Thursday, March 19, 2020

Start-Itis 2020 and Project Plans

It seems that every year around the month of February/March, I have the itch to start new projects. In previous years, I've blamed it on the fact that I had been making gifts for other people for several months as gifts and finally had the chance to make things for myself again, but this year I don't have that excuse since I really didn't make gifts. Maybe it's just my body knows it's making time? I don't know, lol, but each year I get a big uptick in being inspired by projects that I would love to make. While I know most of these are aspirational plans that will likely not happen for some time (I know lots of you are staying home right now, but I am still working), I still love the hopeful feeling I get from planning things out. I thought I would share a little bit of my project plans in hopes of keeping the feeling going and increasing my likelihood of making these up!
First I'll share the one that I actually "in production" right now. I swatched the Endearment cardigan by Hanna Maciejewska this same time in 2018 using some Araucania Huasco Botany Lace yarn in the Carmine colorway which I purchased in 2014 (!). I was deciding between making this project and my Recoleta Cardigan at the time, and I guess you can see which one won out. I talked all about that episode of start-itis here. At the time, my gauge swatch turned out too tight for the Endearment, so I made the Recoleta instead. I've still wanted to make this up though, so once I finished my Owligan, I immediately thought of finally making this project.
I started to swatch again with what I thought were larger needles than 2 years ago, but after a few inches seemed to be yielding the exact same gauge I realized I didn't really want the stitches to be any looser than the original swatch. I did a little bit of math (very little, trust me. I hate math) and decided to just knit this 1 size up from my measurements because I wanted a more fitted sweater anyway plus I'm still losing weight so I didn't want to get to the end of this long project and have it be too big. I spent an evening last week working on getting this started, and ho boy what a challenge. Friends, don't start a new fingering weight sweater 1) with large lace charts that printed in landscape format on your printer for some reason (making them even smaller), 2) while your life is extremely stressful in the day and you are really tired but refuse to go to bed, or 3) in a dimly lit room. The lace chart squares were so small that I thought the symbol for lifted increase was a k2tog - big difference. So after doing a long provisional cast on (my absolute least favorite cast on because it takes me so long), I would knit the first row and none of the numbers would work out, so I thought I did something wrong and would count up everything and realize it didn't work out over and over. It was only after searching for an errata on the Ravelry page that I wound up on the forum thread about this sweater when it was first released that I found someone else with the same frustration and the designer pointed out that it is a lifted increase so you don't need any stitches there to knit into yet when you get to them. Ugh. I felt like such a dunce, but at least I had not pulled out all my previous work thinking I had knit it up wrong.
I was able to get the sweater all set up and ready to knit that night, but I haven't had much knitting time since so what you see is all I have to show for the last month. At least this is started and once I figure out a better method of keeping track of the multiple charts, I'm sure things will start moving right along.I do love having a fingering weight sweater on the needles - something that takes a long time to make and therefor you always have on hand if you just want to jump into the middle of a project and not have to deal with swatches and planning. So I look forward to making this over the next who-knows-how-long.
