Knitting all the things

Knitting all the things

Since I haven’t felt like blogging much lately but have felt like knitting, I have a lot of things to post about. I feel like blogging is something that I can only do when my energy and enthusiasm is high. Sewing clothes for myself requires a lot of mental and emotional energy too. But knitting, knitting is comforting and easy most of the time, so I do that when my energy is low.

First up, here is a lovely big triangular scarf/shawl. This yarn was a gift from my lovely friend Kate who dyed the yarn herself! I love the subtle color gradations that she achieved. The yarn is 100% Australian merino in a 8ply/dk weight. The pattern is Herald by Janina Kallio. I do love her designs, they are lacy but modern and asymmetric which really appeals to me. This pattern is designed for 4ply/fingering yarn on 4.0mm needles so I upsized to 5.5mm which gave me the right texture and drape with the heavier yarn.

It makes a very snuggly, large scarf and I just love it.

Next up is a scarf that took 5.5 years to finish. I cast this on on Boxing Day 2010 when I was away at the beach with my extended family and I was a beginner knitter looking for a project to learn how to do yarn overs.

The pattern is a free one, Flame Chevron Scarf. It was really much more complicated than I needed at the time but it did the job of giving me good yarn over practice.The yarn is Bella Baby Layette a Spotlight yarn which is 80% bamboo and 20% wool. It’s not anything I’d choose these days much to does have a nice silky feel around my neck that is good for warmer weather.

Here’s a little pattern free hat that I made to knit up the one skein of handspun art yarn that I purchased at KnitFit last year.

I did a rolled brim, stockinette and decreased the crown evenly, nothing fancy. I swatched and then reused the swatch yarn, then basically knit the whole thing twice after my first attempt was wider than it needed to be but not deep enough. Such is life when you make up the pattern on the fly. I had only just enough yarn to get this hat out, with only a few inches left at the end.

I feel that is hat is a bit of a statement. A statement that says ‘I’m a fiber artist, and I don’t give a fig about fashion’. God knows that weird little purple sheep locks sticking out of your hat is not fashionable, but I absolutely adore this hat anyway, and will definitely wear it come winter.

And to finish off, here’s a little dress that I knocked together for Althea. The printed cotton fabric was a gift from my mother in law. Althea was going to a Girl Scout day camp where they have camp names, and she waned to be called Koala. So we made this dress up – a koala dress for Koala.

 

I traced the bodice pattern off a Hanna Andersson dress that she owns and the skirt is simply the whole width of the fabric on the front and back, and cut in half lengthwise. I would have liked to do some straightening and matching of the koala print but I didn’t have the fabric to spare – it is only just long enough using all the fabric. The sewing quality if this is not terrific, but Althea helped and sewed a few of the seams and it was ready in time, which was important to her.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately!

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2016 reflections

2016 reflections

I’m sitting here with coffee and sourdough toast, and it’s 6am on the first of January – I guess it’s time for reflections. After 2014’s year of massive change (having a third baby, moving across the world), I consider 2015 a year of consolidation. In 2015 Althea became much happier at school and has some lovely friends, Julian started at a new, friendly co-op preschool, and Tessa turned into a talking, walking toddler. My Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is finally under control and stable, and I guess I’ve settled into, and accepted, my role as a stay at home parent of three children at this time.

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We managed to get our entire family able to bike ride together – Althea on her own bike with gears and the younger two in a trailer, which is really, really heavy to pull especially since it’s so hilly here, but for someone who used to love her daily cycle commute, being able to take a family Sunday morning bike ride is a big achievement.

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I managed to get into a great lap swimming routine, two evening a week, then it fell apart. I joined a great choir, then it fell apart. That’s ok. I’m starting with a new choir next week, and I’m going to try to set up a home yoga routine, starting with a 30 day yoga camp.

My sewing mojo just disappeared this year, but my knitting mojo fired, probably partly because of my awesome Sunday knitting group. Such an interesting group of women – I’m so lucky to have found them. I did manage to sew a few things including a pieced duvet cover for Althea’s birthday in September. Since Santa brought me an automatic buttonhole foot for Christmas it might actually get it’s button closures some time soon.

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This dress/skirt for Althea is my favorite piece of sewn clothing for the year.

