Itsy Bitsy Teeny Tiny Sweaters

kps288These are still missing their buttons and need blocking, but I think I may be in danger of becoming obsessed with tiny things. Specifically making tiny things… It’s, well, it’s just that they knit up so fast! I’ve been working on a me-sized sweater for 8 months or so and have a solid 12 inches done. Don’t get me wrong, that’s awesome, and all, but there is something so, so, so satisfying about actually finishing a garment.

It’s also pretty awesome not spending 3 hours of your life figuring out where you left off last time you worked on it, because you made it one sitting (or even a few sittings, but close enough to each other that you can actually remember where you put it down!). And let’s be honest, baby clothes are freaking adorable. So yeah.

And there is the very real bonus of being able to work an entire pattern from a partial ball of yarn, discover where the pattern is wrong, or where you have no idea what you’re doing, muddle through it, back track a few rows, muddle through it again, finish, evaluate whether what you did worked, and, oh, still be out a mere half-skein for your efforts. The ability to do a full on test garment really appeals! (And yes, there were some problems I ran into with this pattern…so this is the voice of experience!).

So for these two darling little sweaters, I used the Knitting Pure & Simple #288 pattern. I actually saw a sample knit up at my (soon to be closed and dearly missed! sniff!) local yarn shop and figured it looked really pretty straight forward and would be perfect for the youngest niece’s birthday (which is just after xmas, so perfect timing even!).

I used Plymouth’s Worsted Superwash (oh my gosh, it’s just soooo soft) in a nice cranberry for the red one, and some Galway Worsted wool leftover from a different baby project for the tan one. Both yarns were great for this, though superwash is probably a better choice from the parental point of view (yay for low-maintenance washable baby clothes, I’m told!)

So, the problems. Well, maybe it’s just me, but I followed the steps exactly, painstakingly, even (never knitted anything top-down before this, and while I quite like the method, I was a bit befuddled for a bit until I got the majority of it done and could see where everything really was). So somehow I missed the instructions that result in the garter stitch border on the front placket the first time ’round. I had it on one side, but after 4″ of knitting down from the collar, realized I didn’t have it on the other! Oopsies!? So I ripped it out and started over (and now that I had a handle on where the front placket really starts, I had a much easier time) and just made sure I worked in garter for the first and last stitches in version 2.0.

That was the major issue I had. I also apparently can’t count to 44 (ha!), so I split the sleeves off 3 rows prematurely (eek!). There was a bit of back tracking there, too. But that was totally my fault!

I had also originally envisioned doing green and red colorwork for the lace border (green on the diagonal stitches, which would have looked a bit like ivy leaves, I think), but I couldn’t figure out how to work it out in the end (even after knitting some test swatches)…the double decrease kept popping the red back under the green, and it looked rather wonky. I might try again using the intarsia style (I did the standard fair-isle floats method, and it got super bulky and I worried it would be too snaggy).

I made a few changes for the second (tan) sweater. The yellow stripe and edging turned out pretty awesome (I wanted some color mix going on!). I also much prefer the seed stitch edging over the garter stitch and ribbing mix (I don’t know why, but garter stitch looks “sloppy” to my eye…it absolutely isn’t but there you go…knitting biases at work!)

I’ll probably make a few more of these while I’m on vacation in November (what with holidays coming up, I’d be foolish not to!!). I also think they could be easily boy-ified by adding a couple other buttons down the front (instead of just the one at the top) and replacing the lace edging with a simple rib panel. Maybe I’ll try that out next?!

What’s your favorite quick project at the moment?

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Overseas Cables!

I’ve recently placed a sewing ban on myself.  From now till Oct. 28th, I shall not sew.  Mostly because, well, we’re hosting the 7th Annual BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) party on the 27th and I don’t want to have to deal with the unholy mess that seems to accompany my sewing bouts.  Pattern pieces hither and yon, ironing board blocking my front door, sewing machine on the coffee table, fabric and scraps and threads everywhere…oh my!  So I put it all away this weekend and won’t be trotting it out till November.  Oh well.

To keep myself occupied in the meantime, I’ve dug out my last unfinished knitting project, the Overseas Cables sweater (well, that’s what I’m calling it, anyhow, thanks to my color scheme and my first attempt at honest-to-goodness cables!).  The pattern is the Alata sweater from Knitty and I started it last spring (I know, who on earth starts a major knitting project in the spring?!).  I wanted to use up some scrap yarn (lots of whole skeins) leftover from a baby knitting project (my first foray into fair isle left me with a LOT of leftover colored yarn, mostly all shades of blue!).

I’ve got about 8 inches knitted up (and I just re-found my cable needle, so I can continue!) and it’s going swimmingly, if I do say so myself!  I’ve decided that the stripes will be as wide as the skein of yarn lasts (they’re all approximately the same size ball, so it should be pretty even).  After the aqua I’m using right now I’ll switch to a dark navy for the waist…should be fun!  I’m really hoping to finish the sweater before next spring…but we’ll see!