In light of the current craziness, and the difficulty of my first sweater project, I've decided to start an easier one too, lol. This actually happened because the lovely Andi Satterlund put up a code to get one of her patterns for free during the month of March on her Instagram page (the code is STAYHOME), which lead me to choosing one of her patterns that has only recently appealed to me - Hortencia. When this was released years ago, I didn't have much inclination for it. Isn't it funny how our style changes? Now I think this would be the perfect slightly dressy sweater to wear with dresses and whatnot, and I think it would be great in black. At first I was going to just see about cashing in my KnitPicks gift card I won almost 2 years ago (what?! lol) to get some nice black yarn, but in looking through my stash (man, I love this feature on Ravelry...) I rediscovered that I had just enough yardage of Cascade Avalon in their Pirate Black colorway. I remember ordering this with a black sweater in mind during a Craftsy sale in 2016 only to be disappointed that the yarn is not "black" black when it arrived. It's more like a dark charcoal gray color, which for this spur of the moment cardi should be just fine and then I'm still sticking with my efforts to use up my stash without buying more. The only potential issue is that this yarn is a cotton/acrylic blend instead of a wool like this sweater is designed for, but I made my Hetty Cardigan years ago with a cotton yarn and it worked out just fine. I actually really love my Hetty sweater - it's one of the few that fit me still and the drape is lovely. So, I'm hoping I can create a similar fit with this one in spite of my non-traditional yarn choice, and it should also make it more wearable in Florida :) I haven't swatched or anything for this, but I'm excited about getting it going when I have a little time next week.
It occurred to me the other day that I finally have some kids at an age that will appreciate some of the adorable crocheted bags from Ana Paula Rimoli's book Amigurumi On the Go that I fell in love with years and years ago. I have 2 birthdays coming up in April that would love a purse of any kind, so I'm thikning a few of these lady bug bags are in order. I have plenty of acrylic yarn to make them up with and these are small so they should be nice and fast. I think I will add a long strap to make them like a real purse too. It will be nice to make up some crocheted amigurumi again.
So this next one is a future pipe dream, lol. When the Fall 2018 issue of Pom Pom Quarterly came out, I absolutely fell in love with the Ixchel sweater. Isn't this just fantastic? I have gawked at this design ever since and it occurred to me a few weeks ago that this would be a great opportunity to cash in that Knit Picks gift card I mentioned earlier. I saw a finished one made up in Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in the Inverness colorway for the navy background and Poppy Field for the yellow contrast. I actually have a skein of Hawthorne in the Compass colorway already that is a similar colorway, so I could potentially even use that if I want to be frugal and stash busting. It's very out of character for me to even be contemplating making a pull over sweater. I only ever make cardigans just because in Florida you only get a short window of time for sweaters out of doors (I use most of mine in the ac at work), but this design is just so pretty that I might have to make it my first one. Obviously this will not be happening right now, but the plan is still floating around in my mind, so it's that much closer to becoming a reality at some point. Some day...
On the sewing front, I am reaching a point that I wish SO BAD that I could sew myself some clothes. I've got the itch, folks. I miss the feeling of planning and bringing a new piece to life. Given that I've lost a lot of weight in the last 6 months, I've reached a point that I am smaller than I ever have been while sewing, therefore my patterns that I had tweeked to fit me are now all too big. This means that I would have to start the hell that is repeated muslins for each and every pattern I want to sew up, which is just not something I look forward to when I have limited hobby time as it is. I tend to want a wearable finished item to give me a boost, not drudge over lots of changes to make it fit me.Add to that the fact that I'm still actively working to lose weight, and you have enough reasons for me to know that sewing clothes is not practical right now no matter how much I wish I could. In the meantime, I dream up the projects that I would like to make once I level off in my sizing. Making a dress in this fabric is on the top of my list :) I can't explain why I want a dress covered in power lines, but I really do, lol. My instinct would be to make up my beloved Simplicity 1419 just so I can show off the fabric in a basic shape, but since I would have to retweek that pattern to fit anyway I'm wondering if I should branch out and try something new. Anyone have any suggestions?

