Knitting woes

In Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’ Esther goes to see her doctor, who asks what seems to be the matter. She replies “I can’t sleep. I can’t read.” Well I know I’m in a bad episode of depression because I can’t knit.

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The lovely bright turquoise yarn that I was yearning for all summer was finally bought to make a scarf. I started with a lacey leaf pattern and on the third attempt at casting the correct number of stitches I knitted an inch or so before getting totally distracted and lost. I ripped it all out and tried a simpler chevron pattern. I misread the ridiculously simple instructions and redid the first three rows twice before knitting away. I hadn’t even got to the first 10 rows before I realised I had miscounted and had some wobbly bits instead of pointy zigzags. It is currently unravelled (for the sixth or seventh time) and is awaiting a day when I have more brain power.

#100happydays (part 4)

I finished my #100happydays challenge a couple of weeks ago and here are the final 25 pictures.

#100 happy days 76-100 I definitely got in the habit of thinking about the day’s photo and it was a little bit weird when I didn’t have to do it (I know I never HAD to to do it, but I was determined to do all 100 days). So here in full glory is one hundred things that have made me happy (or grateful, pleased, content, or not-so-sad)

100 happy days

Picture 100 was taken the day I got discharged from the physio and she said I could try to knit again (as long as I take regular breaks every half-an-hour and keep up with strengthening exercises) so I’m hoping for a summer of knitting.

 

Lush Purple Tweed Cardigan

This is actually one of my last makes of 2013, but the blocking process took a long time in cold winter weather, and it was only just ready to wear on New Year’s Eve. Since then I have barely taken it off; the only days it hasn’t been worn were when I was wearing a soon-to-be-blogged aubergine-purple skirt and I thought it would be overdoing the purple slightly!

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The cardigan in Tin Can Knits’ Lush cardigan (check out my Ravelry notes here!) and knitted in Rowan Silky Tweed in Jazz. I bought the yarn in John Lewis sale last year, and in googling a link I’m disappointed to see it is discontinued as it was scrummy to knit and is so lovely to wear.cardigan 2

The Lush pattern was unusual in that the yoke was knitted first, then the collar and neck was knitted up, and the body and sleeves were knitted down; I’ve never come across this construction before, but it meant the lace pattern was only over a small number of stitches and so was easier to follow on the chart (I coloured in each row in different colours to help me keep my place). I really enjoyed the lace and I also learned how to do a provisional cast on (one side of the yoke is knitted, then the other, for a lovely symmetry – see below, which is the most accurate colour of the yarn) which was not as scary as I thought. What I did not like was having to pick up over 300 stitches for the body and sleeves, and realise I had too many and have to start over again to get the spacing right!

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Once the sleeves were put on stitch holders it was plain sailing, but of course I made things harder for myself by adding bust darts (short rows) for shaping and to provide more length over the chest. I did this using the method in the Craftsy Curvy Knits course, with measurements doodled on a piece of graph paper at school one lunchtime. In hindsight I should have adjusted the measurements to take away the proportion of the negative ease the pattern has, as they are slightly too big, but I’m super pleased with the alteration as it is.

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The big thing I have learned since my Basic Bella Cardigan is about zero or negative ease in knitting. I carefully took my measurements and chose the size smaller than me to give a close fit, which I am liking so much more. I lengthened the sleeves, with a little too much negative ease, so I did rip back a couple of inches and stop decreases earlier. This was a pain, but is worth it in the end for a good quality garment I can wear forever. The sleeves are a perfect length for me, and I am so glad I ignored my “are we nearly finished?!” grumbles in my head.cardigan 1

 

The sleeves and hem were bound off using Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off which I cam across when googling bind-off techniques. It was simple (adding in a yarn over before each stitch) and is so stretchy, keeping the stretch of the cuffs.cardigan 6

 

