Saturday, January 23, 2010

cashmere cowboy

I had totally forgotten the thing I love about sewing: speed. There is nothing like having an idea as you are putting your 5 year old to bed, walking into the sewing room once she's asleep and an hour later having a cute little vest done. Meaning a certain little boy can wear it the very next day.

A year or so ago, our good friend Dave passed along a couple of damaged cashmere sweaters for me to use. I'd always imagined making dolls out of them, but I haven't had a doll in my head for ages now. Clearly I'm rather vest-obsessed, and I realized I could make use of the neck leaving me only two seams to sew. Of course I had to cover the holes (darn moths!) which led to the machine stitched parts on the chest, and I threw in a pocket in case Milo needs to stash something important. Then some cowboy-inspired bias tape finished off the rough parts. It fits like a charm but has room for Milo to grow, so we just might get two seasons out of it.

There is still a pink sweater to figure out and now that the 5 year old is awake, she's decided a vest like her baby brother's would be perfect. Could my vest obsession be contagious?

Friday, January 22, 2010

better basting

After starting this project, um, about 8 months ago, I finally finished one of the four chair pads I pieced together.  Glen Miller (our cat) has put two scratches into Sadie's favourite aqua chair, so protecting the vinyl suddenly became more important than before. Yet, given the urgency, I decided to do something radical: I took the time to baste it properly.

Basically I am a lazy sewer. If I think I can avoid pinning, I will. I'll even skip pressing sometimes. So basting has never been my style, and I'm not too excited by the thought of quilting AFTER the thought of basting. But this time I gave it a try and it totally won me over. I had three layers of batting (one cotton, two polyester) and three layers of cotton to contend with. Hand basting made easy work of keeping all the layers straight and I don't have a single pucker now that the piece is quilted. And it is super satisfying to pull out all the basting stitches when the quilting is done. Which makes me wonder - why did I avoid this for so long?

I think I should have a New Year's resolution to try all the proper techniques I've been skipping over all these years. It's time to learn a thing or two.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

cozy in red

Ahh, winter knitting and having to take photos in my kitchen. The lack of natural light is frustrating, but at least Sadie thinks these photo shoots are great fun.

This is my first shawl and I really, really enjoyed knitting it. I chose the Mara Shawl pattern and used stockinette through the main part instead of garter stitch, but that was my only modification. I love the simplicity of the pattern and the subtle ribbed ruffle on the outer edge. I'm surprised how fast this was to knit considering it's close to the same amount of wool a sweater would take. Perhaps the more mindless nature of the project makes up the time? And I have to say that this is my favourite wool, hands down. It's Debbie Bliss' Luxury Donegal Tweed, the same yarn I chose for this vest and Milo's Pebble vest. A joy to knit with, I could happily try every colour in the palette and not get bored with the nice tweedy bits. I've machine washed Milo's vest too and the wool softened up incredibly. Already I'm planning to try the 28thirty cardigan by Zephyr Knits with another colour of it if I can make my budget allow it (so much for my plan of only using the supplies I have).

Next up - trying to finish Shalom. This shawl has given me a confidence boost, but I'm still going to cross my fingers. I'm never that confident with my math.

Monday, January 11, 2010

baby professor vest

Another vest - and this time, it's all about getting our little boys ready for the academic life. I've written a 9 to 12 month size (Milo is only 6 months but a whopping 19lbs and 29 inches tall, and he has room to grow in this vest). Tweed and solid wools would work well, not to mention heathered colours. Basically if it matches a corduroy jacket with elbow patches, let's just say it will be perfect. And if anyone spots a mistake or has any suggestions please let me know!

You will need:
Worsted weight wool (I used Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed)
5mm needles (16” circs will do)
stitch markers
stitch holders / scrap yarn
2 buttons

Gauge 16 stitches and 28 rows = 4 “ square in stockinette
Size is roughly 9-12 months, finished dimensions are 10.5” across and 12” long (or longer – the body length is up to you!)

When I refer to left and right sides, I mean the left and right of the person wearing the garment (is it just me or can that be confusing sometimes?) I’ve also marked the right and wrong side of the garment to help keep you on track. And there are a lot of instructions devoted to simply making nice edges (basically SL1 at the end of every row). What can I say - I’m a big fan of neat selvedges.

CO 85.
Join in the round and pm to mark beginning of row. Starting with a K, seed stitch for 6 rows.
R7: K17, pm, starting with a K stitch, seed stitch for next 23 sts, pm, K to end of row. Continue knitting in the round, with seed stitch pattern between the two markers until you reach the underarm (for my 19lb baby boy, I stopped at 7”). When you’ve reached your desired body length, do the next 3 rows like this:
R1: (P1, K1) 7 times, K3, seed stitch between markers, K3, (K1, P1) 7 times, K to end of row.
R2: (K1, P1) 7 times, K3, seed stitch between markers, K3, (P1, K1) 7 times, K to end of row.
R3: (P1, K1) 7 times, K3, seed stitch between markers, K3, (K1, P1) 7 times, K to end of row.

