Sunday, December 7, 2014

Rainy Day Ondawa

Ah, what to say about this project? Where on earth to start? Every single part of it was a joy: the excitement of seeing the pattern when it first came out, picking out the yarn, knitting that amazing cable chart, pulling it on for the first time when the seaming was all done...from start to finish, it was totally rewarding (and I haven't even worn it out head's going to explode when that time comes, lol!).

I suppose you want some details, so: this is Ondawa, a pattern from Brooklyn Tweed's fisherman knits-inspired fall 2014 collection. Also, I did not knit this with Loft. Remember when I was super excited that my LYS had started carrying Brooklyn Tweed yarn? And yet, I seem to be doing whatever I can to avoid actually using it! I don't know what my problem is (that's a lie: it's money!), but I chose to make this instead with Hikoo's Kenzie (a blend of merino, nylon, angora, alpaca, and silk noils). I have a feeling the gauge is slightly bigger than actual Loft, but don't know this for sure because once again: pas de gauge swatch! Not that it matters a whole lot, because I made the second smallest size and it's meant to have quite a bit of ease.

And since we're talking about sizing, I should probably mention some of the weird stuff I did to get the fit I wanted. I didn't particularly want a crop top, mainly because I didn't want to have to wear something underneath it, so I added two more repeats of the central cable. I also didn't want to be swimming in it (19 inches of ease, wtf?), so made a much smaller size than the pattern recommended. And then (because why stop there?), I also made the shoulders wider than the hem when I blocked it. And after all, it fits pretty swell!

This is probably the second most challenging project I've attempted after Exeter, but it's not actually difficult: there's no in-pattern shaping, the cables are all clearly charted, and you're basically just knitting four rectangles. So maybe challenging is the wrong word...ambitious, maybe? Impressive? Then again, I'm always impressed when I do something besides stockinette, so it's good to raise the bar a little now and then.

Oh, and almost forgot the best part: this was done entirely sans cabling needle! I kinda hate the whole "slip 3 stitches to a cable needle and hold in front/back, knit whatever from left needle, tear your hair out cuz this is taking so long, etc etc". Soooooo, I looked up how to cable without the fuss of an extra needle in the way, and found a couple of tutorials. Basically, you re-arrange the stitches on your left needle so that they're sitting in the order you need to knit them in. Some folks would probably find this more of a pain in the ass than just using a cable needle, but not me! Especially when you're cabling every five seconds (sometimes just a single stitch), like in this pattern. So yay, learned something new!

There are actually quite a few Ondawas in progress on Ravelry right now, and I'm really looking forward to seeing more of them as finished projects. If you have one in progress and have any questions, feel free to ask!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Rusty Slade

So, part of the reason I finally got off my ass to post my Ivory Laurie tee is because I actually really wanted to post this guy...and since I'm wearing the Laurie tee with it in the photos I took, it made sense to show it first (kind of?). In truth, this is my second Slade cardigan (first is still languishing somewhere unblogged, because...yup, laziness!): these are so quick and lovely to knit up that before I was finished that first one, I started up another. While the first was done in a typical-for-me tweedy charcoal hue, I thought I'd cut loose a bit with a pop of colour (to use a perennially annoying fashion term), and acquired some more of the same Japanese Maple Cascade 220 that I used for my Rusty Setzer cowl.

I've kind of gotten in the habit of automatically substituting Cascade 220 for Shelter in my mind whenever I see it in a Brooklyn Tweed pattern (cuz I'm cheap), but in fact I think it is ever so slightly thinner than Shelter. I say this because I knit both my Slades in the same size (41" bust, second size from smallest), but the first I did make in Shelter and the fit is a bit roomier. I was originally aiming for something a bit more oversize, and figured that this being a man's pattern, I only needed to worry about not making it TOO big. With this assumption in mind, I chose a size that had a smaller arm circumference and pretty much ignored all the other measurements, which I might not repeat if I make a third version.

After sewing the arms into my first Slade though, I noticed that the part where the top of the sleeve met the shoulder seemed really big all around. I then embarked on a little sweater surgery: I took apart the seam, and frogged the top of the sleeves quite a few inches. I left off the last arm increase before the shoulder shaping, then knit fewer rows for the sleeve caps (I'm sorry I can't be more specific than that, I seem to have lost my damn notes!). Then I put the whole thing back together...and since I sort of knit the two Slades simultaneously, I had to do the exact same thing with this one (yoiks!).

The rest of the knitting and seaming on this sweater is so simple that I didn't mind having one slightly weird mod to deal with. The only other issue I had was I made the neck ribbing band two short...on both...and blocked them before noticing. When it finally dawned on me that they looked a little off, I went back to the pattern and stared at the schematic like an idiot for 20 minutes trying to find a measurement for the neck band, only to find it much later buried at the end of the neck band instructions (it's 6", suckah!). So I had to unpick the cast off edge, carefully pick up aaaaaaaaaaaaaaall those stitches, and add about three more inches of ribbing to each...and there is nothing more awful than going back and adding more ribbing when you thought you were finished with the damn stuff.

However, all worth it in the end! I do need to block the ends of the neck band of this one again, because they have a tendency to lift up at the hem, but I do love a simple, comfortable, and easy to wear knitting project. I especially love the colour of this one: the perfect warm, heathery fall shade to snuggle up in on those cold days when your soul shrivels at the thought of braving the elements :)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ivory Laurie

Here I am, late as usual, and still milking my summer projects for all they're worth. This one is a particular treasure, because it's everything that this project was supposed to be, but better! For starters, it's made of jersey (possibly bamboo?), so I did not have to wrestle with the additional fitting issues inherent in a woven fabric. Also, I did not have to make a single pain-in-the-ass modification! Yes, I did add 2 inches or so to the hemline, and I also substituted the Grainline Hemlock neckband for the foldover pattern neckline, but those mods were easy as pie compared to the Sisyphean undertaking that was the pleated Salme tee.

