Wednesday, August 20, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

It's been a fun week full of planning and beginning new projects :) To start with ...
I finished the knitting on my Myrna cardigan! It was an exciting Friday night :) I had several doctor's appointments and whatnot during the day that enabled me to knit the final sleeve while waiting, so I finished the button band that night et voilĂ ! Now I just have to weave in the ends, block, and stabilize the button bands. I'm not in a crazy hurry to do that though since it's still 95 degrees out everyday. It's going to be a while before I can wear even a short sleeve cropped wool sweater. Finishing the knitting was kind of awesome yet bittersweet - this was my "travel" knitting project! What would I work on while I was out and about? And I was going on a long car ride the next day! I quickly got to work setting up my next project, which is ...
The Emelie Cardigan by Elin Berglund :) I picked up the yarn (Valley Yarns Charlemont) during the 40th anniversary sale at WEBS a few months ago, and I loved it so much that this project jumped my queue. Guys, this yarn is like heaven. It's 60% merino wool, 20% nylon, and 20% mulberry silk - I've decided this is the trifecta of wonderful yarn. It is so incredibly soft and drapes beautifully. I keep the swatch in my project bag with the project for no reason other than for me to be able to stroke it whenever I want, lol. I also really love the design of this cardigan and I know I will wear the daylight out of it. This project is a lot of firsts for me: my first fingering weight cardigan, my first bottom-up cardigan, my first large lace panelled front, and my first yarn with any silk content. I had to do quite a bit of measuring and math to make sure I get this fitting great since this will take A LOT of time to make. I've worked on it for several hours this weekend and I only have just over an inch of the ribbing done. Fingering weight is small! I know that it will be worth it in the end. I've heard that fingering weight is perfect for warmer areas, plus the design is one that I can dress up or down, plus it's black - it will go with everything. Anyway, I know this will take quite a while, so I'm sure other projects will come and go while this gets temporarily set aside from time to time. At least I know I will have a great take along project whenever I need :)
Over the weekend, Andi Satterlund announced her Marion Cardigan Knit Along due to start on September 10th. I've always loved this design and been so close to purchasing the pattern many times. She offered a discount on the pattern for the KAL, so I couldn't resist :) I'm going to use this KAL as an opportunity to stash bust some of my lesser loved yarn. Back when I first started knitting, I went a little crazy with buying acrylic yarn. Case and point - my local Walmart clearanced almost their whole yarn section about 22 months after I started knitting and I bought something like 30 skeins of Caron Simply Soft in various colors over the course of a few weeks. Yeah. In my defense, they were marked down to $1.00 - $1.50 per skein, which is still the cheapest I have ever seen this yarn, and I have used it here and there for other projects. I just have so much! So even though this cardigan is designed to be made in wool yarn, I wanted to be frugal and put some of my Simply Soft to use. Sin of knitting sins, I know!
In the yarn's defense it is a lovely color :) This is the Blue Mist colorway and I bought ELEVEN SKEINS OF IT! What was I smoking?! So, this yarn will become a Marion Cardigan come September. I was so excited about this project that I already swatched to make sure the yarn would work (and it was spot on!). I also devoted some time to customizing the pattern - I've knitted 2 of Andi's patterns before, the Miette and the Myrna, but I've never altered the fit before. I've learned that my waist doesn't nip in as much as her patterns are written for so they tend to be a bit more snug than I like in the tummy area. My others are still perfectly wearable, but now that I know a bit more about fitting my body I wanted to give it more attention on this next make. I spent my lunch break yesterday marking up my pattern and I think I have it worked out so I that will use the size Large pattern until the waist decreases, then switch to the XLarge instructions for the waist, going back to the Large for the sleeves. Hopefully it works out - I'm not a big fan of math, so I've kind of got my fingers crossed, lol.
Until the KAL starts on September 10th, I have all my components waiting patiently in one of my WIP baskets. I love these things - they are so handy for keeping everything together but being cuter than just a plastic bag or something.
I also am working on a custom design for a commission! A friend of mine wanted me to make a Hulk amigurumi for her son's birthday in September. I couldn't find any patterns that I loved, but since he will have a body shape that I have made countless times I felt confident in making my own pattern. At the moment I am trying to give him bobble muscles and maybe a six pack - I'm just trying to play with it so they don't look like a row of boobs down his chest, lol. I'm excited to show him off when I'm done and if he works out well I may put up the pattern on Ravelry, we will see :)
And to top off all these other projects, I am all geared up to participate in the Ashton Mystery Crochet-Along with FreshStitches! I love these mystery group projects, so I always sign up when they come around :) This will be the 3rd one I've done with the FreshStitches crowd and I am really looking forward to it. I've already got my pattern purchased, but I still have to pick out my colors. I like going with crazy colors since you have no idea what you're making anyway - last time I ended up with a mint green kangaroo and joey :) The clues begin on September 1st, so I will update you when I get the first set of pieces made!
So, that's what's on my plate this week. Funny how I went from worried I had nothing to work on to having all this lined up now, lol. Feast or famine, I tell ya! If you'd like to see what others around the web are up to, head over to Tami's Amis' Blog.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Alterations: Turning a Size 6 Skirt Into A Size 14