Gosh there is so much more inspiration floating around in my mind, but there is seriously no time whatsoever right now. This week is nuts, and it's not virus related, lol. I'll report on that next week hopefully as soon as everything is all finalized. In the meantime, are you planning any new projects to occupy your mind and your time? Share it with me!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Tutorial: Cute Dollar Tree Hanging Planters!

Friends, it is officially spring in Florida and certainly will be by the 21st of March everywhere else, lol. As such, I've been seeing all the beautiful flowers and herbs available in stores just waiting for me to take them home and love them (just me?). This project actually started because my boyfriend gave me beautiful orchid for Valentine's Day and it was needing to go outside to increase its chance of survival. Orchids have always been a hard plant for me even though I live in the perfect place to grow them. I tend to water them too much, etc, and my over love is not something they can withstand. Given my history with these lovely plants, plus that the people I've seen have the most success with orchids have them hanging and leave them alone in their back yards, I decided to devise a hanging planter. Those wooden crate style ones the garden center sells are obviously good, but given my current budget I needed a more cost effective option. Enter the Dollar Tree! I found all these materials for $1 each, and with a little bit of sewing know-how I made a bunch of adorable hanging planters for less than the cost of 1 of the basket style ones. I thought others might like to make these as well, so this is a tutorial on what I did to make these cheap but cute hanging planters.

  • Coco liner
  • Jute cord
  • Large and Sharp Darning Needle
  • Scissors
Yes, that's it. Crazy. You can technically do this with any size coco liner - mine are about 10" in diameter and they are sold for $1 at the Dollar Tree each spring. If you went with a larger coco liner, you may want to get thicker cording, which may get complicated for threading it through. So keep in mind when purchasing your materials. This tutorial will just focus on the smaller size.
Step 1: First, you'll need to cut a semi circular piece out of the side third of your coco liner. It's hard to see the semi circle in the picture because of the angle (sorry), but just know you want it to bow in. It can help to fold it into a cone shape and mark where it overlaps and then cut there. I just eye balled it and it all worked out fine.
Step 2: Roll your now cut down liner into a cone shape with just a bit overlapping along the cut edge.

Step 3: Thread a length of jute cord on your darning needle and secure it at the top of your cone with a knot inside the planter. I like to fold the tip inward so there are no open areas and then stitch it down. Don't tug the cord too roughly or it may snap (ask me how I know) and just get your stitching started. 
Step 4: Using a running stitch, stitch up the opening in whatever spacing you like. I made my stitches fairly large because I liked the simplified look, but you could make more stitches if you wish. Tie it off inside (just like you would knot after sewing on a button or something) to secure.
*This would be a great time to add any embellishment if you so choose. Wouldn't it be cute with extra embroidery?! I was in a rush, but I may do this one future iterations.
Step 5: Next you need the hanger. Take your jute while still on the spool and thread the end on your darning needle. Starting from the inside where you want the hanger to start, thread it out and then back in making a small stitch. Tie a double knot inside the planter to secure and cut off the excess. 
Determine how long you want your planter to hang - I made mine about a 2 foot drop, but it can be any length you want. Pull out the length you want, add a few inches, and cut the jute. Thread your jute on the darning needle again and repeat the knotting process directly across from the knot you made first. Repeat this process again in the area between your first knots so that your hanging weight is evenly distributed and your hanger will hang level.
Step 6: Time to make it a hanging look at the top. Hold up your hanging cords so the planter looks level and pinch about 2 inches down from the top, holding the cords all as one. Tie a separate length of jute at this point, making a double square knot that has one short end and one long end.
Now for a little basic macrame! Tuck the shorter cut end of the jute you just tied onto the other cords down and hold it with the other cords. Using the longer end you just tied on, start making half knots and slide them up to the original knot. Imagine you're at summer camp in middle school making spiral friendship bracelets. That is exactly what you are doing here. Keep making half knots and sliding them up to the previous knot until you run out of cord. Pull your last knot a little tighter than the rest and cut off the excess. If you're worried about it unraveling, you can thread the end up into the knots. I just left mine raw. It's a $2 planter, I'm not that worried about it, lol. But you end up with a cute little spiral securing your hanging loop and I just love it.
This is my initial orchid hanger. I just poured the bark that was in the original pot into the hanger around the roots of the orchid and wedged the support posts holding up the flowers into the coco liner as much as I could without piercing through. I also grabbed the large hanging hooks at the Dollar Tree - this one has a butterfly, but I got some plain hooks as well.
After my initial orchid hanger turned out so well, I decided to make a few more for some new annuals and herbs to hang in my pergola! This picture has French Lavender and white Petunias, but I also made one with a Red Velvet Echevaria, so I have 6 of these in total.
Add to the small planters some of the larger hanging baskets I had on hand, and my pergola is looking super cute and I just want to hang out in there now :)
Not a super impressive photo, lol, and I majorly need to to some neatening up and raking on the ground, but I've hung lights in there as well and I have a couch on the other end that you can't see, so it's just a fun hang out spot that now has the added touch of some cool hanging planters. And it only cost me a few bucks and an afternoon to make them all!
I hope you enjoy this tutorial, and if you make any of these planters yourself I would love to see them! Let's cute up our yards to make us more excited to be outside this spring!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

FO: Owligan à la Megan, Plus My First Time Steeking!