I made a straight size 40, which is precisely what the size chart told me to make, and it fits perfectly. The pleats were relatively easy, since I used a piece of rigid paper to help keep them straight (and since I'd already had massive amounts of practice). It's a pretty casual top, all things considered, but I usually wear it on days when I need to look like a "nice" teacher at school (as opposed to one who fell out bed and may or may not be wearing the same jeans as she did the last four days).

As you can maybe tell, Named Patterns are rapidly turning into my Brooklyn Tweed of sewing pattern companies: I don't think I've ever come across a pattern company where the sizing was so spot on for me, and I love that they release whole collections at a time (really looking forward to SS 2015, ladies!). If you haven't looked them up already, do yourself a favour and do so now!

On a completely different topic, does anyone else have a really hard time taking decent rear-view shots of their sewing/knitting projects? I can't believe how strangely I have to contort myself in order not to appear hunchbacked...and yet it looks normal in the what do I look like the rest of the time, lol?

Anyways, I have a pile of sweaters I'm finishing up, so hopefully there will be some woolly goodness on here soon!

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Ok, sneaking this in because I can't face the shame of not having at least one teeny tiny post this month: here is another version of ye olde trusty Hemlock, already much used by me and so very many others. I've already waxed amorous about this pattern, so really, all there is to say about this top is maybe a few things about my mods and the fabric. Look closely now...closer, dammit!

Why, is that a high-low split hem? How annoyingly on-trend and not innovative at all! Still, I have to admit that I felt pretty clever making that change, and have since really loved this shirt to death. I do like the look, and it's pretty subtle overall, although the one thing they never tell about a split hem is that it can create that dreaded bell shape in a top (bell shape...ugh!).

As for the fabric, I ordered it forever ago with a bunch of other stuff from Girl Charlee, and it was definitely a bit of an impulse buy. I liked the slightly tweedy look of the gray stripe, but when it arrived, I was more excited about the other fabrics than this weird terry knit stuff. I was basically like "I guess I can make it into a muscle tee or something, lol", and left it to languish on the back of my stash shelf. Then I saw some picture somewhere on the internet that was basically a high end version of Hemlock in a very similar fabric, so my scrappy self got to work. And I love it! Sooooooo comfortable...and easy...and me :)

Anyways, I'm hoping to be a better blogger, but work has kicked my ass a little these past few weeks/months, leaving me tired and cross-eyed in the evenings (in a good way, really). See, the teachers union in BC was on strike from the end of June until three weeks into September, which was both frustrating and terrifying by turns. I didn't mention it on here because it didn't really seem like the appropriate space to go into the politics of my job, but suffice to say it was an incredibly stressful time for me (as well as for students, their families, and my fellow teachers). I am so glad and relieved that it is now over, but it meant that the back-to-school chaos that we usually walk into at the beginning of September was even more intense, what with the first three weeks of the school year lopped off. This isn't a complaint, just a bit of FYI and an explanation as to why I've been a little AWOL :)

So there you are...hopefully I'll be posting again soon. I've still got a backlog of summer projects to get through, plus some new ones on the way! Fall knitting and sewing is always my favourite, so I'll be sharing some more soon...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Archer: Blue x 2

Am I the last person in the sewing blogger-verse to have made a Grainline Archer shirt? It sure feels that way. I was super excited about this pattern when it was first released, then even more excited to put the pattern together and figure out what style I wanted to make and what fabric to use. At some point I remember seeing an Instagram photo of a colour-blocked version that Jen (of Grainline) had made, and decided that I would attempt one myself. However, all that initial excitement resulted in a kind of creative implosion, because the prepared pattern languished under a bunch of other patterns in a neglected corner of my sewing room for quite some time before I got around to giving it any love.

As we all know, there comes a point when the UFO will NO LONGER BE DENIED. In the case of this shirt, that moment came some time this past July. I finally got it together to figure out the necessary modifications for the colour-block panels before cutting out the fabric. Now, was it a smart thing to do, this altering of a new-to-me pattern on the first go? Probs not! In fact, I had to cut the bottom panels twice and adjust the top panels because the first time the proportions didn't look right (bottom panel needed more height). It wasn't the hardest thing ever, but it was a little challenging. I had to be extra careful when sewing the bottom and top panels together because if the seam allowance had been off even a little, it would have looked wonky (especially around the front button band). Thankfully it came together reasonably well, and once that part was nailed down, the rest felt like pretty smooth sailing!

The fabric I used for the bottom panels is a navy blue tencel, and the fabric I used for the top is actually leftover chambray bedsheet from this top I made two summers ago! I kind of love the fact that cost-wise, this thing was only about $25.00 to throw together (including the pattern). It was kind of tricky deciding what to do for the buttons, but in the end I chose to match them to the darker fabric, which looks fine. Also, I used this totally awesome collar turning technique to get really good collar points!. I used to be slightly terrified of collars (and pockets, come to think of it), but I think the key is having a good pattern and some trustworthy techniques under your belt.

The *only* thing that's a bit of an issue with this shirt is the size. For some dumb reason, I cut out a size 8, even though I'm actually a size 10 in this pattern. And upon closer comparison of a favourite shirt with the finished Archer measurements, I found that I probably should have cut out a 12 to get the slightly oversize fit I like in a button-down shirt. Yoiks! It's not too small by any means, it's just a slimmer style than I had envisioned, which is FINE, because I can only be a Sloppy McScruffers so much of the time.

Well, that's it for this guy. If anyone wants any tips on making their own colour-blocked version of this shirt, do make your queries via the comments. It's actually fairly easy, and a fun variation on an already great pattern :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

All Things Knitwise...

photo copyright Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood
Confession time! I am really not a summer person. This might have to do with being born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, where summer can feel more like a dirty rumor than a dependable fourth season, or it might simply have to do with a personal intolerance to heat and seeing humans in shorts. Who can say? What I do know is that I always view the approach of autumn with a sense of relief and anticipation (relief because I can stop cycling through the only three summer appropriate tops I own, and anticipation because FALL KNITTING!). True to this last statement, there's been a veritable deluge of great fall/winter patterns popping up on Ravelry recently, including the highly anticipated fall 2014 collection from Brooklyn Tweed.