This post is about a project that began with a pair of shoes :) Well, sort of - it's a project that got a kick in the butt by a pair of shoes. Modcloth was having a big time summer clearance sale a few weeks ago and I came across these Gee, Polly sandals by Miss L Fire and I absolutely fell in love. These babies were so mine - and for $29.99, I could not refuse them. This was actually my first ever personal shopping experience with Modcloth and I have nothing but great things to say. They have such cool designs that are so my style and their shipping was nice and quick. I'm sure most other women out there don't buy sandals at the end of summer, but I live in Florida - I will be able to wear these 11 months of the year. Plus they have birds, they have glitter, they have vintage style ... what more could you want from a shoe?!
When my fantastic shoes arrived, I was immediately reminded of a skirt I bought probably a year ago with the intent of altering it - I knew the alterations were possible, but I also knew it would be a bit of a puzzle ... so the skirt languished. Seeing that I want to wear these shoes almost everyday, I needed to get any clothes I could into rotation for wear and get them now! This simple navy skirt with a button front is something I have always wanted in my wardrobe anyway, now these shoes gave me the push I needed to buckle down and make it work for me :)
So, I began with this casual, cute button front skirt. I snagged this at a local thrift store for $1.00 (totally in my revamping price range, lol). The skirt had a pointed yoke with an eyelet lace accentuating it and clusters of 3 antiqued gold buttons all the way down. So, what did I need to change about this already cute skirt? Well, it was a strange length for one, but the biggest issue was the size:
(These pics are much more true to the real color, just fyi)
As you can see, this skirt was originally a size 6. Yeah, there was no way I could even try to put this on, lol. Normally I wear a size 14 in most skirts (as a side note, I'm almost amazed that I am ok with putting my skirt size out there on the internet - do I get extra "good body image points" for that?) After taking the Craftsy Alterations class, I knew I could make this fit me. The skirt's saving grace is that it flares out and it had good length. So, I just measured my natural waist (where I wanted the skirt to sit), then measured down from the original waist of the skirt until I hit my waist measurement and chopped it off a little shy of that point (I wanted to make sure I had a seam allowance there). Once I made some cuts, there were many more to follow. I had to keep trying it on and pinning the excess under until I got it on my waistline and fitting me properly.
When I had the skirt where I wanted it, I noticed it was gaping at my lower back so I decided to make a dart to close the space - I'm making it fit me anyway, why not get it as perfect as possible? This made for a very involved step - the seams are each sewn and then the seam allowance is top stitched down on each side - so I had to unpick the top stitching and the stitching, pin out the excess, mark my dart and sew. This was another step that involved much trying on to get the fit right (I made the dart too short at first and it made a right angle over my butt, lol), but once I had it snugged to my back I re-did the top stitching with matching thread. Admittedly my top stitching isn't perfect, but it blends with the color so well that you wouldn't notice unless I pointed it out (and no one stares at my butt that much anyway, lol).
Next I had to officially decide the new waist edge and make a waistband. I pinned it all down evenly, then added my new waistband facing: bias quilt binding :) I couldn't find premade bias tape that was exactly the same color, but I couldn't be bothered to make any and no one will see the inside anyway. I know some may find quilt binding a bit scratchy for inside a waistband, but it really doesn't bother me at all so I went with it. If you were doing this alteration yourself though you could always make your bias tape and make it any width you want - mine was 1" wide double fold quilt binding that I ironed out the middle fold on to make it wider which made for a quick alternative. I pinned in the bias tape keeping the bottom fold of the bias tape along my new waistline on the skirt, leaving about an inch of excess on the ends. Then I stitched directly on that fold line all the way around.
The first pic here is my bias tape before I ironed out the extra fold. After stitching, I pressed the seam, trimmed my excess fabric left over from the skirt, then allowed the bias tape to fold inward along the stitch line. I kept the bottom edge of the bias tape with the factory fold, but I pressed the middle fold out (basically I made double fold bias tape into wider single fold bias tape). Sorry if I keep mentioning that, but I really hope it makes sense. This step made the bias tape go from how it looked in the first pic above to how it looks in the next two pics. I ironed the bias tape a bit lower than the edge of the fabric just to hide the color difference on the outside.

