Thursday, September 6, 2012

WIP Wednesdayish: February Lady

I meant to post this yesterday, but was just exhausted by the time I got home from my day out!

There wasn't much knitting this week, because my wrists suck need rest. But I hung out with Gail yesterday, so of course I had to do at least a little knitting (um, less than one row; I did more chatting than knitting). I kept having trouble with my counts, so Gail kindly stepped in and saved my sanity:

Her dress is even cuter in person!

Next week, Jef and I are heading to NYC for our annual weekend at Fire Island. I'm going to take this sweater with me, and hopefully it'll be mostly done by the time I get back!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

FO: DPN Case

I got my sewing mojo back!

Last week, my wrists revolted against the constant demands I've been placing on them (nonstop knitting, piano, home improvement, cleaning...). Finally, after I had to cancel my Saturday piano lesson, I caved to their pressure and gave them 2 full days of rest. Couldn't just sit and do nothing, though, so I started sewing again.

Here's what I made:

It holds up to 20 sets of DPNs. The shorter pockets are meant for 5" needles, though I've stuck in some 6" ones. The taller pockets can handle anything longer than 6". (Kinda like your mom.)

In case you're wondering why a newbie knitter has so damn many needles: I stocked up on various sizes so that I wouldn't have to do a last-minute Amazon order every time I started a new project. Then there was the Knit Picks sock set that I bought to support a LYS. Then there was the switch to Contintental, which changed my default sizes (of which I had bought extra sets). Or maybe I'm just greedy.

One nifty thing about this case is that it folds into thirds, rather than rolling. Feels a little more purposeful to me. I got this idea from another blogger during my web research, but I can't find her site again. Suffice it to say, someone else came up with this cool approach.

1/4" space to enable folding

In this version, the pockets are 1"or 1.25" wide. Even 1.25" wasn't enough to accommodate size 8 needles, though.

Rather than tying with a ribbon, like most of these cases do, I used a magnetic clasp. To make sure they matched up, I waited until the very end to apply the "female" side. Once the whole case was sewn together, but before the hole was stitched shut, I folded the case up and marked where the female side should go. That way I could just stick my hand inside to apply the metal backer and flatten the prongs. Easy peasy.

I used heavyweight interfacing in the tab (snap side only) and against the outer fabric for strength.

Much neater than what I had before: a Ziploc bag full of DPNs in their original packaging, which I'd have to unwrap every time I needed them.

Did I mention that all the fabric was from my scrap pile? Bonus!

I'm really happy with how this came out. If I make another in the future, I'll do a few things differently:
  • I'll make it wider, with more pockets.
  • I'll add bigger pockets: 1.5", 1.75", maybe even 2".
  • I'll taper the top of the flap about 3/4" on each side, to prevent the flap from sticking out when the case is folded.
  • I'll interface both sides of the tab, for extra strength.
  • I'll place the tab better, so it's centered when the case is folded.

If anyone's interested in the specs, let me know and I'll write them up.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Applebloom Cardi

OMG, you guys, I have been in deep vacation mode. Half the time I don't even know what day it is. I love it. Of course, the blog is suffering as a result, so I'm instituting WIP Wednesdays. (Are knitting WIP posts interesting? I hope so.)

This week, I'm working on the February Lady Sweater in Cascade Venezia Worsted in "olive." (It's actually more of an apple green.)

I couldn't capture the color accurately, so here's a stock photo of the yarn:

Photo Credit

This is my first time working with a silk blend, and WHOA! It is luscious. To help get good tension, I bought a bamboo circular needle. (I've been knitting too loosely since I switched to Continental. Trying to tighten things up, but I really hope it starts to feel natural soon!)

Since the yarn is 30% silk and I'm in the process of losing weight, I'm doing something that feels pretty risky: making the sweater a size smaller than I should. The February Lady is supposed to be made one size smaller than your measurements (because the garter stitch grows), so mine is actually two sizes smaller than my bust. That's six inches!

I have two other projects going, but haven't really worked on them much this week. They are:

Zesty Socklets

The Rainbow Connection

Jef's sweater is so big now that pics must be taken on the floor!

So that's what I've been up to. Well, that and lots of House-watching, and house-renovating, and piano playing, and coffee drinking, and late-spring-cleaning, and Internetting. Better get back to it!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Valley Project ... OMG, Lots to Knit!

Pretty early in my knitting life (i.e., 4 months ago), I discovered Oh, how I love that site. I even love their email marketing--it always sucks me in, even though I usually hate that sort of thing.

It didn't take long to try out one of their Valley Yarns. Since then, I've fallen in love with a bunch of their yarns. And every time I browse the collection, I want to knit. them. ALL. So I figured, hey, why not actually do it?

