Completed cardigan!

Completed cardigan!

I finally finished a hand knit cardigan for myself. Here it is!

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This garment started with the yarn. I visited the Bendigo Sheep Show in July 2012 with my friend Sarah, her Mum and Julian who was at that time 12 months old. We had a great day, watched some sheep shearing, admired the sheep and ogled lots and lots of beautiful yarn and fibre. There was a stand selling 1kg lots of seconds 100% merino for $25. It was branded as “100% Merino” but I discovered after the show on Ravelry that it was Pear Tree Yarns who were having production problems selling off all their stock. Sadly they have now gone out of business. This was their 8ply (dk) yarn and the other lot I bought is a mauve 10ply (worsted).

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I cast on in October 2012, gave it a rest over summer, and was trying to finish it to wear the Australian winter of 2013. The body was finished when my husband and I had a winter long weekend getaway where I was determined to finish it. Unfortunately I spent most of that weekend in the bathroom vomiting or lying queasily on the couch (morning sickness with Tessa). What with a difficult pregnancy, newborn and international move, the cardigan got put down for a long time. But now it’s done, at last.

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The pattern is Something Silver by Veera Valimaki.  It’s not very well suited to my body shape, and is not a pattern that I would choose now, to be frank. I chose it because of this beautiful version by Ganeshas on Ravelry. I made the size 42 (in July 2012 my bust was about 42″) added buttons al the way down the front, added full length sleeves and added a few more stitches to the upper arms. Given that my bust circumference is now 3-3.5″ larger really I am lucky that it fits at all.

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You can see that buttoned up it is really not the best look for me. Also the armhole depth is not enough and those raglan seams are tight and uncomfortable. This pulls the wide neckline even wider to the point where the whole cardigan slips sideways off my shoulders (I pulled it up for the photos but they slip off as I move). The sleeves are blissfully long enough – 19″ from underarm to cuff seems to be a good length for me – thank goodness for customization!

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The wooden buttons are form Buttonmania, purchased when I was convinced this cardi was almost done! It is the most delightful button shop I’ve ever visited and worth having to collapse the pram and take the baby and all your stuff out to ride the very antiquated lift in the Nicholas Building.

Final result – this cardigan is pretty hot to wear despite the lace, meaning I’m not sure that I’d want to make a garment out of the mauve 10ply, so I’m a bit unsure what to do with that. I do really like the pattern design, the pockets and wide garter bands are lovely and I like the overall diagonal lace pattern. I’m going to wear the cardigan because I’m determined to, not because it’s the most beautiful garment to wear. The tight underarms are pretty annoying. But it’s done! Onward and upward (and CustomFit sweaters from now on…..)

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Malibu skipping skirt

Malibu skipping skirt

This is my favorite make for a long time – I am insanely pleased with it. I have loved this pattern, Malibu skipping skirt by Studio Tantrum, ever since it was released. Althea has only recently become old enough for it, as it is an older girls style. Here is the blog post that Nancy Langdon, the designer, wrote when she released this pattern two years ago, with lots of beautiful versions of the design.   She describes it as an eight-gore wasp waist suspender skirt reminiscent of the 1950s.

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The pattern is available in sizes 98/104 to 170/176, so right up to teen sizes. I made up the size 146/152 from my 140cm seven year old. This would have looked more like the pattern photo had I made the size down, but given how fast she grows I just couldn’t bring myself to make a size she would potentially be out of in a few months.

The back is fitted with darts, which can be left unsewn for a stockier figure. Because I chose the larger size I actually had to make the darts even deeper, giving the back a corseted look.

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The fabric is a Kaufman Newcastle Indigo denim from fabric.com. It is 7oz per square yard and is actually a linen/cotton blend. The fabric has beautiful drape, perfect for a denim dress. It also crinkles a lot as you can see in these unearned photos. Here it is ironed, but life is too short to iron this for one day of school wear (yes she wears cat ears to school!).

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I am planning to order more of this fabric to make a skirt for myself! I feel a bit sad that Althea got this piece.

This pattern has so many gorgeous details, curved panels the form Vs and centre front and centre back, stand-out lined pockets, lots of topstitching, belt loops, four slot button holes in the back seams, fitting darts, centre back zip, and I added a faced hem using a contrast colour bias binding.