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This skirt is one of the few useful bits of clothing I made for myself this year. I made a lot of duds.

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I made my first Customfit sweater this year which I am very, very happy with. It’s a bit short but is still a great fit improvement on every other sweater I’ve ever knit. I have almost finished my second Customfit, it’s an alpaca Foyle’s cardigan. I am so determined to have it finished while winter is still in full swing – it’s going to be warm.

A wearable sweater – huzzah!

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I’m pretty proud of this Welcome to the Flock set I made for Tessa.

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Baa-able hat for Julian

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The lace required a lot of concentration but I’m so proud of this alpaca Rosewater hat.

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We had three lots of Australian visitors in 2015, my mother-in-law in March, my dear friend in August and my sisters in December. This was just so wonderful and I’m so grateful that they all gave up so my of their time and money to cross the vast Pacific Ocean to see us.

The beautiful rose garden in Portland, Oregon, that I visited with my friend Kate.

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I also survived the three month summer school vacation which was, well, pretty challenging. Our house was very hot, with no cooling and we had quite a few nights when it was too hot to sleep. Three months of being the sole source of entertainment for three children was tough, even with a few activities (holiday programs/day camps) thrown in. I also eventually calmed down when taking taking my three little drowning hazards swimming in the lake. We only took a two day/one night weekend away to Mt Rainier. Next summer we’ll definitely try for more.

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I’m looking forward to 2016. We are taking out first trip back to Australia since we moved here, and it’s going to be timed for sunshine and Womadelaide! It’s going to be bittersweet seeing all our dear friends again and then leaving though. Hopefully summer will be less exhausting.  Julian is starting school in September and Althea is changing schools. I’m going to try Tessa out with a few hours of preschool. Hopefully full nights of sleep will materialize. I’m not going to make crafting goals, as that is too much pressure for me. Crafting fits around the other non-negoitatable things in my life. I make things as the mood takes me, catching the sparks of joy.

A baby in January, a toddler in December 2015.

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Wishing you all the very best in 2016. Another year, another adventure.

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Rayon floral dress and simple skirts

Rayon floral dress and simple skirts

I’m not loving sewing clothes for myself right now, but as this blog is my creative journal I’m going to put this out there. Here’s McCalls 6073. I don’t like it very much.

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The top is a very stretchy rayon knit, and the skirt is a rayon challis. There is elastic in the midriff which is really needed, as the skirt pulls it down. I made a size 20 top grading to a 22 at the waist and a 24 skirt with 2″ extra length. I might add that my measurements are close to a 24 in the bust and it’s still too big, good old Big 4 sizing….

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The thin knit is a bit of a PITA to get a nice finish on, to be frank.

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I actually shortened this dress to knee length and then reused the fabric to make a simple no-pattern pull on skirt.

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The waistband is a much stronger and more stable cotton-lycra knit. I don’t make it quite tight enough but I still wear this skirt all the time.

I also made a simple shirred waist light denim skirt that I also wear multiple times a week.

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The four year old photographer cut off my head, sorry folks.

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It is also a bit loose in the waist but I couldn’t make it any narrower and still be able to walk without restriction. The shirring was time consuming but it’s very comfortable.

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Which just goes to show that quick and easy is sometimes better than ambitious when it comes to sewing.

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?

 

Nighties for Althea – fairy and granny

I would be perfectly happy for my daughter to wear pyjamas as nightwear but unfortunately she was gifted a totally hideous 100% polyester Barbie (shudder) nightie. This became her favourite thing ever and had to actively confiscated to get it washed. So when it became too small I hid it (mean Mummy that I am) and the requests for more nighties started. Crazily enough I discovered that they are not easily available – I mean Target don’t sell any in her size! It’s onesies, pyjamas or nothing.

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I had been gifted this fairy printed interlock and matching ribbing by my aunt, who had intended it for a nightie for Althea but had never got around to making it. While heavily pregnant I thought this this might be a quick and easy project, scoured my Ottobre magazines for a suitable pattern and ta da! fairy nightie (much preferable to Barbie, and the fabric feels like it has at some cotton content).

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The pattern is Ottobre 3/2012 – 34 Jungle Stripes, a knit dress for older girls. I made the size 134 and added 3cm to the length. It is still very short, mid thigh, the photos don’t really show the true length. It’s also quite a snug fit through the shoulders, so although it fits she’s not going to get very much wear out of it, especially as the weather has cooled down so much now.