Owls by Kate Davies is one of those iconic online knitting patterns that it seems is a rite of passage to make for yourself. I watched for years as others made their own adorable pullover sweaters, always wishing I could make my own but always knowing I would never get to wear a bulky pullover sweater in Florida. I wanted to make a cardigan, so when the designer released a cardigan version of the same owls design I was very excited and bought the pattern. Sadly, I discovered that the new cardigan version was not just a change in having buttons down the front - it also is a looser fit, which I was not a big fan of. I wanted the fitted look of the original pullover but to just have buttons. I knew this could be done since I had seen plenty of cardigan versions before the cardigan pattern was released, but it required steeking, which I have never done and scared me quite a bit when I hadn't done that much knitting. I always hoped to still make my dream owl cardigan, even buying 2 skeins of Cascade Eco+ yarn in the Butternut Squash colorway to make it with during a major Craftsy clearance sale in 2017, but I never actually cast on until this January. But it is now a reality and I'm so glad I finally made this happen.
I did have to make some changes to achieve this. I knit a gauge swatch and discovered it was a little tight, which I slightly expected because I'm consistently a pretty tight knitter. Instead of going up a needle size, I decided to go a bit rogue and rely on the button bands I would be adding to make up a little bit of the difference in width I would need. So I decided to knit a size 5, which was technically the size I needed by my measurements, knowing that it would be a little tight as a pullover but knowing my button band could add at least 2 inches, which seemed to be what I would need.
Because I would be steeking, I decided to add 4 extra stitches down the center front to enable me to cut it and fold it over without taking more width away. I just made sure to knit these 4 stitches the whole way up and I added stitch markers around that section so I would know to do so. I also shifted the start of the round to this added section at the center front (the pattern is written with the rows starting at the side). This wasn't an issue at all until making sure the sleeves and owls were positioned correctly, but even that wasn't difficult - just something I had to pay attention to. I also noticed a slight error in the pattern - she doesn't seem to tell you to reserve any stitches on the bottom of the sleeve for grafting, but she does have you reserve some on the body and then just says to graft them. So I reserved the 6 stitches on the inside of the sleeve to make this work correctly. Even with reserving those stitches, I still had 2 extra stitches when I put the whole thing together, so I had to decrease those before doing the cables. All very minimal issues that only take a minute to accomplish.
I will confess, I was also always hesitant about making this sweater simply because the yarn is so thick and I felt self conscious about it adding bulk to my middle. I fully realize I may get attacked for saying that on the internet as a "curvy" maker, but at the end of the day why make something if you won't feel comfortable wearing it? So another boost in my motivation to make this up was that I've lost weight recently. It does still add bulk given the thick yarn, plus I've added the button bands that makes the area even more bulky, but mentally speaking it's not a big deal. I'm actually super happy with how this sweater looks on, which I take as a testament to my own mental state with my body over the last 6 months. Yay for small victories, right?
The owl cable design goes all the way around the yoke of the sweater. One of the notable differences in the pullover design and the cardigan pattern as written by Kate Davies is that the pullover has waist shaping at the back while the cardigan does not because it's a looser fit. I decided to make this completely like the pullover, so there is a little bit of shaping at the lower back.
So the steeking. This was scary, ya'll. I will say that I was less intimidate by steeking a sweater like this - something that was a super simple pattern made in thick yarn which would therefor knit up very quickly (I made this in 1 month even given my very limited knitting time) verses something in, say, a fingering weight yarn that I could spend months and months on only to have the steek not turn out well and the whole thing fall apart, wasting the time and yarn. If you do the research and make sure you reinforce the steek correctly, this does not happen, but when you've never cut into your knitting before I believe this is a natural concern to have. I didn't want to spend what little knitting time i had and end up disappointed in the end. So I made sure to watch the Sweater Surgery class on Bluprint (from when it  was Craftsy) before starting this project. After watching Carol Feller show how easy doing a steek actually was, I felt much more confident in how to proceed with this project. So I knitted the entire sweater as written, just adding 4 