Northampton Sport

I'm hereby officially starting The Valley Project, in which I plan to make at least one knitting project from every single yarn in the Valley Yarns collection. That's 35 yarns! (Why yes, this will be a long-term project.) It'll also give me a reason to try out their hand-dyed and kettle-dyed variations, and it'll force me to experiment with weaving and lace yarns.

Hand-Dyed Northfield. Scrummy!

I do have a bit of a head start: I've done three Miranda Hats for charity using Valley Superwash and a cowl for myself, also in Valley Superwash; and I'm in the middle of a sweater for Jef using Northampton. I also have a couple other yarns stashed for projects in the near future.

Northampton for Jef's Sweater

You can see all the yarn details on my page The Valley Project. I'll be posting updates there every time I finish a project, so I hope you'll check back now and again!

Wish me luck! And fast fingers!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

FO: The Iron-On Agenda Border-Print Skirt

Remember the co-blog project that I was doing with Gail? We did it. And look how cute we are!

I ended up doing a self-drafted pleated skirt. All my other skirts are straight or A-line, so I wanted a little diversity.

It's lined, so I can wear it year round. (Preferably on non-windy days. You should see the pics that got deleted from our photo shoot! Except, no you shouldn't.)

Navy Bemberg from Vogue Fabrics' warehouse sale

The waistband is a basic, straight, unlined band with a tab for a hook and eye. It has a side zip, for which I used an olive invisible zipper.

Each side of the front and back has 4 soft pleats, for a total of 16.

To reduce bulk, I left about 3" without pleats at each of the sides, the center front, and center back.

The hem is a simple baby hem. This worked well for two reasons: I was trying to get done in time to meet up with Gail and Niecey-poo (made it with 30 minutes to spare!), and the fabric is so lightweight that I was worried catch-stitching would be obvious.

I initially left the lining unhemmed out of concern for length and general laziness to get that posh-rustic Anthropologie look. (Hat tip to Gail for that excellent excuse.) But I will probably end up hemming it, because the lining comes down below the skirt when I sit.

So there you have it! I spent about 2 hours figuring out the math for this thing, so I'm going to do a post about that in the next few days. But for now, go check out Gail's post about her gorgeous blouse!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

FOs: Four Miranda Hats for Halos of Hope

I love it when a plan comes together (*chews cigar*).

What's the best weight to work at when you're learning something new in knitting? Worsted.
What's the best size project to knit in summer? Small.
What's the best size project to avoid get overwhelmed? Small.
What's the best way to get a warm fuzzy? Charity.

What combines all those things? The Miranda Hat currently being knit for charity by the Project: Stash Ravelry group.

So I made four.

2 adult-sized, 1 large child-sized, & 1 normal child-sized

As modeled by Tebby Dear, Bonkey, and Lamby
Here's what I learned:
  • Valley Yarns Valley Superwash is AMAZING to knit with. So soft, so easy to tension, and a pretty good bargain!
  • It's going to take practice to get comfortable knitting C-style (Continental) on DPNs.
  • Switching to C-style makes me knit a lot looser! I went down two needle sizes for these hats.

Sadly, these don't count toward my stash-busting pledge because I broke the pledge to buy yarn to make them! (But I've broken the pledge, like, four times. At least this time was for charity!)

BTW, if you're interested in doing some quickie knitting or sewing for a good cause, check out Halos of Hope! They're devoted to collecting and distributing handmade hats, scarves, and turbans for cancer patients.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Status Update: Continental Knitting

I'm on vacation! Feels like it took forever to get here, but I'm finally free to relax and start taking care of some of the things that have been piling up. (Literally--my house really needs cleaning!)

You might recall that last week I decided to take some time off my knitting projects so that I could learn to knit continental. I figured it'd take a couple weeks for it to feel natural, then more time to really get an even tension. But I'm thrilled to report that it only took a few days!

Here's what I've made already:

Miranda Hat: just waiting for my size-4 DPNs
to arrive so I can do the decreases

Ankle sock

Miranda hat

Miranda hat

The scarf I initially practiced continental on (since frogged)
That's WAY more than I would have been able to do before. Not only am I knitting faster, but it's so effortless! I'm a big fan of efficiency, and I just wasn't happy with feeling like every. single. stitch. was  a big effort.

Like I mentioned before, I used the Knit Freedom continental knitting course. I'd give it five stars. The videos were high-quality, and she answered all the questions that my super-detailed little brain had come up with, like:

  • how to wind the yarn around your hand so it can still slide when you need it to
  • how far away from the needle to hold your index finger (answer: not as far as you think)
  • what shape your hand should make, so you always know you're doing it right
  • how to move the stitches along the needles as you work, so you don't have to stop so often
And of course, how to do all the stitches themselves. It still took a while to feel comfortable, but at least I was able to practice without second-guessing the method.