Next I laid out the whole skirt and pinned the bottom edge of the bias tape to enclose the "waistband", I had to get creative with the button placket area - I folded under the extra bias tape to cover the exposed cut fabric edge, then folded the bias tape like with the rest of the waist. I stitched these edges first as they were really thick and tricky to keep everything held in place. I had a minor catastrophe here - I broke my needle AND IT FELL INTO MY MACHINE! This made me have to stop and take my machine apart in hopes of finding it - no luck. I even opened everything up and shook the machine upside down, still no needle piece. So, I cleaned out the residual fuzz from making the Princess Anna Cape, then put it back together knowing that needle would cause problems somewhere down the line. At least it's working now, right? Anyway, I then switched to a JEANS needle (like I really should have done from the get go) and stitched the edge of the bias tape onto the button plackets. I went right over the previous line of top stitching so you wouldn't even know I had done it if I don't point it out. Next I just went along the edge of the bias tape (using a foot with a guide to keep things nice and even) and stitched the waistband down. I took this fairly slowly so I could make sure the fabric was nice and smooth the whole way. This worked like a charm!
With my new waistband in place, I added a hook and eye to the very top to close it up and I was finished! Originally I was worried about not keeping any buttons as the top closure (I thought it would look weird without them to continue the design), but I am really glad I went with the hook and eye now. The buttons would have just added bulk at my waistline anyway, so now I don't have to worry. Nice and smooth on the tummy :) I actually like the "not quite the same blue" waistband inside. I think it adds a little interest when I put it on.
And the final result hanging up like the beginning picture. I think this pic really gives the scale of how much I cut off - the skirt started with 5 of the button clusters and now only has 3. I also worried that the buttons wouldn't go down quite far enough for this to be a knee-length skirt, but I haven't had any scandalous moments yet so I think it's fine :) As an added bonus, I have those 6 extra buttons in my stash now either to use if I lose one of these or to use as a set on another project - woo hoo!
And finally the finished product on me :) Sorry for the bad hallway mirror pics, but I had no one to take a pic for me. I really love this skirt! I love everything about it - it's one of my favorite neutral colors, it's a great length (not too short so I worry about flashing people but not so long that I look frumpy), it has visual interest with the button clusters, and it's full enough at the hem to be flattering. It even has a fun swish when I walk :) And even better ...
It's a fantastic vehicle for my new parrot shoes! I say this is a total mission accomplished, lol. I wore this outfit to work today and felt awesome. This skirt fills a nice hole in my wardrobe because it's casual without looking dumpy. My normal wardrobe has a lot of "work clothes" and then "t-shirts and lounge pants", so I'm always finding it difficult to still feel put together when I don't want to look like I'm going to work. This totally fills that void! And it goes with my favorite new Anthropologie sweater too - definitely a plus :)
There's the side by side view for ya :) Pretty cool, eh?
This project also happens to fall in line with the Repurpose Reuse Refashion competition put on by sew Amy sew. I found out about the contest through Sally from Charity Shop Chic, one of my favorite refashioners on the blogosphere. Sally has even written a few guest posts with refashioning inspiration for the contest, so it's definitely worth a look. I have to add my two cents to her affirmation at how rewarding refashioning can be. I mean, I bought this skirt for $1.00 and now have a wonderful wardrobe staple with just a few hours work. Refashioning is a great way to practice sewing skills without worrying about the cost - you're using items you wouldn't/couldn't have worn as they were so you're not really out anything if you mess up. It's a win win! If it doesn't turn out, you've lost very little (pretty much nothing compared to something you would sew from scratch) and you've gained the experience that you can learn from next time. Also, you're cutting down on garment industry waste which is such a big issue. Projects like this one make me feel like the smartest person around, because I've found a way to beat the consumerism system. I could wax poetic about alterations forever, lol, so I guess I'll stop. Just try it out, ok?!