This feels like the Brooklyn Tweed collection I've always wanted: it's definitely sweater heavy, and beautifully inspired by traditional fishermen knits (think lots of gorgeous cables). It's great to see how the different designers have interpreted and used traditional cable motifs to come up with patterns that have a modern heirloom feel to them. As usual, I've chosen a few favourites to share, but the whole collection is literally perfection and you should go drool over it now!

photos copyright Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

A few of my faves:

Top left: Hawser, by Jared Flood.
Top right: Bellows, by Michelle Wang.
Bottom left: Rowe, by Michelle Wang.
Bottom right: Docklight, by Julie Hoover.

My absolute love-at-first-sight/I-may-cast-on-tomorrow favourite is the Ondawa sweater (Michelle Wang, again!), and is pictured at the top of this post. IT IS PERFECT. I described it to a friend as being like a cabled version of Relax, and I cannot wait to sashay my way through winter draped in its fisherman fierceness!

So the folks at Brooklyn Tweed have clearly been busy, but they're not the only ones:

photos copyright Susie Haumann
Susie Haumann has also released a beautiful new collection, called "Let's Tweed", full of typically simple and beautiful designs (the above two are Houndstooth and Tweeded, respectively). It's only available in Danish thusfar, but hopefully we'll start seeing English translations at some point.

Speaking of which, it looks like the (previously Danish only) designs from her "Grey Days" collection (posted about here) have been translated, and are available on Ravelry (yay!).

Finally, I wanted to mention (for the benefit of anyone who may not be aware) that Karen over at Fringe Association is organizing a KAL featuring the Amanda sweater (pictured above). My understanding of the concept is that the knit-along is pretty open (you don't necessarily have to knit Amanda, it could be another fishermen-esque design). It sounds pretty cool and flexible, and I might just use it as an excuse to start the Ondawa sweater before I'm truly finished my other UFOs.

Aaaaaaaaaand, since this post has dealt largely with fishermen knits, I will leave you all a parting gift: a young (and gorgeous!) David Gilmour snuggled up in an aran sweater (also gorgeous!).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lady Gray

Ok, summer project blog-aggeddon is officially underway! As I mentioned in my previous post, my summer sewing/knitting consisted largely of wearable basics, which are great for the everyday wardrobe, but can be less than mind-blowing to read about. With that in mind, I decided that my first summer project post would feature one of the more interesting garments of the bunch, so here she is: Erica Schlueter's "Bohemian Tee" from the spring/summer 2014 edition of Knit.Wear magazine.

Now, I don't normally go in for fancy knit stitches, because having to pay attention to my knitting prevents me from being able to freely gawk at whatever dumb movie I've sitting in front of (it also makes drinking while knitting a more hazardous activity than usual...not that I'd let that stop me!). But this top was just small enough that I figured I could handle the agony of sober, movie-less knitting without completely losing it. And it was worth it!

The knitting went pretty smoothly overall, although I did have that weird "I-don't-know-if-I'm-doing-this-right-but-it-looks-ok" feeling pretty much the whole time I was working on it. I LOVE that it looks like crochet without actually being crochet, because if it WAS crochet a) I wouldn't have been able to make it, and b) it would look even more like a doily than it actually does. Speaking of the doily effect, I very seriously considered making this in a much lighter colour before choosing this medium gray, and I'm so glad that I didn't go ahead with my original plan, because it would have been a little too Ye Olde Dishrag for me.

The only real modification I made was to the length of the body: the original pattern instructs you to knit five repeats of the wheel pattern, which could only look right on someone who is under 5'6" and never stands up. Since I'm 6'0" and stand up on a fairly regular basis, I decided to add two more repeats of the wheel pattern, thus saving the world from the unnecessary sight of my eye-searingly pallid midriff.

The yarn I used is Sandnes Garn's "Duo", which is a cotton/merino blend. I'm not sure whether it's the stitch or the yarn, but the top does feel a wee bit heavier than it's probably supposed to, being a summer top and all (doesn't actually bother me though, since I'll probably get more wear out of it this way!). I made the smallest size, but blocked it pretty aggressively so that the wheel pattern would flatten out and the fabric would open up a little. The tranquility stitch used for the greater part of the body does create a bit of a bias slant, so the top did look weirdly crooked pre-blocking (it straightens out nicely though).

What else? It's a bit see-through, but not horribly so. You could easily wear a camisole under it, but I usually just settle for a nude bra (scandalous!). It's been really fun to wear so far: I like that it isn't SO bohemian that it veers off into being too casual or sloppy. And truly, this was the perfect sized project to learn some new, challenging stitches, and spread my knitterly wings a bit.

Now that it's done though, it's back to beer and stockinette :)

Monday, September 1, 2014

A New Record


Holy crap, I made a lot of stuff this summer. In fact, I can honestly say that the title of this post is not merely a snarky reference to my lack of regular blog updates, but in fact a very true statement about my sewing/knitting output these past couple of months. I have truly never produced as many finished garments in such a short time span. For real. EVER.

And the best part? Every single one of them turned out wearable.

Now, full disclosure: some of the knitted pieces were only finished this summer, as most of the actual knitting had been accomplished over the course of the spring. Still, still, I am extremely pleased and proud of having so many completed garments added to my wardrobe. I think part of the reason I'm so happy about these projects is because there's a good solid range represented: there's something for each season, and while most of them are pretty functional basics, there are a few more interesting pieces too. There's even a few garments in there created for the express purpose of being lazy and doing nothing all day! Truly a well-rounded collection...