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I got Althea to help me trace and cut the pattern, after which she lost interest in this being a mummy-daughter project. The pattern has raglan sleeves, cute pleats at the front and back neck and elastic casings around the neckline and sleeves. I hemmed it with a multistep zigzag.

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Unfortunately my Ottobre collection did not contain a suitable winter nightie pattern, I was unable to find a downloadable pattern larger than a girls size 8, and so I had to purchase a big 4 pattern from Spotlight. Enter Simplicity 1569. Even though daggy granny nightwear is a Big 4 speciality there is not a lot of choice past a size 8 there either. The fabric was also from Spotlight and is of an abysmal quality. I felt terribly annoyed sewing with it knowing that it is not going to last long, but sadly Spotlight and Lincraft are the ONLY purveyors of printed flannelette in Australia. The smaller , better quality online and bricks and mortar stores don’t stock such a pedestrian stuff.  I felt sick when I discovered 1499 items listed for cotton flannel fabric at fabric.com. But I’m not paying for transPacific postage for printed flannelette!

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You can see the loose weave.

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So the nightie was pretty quick and easy to sew (good as I have a newborn) and Althea is super pleased with it. However….this pattern is everything I hate about big 4 patterns:

* the stupid fragile tissue paper. So annoying. Requires ironing flat. So hard to trace. I ended up cutting out her size because I really couldn’t be bothered which is such a waste of a multisize pattern that I will probably want to use again.

*Crazy amounts of wearing ease, and too much ease in the sleeve cap.

* Stupidly bad fit. I made the size 8 which is for a child 132cm tall, Althea is 135cm tall and it is FLOOR LENGTH. (The pattern envelope illustration is also misleading as the view C nightie is shown as mid calf length -it’s not).  The sleeves and yoke seem to be right for her size though. I was planning to make the 10 but once I saw the pattern pieces I sized down.

*Terrible instructions – I mean who would pin, baste and then sew, and then NOT finish the seam.  Needless to say I sewed the sleeves in flat, not in the round as instructed, I used 12mm bias binding to finish the neckline not 25mm, and closed the neckline with a press stud not a button and loop.

Anyway Althea’s very happy and I might even sew her another winter nightie soon. And I feel better having ranted at the interwebs!

My first lined jacket, speedy girl dress and conquering the blind hem foot

Well I can’t say I expected my first lined jacket to be in size 56cm (about a 000 I guess) but it turns out that it is!

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The pattern is Pikku Lapanen, from Ottobre 4/2012 – number 6. It’s a lovely little pattern designed for sweatshirt knit with a jersey lining – I used velour for the outer and cotton-lycra jersey from the inside. The velour is cotton rich and I hand dyed it teal many years ago and used it to make myself a Farbenmix Beala hoodie (Flicker set here!)

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The instructions for joining the lining and the body sleeves required a bit of thinking over, but the technique worked and produced a lovely finish with no exposed seams.

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The hood seams sewn last and then the edges are bound together using a ribbing strip. I was actually very disappointed with the ribbing trim finish – the first time that Ottobre instructions and techniques have not yielded good results! I wish I had used fold over elastic instead.

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The inside of the ribbing looks awful. The 3.5cm width of the strip was just not enough for a 1cm seam, and even though I trimmed the edges down I had to do a second row of topstitching to catch all the missed bits. I would advise using a 4.5cm wide strip of ribbing if anyone wants to make this jacket, or a completely different finish altogether. The velour knit was also a pain to work with as it’s a napped fabric and creeps and shifts, but the end result feels lovely and soft.

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Here’s the complete size 56 baby outfit!

I started on the next baby outfit in a size 62 (maybe 00) as I’m having fear that my newborn could outgrow the previous outfit in a few weeks – my friend just had a 55cm long newborn. I started with a sweater-knit dress.

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The pattern is Ottobre 3/2103 – 1. Speedy girl (sizes 56-92cm). It is designed for jersey knits but I think it works ok in the heavier fleecy knit I used here. This fabric is a remnant from the dress I made Althea for her fifth birthday (post all about that), and is Hilco Elisabet. I had very little left and had to introduce “design lines” to the back panel to fit the shape of the fabric I had. It is not terribly noticeable in my opinion.