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If you follow the excellent instructions you would get a lovely finish using a facing at the upper edge. Knowing that this skirt would go straight from dryer to body without passing by an iron I could not bring myself to use a facing, I really hate them and knew it would stick up if unironed. Instead I lined/interlined the upper torso pieces.

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I sewed the lining to the top edge, turned and pressed, and then treated it like one piece. This worked fine and means that I can let the darts out easily as she grows. It does mean that the finish along the top edge is less than perfect, but still looks better than a rolling facing in my opinion.

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This skirt has a lot of pieces, it is very involved for a childs skirt! The instructions tell you to label the pieces well and I agree this is essential. Here are the eight gores constructed.

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Althea loves this skirt and so do I! It was such a fun sew. It is great to tree climbing and the playground.

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And twirling of course….

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Annis lace shawlette

Annis lace shawlette

When I first joined Ravelry, I could not for the life of me figure out why so many knitters were knitting lace shawls. I mean, who wears a shawl in this day and age? I have always loved knitted lacy textures, like cardigans with lace and eyelet patterns, but I just couldn’t get with the shawls. Fast forward 4.5 years and I’ve just knitted my first lace shawl…..

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It all started when a lovely friend Toni from my knitting group decided to destash her lace weight yarn, and gifted me three gorgeous skeins. Each is a high quality, hand dyed art yarn in shades of blue. This one is Malabrigo Lace which is 100% baby Merino wool, spun in a single ply. Being pure wool it is quite grippy, which is why I chose it, one other skein has quite a sheen, indicating a decent amount of silk, and I decided it would be better to use a less slippery yarn for my first lace project.

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The shade is 99 Stone Blue which I just love. I have always loved blue-grey gunmetal shades. As a child, my favorite pencil in my precious box of Derwent pencils was labelled Gunmetal. My wedding dress was this colour also. The hand dyed colour shading in the stockinette section keeps it interesting without being too distracting for the patterned part.

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These are my first nupps! (Nupp rhymes with soup).  150 of them. I used the crochet hook method shown in this youtube tutorial. It made it really easy and I could work them in one row, keeping the nice easy purl rows as just purls. I probably could have used a bigger crochet hook, but I only have one (I use it for picking up dropped stitches) so I just used that. I quite like the look of the nupps, which is interesting since I hate the look of bobbles.

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The pattern is Annis, a free pattern published in Knitty back in 2010, so there’s only like 7191 versions of it on Rav…. I actually started looking through Ravelry projects made with this yarn and colourway and found a version of this shawl that I like so much that I made my own version. Thanks wackadoodling! Sadly my points along the cast on edge were too tight to get the awesome super long points that the pattern author (Susanna IC) intended, and that my inspiration project actually achieved.  This was despite my using a larger needle and a great deal of effort to cast on loosely – but obviously not loosely enough.

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Still, it’s really pretty, and light and squishy. I’m not sure how much I’ll wear it in the long term. I think this project marks a shift from being a very product driven knitter, to process becoming more important as well. I really enjoyed knitting this and it didn’t matter as much to me as much as it usually does whether or not I got a useful finished object out it. I actually cast it on on Christmas Day and finished it in exactly a month later, which is super fast for me. At first I found knitting with laceweight rather like knitting with dental floss, I just wasn’t enjoying  the feel of the very thin yarn on my hands, I was missing that nice fibre feeling as I knit. By the end though I came to really enjoy it and was petting the project as it progressed.

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I’ll definitely wear it to Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat, which I am going to next weekend. I’m very excited, I’m taking classes with both Amy Herzog and the Yarn Harlot! Wearing rather useless lace shawl will mark me outs a Real KnitterTM don’t you think?

The curse of the empire seam

So my sewjo seems to be returning, finally. I wish I could say this is because I’m getting a full nights sleep, but sadly I’m not. Someday, someday….

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Totally frustrated with pattern fitting and all the hard work, time and disappointment that entails for me I decided to try a new tack – Lekala patterns. This is a Russian company that offers pdf sewing patterns, thankfully in English, that are drafted to your measurements, including height. I thought I’d try the free knit top pattern #8004. I entered my height, all my measurements and also selected the low bust alteration.