I'm planning on doing a post on each of these garments over the course of fall, but for now, it's enough to have finally updated this poor neglected blog. I hope you've all had a good summer, and I look forward to being around a bit more in the weeks ahead!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Bite of BT

All pictures copyright Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood AND USED WITHOUT PERMISSION, SO SHHHH!
I wasn't expecting to do a post tonight, so forgive me if what follows is unpolished/incoherent/lacking wit...but those sly, secretive sneakypants over at Brooklyn Tweed have just dropped Wool People 7 on us, and I couldn't not blab about it. See, I had a *feeling* this was brewing, and freak that I am, have been diligently (so as not to say obsessively) checking both Ravelry and the BT blog for any hint of a new collection. I may have even uttered some expletives out loud, to my computer, when the release of aforementioned new collection was deemed to be not happening fast enough (maturity: qu'est-ce que c'est?). Happily, it's here now, and we can all heave a sigh of relief and admire the goods.

As usual, I've picked the simplest, most pullover-y of the bunch as my personal faves, but in a *shocking* twist, I've also taken special note of a very long scarf...a very long garter stitch scarf...knit with Loft (reaches weakly for smelling salts).

Here are some credits:

Left: Vector scarf, designed by Tanis Lavallee
Upper right: Natsumi sweater, designed by Kazekobo
Middle right: Yane sweater, designed by Tokuko Ochiai
Bottom right: Devlan sweater, designed by Bristol Ivy

At risk of being a "Judgey Janet", I have to say that once my current UFOs are all dealt with, I will most likely turn to BT's Winter collection from this year before hitting up any of these new patterns. I'm still really excited about that collection, and haven't had the time to make a single sweater from it yet, so...I love this one too, but it's going on the back-burner, please don't kill me.

I for one, am quite pleased to have three more simple, classy pullovers with interesting details to add to my already infinite list of simple, classy pullovers with interesting details to knit. Thanks, BT!

And in parting, can we all agree that the true star of this collection/photo shoot is this lady and her hair? So lovely!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gingerbread Blair

The shirt so nice, I made it twice (lol)! As predicted, I made another Blair top, and I think I love this one even more than the first. It's always great when you've made a pattern before and know what to expect (in this case, easy sewing and awesome fit): it's even better when you choose a much-loved fabric in a great new colour (this is the same kind of double-faced knit I used for my colour-block Hemlock, and it is soooooo soft and drapey). In this case, the right side of the fabric is a beautiful shade of warm gold that can best be described  as "gingerbread dough" (which, btw,  is totally not done justice by these photos). The back side is a plain black , which I think adds more depth to the gingerbread colour on the other side than if it were white or any other light colour. Not exactly a spring colour, but so rich and fun to wear...!
As mentioned above, the fit of this top is great...however, the neck finish on the original pattern didn't really work that well for me last time, so I simply used the neckline and neck band from Grainline's Hemlock tee on this version, and it turned out much better imo.

Anyways, I already blabbed a bunch last week about how great Named patterns are, so I won't bore you to death this week with more of the same. However, I can tell you that since making these Blair tops and beginning work on their Jamie jeans, I have already added a few more of their patterns to my list of future makes (I am especially temtped by the Leini dress, which is ridiculous because I am essentially anti-dress, but I guess hope springs eternal or something?). Anyways, I hope to see a lot more finished Named projects around in the near future :) 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Warp Drive Blair

I am officially hooked on fast, simple knits. This one comes courtesy of Finland's Named Patterns, whose wares I've been wanting to try ever since someone pointed me in the direction of their skinny jeans (which are currently in progress!).  This one is the Blair bat wing top (so named because of the massive tent-like sleeves), and it's amazing! From start to finish (and by start, I mean taping the printed out PDF pattern together, cutting out the fabric, etc), this top probably took about two hours to put together. It's quite likely you could whip it up in even less time than that, but I was interspersing my sewing with some much-needed apartment tidying, laundry washing, etc. The result is a super-comfortable and breezy top, which could easily be dressed up or down, worn with layers or alone, all year round.

A few notes about the pattern, for anyone considering making their own: as mentioned above, it's a print-it-yourself deal, and meant to be printed on A4 paper, which most North American printers don't automatically have. However, printing it on legal size 8.5 x 14" paper works just fine, which is what I did. Then, you have to tape the pieces together and trace the pattern pieces onto another paper before cutting them out. For this particular pattern, you can get away with just tracing the sleeve (the only overlapped pieces) and cutting the front and back pieces from the actual print-out. Some people don't like the added step of having to trace the pieces, but the fact that the seam allowances are included (kiitos paljon, Nameless!) more then makes up for it.

My only real issue with the pattern itself is the method given for finishing the neckline: it's simply folded over twice and stitched down, which can easily end up looking terrible if you're not really careful. But that is so minor, because if you have even a smidgen of sewing experience it would be incredibly easy to modify the pattern slightly and use whatever your preferred neckline for knits might be (I'm already throwing together a second Blair, and will be using the neckline from my Hemlock pattern in lieu of the fold-over).

I love this top! It would make a great project for someone just learning to work with knits, and I'm looking forward to playing around with alternate versions. It could look really great with different sleeves, or with some added length to make it more of a dress thang...I'm thinking of maybe even trying it out with some really thin and drapey woven material...

Oops, almost forgot ye olde specs:

- the pattern comes in two sizes, and I made the smallest one
- I used a lightweight cotton jersey from Girl Charlee (I would recommend using any knit fabric in a similar weight for this top: because it's already an over-size fit, anything too thick would make it look pretty bulky)

In closing, I would encourage everyone to check out Named Patterns! They have a pretty good range of patterns for such a new company, and really excel at modern, minimalist looks (their awesome DIY philosophy is pretty great too!).

Friday, March 21, 2014

Coal, Cloud, Rust & Bone

As proof positive that the crushing silence on this blog is in no way indicative of slacking off, I present to you the five glorious Hemlock tees that I've whipped up over the past few weeks. The Hemlock tee is a Grainline Studio pattern, and is absolutely awesome for the following reasons: it's a breeze to make, it's free, it's easy to adapt, it's free, it looks great in a range of fabrics, it's comfortable, and it's FREE. And not only is it free, but Jen of Grainline has also very kindly put together a wonderfully descriptive tutorial on how to make it. Yay Jen!

