Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Complete Photo Guide to Clothing Construction

Afternoon, dears. A few weeks ago I was sent a book to review, with the request that I post my review on Amazon. Will do, but first I wanted to share my thoughts on it with you folks.

Now, I love crafty books. They're usually beautifully photographed and look so appealing, but I find that more often than not that a lot of those books are so similar (and a few even kind of not good) that it's not worth it to keep adding to my library. After reading the book notes in the email I was sent, I decided this one might be a good one. And even though it's my own opinion I think I'm right, haha.

OK, so the book. Its called The Complete Photo Guide to Clothing Construction by Christine Haynes. After reading the author bio I thought "Ok, this person knows what they're doing" as they've been a lifelong seamstress from a family of seamstresses and went to school for seamstressing. Plus? As you probably guessed, there are a lot of photos. Not those dinky little line drawings that aren't helpful, but actual photographs showing the essential parts of the technique.

The book has a nice, thorough introductory section regarding notions and tools and the usual beginning of any sewing book info. But this one has a section I've never seen before in a sewing book and might be helpful to those whom are intimidated by a machine manual--a section on machine parts.

The book then goes on to explain patterns, measuring your body, choosing fabrics, how to cut different fabrics properly, and how to mark all those notches. The language is simple, but at the same time comprehensive and helpful. The beginning of each section also has a part called 'anatomy of a garment'--

I thought these were fun little bits interspersed throughout--you get to see what's being written about and how it looks on an actual garment, with a numbered section explaining what's what.

The next section is on construction basics--zippers, buttons, hand sewing stitches, finishing and grading seams, and so on.

There is also quite an extensive section on darts, gathering, and all manner of shaping techniques and sleeve insertion tips. And it of course finishes up with pockets and various hems.

I would have loved to have had this book a couple years ago for two reasons--fly front zippers and in-seam pockets. Some of you may remember this skirt I helped my sister make.

It was quite simple. Except for two parts--the fly front zipper and the in-seam pockets. I have a stack this high (you can't see but I'm holding my hand up from the floor pretty high) of sewing books, each covering what seems like everything but these two techniques (even recently published books!). I googled and read and googled some more, until I found instructions that were easy enough to follow. It made what should have been a very simple skirt not so simple, and quite frustrating. This book holds exactly what I needed to know among a ton of other useful information.

So. While this book is not a project book but a technique book, it's definitely a good one to have on your shelf. While I like sewing from patterns, I sometimes find the instructions terribly lacking or confusing due to the aforementioned dinky sketches. This is like having someone sitting there showing you just what to do, which seems to be the yardstick against which such things are measured, amiright?

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book at no charge in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are completely my own based on my own experience. For my complete disclosure policy, click here.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

To be or not to be

For Christmas I got a delightful box of Stylecraft DK weight yarn, perfect for blanket-making as it's cozy and soft but not stiflingly heavy. One of the more popular blankets that resides here is my ripple blanket made from said yarn because it doesn't weigh forty pounds. While that one is bright and riotous with color, the blanket I'm working on now is still colorful, but darker. Definitely out of my color comfort zone, but when I see it waiting for me to get back to it I do like it. It almost has an...ethnic?... look to it, I feel like I wanna say.

This is a mixed-stitch stripey blanket as seen here and here.

I'm trying to be kind of random with the colors but it is not easy. Due to the varying heights of the stitches it's difficult to get the right balance of light and dark, cool and warm. In some areas I think I'm good, but in other areas things stand out much more than others. When that happens I try to 'hide' that color in a skinny stripe.

I use each color once before I repeat anything, with the exception being the white to offset so much color and bring a little light to it.

For the most part the stitches are various combinations of double crochet and some half doubles, with a few thinkers thrown in for good measure. It keeps everything quite interesting and doesn't grow boring as you're not doing the same thing for a million consecutive rows. Some of the color pairings are interesting to see come together as it looks so much different in stitches than when I line up rows of skeins on the floor.

Now here is my dilemma. This is one of the edges. Ignore the ends. I'm trying to.

But here's the thing that makes me get slightly clenchy. It's the other edge.