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I sewed it up exactly as drafted in a polyester jersey that I purchased years ago from Cotton onto Craft in Cowes, Victoria. I was very pleasantly surprised to find garment fabrics in a small coastal town. Well actually I did make some changes. I added a banded neckline finish, stretched on, as a turned and stitched hem on a thin knit like this looks very homemade in my opinion. This top is also unhemmed.

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I’m actually quite disappointed and won’t be wearing this top (it was intended as a test garment, perhaps wearable if it worked out). Despite telling the program that I’m 176cm tall this top is miles too short in the body. It barely reaches my jeans when standing straight and I would add 10cm plus a hem allowance if making it again. The sleeves are just long enough now and would be too short if hemmed. But my biggest source of anguish is that damn empire seam.

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It’s too high, sitting on the bust rather than under it. You can see it’s too high at the side seam too and there is weird pulling going on. So much for using that low bust setting, I know I’m wearing a soft cup nursing bra, but still….  Empire seams are horrible to fit. I love the look of them (when fitted properly), they lend themselves very well to attractive crossover V necklines but I have rarely, if ever managed to fit them properly.

Back when I was five months pregnant with Tessa I sewed this monstrously ugly wadder.

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OMG! Baggy boobs. This was my attempt at the Ottobre magazine Loving nursing top.

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I looked at the very small busted model they used, measured, pinned, deliberated and lowered the empire seam….way too much. I gave up. For reference this is what a RTW empire seam looks like on me – this top is the Target nursing/maternity top that pretty much every pregnant or nursing woman in Australia owns (photo taken when 5 months pregnant with Tessa).

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And here’s a me-sewn Simplicity 3503 from 2010 that was not intended as maternity wear but ended up only maternity suitable – and with the too high empire seam.

 

 

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I also made a wadder of Jalie 2804 Empire crossover top back in the day.  The only empire seam that I’ve made that fit was the Cake Tiramisu dress – and I didn’t think the end result dress was very flattering so never wore it much.

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What should I do? Give up on empire seamed knit tops as too hard to fit? The different lengthwise street of different knits, the contracting effect of the neckband, the great difficultly of adjusting the seam once sewn all make fitting very hard. But… I really like the look of them. Dear readers, is the Lekala top pattern worth adjusting and remaking or should I give up on empire seams?

 

Colourwork decorations for Christmas

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December has been a horrible month. Our family has been struck down with a nasty virus, the kids first, then the adults who have had it particularly badly. It feels like a such a long time since I actually felt well, I’d say coming up to three weeks now. My motivation for creating anything has been low but I have managed to turn out seven of these lovely little Christmas balls while cuddled up on the couch with a cup of tea and a box of tissues.

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They are Julekuler by Arne and Carlos, two Norwegian men who were commercial knitwear designers who branched out into hand knitting and have become superstars of the knitting world. I have the hardcover book which is really lovely and full of beautiful color photographs of Christmas in Norway. It is clunkily translated into English as “55 Christmas Balls to Knit”. There’s only 2624 projects for this pattern on Ravelry!

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The yarn I used is Knitpicks Palette which is a 4ply/fingering 100% wool yarn especially for colourwork. I used the colors white, serrano (red) and spruce (green) and 2.75mm double point needles. The yarn the designers used was 5ply/sport but I think my balls came out  a nice size.

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Clockwise from top right: Greek Cross, Hospitality – room in the heart, Tricolor, Snow Crystal and Hand knit Border. I made these as gifts and I wish I could have made them for more people. I managed to get five made and posted off to Australia and magically they did arrive before Christmas. I was pretty sad to see them go and so made two more for myself to keep! It’s a nice idea knitting the same basic pattern but with different colourwork designs. I felt I had mastered the pattern after the first two or three balls but the different designs kept it interesting. It was pretty challenging in the beginning – very fiddly with only my third time using DPN and second attempt at stranded colourwork. The hanging loops were my first crochet chain. I had intended to try two handed colourwork but I was quite overwhelmed and gave up on that idea.  The rocking horse design was my nemesis. After three unsuccessful attempts at getting it going I cut off the yarn and threw it in the bin. That was rather cleansing.