If you'd like to enter the competition too, just refashion an item by the end of August and post your pictures to the Flickr group to be entered to win some great prizes :) It doesn't have to be anything super fancy or complicated - just take an item that wasn't getting any love as it was and turn it into something you can use. Easy peasy. If you need help getting ideas, definitely read Sally's blog - she's fantastic at this. I also can't recommend the Tailoring Ready-To-Wear class on Craftsy. I learned so much just from watching it (I've also got the Beyond the Basics class recently and I can't wait to watch it). If you've read my blog for any amount of time, you'll know my deep seeded love of anything from Craftsy, and I can honestly say this is my favorite and most beneficial class from them.

Anyway, I'll shut up now, lol. If you've hung in all the way to the bottom, I really appreciate it. I've got the refashioning bug really bad again, so I may tackle more of my pile to enter into the contest. We'll see :)

Friday, August 15, 2014

FO Friday: Zeg Hallo Tegen Soepkip!

Did my Dutch title weird you out a little? :)

That's right - I have another for you today! This project is absolutely the fault of Natasja from My Crochet Plush. Back in April, she made this pattern and it was the first I'd ever heard of such a character. The pattern is from the book Prettig Gestoorde Amigurumi (this translates to something like Nicely Strange Amigurumi - Dutch folk, help me out?) by Dennis van den Brink (a.k.a. DenDennis). The book is full of really cute and different amigurumi patterns, but this one won my heart immediately. Meet Soepkip!
Can you tell why I loved this little lady? I mean, come on, it's a chicken attached to a bowl - what's not to love? The story behind Soepkip (which translates as Chicken Soup) is that she hatched in a soup bowl and she ended up growing into the bowl; in spite of attempts by veterinarians, she is permanently attached to her bowl. Oh, and apparently she's afraid of ladles, lol. From what I understand, most Dutch people would understand this pairing without explanation.
So how did I, an American who does not speak any Dutch whatsoever, make this pattern? Google Translate, baby :) I did a quick search online to find Dutch to English crochet terms (seriously, there are a zillion lists out there - just pick one and go with it), plugged those into the basic instructions (ex. sc 1, etc.), then used Google Translate on any full paragraphs of instructions. I guess I should say that I got the book online as well - having the pattern is a little important in this equation, huh? For my translation, I photocopied the pages I needed and then sat at my desk to translate. It looked like this:
I Instagrammed this photo Saturday night. See my list of Dutch to English terms to the top left? It was pretty easy to just plug in those words and write the translation to the side on the photocopy. The only area I messed up was with the counting. In an English pattern, it would usually say, "sc2tog, sc 3*, repeat 6 times (30 stitches)," but the Dutch patterns say something like, "decrease every 8th and 9th stitch (64 stitches)." I'm not sure if it would make sense unless you were me, lol, but I accidentally thought that 8e&9e meant, "decrease, sc 8," which didn't add up. It ended up being that I was 1 number off pretty much the whole way. Once I figured this out, it was a breeze to just sc1 instead of 2, etc, and I didn't have to re-write anything. Obviously it worked since I have my own Soepkip now :)
The only small issue I had was that the book only shows 2 pictures of Soepkip, one from the front and one from the front/side. This meant that I couldn't see where the tail was attached at all, so I just guessed and went for it. Also, the pattern tells you to make the body/bowl first, close it off completely, then attach the other pieces as you make them. Personally, I prefer to tie my pieces on the inside to avoid any visible knots, so I made the body up to a certain point (leaving a decent size opening), made/sewed on all the other pieces, then picked up where I left of in the pattern to finish the body.
I took lots of detail shots to help anyone in the future who decides to make this pattern :) I took the suggestion of the pattern and added pip cleaners to her legs - they aren't absolutely necessary, but it keeps her legs straight like real chicken legs. I totally love the claw-like feet!