knit stitches to the center front flanked with stitch markers, then when I finished the body itself I put the neckline stitches on scrap yarn and made my steek. I chose to stitch my steek simply because it sounded like the more secure option (I would change my mind on this later), so I made my stitch length on my sewing machine 1mm and stitched between my rows of knit stitches. I cut right down the center of my stitching lines and was amazed when it did NOT unravel, lol. From there I just picked up button bands as I normally would on any cardigan, sticking to a 2 to 3 stitch ratio, and knit my button bands. I followed Carol Feller's advice from the Sweater Surgery class and used a 1 stitch button hole which worked wonderfully. After the button bands, I knitted the neck band just because that's the finish I prefer, and I added a 1 stitch button hole above my other button holes. I wound up with 11 button holes and I made my button bands 3" wide (I determined this by trying on the sweater as a pullover and assessing what I thought would help with the fit but still look good). *Whew* that's a lot of info.
I didn't want all the frayed edges just hanging out and looking messy inside my cardigan, and since I am used to stabilizing my button bands with ribbon anyway, it was no big deal to add a ribbon detail to this one too. I actually would've loved to stabilize the button holes and bands themselves, but I had no ribbon even remotely this wide, so not only would I have had to wait if I ordered something, I know it would've been pretty pricey and I've had a goal to work only from my stash if at all possible given my ridiculous stash size and how little I've been making lately. I like to stabilize the button bands on sweaters just to keep things looking smooth on a fitted silhouette. I hate having a fitted sweater look like I'm hulking out of it because the buttons are pulling. Anyway, I discovered that it was not going to be an issue with this sweater once it was finished, so I decided to just focus my finishing attention to the steek edge.
First, I picked my buttons. I got majorly lucky considering I hadn't even looked at buttons before starting this. I fully anticipated not having enough of anything large enough for this sweater on hand, but a dig through my stash yielded a bag of these lovely deep plum ones that are about 1" in diameter. Not only did I love the color combination of the squash with the plum, but they were also all I had, lol. So I sewed them on and didn't look back. I also sewed these buttons quite far in toward the sweater edge, as is my habit to do. I find that since the buttons will naturally pull toward the edge once buttoned up, this helps it not look like you're popping out of the sweater. Since the plum buttons were adding a little contrast, I decided on this navy with blue and purple floral polyester ribbon from Hobby Lobby. I bought this on sale in one of my "Oh, I want to make little girl hair bows!" phases who-knows-how-long ago, so I was thrilled to have a use for at least some of it at long last. The ribbon is 1/2" wide, which turned out to be just wide enough to stuff my cut yarn ends underneath, and now the inside looks so neat and tidy. Love it!
Obviously, the show stopper of this design is the yoke of owls. It seems that everyone who makes this up has their own interpretation of button eyes, no button eyes, or how many buttons to use. I've seen everything from some with each owl having their own little eyes (some all different colors) and some with no button eyes at all. I finished the big buttons on my sweater, then tried it on and toyed around with other button options for my owls. I knew I didn't want button eyes all the way around because I didn't want my hair to catch in them on the back and shoulders, but the real deciding factor with how many owls got eyes was made by digging through my stash. I looked at every color section I thought might work, but in the end I liked these dark brown tortoise shell ones. As fate would have it, I only had 2 of these buttons and nothing else remotely close in the same or similar size. So, just one owl gets his own stand alone identity on my sweater. I call him Hubert. Isn't he adorable?!
I had to add this picture in just because. Also it illustrates that the sweater still looks good when it's unbuttoned. I lucked out and a few days after finishing this up, the temperature dropped to 65 in the day (so cold, northerners, amiright? lol). I know that isn't super cold, but it was cold enough to wear this sweater and not sweat to death. The wind was strong and actually quite chilly, but this thick yarn held up against it like a champ, almost like a jacket. I stayed comfortable indoors or out, and looked cute to boot.
Does my face show how happy I am with this sweater? Because I just love this. I love that I successfully steeked something I love that my experimental fitting worked, I love the colors together, and I love the finished look. I know this sweater is going to get a lot more wear than I originally ever thought, and I am so glad I finally knit this up. Gotta love a simple, quick, rewarding project, right?

