing goals. A good thing!

Materfamilias mentioned yesterday that she wants to learn to knit two-handed so her Fair Isle goes faster. I may try to do the same, since I have another tam in the pipeline. I’ll keep you posted.

Here’s the outside. The bits that look black are actually very dark aubergine. The other colors are cream, dark grey, oxford grey, and what Binney and Smith would call “red violet.” (I like tams in a ton of colors, and have a few patterns in my Ravelry library, but the budget isn’t up to buying ten-plus skeins of Shetland right now.)

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And here’s the inside. I like to have the inside of stranded knitting as neat as the outside. Note the corrugated ribbing, too. (It’s visible on the outside, of course!)

inside

Stay tuned for another de-stash project or two in the near future.

I managed — finally — to get going on the sewing projects that I previewed for y’all way back when, and even have an F.O. to show for it.

This is the Hot Patterns Plain and Simple Essential Shift Dress and Top (HP 1136). I wanted to make a wearable muslin, and used a length of natural white handkerchief linen sent to me by Neki. A bit of cognitive dissonance and operator error on my part notwithstanding, it was a doddle to make up.

Hot Patterns are sized as ready-to-wear, and their pattern envelopes come with exhaustive information about measurements, which makes getting your correct size easy. Unless you’re me and you decide to make a size (18) that doesn’t correspond to your measurements (20). Mind you, I had my reasons — I didn’t want too much ease in the top, because I’ve been wearing my clothes a little closer to the body of late. As it turned out, making the correct size would have ended up with a reasonable amount of ease. Lesson learned.

I also arsed up the armscye by mistracing the front — so I ended up with something that’s a wee bit too narrow in the shoulders. That was operator error, pure and simple, and when I retrace the pattern in the size I should have made in the first place, I’ll know to be more careful.

This pattern is beautifully drafted, with touches that make for a very good-looking garment. It has two-piece sleeves and a hem facing, both of which mean a little extra sewing, but are well worth it in the long run. (Note: I didn’t make the top with a hem facing, and I should have. The dress version will have one.) The directions are also fairly straightforward, especially if this isn’t your first sewing rodeo.

Because the linen I was working with was both sheer and ravel-y, I decided to use French seams for the visible bits in the front, back, and sleeves. It’s a bit more complicated than an ordinary seam, but since you can see it, I thought it was worth the effort. I then took Trudy’s very good advice and topstitched along those same seams. It’s a design element that makes the top look really modern and interesting.

All in all, I’m pleased with the way the top turned out. I hope SistahRubi is, too, since I’ll be sending this off to her. (I hope it fits HER “linebacker” shoulders!) If Neki can source me another bit of the same linen (hint, hint), I’ll be making a version that fits for myself very soon!

Lagniappe-kins! (har-har)

The bonus F.O. in this post is a batch of four napkins I whipped up yesterday out of a length of Kaffe Fassett “Millefiore” fabric. I love the turkey red and turquoise contrast, and I’m seriously contemplating buying a bit more to make up this same top. Would look good with the skully necklace, don’t you think?

My summer sewing is poking along, and so there’s nothing much to show — but there is this Day of the Dead-flavored goodness.

Howlite skulls (about 1.5″ top to bottom) and coral chunks, plus one Oaxacan silver bead for zest.

I was out for a walk in the neighborhood the other day and discovered a bead shop where I could get a couple of pieces restrung/repaired — so I went back later with the items in question, and ended up having to wait while the owner attended to other customers. Rubi left to her own devices in a craft-oriented store is always dangerous, but this time I think the results were worth it. Note, please, that I don’t wear all of the pieces at once! That necklace goes a long way all by itself and I usually pair it with dialed-back silver or turquoise pieces.

Here’s a suit I’ve got in the pipeline, to be made in black stretch linen — more stash fabric, and I hope there’s enough! I bought it for pants, but found it too heavy. It’s perfect for a pencil skirt and jacket, tho. Just hope I can get my jacket mojo back — on the bonus side, this one’s unlined, but on the Rubi’s-too-ambitious side, I want to bind the seams. Stay tuned.

More HotPatterns delish-ness!

I’ve also heard from my sister that she’s bringing a raft of Liberty fabric back from Blighty. (Not all of it for me, but there is one length with my name on it.) Hope this weekend’s sewing goes well, or I’m going to drown in yardage!

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