That's some wiggly action happening up there. I'm counting my stitches and all is well in that regard, so I don't know what's happening. I'm planning on doing a border but I don't know if that will help even anything out as I've never had this problem before. Anybody know? It doesn't look so terrible in person but every time I pick this up to work on it I spend a good five minutes pondering if I should stop and start over with something that will be more uniform, or if I should just keep going with it. I think that's why it's so slow-going, I'm hesitant to grow it too much as I'm kind of unsure about that edge. Your thoughts? What would you do? I'm really having quite a conflict in my brain over this.

This must be how Hamlet felt. I'm super sure of it. Any advice would be appreciated.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Socks

Some people make Easter dresses. I made Easter socks. OK, not really. I just happened to wear them today. I finished off a pair of cuff down socks in official sock weight yarn, so these are real socks knit on itty-bitty needles and that fit in real shoes and everything.

I used this free pattern, and these teeny needles, and this kind of OK yarn that was a little scratchy to knit with but washes up nice and not-annoying-to-wear.

I do a much better job on this style of sock with not having stretch holes like I do in the toe-ups I've knit. Plus I really love how you can see all the parts cohere while at the same time being entirely separate and identifiable.

In the first sock I knit I threw in a nylon thread on the heels and toes. But then I read something that said don't do that because the thread can actually cut through the yarn, so the second sock doesn't have that element. This yarn is superwash wool blended with nylon so I'm hoping that's enough strength built in.

On the first one I finished it, and wove the ends in and was feeling quite pleased. Then I saw what looked like a dropped stitch. Then another. They were all literally hanging on by the (nylon) thread. I must have been very anxious to finish and wasn't paying attention. Then I recovered from my minor heart attack, UNwove my ends (which is the direct opposite of fun), UNdid my kitchener stitch (also not fun), and frogged the toe with fingers crossed (but not literally because I needed them, haha) that I could pick the stitches up again. Phew. It all worked out. I think I possibly did a few extra decreases as the one has a little bit of  ruffle/pucker/gather/wrinkle/whatever to it, but it seems to wear OK. The second one I took my time with the wretched DPNs, making sure all stitches were where they were supposed to be before I slid anything off. And then boom. Just like that I had a pair of socks.

The ribbing across the top of the foot makes it hug nicely and the stockinette toe makes it not feel too bulky. I have worn these inside regular shoes all day, and not felt aware of the stitches or any bulk or anything. They're a little too toasty for this time of year, but will be fab in cold weather.

And now here's the dilemma. I was ready to pack it in because I thought these were way too much effort. About two weeks-ish for the pair, thin yarn, skinny needles. But I really like these. They feel cozy. BUT I had a lot of extra yarn because I didn't know how much I'd need. BUT I found a toe-up pattern that looks just like these. Plus I saw this yarn. So I feel I kind of have to give it one more go so I can make an educated decision on my investment of time (yes, I'm aware of the irony of possibly wasting time while deciding if that activity is a waste of time or not. And yes, I'm also aware that I probably used 'irony' incorrectly).

Decisions, decisions. Next up: for a change of pace my new afghan I'm working on and enough unwoven ends to make you physically ill. Later kids!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ich Bin Ein Sock Knitter

I know. I know. I'm hardly blogging. And when I do I talk about socks. I'm sorry. My obsession has almost worn off and the excitement I felt is waning down to "I knit another dishcloth" level. Not to say I don't enjoy it or have had my fill, just that I feel much more confident about heel flaps and gussets and short rows and whatnot. I haven't even succumbed to second sock syndrome (yet). My goal is to find a pattern/yarn combo that becomes second nature and that I can whip out while watching Jeopardy and stitch away on (because dishcloths do get tiresome as that sort of project). And besides--there are some delicious sock yarns out there.

Anyway, after making several practice socks I finished an official pair of socks. And they're totally official because I wore them today. All day. To work and everything. Like a real pair of socks. Granted I put an extra pair of normal socks in my handbag just in case, but they weren't necessary.