I really cannot say enough great things about my Hemlock sewing experience. These shirts have totally revitalized my wardrobe, and allowed me to stash-bust as well. Sewing them also gave me the opportunity to discover the wonders of my Janome SUV1122 walking foot attachment: my old sewing machine didn't have one, and hoo boy, the difference it makes when top-stitching the hems and collar band! It's no exaggeration to say I nearly wept with joy the first time I tested it out, and it hasn't failed me yet.

Anyway, time for action shots!

Lol at my relentlessly dour and stony blog face. I'm actually really happy with these shirts!
A few details about fabric:

Upper left - this is a lovely double-faced jersey I bought here in town at Gala Fabrics. The heathery gray is the right side, and the white section is the wrong side of the same fabric.

Upper right - two shirts, actually: the undershirt is a featherweight linen jersey, and the overshirt is a bamboo jersey (both picked up at Gala as well).

Lower left - this is a regular cotton jersey, with a charcoal gray and cream stripe. You can't really tell from the picture, but the charcoal is kind of tweedy, as opposed to solid. This one came in an order I got from Girl Charlee (if they still have any, you'll find it here).

Lower right - super nice charcoal merino jersey...and expensive too! I'd been coveting this fabric from Gala for awhile, so it was nice to finally have a suitable pattern for it (that didn't require purchasing too much fabric, ahem). 

It's impossible to pick a favourite, because they all have their own special appeal: the colour-block one is super cozy, the merino one is light-weight but has a nice warmth, the striped one can easily be dressed up or down, and I love the feel and colour of the rusty bamboo version...

As mentioned before, the one thing I was especially pleased with in terms of sewing these shirts was finally being able to improve my top-stitching skills, particularly with collar bands. Knit collar bands have always terrified me: I've never been able to get a very consistent result with them, and whatever success I've had with them has been a fluke, insofar as I've never been able to repeat it. The first Hemlock I made was actually the pricey merino jersey one, and I was so terrified of f**cking up the collar band that I put it aside for about a week before giving it a try. Jen's method for attaching the neck band of the Hemlock is a little different than any one I've tried before, but it works beautifully, and I will never fear knit collar bands again!

Well, I think that's about all there is to say about these tops, apart from the fact that my Hemlock fever is far from over (got four more on the way, muahahahaha!). I'm hoping to do a more general, catching-up kind of post very shortly, so do check back :)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Shibori Blues

I've always been very good at going off on major project tangents, particularly when I have loads of things to finish in a small amount of time. Which is precisely how I found myself embarking on a massive dyeing quest in my final week of holidays: instead of plugging away at x number of unfinished knit and sewn garments, I rustled up a vat of indigo dye and spent a solid five days dyeing anything I could lay my hands on. Which did absolutely nothing to advance any other project whatsoever, but I can now say that indigo dyeing is the. most. fun. ever!

Not being an actual dye expert, I used one of those all-inclusive indigo dye kits, which turned out to be super easy to use because all you do is dump the contents of various pouches into a big pot of water and voila: instant indigo dye vat! While it did it's thing over the next half hour, I set to work preparing my first two pieces of fabric: these were accordion and triangle folded, then clamped on all three corners before being placed in the dye for 10 minutes (results shown in middle right photo). When I first unfolded it, I actually thought I'd messed up, because all I could see was a kind of yellow/green residue and no pattern. Obviously, I had no idea about the oxidization process, but holy sh*!, was it ever magical to behold: within seconds, all that yellowy-green deepened into various shades of blue, revealing the pattern you see above (reminiscent of an especially chic 50s kitchen lino, right?).

From there, I experimented with different fabrics and resist methods: tying plastic covered chickpeas for the polka dots, clamping a single wood block in the center of square folded fabric for the grid, simple twice-dyed scrunching for the piece at the bottom right. Not pictured are a few pieces of scrunchy dyed chambray destined for a colour-blocked Archer, as well as some plain overdyed voile to be used for facings, etc. The results were a mix of pieces made with specific projects in mind and a few that are still open to interpretation.

All in all, I am really pleased with both the pieces and the process. It's true that my apartment smelled rather *unpleasant* during the week I had the vat going (for some reason, I was expecting the dye to smell like India ink, which I actually find rather pleasant, but such was not the case).  If at all possible, I would urge anyone thinking about delving into indigo dye to do it either outside, or at least in a basement or open area away from the kitchen (which is where I had mine set up).

Here are a few other quick tips I picked up:

- fabric is infinitely easier to fold when it's wet.
- wetting the fabric beforehand will also result in a sharper pattern if you're using resist techniques.
- you really need to have all your tools set up and ready to go before you begin.
- it's best to have a plan for where and how you're going to oxidize and dry your fabric. I laid out some old sheets for the fabric to rest on while it oxidized, then rolled it in old towels to get out any excess moisture post-rinsing. This step prevented my bathroom from being covered in blue drips while the fabric dried on the shower curtain rod.
- for fabric I had picked out for specific projects, I cut out pieces that were roughly the size of the actual pattern before dyeing them. Smaller pieces are easier to handle and dye, and it also prevents wasting the dye on bits you won't end up using. I wouldn't recommend cutting out the pattern pieces to actual size though, as fabric can warp during the dyeing process. For any fabric I didn't have a specific plan for, I left it in one big piece.

There's probably more, but those are the big ones that stuck in my mind. So now the question is, what do I do with all this new fabric? Well, like I said, a few are already spoken for, and should be showing up on the blog within the next month or so. The fabric I used is mostly on the lighter side (rayon voile, tencel, chambray), so not really suited to the current northern hemisphere weather. Nonetheless, I'm pretty excited to start working with it, so I may just get a jump on this year's spring/summer wardrobe :)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Winter Tweed

Yes, yes, YES! So excited about the new BT winter 2014 collection!! So excited I don't even care that I haven't knit anything from their last collection yet, because these sweaters are gorgeous!!!

