Suddenly, sewing

Guys, I feel like such an idiot this week. I’ve lived in Bristol for almost 4 years, and up until now I have completely failed to notice Flo-Jo Boutique, a.k.a DRESSMAKING HEAVEN. It’s on the busiest part of Gloucester Road for crying out loud! I have walked straight past it on multiple occasions, sometimes even on the same day!

Luckily I have been able to rectify this grave oversight immediately.

sewing

From left to right, I have: 3.5m of lovely cherry print cotton, two Colette dress patterns, lining for a long-planned, never-started project, and a knicker making kit, because why not? One day, someone will ask me if I made my outfit and I’ll be able to look them unblinkingly in the eye and say “Yes, I made all of it. And I mean allll of it”. It’ll be so worth it.

Between this new discovery and the reappearance of the sun, my favourite heavenly body of all time, I am actually feeling like doing some sewing again. It’s been a while. I’ve never been a particularly accomplished seamstress, because I am messy and easily distracted. When I sew, the front room becomes a maelstrom of tatters and threads and stays like that for at least a week after I’ve finished. If things go particularly badly there might a surprise pin in the carpet.  Then I remember I still need to sew on buttons or something and just get drunk instead. Learning to knit was an absolute delight for me, because it meant I could finally(!) make my own clothes without sewing.

But feelings change, and I’m prepared to give sewing another shot. First things first, there is this fabulous dress I started well over two years ago and have been meaning to fix.

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It’s made from fancy Liberty Lawn cotton, and it was coming along pretty much perfectly, until I realised the neckline was gaping. Fixing the neckline just never happened…probably because I was knitting instead. I have gone ahead and fixed it now though! That’s only the half of it, I still have neckline binding and buttonholes and buttons to contend with. It’s not worth it’s own post yet. Maybe, just maybe I will have this done in time for summer.

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Those other WIPs I have

Just a quick one today! I may be spending most of my knitting time on version 2.0 of my shawl, but I’m rarely a one-project woman. There’s that laceweight blouse I’ve been working on since forever (at least it feels like it) and this week I’ve finally completed all the body shaping. It’s a worthy milestone! The secret to getting it done? Leaving it in the glovebox of our car the whole time. Whenever I ride shotgun, I knit. Because it’s such incredibly fine knitting it’s no problem to fit it next to all the usual car junk of cds, petrol receipts and the occasional impulse buy of crème eggs.

Laceweight car knitting

This whole time I’ve been using Addi 2.25mm circular metal needles. Did I mention it’s been taking ages? They’re not bad needles, but not amazing for a slippery silk mix laceweight yarn. I actually bought them with Shetland Heritage in mind which I think will work better. We’ll see if I’m right once I finish this blouse, possibly in 2016.

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A little prototype

So back when I was still high on Christmas leftovers I wrote a few sentences about how there was a certain disconnect between the things I like to wear and the things I like to knit. What I meant was, I received a sudden flood of really really freakin cute ideas for things I could totally knit, but might not fit into my wardrobe. As I said: high on Christmas leftovers. And crack.*

Eventually one of these ideas made it as an Idea To Make Happen, and I made it so:

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What you see here is a teensy little shawlette covered in adorable apples. So cute! Worth it! It also proved to be an excellent stashbusting exercise. If there’s any white 4-ply left in my flat then I’d like to hear about it. This isn’t a full size wrap, but as experiments go I’m pretty excited about it. In fact I’ve already acquired the wool to make a ‘proper’ version! Hopefully I can post more updates soon, because the world needs more knitted apples, and I need something to make up for the cardigan

*I am lying about the crack.

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FO: Triangle Check Cardigan

Oh dear, I’m not happy with this one. (You can tell because of my Definitely Not Happy Face)

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I had such high hopes for this cardigan, and fun knitting it, but the swatch lied. Now the shoulders are far, far too wide. What you see above is a cardigan held in place with a lot of hitching and hiking. What it naturally wants to do is this:

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And then it wants to slowly succumb to gravity and sliiiiide off my arms onto the floor. There’s an insouciant off-shoulder cardigan and then there’s this one. It’s got no stay-up-itude!

So close to the cardigan I had in my head and yet so far.  The body is knit entirely in one piece, so a re-knit is frankly not on the cards. All I can do now is block it to within an inch of it’s life and perform cardigan surgery.

I think the main lesson here is that slip-stitch knitting motifs are tricksy little things that need better swatching. I’m not angry at the swatch, I’m just very disappointed.

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Knotted steeks anyone?

Yikes, I haven’t posted on here for a while. It’s not that I haven’t been knitting diligently, but none of it is very bloggable at the moment.

This week though, I have been playing with a new technique: the Knotted Steek. What is this crazy steek? It’s when you leave trailing ends at the breaks in your fair isle knitting and secure those ends by knotting pairs of them together. There are some better descriptions in this blog post and this excerpt from Principles of Knitting.

What interests me is how unbulky and simple this steek is. I’m rather familiar with the crocheted steek but it’s not suitable for everything. Knotted steeks though…they seemed at first glance like they would work on plain knitting. Naturally I tested that hypothesis with the discipline and rigor of a professional science-person. Nothing says “crafts!” quite like empirical evidence, don’t you think?