Disclaimer: my ankles are not swollen (I took off my socks and checked). The yarn is a little thick for socks, and bunches a little around my instep making it look like I have an issue. Other than thick socks I don't, hahaha.

I used this recently released pattern from Very Pink for DK/sport weight socks knit using German short rows (hence my title) instead of wraps and turns (which are methods of shaping your knitting--a little bit like darts in sewing). With wraps and turns I got little 'decorative' holes in my work, which were OK but not something I loved. The German short rows (GSRs) leave a little something behind, but more patterned instead of holey so they don't bug me at all. I also did ribbing on the entire leg of the sock instead of stockinette with a short ribbed cuff. I don't know if that affected the fit or not, and to be truthful I don't know why I did it--it would have been even quicker without doing that and might have eliminated the weird bunchiness at the ankle/instep--if any experienced sock knitters know if that would make a difference let me know so I don't get it in my head to do it again.

The heel was knit the same way as the toe, but as the instep of a foot is much wider, those spots become a little more stressed. I did my best to hide those stress points, but more practice is needed if I'm going to knit this style again.

Second sock on the left is clearly much more uniform than the first crack on the right where it looks like a giant loop is hanging out (but it's not--it's just not tidy looking).

The pattern was so easy, and the thicker yarn worked up quickly. However, even though the tutorial videos claim you can wear these with shoes and boots I'm not convinced. They still seem a little too thick for anything but obviously oversized shoes or certain kinds of boots. They're warm and feel good on, though, so I've got some cozy lounging socks at the very least.

I used this yarn in the Fremont colorway, but also bought a fingering weight hank in Arbor Lodge. Hopefully regular sock weight yarn will make me less aware that I'm wearing socks (I don't claim to make sense, haha). 

I have a cuff down pair thiiiiiiis close to being finished. They're in regular sock weight yarn, so I'm very curious to get them on my feet and test them out. And then I promise I'll sew some bags and maybe write a tutorial or something, and take pictures of my nephews and finish that quilt I started last year...but I'll lay off the socks. Swearsies :)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Big Ol' Pile of Yarn

If anyone wants to come over here and give me a foot rub I will reward you with one knitted sock and a promise for another. Any takers? Going once? Going...once? Hm. OK, then. Your loss.

This has been a full weekend. Friday started with a snow storm on the first day of spring, a half day of work, and then a cross-state trek to Pittsburgh for a wedding. My friends, I am not a good traveler. I like my own bed, and my things where I can find them in my sleep. I have no problem with new sights and places...I just really wish science would get on disapparating to make it easier on everyone. And to save on turnpike tolls. Anyway, after an absolutely fabulous wedding and night of fun and dancing, we made the long trek home, where I've been applying ice packs to my knee and gearing myself up for work tomorrow.

Ok, no segue. Just changing the subject. Amid my frenzy of sock knitting (it's not really a frenzy, it's more of a kick, and I'm aware of how nerdy it all is) I also started an afghan. I don't want to show it to you until I get through one pattern repeat so you can see how everything is going to play together, but it's going to be a little of this and a little of that from this pattern at Little Woolies, and this pattern at Not Your Average Crochet (which is based on the first, so I'm deriving from something that is already derivative). I realized that I never showed you the giant pile of yarn I got for Christmas that I'm using for this blanket.

Lots of color, but also very different from what I usually use. No bright pops of pink and lime green and so on--much more muted colors that remind me of autumn, from the leaves on the ground, to the purpley flowers that abound, to the blues of a crisp October sky.

It's all Stylecraft Special DK in a bunch of different colors. I tried to pick mostly those I had never used before though there are some that are just perfect and I couldn't pass up.

I love super-delicious eye candy almost as much as real candy. Fabric, yarn, whatever it is--there is something about collections of craftiness that I just love looking at. So inspiring.

So that's the yarn. I didn't want so spring an afghan on you and have you be all "Wait, when did this happen? Did we discuss this?" It moves along quite nicely when I get going, so hopefully I'll have the first section to show you soon. I've already worked through each color, now to get through the stitches.