Tokyo Story Mixed Media Dress

The first sewing class I ever took was to make the first version of this dress I ever made (OK, I’ve now made two versions, it’s not like I have an army of them in my closet…though that’s not a bad idea now that you mention it…they are ridiculously comfortable dresses.  Ah, I digress).  It might have even been the first sewing project I blogged about here, in fact; it’s one of the early ones, for sure.  Anyhow, I remember being very excited that I had created a wearable garment, but I had picked out two very “loud” fabrics for the dress (don’t get me wrong, I still love the green polka dots and orange bicycle fabric combo, but it’s …difficult… to wear to work, and the dress is so comfy that I’ve been sorely tempted to wear it to work on a number of toasty hot days).  So I bought some less “loud” fabric and decided to reprise my handiwork and make another one that would be a bit more work-friendly.  I think there’s a name for this Japanese-style print, but I don’t know it.  But I really loved the light blue & white fabric, it seemed perfect for a sticky hot summer day, and easily dressed up for work with a cardigan and some non-flip flop shoes.

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The pattern is from Kwik Sew, and I have to say, it’s really easy to alter.  When I went to sew dress 2.0, I had a few adjustments I wanted to make from version 1.0 (someday, I will just follow the pattern as written and simplify my life greatly, but not today).  The overall fit of V1.0 was OK, but the waist was incredibly high on the first dress, so I wanted to fix that, and the armholes were really low-cut, so I wanted to raise those a bit.  I also wanted the skirt to be a tiny bit longer and hit just at the top of the knee.  And the pockets needed to be dropped by about an inch so I could comfortably stuff my hands in my pockets without having my arms sticking out all akimbo.

All of that was relatively easy to do, so I just eye-balled it and it worked out fine.  No, seriously, I did!  And somewhere the stars aligned and rainbows appeared and cherubs smiled benevolently and everything worked out.  It probably shouldn’t have, but it did.

For the waist, I just added 1.5 inches to the length in a straight shot across the bottom.  For the armholes, I put a dot 1/2 inches higher than the center underarm on both front and back pattern pieces, then followed the general curve of the armhole, reducing gradually until I reached the point where the pattern piece turned vertically.  (The blue line below is the new armhole height).  This worked like a dream!

Adding the length to the bodice also added the length I was looking for in the skirt (which was a very good thing as I’ll explain in a moment…), and moving the pockets down was a matter of, well, moving the pockets down.  Easy peasy.

So, all that glowing GoodnessGraciousItActuallyWorked out of the way, this pattern was a tad problematic…you see, to make my preferred version of the dress, I combined the skirt and belt from View A with the (sleeveless) top from View B.  And both times I’ve done this, I’ve discovered that their fabric recommendations are off for the skirt requirements.  Maybe this is only if you’re making the XL size, and it works out OK on the smaller ones?  I don’t know, but what I do know is that, if you’re making the XL size skirt, you can have the stated length, the belt, OR the pockets, but not all three.  There’s just not enough fabric to make all three out of the same 1-5/8 yard piece.  I had vaguely remembered this from dress 1.0, but had chalked it up to my sub-par layout and cutting skills.  Turns out, my layout/cutting skills are just fine, but without serious alteration to the laws of geometry, there is no way that all the pieces will fit on 45″ wide fabric.  Rats.  I solved the problem with a scrap of orange fabric I had in my stash (please note, it makes me inordinately proud that I was able to actually solve a fabric conundrum with stash fabric!!).  So the dress has bright orange pockets.  It was either that, or a bright orange belt, which might also be fun and might also still happen…

Anyhow, that’s about all I did with the pattern.  Once I solved my fabric shortage, the dress came together pretty quickly (well, for me it seemed quick)…I think it took me about 2 hours to adjust the pattern, discover my fabric shortage, fix the fabric shortage, and cut all the pieces out, and about 3 hours to sew it all together.  At least 45 minutes of the “sewing” time was spent picking dark grey top-stitching out of the belt, though…I thought it would look really nice, and it might have if I had sewn it in a straight line and not accidentally changed stitch length partway through.  I think top-stitching is one of those things best done when one is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (lucky for me, I bribed John with a currant scone and didn’t have to do all the stitch-ripping myself!).

So this is the dress, sans belt (which is very cute and comfy!)…(pardon the clutter in my sewing/living room!)

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And here it is with the belt…a bit more polished, I think!

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And here are the pockets!  Such pockets!

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And here’s the back.

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I think the accidentally-orange pockets are one of my favorite things about this dress.  That, and it’s really nice and cool and comfy, just the thing for this beastly hot weather we’ve been “enjoying”.

Pure Comfort

Well, I survived the holiday season unscathed, barely. It was rough, kids. We had a death in the family right before xmas, which, I’m not gonna lie, gave me a bad case of the fuck-its. I’m better now, and we’re all moving along, but not my favorite holiday season ever. (Also, I believe I just won the Understatement of the New Year award…you can send it to my people, they’ll squeeze it in on the mantle).