Ok, deep breath. For some reason, I stopped obsessively checking the Brooklyn Tweed blog for news some time around Christmas. Then tonight, on my daily Ravelry skulk (yes, I'm embarrassed by the frequency), I noted some distinctly BT-esque colour schemes, and lo! proceeded to visually gulp in the lovely new patterns.

I'm pleased to report that this collection is rich in sweaters (as opposed to shawls, which are like scarves, but useless). Although a few of these have already met minor modifications in my mind (that mustard cardigan can definitely lose the belt), on the whole I am loving many of these. Here are a few favourites, with Ravelry links:

Top left - Benton, designed by Julie Hoover
Top right - Elmont, designed by Julie Hoover
Bottom left - Alloy, designed by Michele Wang
Bottom right - Channel cardigan, designed by Jared Flood

Also, a word about the layout: the lookbook for this collection contains some of the most "model-y" shots I've seen yet in a BT catalog (plain backdrop, pained expressions), not to mention some of the weird, trendy wardrobe choices (mahogany leather skirt, wtf?). Kind of unnecessary in my opinion, but the patterns more than make up for the bizarro styling.

Alright, I'll leave you with this last beauty, designed by Veronik Avery. Landfall is truly amazing, and stands out as one of the few (the only?) times BT has done a longer length cardigan. I know I'd still be knitting this come summer, but at least it would be ready for next year!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Top 5 Goals for 2014

Alright, turning away from the past and looking to the future for the last top 5 post. Rather than err on the side of anything too general ("make more...of everything!"), but also wanting to avoid the entrapment of excessive specificity ("I will sew for 30 minutes every day, except on weekends, when I will sew for at least 5 hours, etc"), I've chosen to split my goals between sewing and knitting, and focus more on particular kinds of projects and techniques.

Skinny Jeans - Unless you count the faux fur flares with safety pin closures that I made in high school, I have never actually made a pair of pants. Given that I wear jeans every day of my life, this is inexcusably baffling and also a little weird. The main challenge (or so I tell myself), is lack of access to good quality stretch denim (I did check out Mood fabrics, but they wanted around $50 to ship $20 worth of that normal for them?). However, this is the year that I will cease using that as an excuse and make myself a pair of skinnies, if for no other reason than that not having done so already has prevented me from participating in "Me Made May" since it's inception.

Bras, etc - Once you've taken care of the over-wear staples, it follows that if one wishes to have a truly self-made wardrobe, one must look to the Foundation Garments. This year in particular, I have been drawn to the diy lingerie popping up on various blogs (not in a creeper way, lol!), and have been paying more attention to bra and underwear patterns (both Jalie and Kwik Sew appear to offer some good ones). I can honestly say that the underwear I have now represent the last bastion of sweat-shoppy clothing in my wardrobe, so to replace them with homemade delicates is one of my top priorities for 2014.

DPNs - If you've read any of my knitting posts, you've probably heard me grumble and snark about double pointed needles. I have used many ingenious and laborious ways to avoid having to use them, but no more! I hereby declare that the next time I use a pattern calling for dpns, I will not shirk my knitterly duties by knitting flat and seaming, but will face the dpn challenge like a woman of courage!

Steeks - Oh god, these are so terrifying. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, steeking is a technique used to give an opening to a tube of knitted fabric. It is particularly common when working with a colourwork pattern, because it allows you to do it all in the round and not have to wrestle with the purl side. Just in case you haven't quite grasped what I mean, I'll lay it out: you knit a tube of fabric, then you slice it up the middle. You cut your knitting with scissors, aaaaaaaaaaaaah! Obviously, there are methods you then employ to secure the cut ends, but I haven't yet managed to get past the fact that you are creating hundreds of potential holes and ladders in your work. However, I really really REALLY want to make this lovely thing, and steeks are part of the package, so with a little courage and about a million tutorial videos on my side, I will hopefully prevail.

Dyeing - The last time I truly experimented with fabric dye was back in grade 8, when a bunch of my friends got together and tie-dyed all our underwear green one weekend. Since then, I have occasionally spruced up faded jeans with a bit of over-dyeing, but nothing beyond that. I have, however, always wanted to play around with some of the different shibori techniques, and last year, Sallie of "Sallie Oh" fame did a really cool and in-depth post about painted-on dye techniques that was incredibly motivating. The most challenging thing about this kind of experimenting will probably be finding ways to create something that will actually work with my pre-existing wardrobe and tastes in general, but I'm sure once I get a handle on some of the basics, I'll be able to hone in on a style or technique that works best for me.

So, there you have it: 5 goals for 2014, and the last of my top 5 lists. More importantly, I just completed 5 blog posts in 5 days!!! I've already bogged more in 2014 than I did in the last two months of 2013, ha! I want to thank anyone who has stopped by to skim through my rambling during these last few days, and especially to anyone to left a comment. And, whether you have done your own top 5 lists or not, I wish everyone success and luck with their projects in the new year :)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Top 5 Inspirations for 2013

Inspiration is kind of a hard one to pin down for me, because it's incredibly varied and I can't always easily explain the link it has to the things I make. In my younger days, I used to collect mountains of magazines, but now simply spend too much time poking around online for some spark that will set me off on a new project. As I said, the link isn't always obvious: the faded tones of an old advertisement might inspire the colour scheme for a new sweater, or a photo of a ceramic piece might trigger the desire to track down a particular shape of button. Inspiration: it's weird and unpredictable! Nonetheless, I've tried to arrange a few coherent bits for my top 5 inspirations from the past year:

Menswear - I could write a lot of easily contradicted generalizations about why menswear appeals to me more than womenswear (it's more practical, more wearable, less trendy, more understated, etc etc), but the simple fact is I find it easier to picture myself wearing menswear styles than those directed at and modeled by women. Is it because menswear lacks many of the unnecessary details that women's clothes (and sewing patterns) are encumbered with, or is it just that skirts and dresses are not my thing? Who can tell. At any rate, I find most menswear, particularly the coats and shirts, to be endlessly inspiring. Also,  any excuse to post a picture of Yuri Pleskun will always be fine by me.