Have you ever made a mixed stripe blanket? I'd love to know any tips or thoughts you may have.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Like Getting Back on a Bike

Possibly not the best title as I stink at riding a bike, and me getting back on one would be a terrible experience for both me and any witnesses to the event... Anyhoodiddlehoo....I have hardly sewn a thing in months. I don't know if it's because I haven't felt like it or if because nothing has grabbed my interest or because winter seems like the right time to snuggle on the couch with some knitting. For whatever reason, needle and thread have rarely seen fabric. But I've slowly been getting back to it--I sewed something tonight I can't show you yet, and I have a few bags on order for a wedding (which I haven't done yet so I can't show you), but on my snow day a couple weeks ago I sewed a bag. And then promptly forgot to share.

Ok. So I have a wedding coming up, and have this beautiful navy blue fit and flare dress that I am actually excited to wear because it is so comfortable (which, take note--I don't know if I've ever said that or will ever say it again), and silvery shoes that are comfy too, so I'm not dreading dressing up! I didn't have a bag that was a good size, and I couldn't find anything I really liked. I came across this frame that I had bought a while ago and never got around to using:

This is the frame I used (from u-handbag)

I didn't feel like doing any major thinking on making this work, and I knew that u-handbag used to have a pattern for this (it's called the Kyoko Frilled Pouch). As luck would have it they were sprucing it up for a re-release, so my timing was excellent (for once). I spent one night cutting and fusing and adding an internal zipper pocket, and a few hours the next day assembling everything. And now I'm all ready to par-tay!

The outside is this great batik I found at Joann's. It's hard to get the colors right on this one as it's got a swirly blend of navy, dark teal, and just a hint of purple thrown in (which is what I was going for, as I crocheted myself a shrug of the same colors to go with the dress). 

The inside is a teal and silver polka dot. I don't know if it matches, but it's perfect because Z-man picked it out. I was a little fingers-crossed hopeful while sewing that pocket in as it's not part of the pattern and I didn't know if I'd placed it too high or too low, but it (thankfully) came out OK. The inside is really a nice size for the essentials for an evening out. My favorite part is that the frame screws apart, so you could actually make yourself a few bags and then switch them out as needed. Much more economical than buying bag after bag.

The bottom is an inset bottom--no boxy corners, no gusset, just a rectangle to inset into a tube (my least favorite kind). I long ago gave up on expecting perfection from myself on this method, so as long as it doesn't look like my dog sewed it I'm good with a little bit of a human touch added to it.

The only part I had trouble with was the casing for the rod part of the frame. Either my ruler is crooked or my eyes are (and I just came from the optometrist this afternoon and he assured me my eyes are in good shape so I must have a shape-shifting ruler) because my casing kept coming out a wee bit off. I had to pull the old mafioso one-liners out from my mental store of movie quotes to convince that thing to go through, and at last it did. 

There are little loops attached to the frame in case you'd like to attach a chain or a strap of some sort, but I feel a little fancy carrying it by the handle so that's what I'm going to do while I pretend I'm a fuller-figured version of Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn (can you tell I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl?).

Ok, I guess I should trot. If my computer reminds me one more time that it wants to install updates I'm going to utter unladylike phrases, which one should not do when one has a perfect dress and a lovey bag, both within close proximity.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Official Points Tally


Ok, kids, if you're checking in for the official score, here goes.

My sister: one
Cancer: zero (nice try, but zero)

Some of you send me emails inquiring about my sister's progress, and it's something I truly appreciate more than you know. Cancer is something that touches every single person in some way, so the sympathy and concern that comes from that is a natural reaction.

After her sessions/rounds/cycles/I don't even know what they're called of chemo, she had a scan earlier this week, and that came back clear. Clear. As in no cancer cells were waving their illuminated hands yelling "Here I am!" So with the right dose of science, a little faith, and a middle-finger-up attitude, those cells who didn't know when to leave the party finally skedaddled. And hopefully for good. Like I-hope-the-doorknob-hit-them-on-the-way-out for good. Like twenty-three-skidoo for good. Like make-like-a-try-and-leave for good. Like....OK, I'm tapped out, but you get it.


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