Next up, you’re ready to divide the body and start working on the front.
R4: K1, P1, K1, BO 8, K1, P1, K3, seed stitch between markers, K3, P1, K1, SL1, turn work.
R5: (wrong side) P1, K1, P1, P3, seed stitch between markers, P3, P1, K1, SL1, turn.
R6: (right side) P1, K1, P1, K3, seed stitch between markers, K3, P1, K1, SL1, turn.
Repeat R5 and R6 until R13 (wrong side).
R14: (right side) P1, K1, P1, K3, slip marker, K1, P1, K1, BO next 17 sts, P1, K1, slip marker, K3, P1, K1, SL1 (9 stitches left on each side to create shoulders).

FRONT: RIGHT SOULDER (buttonhole side)
R1: (wrong side) P1, K1, P4, K1, P1, keep yarn in front and SL1.
R2: (right side) K1, P1, K4, P1, K1, SL1.
Repeat these two rows until R13 (wrong side).
R14: K8, bring yarn forward, SL1.
R15: K1, K2tog, yo, K3, yo, K2tog, bring yarn forward, SL1.
R16: K8, bring yarn forward, SL1.
R17: BO all sts.

R1: (wrong side) Join yarn, K1, P1, K1, P4, K1, SL1.
R2: (right side) P1, K1, P1, K4, P1, keep yarn in front and SL1.
Repeat these two rows until R14 (right side).
Break yarn and place these 9 stitches on holder.

Place the remaining body stitches on your needle (which should be 42 stitches, in case you want to confirm).
R1: Join yarn on the right side of your knitting which should be the right underarm. BO the first 8 sts (34 sts left on needles). P1, K29, P1, K1, SL1.
R2: P1, K1, P29, K1, P1, keep yarn forward and SL1.
R3: K1, P1, K29, P1, K1, keep yarn in back and SL1.
Repeat R2 and R3 two more times.
R8: P1, K1, P4, (K1, P1) 11 times, P3, K1, P1, keep yarn forward and SL1.
R9: K1, P1, K4, (P1, K1) 11 times, K3, P1, K1, keep yarn in back and SL1.
R10: same as R8.
R11: K1, P1, K4, P1, K1, P1, BO next 16 sts, P1, K4, P1, K1, keep yarn in back and SL1 (9 stitches left on each side to create shoulders).

R1: (wrong side) P1, K1, P4, K1, P1, keep yarn in front and SL1.
R2: (right side) K1, P1, K4, P1, K1, keep yarn in back and SL1.
Repeat these two rows until R14 (right side).
At this point I find a 3 needle bind-off the easiest way to seam together the front and back left shoulder. Here’s a video tutorial of the technique:
You will need a spare needle (a DPN for example) to seam this way. Alternately, you could BO these 9 stitches and seam the shoulder with your method of choice.

R1: (wrong side) Join yarn, P1, K1, P4, K1, P1, keep yarn in front and SL1.
R2: (right side) K1, P1, K4, P1, K1, keep yarn in back and SL1.
Repeat these two rows (minus the joining yarn part!) until R14 (right side).
R15: BO all stitches.

Sew your two buttons on the back right shoulder and weave in all ends. Done!

(Pattern is for personal use only. Please do not use for commercial purposes.)

Saturday, January 09, 2010


More holiday knitting - for a certain little girl I know who likes Groovy Girls. Is it just me or is knitting for tiny dolls way better than sewing for them? This cardigan took 2 hours max while I caught up on Mad Men. I'm quite sure that the last time I sewed a doll dress a whole lot of cursing took place and a seam ripper was thrown across the room.

I used some leftover Koigu Kersti and some great vintage glass buttons that I've had for over a decade. The cardigan is a basic top down raglan, with the sleeves knit flat and increases added down the body so  it would flare just so. Sadie was pleased as punch with the final product and has requested another cardigan for her other Groovy Girl. She's already picked out the buttons and has reminded me a few times that I need to start it. Lucky for her I have a few more Mad Men episodes left, and a strong desire to support Groovy Girls. (Because if you take away the Groovy Girls, you're left with Barbies or Bratz. And I'm not making any clothes for those dolls for a whole bunch of reasons that are just better left unsaid.)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

abandon ship?

It's not the best kids book out there, but in Sailor Critter my favourite line is "Abandon ship!  Every Critter for himself!" It makes Milo laugh every time, and it's exactly how I feel about this cardigan. Which means I should really call the post Abandon Shalom.

Sure, everyone has made one. Sure, I've gotten past the bulk of the garment. But here's the problem(s): even though the yoke seems to fit perfectly, I have way too many stitches in the body. Oh, and I'm not sure I like it.  So, two rather large problems that almost have me rewinding the yarn I've used. I took the photo to see if I might change my mind, and really, maybe I have. It represents a lot of time, holiday time to be specific, to simply undo. And maybe when it's done I'll like it. Which means I have some tricky math to work out because if I wing it and it goes wrong once again, I'll feel rather foolish for the new time invested. Argh.

But I do love the buttons I have for this. That I am sure of.