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Above you can see my test subject, an old swatch I have lying around from a previous yarn review. I have unpicked the cast-off row and re-knit it so that 6 stitches are still live and unsecured. Once the needle is removed, they can be unravelled all the way down the swatch and those loose strands will be knotted.

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Snip! The first thing to do was knot the cast-off row strands properly so that no other stitches on that row would unravel. You may notice that I have cut straight between two columns of knitting for neatness.

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I then picked out pairs of ends at a time and tied them in a basic overhand knot, held together as one strand. There is a bit of a problem with unravelling washed and blocked knitting – the “ramen noodle” effect.

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It isn’t neat, but it’s knotted!

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Tucking all the ends out of the way shows a lovely neat edge though. I’d be happy picking up a buttonband or sewing another piece onto that edge. It’s sturdy. It holds! Pulling it about doesn’t do much!

Conclusion: Although it produces a ton of ends to be dealt with, I think I like it. I have a real need for plain cardigans at the moment, and I like the idea of be able to churn out a tube of knitting I can cut and knot to my needs. Another technique, another string to the bow!

 

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Little tricks, little tips

During the holidays, I made some good progress on my official cosy winter project. But after so much mindless, relaxing holiday knitting, there was sewing to be done. There was a quiet spell when I was staying round my parents, so I got down to it. I picked up the needle and threaded on the yarn in my usual way, licking the end so it rolled to a neat little point for easy threading.

Yeeccch!” said my mum. “Did you just lick the wool?”

“Yes? What?” said I.

“Here, let me show you a better way of doing it so you don’t have to lick wool all the time.”

So she did. Mum’s preferred method is as follows:

1. Fold yarn over darning needle
2. Pinch yarn tightly in place around the needle
3. Slip the yarn off the needle whilst still pinching it in place
4. Stick that tight little fold of yarn through the needle eye.

It’s one of these tiny, neat little tricks you don’t necessarily work out on your own, but luckily that one has been passed down several generations of my maternal line. Now the chain remains unbroken!

It got me wondering what other little things I might be missing out on. Do any of you have tricks of your own you’d like to share? Let’s hear ‘em!

 

 

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The end of the year

It was a good Christmas this year, one of catching up with friends, relaxing, sleeping, eating leftover Boxing Day trifle for breakfast for the rest of the week etc. Hell, even watching a bit of Jonathan Creek for the nostalgia. Like all British girls of my age I used to have a crush on Jonathan Creek; he was shy and scruffy-haired, solved mysteries, and lived in a windmill. Now he’s the stupid one on Q.I. and everything is ruined and the wedding is off. That’s why I usually stick to the Muppet’s Christmas Carol and Die Hard (the ultimate Christmas movie). 

Now I don’t write about family and friends on here much because they just didn’t ask for that kind of publicity. But it must be said I have lovely relatives…who gave me new and exciting stitch dictionaries for Christmas!

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Stitch dictionaries are my new thing. If you get more than one bit of inspiration from such a book I think it’s worth it and these have already proved their worth. I really recommend the Knit Stitch Pattern Handbook if you like solid textures and intricate cabling. It is the end product of a relentless knitting mind-machine. The Scandinavian book is a much wanted companion to my Fair Isle book – it’s laid out in much the same way – and is great if you want to get slapped in the eyeballs by colourwork motifs. (sometimes you do!)

2013 went much better than I expected in terms of pattern-writing. It seems like so long ago that I was tentatively putting Sashiko up on the internet, and then I worked out two more garment patterns in less than time Sashiko took from start to finish. It just goes to show that you can do anything once you have the right Excel setup.

Sashiko Cardigan(C) The KnitterSnowdrift_main

Then Doomsday Knits came out just before Christmas! Excellent. I’m not sure I’ve gushed about it enough yet, but it’s one hell of a book to be your first!

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What other knitting stuff happened in 2013? Ah yes, at the start of the year I was intrigued by the Knit The Queue challenge, where people tried to clear out their Ravelry queues. I, er, completed 2.5 / 9 projects from my queue, whilst adding 6. Whoops. All that designing stuff got in the way, so I think I have a legit excuse.

There will be no highly specific 2014 resolutions because they are clearly not for me. Just to ask myself regularly “How can I be more awesome than I already am?”. It’s a complex question when you stop to think about it. The obvious answer is to write even better knitting patterns, but then, what constitutes better? Something that’s been plaguing me for a while is that I seem to like designing far cutesier stuff than I would ever wear myself. The brain is self-defeating sometimes. It comes up with silly questions that prevent ideas from becoming reality. What do you do with knitted items you have no use for yourself? Has your entire personal style been a lie the whole time? Is there such a thing as too cutesy in the craft world? Well brain let me say this: 1. PRESENTS 2. NOT IF YOU’RE MAKING PRESENTS FOR OTHER PEOPLE 3. HAVE YOU EVEN SEEN TINY OWL KNITS??? Take that!

Thank you for reading this blog post about a grown adult shouting at herself and talking about adolescent crushes. I hope you’ve all had a fabulous holiday, and may the next year be even better than this one. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be spending New Year’s getting drunk in style!

x

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