(BTW, if you're somewhat new to knitting, I'd actually recommend Knit Freedom's Knitting Superstar course. It includes the continental knitting course for free.)

So ... yay for fast knitting! Once I knock these hats and socks out, I'm going to start my big fall projects. More on those later.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Somebody Wishes He Had Thumbs

Or maybe he's wishing I'd stop trying to put little socks on him? Hard to tell.

Friday, July 27, 2012

On Being a Grown-Up

I'm super anxious to cast on a fall sweater, my next pair of socks, and a ton of other stuff for the cool weather that I'm really, REALLY, REALLY looking forward to. But I won't.

Instead, I'm forcing myself to spend the next couple weeks knitting nothing but my continental practice scarf. Why, you ask? Because 24.

Twenty-four is the number of stitches I can currently knit in 1 minute using the English method. Tweeeeennnnnntyyyyy-fffffoooooouuuuuurrrrrrrrrrr. That's me, knitting at the speed of mud. Nope, whatever you're picturing is too fast. Slow it down. More. Yep, that's it.

So I'm gonna be a grown-up about it, take a break, and go slow to go fast. I mean, have you seen my Ravelry queue? I'll never get all those lovelies made unless I stop throwing and start picking. (I know some knitters can throw really fast--I'm just not one of them.)

If you've ever tried continental knitting, you know that regulating your tension is one of the hardest and most important things to figure out. I've been hunting down resources on the Internets, and just came across some fantastic videos by the woman who runs

She also has a video course on continental knitting for $13 on her site, and considering how much I liked her YouTube videos, I'm probably gonna pop on that. I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I'd love to hear about your experience knitting continental. Do tell!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here

or, Giving Up Feels So Good.

Cool Story, Sis #1
Yesterday I decided to wind up a hank of this yummy yarn for my next pair of ankle socks:

I had read from multiple sources about how you can hand-wind a center-pull ball of yarn. So I decided to give it a go. It went thus:

     :00 "Look how self-sufficient and frugal I'm being!"
     :01 "Okay, winding the core was easy."
     :02 "Hmm, maybe I should check a YouTube video."
     :04 "This doesn't look right."
     :06 "Holy fuck, I'm only a quarter of the way through
                ... and this was only a 65-gram skein!"
     :08 "OMFG OMFG OMFG"
     :10 "Dear Gail, do people actually do this? It sucks."
                (Gail's reply: "No, they actually don't.")
     :12 "Helloooooo, WEBS!"
     :14 *click* *click* *click* *KA-CHING*

Even though the Internet told me that hand-winding a center-pull ball isn't too hard, it didn't tell me all the ways it can go terribly, horribly wrong. What happens if your ball falls apart because you didn't wind it evenly enough? What happens is: you are in a world of hurt.

This morning, I spent another 15 minutes rewinding my pitiful attempt into a hank. It was a complete pain in the ass, and I'm very lucky that the knots weren't even worse than they were. Lesson learned.

Cool Story, Sis #2
Today, I was working on Simplicity 2886, which I was hoping to use for my border-print dress. And you know what? That pattern is too hard for me. So I'm ditching it. Not gonna tell what I'm doing instead though, ha ha! You can find out in a few days.

ps--You can still leave a comment on my Pay It Forward post to get a nifty gifty from me! Please do!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

FO: Hooded Scarf for a Little Cutie-Pie

My next-door neighbors had their daughter's first birthday party yesterday. I think they partly invited us just so we won't bitch about the noise, haha. But the kiddo is adorable and I wanted to make her a fun present. Even though she cries every time she sees me.

The invite said "Hailey says that she needs winter clothes for her birthday and that she does not need any more toys or stuffed animals." Works for me! Here's what I came up with:

It's got a brown corduroy exterior, with flannel lining. Perfect for keeping a little bay-bay warm, I think.  The flannel has lots of birds:

The plain corduroy was looking a little drab, so I made a flower using Hug Snug and a clear vintage button!

I didn't have a pattern for this, so I used the hood pattern piece from Kwik Sew's Sewing for Baby. To adapt it for a hooded scarf, I just straightened the bottom edge and played around with how deep the scarf should be on the front edge. Each half of the scarf is about 3 1/2" wide and 13" long.

Of course, it was too fucking hot yesterday for Hailey to try it on. I'm guessing that the scarf can be tied tight to cover up her nose and mouth on really cold days, or loose to keep just her neck warm.