I used the exact colors suggested in the pattern, but I did size up on my yarn (the pattern calls for Phildar Coton 3 which is sport weight, I used worsted weight) and I used a larger size H hook to accomodate my bigger yarn. The yarns were all from my stash and I used: Vanna's Choice in White and Scarlet, Red Heart With Love in Daffodil, Red Heart Soft in Off White, and two unknown acrylic thrift store yarns in green and orange.I also used 12 mm eyes (again, bigger than the pattern calls for since I used bigger yarn).
I totally love how cute this came out! Soepkip (whom I lovingly refer to as Soup Cup, lol) will be a nice addition to my crazy animal collection. She was a smidge more work to make, but it really wasn't hard at all and she was so worth it! She will definitely not be my last Dutch pattern - do yourself a favor and look up Dutch Amigurumi patterns, they have some incredibly cute designs :)

And thanks Natasja for making this pattern and exposing me to it :)

FO Friday: Princess Ariel (and The Whole Princess Gang!)

I finished my final princess this past weekend :) Check her out!
It's Ariel! I think my teaser was a bit of a dead giveaway as there are only a limited number of Disney princesses with tails, but hey it was fun to keep a surprise :)
I made Ariel using the Ariel The Little Mermaid pattern by Sahrit Freud-Weinstein. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this pattern. I'd had so many issues with the Jasmine and Cinderella patterns that I was braced for more of the same, but this pattern went off without a hitch! I am happy to say that this is a great pattern and I would totally recommend it. The pattern gives a short or long hair option and I went with the shorter since that was the photo that the request was made from. I did extend the pattern to make her longer - I wanted her to go well with the size of the other two princesses. To extend her I just added straight stitching rows: the tail has 8 straight rows, the torso has 6 straight rows, and the arms have 6 straight rows. I think it balanced her out nicely and she is still nicely proportioned :) This was a very simple change to make, so don't hesitate if you want her to be bigger.
Her hair is done in a pretty interesting way and of course she requires a star for her hair. I wish I could have found a more starfish looking star instead of just a normal one, but I searched everywhere and this was the best option. I think it still gets the idea across :)
The bra in the pattern is designed to be removable, so it has a metal snap as the back closure. How scandalous!
"Draw me like one of your French girls."
Just for those who may be curious, the yarns I used were: Vanna's Choice in Beige and Scarlet, Red Heart With Love in Lettuce (light green), Caron Simply Soft in Iris (purple), and an unknown inherited acrylic for the darker green.
Finishing Ariel mean that this set of princesses was ready to ship of to Japan! In fact, these little ladies are on their way as we speak. I really hope their new owners love them as much as I do :)

I have another item that I also finished this week, so check back here shortly!