Independent Pattern Designers - If for nothing else, the internet will always be a great thing to me because it has made it possible to access independent pattern companies all over the world, and even download patterns. Growing up, all I had to choose from were the Big Four patterns available at the local Fabricland, and it's a wonder my small-town, teenage goth self was able to stay clothed at all! For whatever reason, many indie designers seem a little closer to their clientele in terms of understanding what makes a great pattern, and seem to take more care in creating patterns with good instructions and fit (there are always exceptions to this, but compared to the weirdness of Big Four patterns, indie pattern-makers are doing alright). All I can say is, keep 'em coming!

Mamma Andersson - Mamma Andersson is a Swedish painter whose work I first came across when perusing this blog, and I have loved her work ever since. Her work reminds me a little of Peter Doig's (another painter I love), but the subject matter seems a little less remote and nostalgic, more rooted in the everyday now. I have yet to actually stand in front of one of her paintings, and I can't even afford any of her art books, but I can honestly say that if I ever actually pick up a paintbrush again, it will be because of this amazing lady.

Margaret Howell - Yet another "twice removed" source of inspiration, due to the fact that I have never been inside an MH store, let alone owned a piece from any of her collections. That said, the simplicity and classic nature of her designs are endlessly inspirational, not to mention the colours and functionality. Her clothes are like blank canvases: relatively easy to pattern-match and whip up yourself, either as is or with something of your own added in. Also, I appreciate that her clothes are intended for people who actually move, and that they're not geared towards any specific age demographic (ie: 25 and under).

Beach Colours - This year more than any year previous, I've started to see a running theme in the colours I gravitate to. Now that my "quick, dye everything black!" days are behind me, I tend to prefer the kind of muted tones you'd find on any beach in the Pacific Northwest: soft grays and dull blues, charcoal and the mustard-red of iron oxide. This palette has the added benefit of being subtle enough to allow for greater combinations than brighter, but more restrictive shades.

 Whew, only one more top 5 list to go, and it's done! Thanks to everyone who has visited and commented so's been a great opportunity for me to check out some new blogs :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Top 5 Reflections of 2013

Time to reflect up in here! This one was probably one of my favourite lists to compile, because it asks nothing more than that I blab meaningfully about the kinds of things I love, but that my friends and family usually ask me to shut the hell up about. And because this past year has probably been my most productive for sewing and knitting, there's a lot to work with! Let's get started:

Know Thyself - It may seem an extremely obvious reflection for someone engaged in making their own clothes, but the importance of knowing and staying true to what you know works best for you cannot be overstated. Especially when vast regions of the online sewing/knitting/crafting community are very trend driven. I think I'm getting pretty good at resisting the urge to get caught up in the spirit of things that are utterly antithetical to my own style/comfort level/good sense, but occasionally the will weakens beneath the crushing onslaught of peplums and detachable collars (not that there's anything inherently wrong with those things!). I have found that it's a good thing to remind myself occasionally of what I like and what works for me, and in doing so, have managed to keep my projects practical, wearable, and long-lasting.

Fitness Is Important - I am that person who hated high school gym class with every fiber of her body, only to maintain some manner of weird workout regimen (to a lesser or greater extent) throughout her adult life. Therefore, I am already on board with the health benefits of keeping some level of fitness in your life. However, it was this year that it really hit me how important it is to my ability and longevity as a crafter as well. I tend to sit for hours at a time when knitting, and hunch over my machines when sewing: both of these things lead to fatigue and (with time) repetitive stress injuries. I've come to appreciate that staying fit also means paying more attention to my body when I'm sewing and knitting: making a point to move around, take breaks, stretch, stay hydrated and eat something once in awhile, lol. I owe it to my future knitting and sewing self to not to let the things I love harm my body.

Being and Time - There is never enough time, and I will never get everything done. Full stop. This is simply one of those things that I need to accept, and work at not letting it stress me out. Because contrary to what this blog might lead you to believe, my life is not all knitting, sewing, and taking photos in the most minimalist corner of my studio. I also teach full time, exercise, make meals, go for bike rides, visit family, read books, watch bad horror films, and hang out with friends (although not nearly often enough). And I love doing all of those things, and wouldn't want to have to do without even a single one of them in my life! So if that means that there might be days when I don't have time to spend 10 hours knitting up a storm (although days like that are awesome!), it's ok and I don't have to feel like a failure because of it.

Skill Acquisition is Not a Linear Process - I've always assumed that if I do something enough, I will automatically just keep getting better and better and better at it until I am sort of super human. This does not actually happen! It's a useful and confidence boosting misconception to labour under when you are trying something for the first time, but the acquisition and honing of skills is not a linear thing. What I mean is, just because I managed not to screw up the buttonholes on project X does not mean that there will automatically not be any screwing up of buttonholes EVER AGAIN. Being slack or cocky about your abilities does not pay off when it comes to sewing and knitting: I have found it's best to approach each project with a mind that's humble and open to learning, even when the territory seems familiar.

To-Do Lists Are The Worst - Probably my favourite reflection of the year is that to-do lists (for myself) are self-defeating and guilt inducing, and should thus be avoided. I used to make incredibly detailed lists about what I wanted to achieve with a project in x amount of time, down to how many minutes I intended to spend on each particular stage. I would cram so many goals into the space of a day that there was no room left for being human, and I would feel terrible for (inevitably) failing to complete the mountain of tasks I'd set for myself (regardless of how much I did do). Which is no way to go about it! Now, I prefer to have general goals with generous (if any) time constraints, and to focus instead on what I did do in a day (it's so much more edifying to concentrate on those things you achieved than those you didn't).