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The neck and armhole edges are gathered with clear elastic that is then encased in the ribbing binding (I used 4.5cm wide strips rather than the 3.5cm advised). This makes for a very bulky bound finish. It is also applied in the flat not the round and you can see how thick the seam is – I had to hand sew the seam allowance down by hand as I couldn’t get that many layers under the presser foot of my machine!

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I used a twin needle for the hem. I am very pleased with this little dress and it just goes to show how a beautiful fabric and a simple pattern can give a great result.

My other great achievement this week has been that I have finally conquered the blind hem foot on my machine! School has just gone back for the year and I was faced with the very tedious task of letting down the hem on Althea’s school dresses.

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It is really not that complicated but I had attempted it a few times before and given up.

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I added a wide bias binding strip to the dresses to create a false hem, then used the blind stitch foot with a multi-step zig-zig stitch. Two zig-zags miss the front fabric and the third catches it – that’s why you need the guide on the foot as it must be accurate. You then turn and flatten the hem which pulls the end of the third zig-zag into a long vertical stitch. It needs to be ironed out.

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The end result is certainly good enough for a school dress, and very strong. I’m not sure that it would be very invisible on a plain fabric, as the vertical stitches are much bigger than those I’d take hand sewing the hem. However it certainly got a boring chore done much faster than hand sewing and now I feel much more willing to try this hem out on different fabrics.

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Only eight weeks (approximately of course) to go! I wonder what else I can add to the stack of baby clothes in that time?

Baby clothes

So I’m currently 29 weeks pregnant and life is running by so fast with everything going on in our family – I was definitely feeling like this unborn child was getting less time and attention than my other two did. I mean, we don’t have a name shortlist, I haven’t had time to keep up yoga as I did in the past, I haven’t knitted anything for the baby, or even planned to – yup – the reality of a third pregnancy is that it just kind of happens while everything else is.  So I decided that I was going to make the effort to haul my exhausted self up the ladder to my sewing space and make some baby clothes.

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I have a lot of small or remnant pieces of knit fabric – jersey, french terry, rib knit, velour, so I knew that some pretty cute garments could be made with what I already have. I also have a huge stack of Ottobre kids magazines – which have heaps of well-drafted baby clothes so I really had no impediment to starting. (Actually I really wanted to buy Farbenmix’s Zwegenverpackung pattern, but it’s not available as a download, nor in stock anywhere in Australia right now – so I decided to suck it up and not buy another pattern that I don’t need.)

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These pants are from the Autumn 4/2012 issue and are 7. Crawl and roll – loose fit jeans for baby, available in seven sizes 56-92. They do indeed look like they will be very loose, baggy pants, in fact they look rather ginormous on the baby in the magazine, especially in the rise, but there is something rather adorable about that too. In fact they remind me a lot of the Bonds Roomies Cord pants which are quite popular, and Julian had a pair as a baby.  It would be an excellent pattern if you were using cloth nappies.

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The denim is extremely soft and lightweight, which it needs to be. I repurposed it from a skirt that a sewed for myself a few years ago that was not a success, the fabric was originally from Rathdowne Fabrics.  The striped rib was from Craftymamas Fabrics, I think it is Hilco Ringel.

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There is a fair bit of detail in these pants – the back pockets, knee patches, crotch gusset, and quite a lot of topstitching. Worth it though!

The t-shirt is from the same issue and is 1. Mint T-shirt, also in sizes 56-92. I made both patterns in the size 56, which given that my other babies were 52 and 54.5cm long at birth, I’m hoping will fit for the first month.

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This T-shirt has set in sleeves, rib binding at neck and sleeve hems and a back neck opening with a fastener.

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The body fabric is cotton-elastane jersey, probably from Rathdowne Fabrics and the rib is the same as before.

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I used a multistep zig zag stitch for the hem and a press stud for the closure – the pattern called for a snap or a flat button. I constructed the whole thing on my sewing machine as I find using an overlocker too cumbersome for something as small and precise as baby clothes.

Overall I’m really pleased with this little ensemble and think I might add a sewn jacket and hat. Does anyone know of a good pattern for little sewn baby shoes/bootees? It would be nice to have a complete outfit.