The Thursday before Christmas I braved the thunderstorm to walk to knitting night at The Village Haberdashery, but I was the only one wise enough to do so! I needed to wind some hanks of yarn for my journey home for Christmas and needed some buttons for the cardigan. It was just me, Annie and gorgeous baby Harvey, but Harvey helped me choose buttons (he liked the train ones) but I found these perfect floral buttons. I had been looking for ages and could only find solid colours that looked too flat against the tweed, but the subtle colours in these ones match the tweed beautifully. (This picture doesn’t do it justice, but is the best of bad lack of daylight).
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I am so pleased with this cardigan and know it is going to be getting a lot of wear over the cooler months. The yarn was bought on sale for around £30ish and the buttons were £9 for 10, so in total this cardigan was approximately £40 and took 2 months to complete. Not bad at all.cardigan 4

Plans and goals for 2013 – A Review

Do you remember Karen started the sewlution jar in January? Well I threw my name into the jar with this main goal: I am going to make less but what I make will be better. Lets see how I did…

couture couture jacket liberty hawthorn Floral Cambie

I learnt some more couture techniques from reading and online tutorials, which I used to make my turquoise couture jacket; The majority of this was finished by hand, which took lots of time, but was to a finish I’m really proud of. I took my time making dresses this year, using higher quality fabrics, and spending much more time on the muslin process and using better pressing techniques to get a better finished garment. I’m not sure if I have really made less, but most of what I have made will be worn for years to come. I’ve made more classic quality pieces and less impulsive fast fashion garments, so I think I can say my Sewlution was achieved, oh Mistress of the Jar!

Other goals I set were:

  • I will not need to be so sentimental and protective of my creations.
    Did you see the giant bag of clothes I took to the charity shops at the end of Me-Made-May? It included many me-made garments that just weren’t getting worn. A couple of garments were kept for recycling, but these are still in the to-sew pile.
  • donationsI will finish what I have started (or get rid of it/recycle it). Errr… not as much success for this. When I moved house I did get rid of loads of scraps and pieces, but I also had to buy more storage for my stash :-S oops.
  • I will do some of the Craftsy courses I have signed up for! I have used the Block of the Month and Free Motion Quilting courses to make my Black and White and Red All Over quilt,  and I’ve been watching knitting classes to learn how to get a better fit in knitting garments (finished cardigan is still drying, must turn heating up!).
  • I really want to make bunting! I made some bunting for the Crafty magazine fox competition, but sadly I didn’t win (I think my tutorial was much too long for a magazine). But that means that I can now share my super cute tutorial with you all instead!
  • I am going to learn to take better pictures. I have a tripod and a remote control, and have been taking hundreds of pictures to get 5 decent ones for the blog. I set up a proper background to take photos of my girly cupcakes.
  • girly cupcakesI am going to be a better blog-reader. I am better at commenting using twitter, but there is still the issue of getting past comment validation systems on a phone. Still a point to work on as I have loved all the great comments I’ve recieved this week.

retro recipes

  • I am going to explore new recipes. I only made 5 recipes as part of my retro recipe plan, but they were all great dishes that I know I will return to. I will carry on trying the classic recipes, but found it tricky this year with my wrists bandaged up.

I think I had a pretty good go at those plans, but the main change has been my attitude to my crafting; more planning and precision has led to more successes. If you want to read my plans for 2014 you can see them here.

Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading and commenting this year 🙂 Hope you have a fantastic new year and I’ll see you in 2014!

Top 5 of 2013

 

It is time for my Top 5 of 2013 (as organised by the lovely Gillian. I can’t believe this time last year I didn’t know her!). I have to review my Sewlutions tomorrow for the Mistress of the Jar, so I’m going to pack a lot in this post…