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Secret Rose (in red and white) and Dacing Around the Tree (in green and white). I found myself drawn to the more traditional Scandinavian designs rather than the animal and figure motifs. The secret rose motif was actually on a pair of tights I bought my daughter from the Scandinavian children wear brand Hanna Andersson.  The three coloured ball required a lot of detangling but the knitting itself was pretty easy.

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I’m done with Christmas balls for now but suspect that there might be a few new designs appearing next Christmas on my tree. I do so love these fuzzy little ornaments. Here are some gifted ones in situ on their trees in Australia! Thanks for the photos guys!

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And here are the two I kept on our own tree.

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I hope that you all have a lovely Christmas and holiday season, whether you are at the beach, in the snow or in the wet.

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Mini chic cardigan for Tessa

Mini chic cardigan for Tessa

I finally finished Tessa’s summer cardigan – and now it’s November and pretty chilly around these parts. That’s ok because she can still wear it indoors as everywhere here is well heated. It’s not going to fit for long though, maybe a month or two. I’ve been working on this cardi at my knitting group for the entire three months I’ve been going and someone mentioned that I better have another baby if I don’t finish it soon. I was actually very bored with all that white stockinette, so the comment really gave me the momentum to finish it!

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The yarn is  Bendigo Woollen Mills Cotton 8ply in the colour parchment. It is a very smooth and soft cotton, and seems quite thin for in 8ply/dk weight. I enjoyed knitting with it much more than the other cotton yarn I’ve used, which was Debbie Bliss cotton dk. I think the problem with my previous cotton project was that the gauge and yarn I was working at meant that the knitted fabric was really stiff and knitting at that firm gauge hurt my hands. That cardigan is still really stiff after repeated washing and wearings which is a pity.  The fabric for this little card is really drapy which I much prefer.

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You can see here that my tension in the yoke section is quite different to my tension working the sleeves in the round (I used magic loop). Only a knitter would notice that though and I presume that they’d be too polite to say it to my face!

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I have to say that I’m not a huge fan of this pattern, Mini Chic by Katie White. While the resultant cardigan is cute, the pattern just didn’t have the nice finishing details that I have come to expect. I knit the very similar Granny’s favourite by Georgie Hallam when I was pregnant with Tessa and it had slip stitches to prevent the garter button bands flipping over and instructions for tightening up the loose stitches under the arms which I appreciated. I also think that the Mini Chic cast on instructions give you a very, very tight cast on edge (perhaps in response to complaints it was too loose) which I blocked out as much as possible and it is only just big enough.

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The only changes I made to the pattern was to do some decreases in the first row of the garter wrist cuffs (I trick I picked up from Granny’s favorite) so that I didn’t have sloppy cuffs. The buttons were ones from my button tin, so may have come from one of my grandmothers.

Overall I’m really pleased with it and hope to dress Tessa in it as much as possible for the next month!

Grey denim skirt

So here’s the first thing I made on my new machine – a grey denim skirt using the OOP Kwik Sew 3362.

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This is the fourth time I’ve made this pattern. I made it in purple corduroy as one of my first sewing projects back in 2008 (photo here). I made a full length version in dark red ponte (pictured at the bottom of this post), and a I made a blue denim version that I later maternity-ized with a stretch waistband. I was still wearing that version a month ago, and I wore the red one recently too.

This time I graded the pattern to an XXL, added back waist darts, reshaped the side seams considerably and used an invisible zipper. I also had to shorten the skirt a fair bit which is pretty unusual for me as I’m 5’10”. I top stitched all the panel seams too.

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The invisible zipper foot on my new machine is quite different to what I’ve used before so I had quite a bit of trouble with it. I sewed it too close for the zipper to close and unpicked it several times. Now it’s too wide, but in the interest of gaining a wearable skirt sooner, I left it.

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You can see that the back waist facing is rolling up already which is a pain, and not something I’ve ever managed to solve.

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I think I’m done with this pattern. I wear the skirt all the time, but I’m not in love with the way the grading made the curved panels come so far down onto the thigh. I think I would have been better just to cut wider side seams so I could do the dart/shaping that I needed to.

Overall this is a very useful wardrobe basic that I was desperately in need of. Sewing time is incredibly precious and rare these days – this skirt took me weeks of 20 minutes here and there. However on I go. I have a floral maxi skirt in progress…. I think it’s destined to be worn with leggings the way the weathers going. Oh well!