Monday, April 27, 2015

Blushing Bride

Dum dum da dum...dum DUM da dum.... That's the wedding song. Did you get that? Sorry, I'm aiming for levity as I have the news on right now and I am so very glad I do not live in Baltimore (and if you do you're in my prayers tonight). Anyhoodle...

My cousin is getting married in a few weeks and his fiance had asked me to make some bags for her bridesmaids. I said sure, even though I generally shy away from weddings as the fabrics can be finicky and the matchy-matchiness of everything can be frustrating. Luckily, she wanted a simple design and was fine with me flipping the colors so hers would be the color of her bridesmaids gowns, and theirs would be the color of hers.

These are absolutely boring to look at in pictures, but so feminine and pretty in person. They are basic zip clutches, but these have the zipper set down in a bit so it doesn't look so much like a change purse.

The maids bags are all in ivory satin and lace, while the bride's is blush satin with an ivory lace overlay. Can I just tell you this bag drove me a little crazy? I thought I found the perfect pinks at Joann's, but was promptly informed that they were "too purple" and "not blush" and "all wrong" and "I don't like that" and so on and so forth (not by the bride--by my mother and sister). I make them sound quite sarcastic but I felt the same way. So I took a shot at ordering online as I came up empty at local shops, and had the adventure that is shopping at That could be an entirely different post, but that site is not the place I once loved and ordered from constantly. After getting my nag on I received my satin and it was right on. The lace was almost orange, so I did what I do when I need fresh eyes on something. I laid everything out on the dining room table and went to bed, promptly forgetting about it all. When I came down the next morning my instant reaction of what looked best was actually using the ivory lace instead of one of the several colors I now had. Thank goodness for hassle-free returns.

Goodness, I didn't mean to get all into that.

My camera does not love picking up pink accurately, but this is the softest prettiest shade of blush pink. I can't think of a more feminine color. It's not one I could ever wear as I am quite fair with pink undertones (as my sisters tell me when we talk makeup), and I would be washed out completely, but I do love this color.

These bags were fairly simple to make. The most difficult part (after fiddling with creating a pattern) was making sure the lace and satin and interfacing stayed lined up and behaved themselves. I've never done an inset zipper like this  but it was really quite simple to do.

The one thing with this was that I didn't change out the zipper pulls as I had exact zippers and didn't want to pull them apart. That teeny pull gets a little lost in there, so I tied a small length of jewelry suede (I guess that's a thing? I got it in the jewelry aisle and it says suede on the package) to the pull to make it a little easier to get a hold of. And it really made quite the difference.

Tonight I made up my bag that I'm taking to this wedding, which I'll show you next. And while I will not swear off satin as it's quite simple to work with and so pretty, I'm thinking that lace can go straight to h-e-double sticks. I have no idea how people work with that stuff (I'm thinking of you, Grandma!). I have two diaper bags on order, and quilting cotton has never sounded so good.

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 :)


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