Lets start with the misses2013 misses

  • I learned so much making my Couture Jacket and am really pleased with the construction and techniques I used. But I’ve only worn it a couple of times. I’m hoping it is because the typical British spring went from freezing to boiling in a week, so fingers-crossed I enjoy wearing it this spring.
  • My Dotty Dolly Cambie dress remains unblogged 😦 I was so excited making it – polka dots, a Cambie dress, ric-rac…. all the ingredients for a perfect dress. But wearing it didn’t feel perfect. I think I prefer the gathered skirt to the a-line version I did here, and the fabric for my floral Cambie flows better. Again. I will try it again in spring as it was finished just as the heatwave started, and all the lining was a bit too sticky.
  • Inspired by meetings with Charity Shop Chic I got some items to refashion. Have you seen them yet? Nope. Because there was a lot of brain power involved in fitting my pattern pieces onto refashioned parts of garments. I will definitely put these to the top of my to-sew pile as one is fuscia silk and the other is red wool.
  • My red Basic Bella cardigan has been worn frequently these past few months and is a great chunky cardigan for a chilly day. But it is chunky. The cotton blend yarn stretches (not enough research done) and I made it fit my measurements, not incorporating negative/zero ease for a close fit (beginner knitter’s mistake) so overall it is rather baggy and can look a bit sloppy. It is still great to wear, but it has to go in the miss category since it was one of the causes of my bad wrists 😦
  • Finally my first Anna dress. Its not a total disaster, and most of the lovely comments suggested chopping the sleeves off (a job that can wait until it gets a bit warmer!), but I felt disappointed with it after all the Anna love around the blogosphere.

Hits 2013

 

 

I had a lot of trouble choosing my hits as I’ve made so many nice things this year; I feel my sewing has improved and I have a better sense of what suits me now, so there were less disasters.

  • I love my stripy Tiramisu dress and it was a great introduction to Cake Patterns. Steph’s drafting and custom fit instructions are great, and so it was easy to get a fit and finish I was happy with. I wore this loads over the summer – perfect for pulling on with sandals – even though it is still un-hemmed! oops! I made a long sleeve version which was also great, so this pattern will be staying in my collection.
  • My Polka-dot Portrait Blouse was a simple cotton tee but it was perfect over the summer. Loose enough to stay cool, but with enough subtle shaping. I lived in this with my cropped jeans, which was quite a revelation for a stretch t-shirt girl.
  • I made a quilt!! What more do I need to say?! I learned so much, caught the patchwork and quilting bug, and now can stay cozy while lounging on the sofa.
  • My floral Cambie was another great dress that worked for all occasions; school, weddings and lazy weekends. I feel so good in it as there is the right balance between style and comfort, the fabric is soft and scrummy, and I did some good pattern alterations to get the perfect fit (and at a meet-up someone was wearing a Cambie they had altered using my tutorial!)
  • Finally, since it is the only garment in season at the moment, is my Liberty Hawthorn. I wasn’t convinced about the pattern until I saw all the versions popping up on people’s blogs. This is the fourth fabric version of this, after lots of muslin-ing to get the bodice darts to fit once I’d done a big FBA, so I’m proud of all the work that went into making it. Again, I feel really good in it – not showy, but just quietly confident, like a stylish grown-up in it.

Reflections:

  • Do you notice anything about all my hit garments? A Cake pattern, a Gertie pattern, a Sewaholic pattern and a Colette pattern. I didn’t realise until writing this, but all my hits have been from independent pattern designers (my By Hand London blazer was almost in the top 5). This isn’t deliberate but I think it reflects my sewing process. Since blogging and reading other bloggers I have discovered new companies I’d never heard of. And since these companies all blog, I get to see inside the patterns and get more inspiration than is on the pattern envelope. To be honest, I’m not sure what the last Big 4 pattern I used was…
  • Three out of four hit garments are dresses! I feel good when I’m wearing a well fitted dress, and it is less hassle getting dressed in the morning. Yet I feel like dresses are impractical and don’t sew that many. This must change!
  • I like learning and I want to expand my skills. This year I learned some couture skills, I learned to patchwork blocks and how to free-motion quilt, I learnt how to add darts to knitting (yes, bust darts on my knitted cardigan coming soon once it is dried. Blocking takes so long in winter!) and I learnt more about photography and taking better pictures. As we say in school, I have a growth mind-set towards my sewing learning.
  • Sewing is more fun when you can share with people who understand you. I love, love, LOVE my new Sewcialist and Spoolette friends here on the blog, on twitter and instagram and now in real life thanks to lots of meet-ups 🙂 It is so great having people who understand your passion for creating and who can offer advice from experience, but most of the time we meet we don’t talk about sewing; there is almost an unspoken attitude towards life that we all share, despite being totally different and having different other interests, which means we can get on so well.
  • I’m pretty awesome. This isn’t said in an arrogant way, but in a “I have previously had such low self-confidence but I’m actually starting to believe I’m good” sort of way.
  • I need to craft; it is not just a hobby anymore, it is part of my life. When my wrists were bad and I had to rest, I had no idea what to do with myself. I felt twitchy and on edge for weeks as I hadn’t made anything for ages, and this in turn made me feel really low (in combination with the pain and frustration).