I had a big “all the stuff I made for holiday gifts” reveal post planned, but alas, I was stupid and forgot to take photos of everything before I mailed it all off, so you don’t get any pictures…but I will give you a rundown:

  • burgundy and dove grey paisley scarves (one for MIL, one for SIL) made out of lovely soft wool/silk blend
  • hand-knit rickrack pattern scarf in Boston U burgundy and charcoal greys for BIL (I do have a photo of this one!)
  • dark blue tartan wool scarf for BIL
  • matching lounge-wear outfits for the neice and nephews (pants out of funky fabric, and scraps of that fabric appliqued onto long-sleeved shirts in the shape of xmas trees
  • a “fort kit” for the 7 year old nephew (giant duvet deconstructed into one large piece of fabric, clips, rope, flashlight and other fort-building necessities picked out by hubby)
  • an “art kit” with a large sewn portfolio envelope (matching the fabric from the lounge-wear no less!), notebooks, colored pencils, etc.
  • a hand-knit cowl and some bath salts for a secret santa swap (pic of this one too)
  • 44 million dozen cookies/candies/fudge/caramels to send to friends & family, plus about an gallon of Irish cream

All of that crafty business was a barrel of fun. Seriously. I’m totally doing it again next year (though I may start before November). And I may even remember to take proper photos to share with the interwebs! But I make no promises.

What I do promise is to share some comfort food with you…see aforementioned brutal holiday season, and you’ll not be surprised to learn that we have been loading up on comfort food here. Tonight is a shining example if ever there was one…pasties and mash. Yes, my Irish heritage salves the dinner plate and saves the day. If you are not acquainted with pasties, then my friend, you’re doing it wrong. That’s all there is to it. The good news, though, is that you will shortly be racing away to meet your first pasty, and it will be epic, I promise. Just read to the end before you scamper off, please?!

So pasties are individual savory meat and potato (and, if you are of heathen scandinavian extraction like my hubby, rutabaga) pies. Some cheap meat (usually skirt steak, though some will use burger), cheap potatoes, and a little butter & spices are all mixed up, folded lovingly into a flaky pastry crust, and baked till tender.  You make a small army’s worth at a go, because it is a lot of work.  Then, you freeze the little buggers and pull them out when you need a fast, hot meal. You can pop them into a 400 degree oven from frozen and have a piping hot meal with zero (and I mean zilch) effort. Someday I will post and show you how to make pasties, but it isn’t today kids, because all I’m doing is reheating them.

So that’s what is happening in my oven as we speak. Well, that and the mash, which is nothing more than pureed vegetable of choice (butternut squash, in this case), an egg or two, a splash of cream, and some cheese. If I had my druthers, I’d use parmesan, but since there was none to be found in my fridge, mozzarella did quite nicely instead. You beat the eggs to within an inch of their lives, stir them into the veggie, add about 1/4 cup of shredded cheese, maybe a pinch of mustard for some zing, and pour that into a greased baking dish, sprinkle a bit more cheese on top, and bake till firm and cheese is melty. Easy peasy, pudding and pie. No, seriously. Pudding. And. Pie.

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sewing fiend!

So I’ve been sewing like a crazy person this weekend. Friday night I took a class (at Sewtropolis, over in Minneapolis) to make a knit top, cotton bottom tank dress:

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It turned out uber cute…you can’t tell from the photo, but the orange dots on the bottom are actually tiny orange bicycles! I’m apparently slower than molasses when it comes to sewing though, since I didn’t finish by the time the class wrapped up (and we went like 2 hours over!) and had to finish at home on Saturday (which took me another 2-1/2 hours!). I’m much more inclined to read the instructions thru, double check, and THEN sew though, since I’m still kind of new to it all and don’t want to mess up with my pretty fabric! I’m sure that’ll go away over time (like the fear of dropping my iPhone, which now gets regularly tossed in the bottom of my purse with nary a thought to its possible demise).

I didn’t take any pictures while I was making the dress, but it’s super comfy, so I’ll definitely be making another one, so I’ll take pics on that one, because there are some spiff techniques I picked up in the class and I don’t want to forget how to do them! (like how to attach neck/arm bands to knit fabric so you don’t have a gaping neckline, and how to gather a skirt). One adjustment I’m making for sure is making the next size smaller for the top…after wearing the dress for a couple hours on Saturday night, the armholes were really gaping, which kind of annoyed me. But I think that’ll be easily fixed next time. One other thing I picked up at the class was the idea to trace the pattern onto tissue paper instead of cutting into the pattern itself (one of the other folks had thought to do this for the class)…that way if you have to change sizes (like I’m going to try on the top!) you don’t have to piece the cut-up pieces back together and try to reconstruct the different size pattern piece. Genius!

So tonight I’m heading up to the fabled SR Harris outlet after work to see if I can snag some less expensive fabric (that I won’t be so worried about messing up!) to make my second attempt at the dress. The one I made in the class is pretty fun, but I’m not sure it’d fly at work, so I might try something a little more tame/less bright. We’ll see!