OMG, are you still here? Bless you for reading/skimming all that! Hopefully some of it rang true and you were able to commiserate, or at the very least found some of it amusing. I'm going to try to get the top 5 inspiration list done tomorrow, then I think there's only one more list to go until the end. If anyone is still around next week after this avalanche of blabbing, I promise to have some actual project-related stuff to post :)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Top 5 Misses of 2013

Rolling right along into the doom and gloom of project failure, I hereby present you with my top 5 misses of 2013. This one was a little trickier than the top 5 hits, not because I am so amazing that I never suck at anything, but because it can be difficult sometimes to pinpoint what exactly constitutes a failure. For example, I almost put my first three attempts at the pleated Salme top up here, but opted not to because it (finally) worked out in the end. Ultimately, I chose to focus on three project related bombs, and two that are more generally related to this blog. In no particular order, here they are:

Aidez Cardigan - Yes, this sad pile of cabled wool is actually my almost-completed Aidez. Why is it in pieces, you ask? Because I wantonly ignored all the very apt and useful warnings about this pattern that literally litter the internet, and didn't modify the sleeves to allow for extra ease at the top. Boo! I actually sewed the whole thing together before the truth monster bit me on the ass. Now, I'm in the strange position of having to knit gussets to put in the underarm seams, which makes this more of a failure in progress. Fingers crossed that it can saved!

Vogue Top 1247 - Oh, beautiful, panelled, Rachel Comey Vogue top, how you infuriate me! I've made you three times now, and every time you fail in some crucial way: sometimes it's a poor fabric choice, sometimes it's ill-made modifications, and sometimes you inexplicably turn out looking like hospital scrubs. I will never again be deceived by all the successful versions of you that occasionally turn up on sewing blogs around the world, for you have broken my heart.

My Lack of Photography Skills - What can I say? For someone who took photography in art school, my photographs for this blog leave a major something to be desired. There has been some improvement since the beginning, but I have to say that it's more than a little disheartening that so much Photoshopping is required to make them look decent. I like to blame my crappy camera and the lack of natural light in my apartment, but essentially, I need to step it up going forward.

French Terry Sweatshirt - Quel echec! This almost worked, but alas, its ultimate failure was twofold: the weird, cone-shape effect of the raglan at the neck, and my horrific attempt at putting in the neck binding. My shoulders are pretty square, so I often have to modify raglan sleeves that have an overly gentle slope towards the neckline. I almost made it work, but the neck binding really pushed this project into Crapsville for me: it started too loose, then it was too uneven, and finally, I was left with so little fabric to work with that I had to stretch it so hard I broke a needle on my serger :(

Failure to Update Blog: Yeah, I'm confident this is a popular one for many bloggers. I won't belabour the point, since we all feel the pressure to blog more regularly, but here's hoping I can at least manage one or two posts a month this year.

All in all, the failures of 2013 were not too major or disillusioning. Now that the negativity is out of the way, I look forward to sharing the last 3 top 5 lists in the days to come :)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top 5 Hits of 2013

As previously mentioned, I've decided to participate in the Top 5 of 2013 roundup that was started by Gillian at Crafting a Rainbow, and what better way to begin than by focusing on the positives? Before I start, I should probably let you know that my selection criteria was based around 95% on how much I wear the finished object, and 5% other stuff. No matter how magically enjoyable something was to make, if I don't wear it at least twice a week (or more!), it's dead to me, lol. So without further ado, here are my top 5 project hits for 2013:

Exeter Cardigan - Sneaking in at number one (because I mostly worked on it in 2012, shhh!), is this little wonder. It demonstrated a real leap not only in what I was technically comfortable with in knitting, but in what I believed I was actually capable of. And because I knit it from Briggs & Little Tuffy, it has weathered a ton of wear with grace and resilience. Also, it's super warm!

Caramel Coat - This one ranks high because as soon as the weather was too cold for my olive jacket, I slipped it on and haven't looked back (except for the odd day now when I need to haul out my ratty old peacoat, but that's pretty rare). It was my first time putting in a proper lining, blind hemming and all, and the fabric has really stood up to the weather.

Salme Bag - Although this was a minor project in comparison to some of the ones that did not make the list, this bag trumps pretty much every other thing I've made this year in terms of frequency of use...because I use it every damn day! It is the epitome of a perfect project: simple in style, easy to throw together, endlessly useful.

Plaid Shirt - Not only was this my first button up shirt, it was also an epic journey in plaid matching. I wear this shirt A LOT (much to the chagrin of my more professionally dressed colleagues), and sadly, there is some wear starting to happen. It will be a sad day when I have to retire this one, but it has more than paid back the time it took to match up the fabric!

Stasis Sweater - So, it was kind of difficult trying to pick between Relax and Stasis for my favourite sweater this year. In the end, Stasis won solely on the basis of a successful colourwork yoke, which I'd never attempted before (also, I *still* haven't woven in the ends on the inside of my Relax sweater, which makes it slightly less enjoyable to wear). This sweater gets a lot of compliments, which is always nice, although I have to be careful not to get too excited when I get one or I'll sweat and felt up the armpits, lol.

And that's it! I feel like I should also give a little shout-out to both of my relatively new sewing machines (Janome SUV 1122 and Singer Stylist II serger, respectively), because they have been a dramatic improvement in my sewing life. Obviously, having new machines does not automatically make me any better at sewing, but it has been a blessing to have good, working sewing machines to work with, and not having to fight with my tools makes me want to sew even more!

OK, if all goes according to plan, I'll be back tomorrow with my Debbie Downer top 5 misses!

Ringing In

Happy 2014 everyone! Hope you all enjoyed whatever festivities you took part in, and that the hangovers are minor and easily dispelled. If you're anything like me, you're probably already knee-deep in new projects, not to mention scrambling to finish old ones. To keep with the spirit of the day, I'll be indulging in something completely new to me project-wise today, as well as posting the first of my "Top 5 of 2013" lists this afternoon. Because of the winter break, I still have just under a week before I go back to teaching, and I'm determined to make the most of it!

And for those of you unfamiliar with the fabulous film still above, it's a shot of the head glamour-puss vampire Delphine Seyrig from the 1971 schlocky vampire horror fest "Daughters of Darkness". I can't believe that one of the few shots of a character knitting on film came from this movie, but if cheesy 70s horror with beautiful architecture, amazing costume changes, and completely illogical plot lines is your bag (as it is mine!), you should check it out :)