Inspirations:

  • All my sewing and crafting inspiration comes from the sewcialists and spoolettes and all the great blogs I read. If I had to pick my main inspirations, they would be:
    Jo  (Sew Little Time) because I think we sew quite a lot of similar things and are similar height so I can trust her makes will also look good on me.
    Struggle Sews A Straight Seam because her blog makes me smile so much, and she has a great approach to sewing wearable garments.
    Gillian (Crafting A Rainbow) because we are like the same person on different continents; both teach little kiddies, both love bright colours and sewing wearable jersey. And Gillian is always behind a twitter plan!
    Amy (Almond Rock) as she makes such cute tops with great fabric. And she turned her blog into self-hosted (I may need her help soon since I’ve nearly reached my storage limit on wordpress, eek!)
    Roisin (Dolly Clackett) for all her amazing and FUN dresses (and she is such a lovely friend).

Goals:

  • Make more dresses. I feel great in dresses, so I should make more.
  • Wear an entirely me-made outfit at least once. The only RTW items I have to buy at the moment are bras and socks. I have some sock-weight yarn and I’ve signed up to a bra-making course at Morley College (its not for a style I really wear, since that sold out last term, but should teach me the fundamental aspects I hope)
  • Keep improving and learning new techniques, and keep challenging myself in my crafting. (Was that in school speak too much?!)
  • Make more effort to join in online; open-ended sew-alongs, challenges, commenting on blogs and sharing reviews and projects online.
  • Most importantly, I will enjoy my crafting and take my time to savour all the details. I rushed my knitting and learnt the hard way that I need to enjoy crafting in (slight) moderation, otherwise I may not be able to craft at all.

As a thank you for reading all that reflection, here are some pictures of some of my projects that didn’t make the top 5 hits… To see them in more detail, click on the newly organised pages at the top of the blog 🙂

2013

Keeping Count

I am making good progress on my cardigan, and hope with the holidays fast approaching it will be finished before the new year (but I am pacing myself and not rushing!).

I’m at the waist shaping and having to keep track of what row I’m on, and was wondering how you keep track of your knitting. I have a Clover clicker that makes such a satisfying click sound, however it only tells you what row you are on, so you have to number all the rows in the pattern to know what you are doing next.

PicMonkey Collage The County Plus app on my android phone lets you count in sections (eg. counting 1-8, then 1-8, while showing you how many repeats you have done) which is great for following a repeated chart or a sequence of instructions. However, having your row counter on your phone can cause problems when you receive a message you want to read, or when you think you have lost your phone, only to discover it is in your knitting bag!

How do you keep track of your knitting?

 

What’s on my needles.

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Here is a sneaky peek of my current knitting project. I started it before I moved when my sewing machine was packed away and have been working on it since.  Lots of progress has been happening at knitting night (Thursdays at the Village Haberdashery) and it is starting to look like a cardigan!

For the first time in what feels like ages I don’t have Saturday night plans so am looking forward to doing some serious knitting in front of the tv.

What are your weekend plans?

My New Sewing Space

Hello! Do you remember me? It has been a while, so I’ll forgive you if you’ve forgotten me! Real Life has eaten into my sewing/blogging time this month as I have been packing, cleaning and moving flats. Obviously the most important part of a new place is the sewing space, and mine is almost ready to use!

sewing space 2

My sewing table is in front of the window for good light (in a few months time in spring) and is near the radiator to keep me toasty warm on dark cold nights. I am super excited that I have room for both flaps to be open so I can do cutting without moving my machine! And there is space for my mini ironing board to be near the machine for patchwork.