Bonus: This counts as an item for my stash-busting pledge! Not only was everything from my stash, but the corduroy is upcycled from a skirt I made 2 years ago that doesn't fit anymore. Yay!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pay It Forward (Hey, look! You can get a nice present!)

Alright, it's time to give back to the online crafting community that I've learned so much from!

We're all passing gifts around like there's no tomorrow. Back in May, Gail posted that she would make a gift for the first three commenters to her post, just as another blogger had done for her. I was one of the three to comment, so now it's my turn to pay it forward!

Here's the deal:
I'll make a sweet little pressy within the next 365 days for the first three people who leave a comment below. The only rules are that 1) you have to promise to do the same, and 2) you have to have a blog so that I can lurk it and figure out what kind of stuff you like.

Fun, right? I love how creative and generous sewing and knitting bloggers are, and I'm really excited to make something nice for some peeps. So ... leave a comment!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thoughts on the Creative Process

Last time, I mentioned how my work can really get in the way of my hobbies (piano, knitting, and sewing). It's not about free time, so much as mental energy. It's cyclical, based on my deadlines. And it really flummoxes me every time: I feel off-kilter, unproductive, and not normal.

But ya know, when something happens almost every week, at some point you have to admit that that is your normal. Maybe if I accept that and learn to flow with it, I'll be happier and more productive over the long run.

Here's what I mean: Let's say I have a big presentation due in 5 days. Chances are good that I'm going to spend the first 3 days planning, conceptualizing, and just plain old thinking about it. Then I spend the last 2 days in a crazy haze and create the entire thing in a short amount of time. It's like giving birth to a full-grown adult (but less painful).

During those first few "blank" days, it doesn't feel like I'm working, because I'm not actually building the presentation. It feels like I'm procrastinating, so I end up berating myself, trying to force myself to work, and trying to keep all my other activities going at full speed (learning new piano music, sewing clothes, whatever). Because, geez, you're procrastinating on your work and you're skipping piano practice? WTH?

No more! Here's what I've realized: If I've got a big work thing going on and can't concentrate on anything else either, it's because my brain is busy thinking through the work thing. It's not that I'm being lazy--I just need to give myself time to develop ideas.

With that in mind, I'm going to do some experimenting for the next couple weeks. I'm going to keep my "blank" days open, not stress about how productive I'm being, and be nice to myself. And I'm going to keep some easy activities around, so that I have something to do while my brain does its thing.

This is the best time to focus on:
  • TV knitting
  • hand sewing
  • cross stitch
  • piano scales & technique
  • polishing piano music I already know
  • easy, mindless chores around the house

It's not the time for:
  • starting new projects
  • learning new knitting skills
  • solving fitting issues
  • altering patterns
  • learning much (or any) new sheet music
  • doing logic problems (my breakfast activity of choice)
  • working on any projects that involve extensive planning

So if I'm going to sew a pattern I've never sewn before, I should wait until after my deadline. If I'm going to practice piano every day, I should learn the new music after my deadline, then polish it when preparing for the next deadline.

Basically, I need to start acting like an artist who is bound by a creative process. Because, apparently, that's what I am. I think I'll be much happier that way, too!

Have you discovered something like this in your own work? How did you deal with it?

(ps--In case you're curious, I'm just finishing the "blank" days for this cycle. Time to get cracking on my presentation now!)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Aaaand we're back.

As it would turn out, when my work is making me miserable, just about all my hobbies go out the window. But things have recently gotten back to normal, which means I'm back to knitting, sewing, and playing piano. Ahhhhhh!

So, what have I been working on? I finished a pair of Pom Pom Peds in Sockotta, which is a discontinued wool/cotton/nylon blend:

This was my first ever pair of socks. They were pretty easy, as socks go, though they took more hours than I expected! Tiny yarn, tiny needles, go figure. I learned a lot from doing these, which I'm now applying to my second pair. For one thing, I started off way too loose. So the cuffs and heel flaps turned out huge, and the socks are weird around the ankle. (See how the right cuff is rolling a bit? That's because it's too damn loose.) Also, the pattern is taller than I want, so I'm experimenting with a shorter heel flap and an adapted gusset to match.

I ripped and reknitted the first sleeve of my Miette:

This gave me the chance to practice proper tension on DPNs. The first time I did it, the sleeve was noticeably tighter than the body. This time, it's all even. Yay!

I knitted about a quarter of the body of a basic sweater for my boyfriend:

This is my TV knitting. I'm using Valley Yarns Northampton, which I absolutely love. It's so nice to work with.

And just this weekend, I started my second pair of Pom Pom Peds--this time in Cascade Heritage Paints:

And finally, I'm working on the muslin for my border-print dress. No pics yet on that one.

More to come...