Yarn: 1.71 skeins Cascade Eco+ in the Butternut Squash colorway - $26.26
Pattern: Owls by Kate Davies
Notions: 2 buttons (owl eyes) - free, 11 plum 1" buttons (button band) - $ 1.00 , 1/2" poly print ribbon - $1.00, thread - $0.25
Total Cost: $28.51

*This blog post contains affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase through these links. All opinions are 100% my own and I would never recommend something I did not use and enjoy myself. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

FO: Christmas Accessories

Holy cow it's past Valentine's Day and I still haven't posted about these, lol. Whoops.

After making my Christmas Dress, I had over a yard of fabric left with which to make matching pieces for the others in my life. When mentioning this to my friend, he asked if I was going to make him a tie to match my dress, which of course made me ask, "Do you want a tie to match my dress?" And this project was born :) 
Having never made a tie before, I just followed the free Men's Tie tutorial and pattern from Purl Soho. In the pattern it says that it's designed to be 2 inches shorter than standard, so I lengthened the pattern 2 inches off the bat thinking it would put it back to regular tie length. I very much fussy cut the fabric to keep the tree in the center of the tie when worn, which means I did not cut this fabric on the bias as suggested. It seems that both of these things combined made for a tie that was comically too short. He was able to tie it, and he was a good sport and wore it to church with me, but the end of the tie was only about 2 inches past the knot once tied, and it stuck off to the side very obviously, lol.
I'm pretty proud of how well this was constructed though :) Lots of ironing and hand sewing, but it really is not difficult at all to make a tie.
This was also the perfect opportunity to use my brand spanking new personalized labels I bought during the Dutch Label Shop sale on Black Friday weekend. I've never had any of these made just because I could never decide on a design and always planned on making one that matched my blog. I've seriously wanted to make some for years - ever since they became popular on the blogosphere - but not deciding on a design always kept me from it. This year I decided to just get something simple in a color I liked - and here we are :) Done is better than perfect, yes?
And look how great it looks on the tie back! When I put it how a tie should be (like in this photo) the label works to hold the bottom of the tie in place, but given that it was way too short this didn't work so well in real life, lol. But this is my first tie and my first time ever using my own labels, so there's that.
After the tie, I went about making toddler dresses for my little ladies. I just grabbed a plain white t-shirt from Hobby Lobby for each girl and cut it off to match a dress they already have and I liked the length of. Then I just laid the shirt on the fabric and kept the a-line shape going to create the skirt. I serged the whole thing together (except for top stitching the hem) and this project seriously took about 30 minutes including decision making time.
And I made 2 of them :) I had originally planned to jazz up the top in some way - maybe with a riffle or some covered buttons or something just to make it not so plain. In the end I could never decide and it was Christmas time, so they just wore them as you see. They look cute in anything, so it was all good. Sadly, I did not get a single photo of all of us, or even just of the girls in their dresses. We looked cute at church though, trust me, lol.

Even with making these extra projects in my beloved tree fabric I still have a nice chunk of it left, so maybe next Christmas will see new coordinating pieces that fit better. I'm mostly just glad I finally made my dress happen, so these little side projects are just an added bonus.