On the shelves I have some projects pre-prepared ready to sew, stored in pretty gift bags; there are 2 dresses with all the pieces cut out (and notions ready) and all my fabric for my next quilt. Hopefully I can make a start on one of these this weekend 🙂

sewing space 1On the other side of my table I have all my resources (well not quite all, there were a couple of boxes of fabric that didn’t fit on these shelves. oops). Books and magazines are sorted into sewing and yarn, since the collection wouldn’t fit on one shelf. All my sewing patterns are in cardboard folders and are sorted into two big gift bags (can you tell I can’t throw gift bags away?!) by garment type; dresses and jackets, and separates.

There are two slim full length mirrors in the corner which will be great for fitting garments, and my dress form is also near by for fitting and draping. My tools (tracing wheels, shears, etc) and notions (seam tape, binding, personalised labels, etc) are in the same hanger from my last flat. I un-hooked it and carefully rolled it up, with contents still in the pockets, and then unrolled it when I unpacked so all my tools are ready to use!

What are your top tips for keeping your sewing space sorted?

I’m so looking forward to getting back to crafting this week, as two weeks feels like ages. I have a few unblogged garments to show you, that are awaiting photos, but I’m not sure there will ever be good light for photos for a few months. 

The latest knitting must-haves!

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Yup, some anti-inflammatory gel and a support bandage. I have an inflamed tendon in my thumb caused by… knitting. I’ve got a case of RSI from lots of repetitive knitting, and worsened by being back at school giving kids encouraging thumbs-ups!

It is so hard to rest my hand and manage without, so today I have strapped it up in the hope it will stop me moving it. Opposable thumbs are used more than I realised!

In the meantime I’m getting my crafting fix from reading old issues of Threads for jacket tips, and tweeting about the Great British Sewing Bee (I’m @crafty_alibobs)

FO: Basic Bella Cardigan

Eight months after starting (with lots of breaks) I have finally completed my Basic Bella cardigan!

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The pattern was Basic Black by Glenna C on Ravelry (also available here) and is a simple v-neck cardigan with waist-shaping. I chose this pattern to be the knitting equivalent of a basic cardigan block (ie. work out what changes I have to make to a standard cardigan before I try knitting any complicated lace/cables/patterns).

The changes I made were adding 10cm or so to the length (after the ribbing and before the waist-shaping) so it would sit well with jeans and trousers. This is the perfect length for me, as I find other cardigans I own always creep up when I move, leaving me with a cold bit of my back. I also lengthened the sleeves, making up the pattern as I went along to get a nice narrow cuff and lower arm. I think it is pretty good, for an improvised sleeve.

bella 01

When sewing I always need to do a Full Bust Adjustment, and I think that is what I need to do when knitting, but how? The size across the bust is great here, but the cardigan is a little big around the waist and hips (I took it in as much as I could while sewing it up) and the shoulders are also a little wide. On the next cardigan I will do a smaller size in the hips/waist, and am wondering if knitting a smaller size back would also work… any tips/ideas/reading about this?

bella 05

The pattern had basic instructions and at first was a bit confusing (work decreases for neckline and at same time work shoulder shaping). Once I worked out what I was supposed to be doing, the instructions actually helped me understand the process better -there was no mindlessly following instructions, but actually having to think about how the cardigan is shaped and constructed, which made it easier to work out where/how to adapt the pattern.

bella 04

The yarn I used was Debbie Bliss Bella (85% cotton, 10% silk and 5% cashmere – it glided beautifully on my steel needles) in shade 16008 which is apparently called Crimson. I say apparently because some people have called this red, some people have called it deep pink. Whatever colour it was, I struggled to find buttons that would match this shade. In the end I chose these stripy buttons, as the white broke up the colour and didn’t make the difference so obvious – from the front they look great, but the back of the button clashes a bit. It reminds me of this optical illusion where the grey looks different depending on the background.

bella 03Most of this cardigan has been knitted as I travelled to and from work, so it has taken a long time to make (not including the long break when I was crocheting crazily to finish my blanket and making Christmas gifts). I spent most of the bank holiday weekend knitting the sleeves (both at the same time) and probably spent 3 full days doing the sleeves and finishing the cardigan. The yarn was purchased last year in the sales but obviously I blogged about the costs of all the other purchases and not this one. I think the yarn cost approx £40 and the buttons cost a couple of pounds, so total cost was under £45.

Before I get started on a cosy winter cardigan, here is a sneak peak of my current sewing project…WIP