Thursday, August 28, 2014

FO: Minty Miette Cardigan

This past weekend marked a momentous occasion Chez Show and Tell Meg - I finished a sweater! 
And by "finished", I mean finished finished - like everything about it is done :) This is my Minty Miette cardigan, a free pattern by Andi Satterlund. It's a retro style cropped sweater with a lace detail that runs around the whole thing.
I do apologize for all the photos of me, lol, I was pretty proud of my self-portrait-style photo shoot, and I ended up with several good ones. It's always nice to pick up a skill you haven't used in a while and find you've "still got it". Plus, these pics were a lot of work to take, lol, and I was sweating by the end - wool/cotton sweater at 5 pm in Florida while jumping onto a chair to set the frame, then running to move the mannequin and position myself and look decent before the timer went off ... over and over and over again, lol. So, enjoy looking at photos of me. 
For those of you who haven't seen my "wip" posts about this sweater, I started it in March - shameful, I know, lol. I made it using Cascade Sierra yarn, which is a 80% cotton/20% wool blend, in the Waterlily colorway. This yarn is now discontinued, so I snapped it up for a great price. 
The pattern is very well written and easy to follow. I made a straight size Large with no modifications - I'd never made a sweater like this before so the idea of changing anything was frightening to say the least. Happily it worked out ok this time :) Somewhere along the line my gauge got tighter than I swatched, resulting in a pretty tight fit. Thankfully, knitting is stretchy, so it still fits fine - it just took some persuading to hit my waist measurement when I blocked it. Now that I've worn the sweater in real life though, I think the fact that it came out a full size smaller is a good thing - the cotton in the yarn has a tendency to stretch out as it's worn and it doesn't have enough wool to make it spring back to its original size, making this sweater grow quite a bit as its worn. In fact, I've read several reviews by others who used this yarn to make this sweater saying that their sweater ended up way too big; so who knew my tragedy would actually be a great thing? Wish I'd know that at the time before it made me stress so much, lol. I enjoyed this yarn all in all - it gives very defined stitches and I LOVE the color - it's the perfect mint green and it goes well with my general wardrobe.
I love the little squiggling lace pattern on this sweater. As you can see, if travels around the neck, down the front, then around the waist without stopping - so cool! Then it's also repeated above the ribbing on the arms. I love the sleeve length too and I made them exactly how the pattern dictated. Trust the pattern, it knows what it's talking about, lol. Also, the ribbing is a fancy twisted rib instead of just regular ribbing. I enjoyed the slight mental/physical dexterity challenge of knitting it and I really love the results. I know some people changed to regular k1p1 ribbing, but I will just put in my two cents - it's worth it! Just give it a try :)
Here's the full back view - including some bra-strap-back-fat ... you're welcome :) The pattern hit me right in between my bust and natural waist, which for my long torso seems to help balance me out. It seemed a little silly length when I first put it on, to be honest, but now that I see the pictures I really like where it sits.
Oh, the saga of these buttons. I searched through my button stash and fell in love with some vintage, gray, genuine mother of pearl ones that were given to me by the lovely Tara. I love that they are real pearl, they had just a little bit of detail with the carved fish eye slit, and the color complemented the sweater beautifully. The problem - I only had 5 in my stash. I immediately thought, "Oh, it should be no problem to find a few more of these fairly generic buttons." Oh, how wrong I was. I searched online and only found maybe 2 or 3 of the same buttons, all of which were sold in larger lots of buttons that I didn't need/want to pay that much for. So, I called Tara and begged to search her stash to steal more of her stuff, lol, which she very willingly allowed. No luck. As I rifled her stash though I set aside any other buttons that were remotely similar, so by the end I had a few others contenders - it even turned out that some of the others I set aside only had 1 or 2 of the buttons hanging around, so it pretty much was meant to be. I brought the buttons to work with me and had my dad polish them up and clean them ... only to drop on in our cart of work and lose it completely. I still have no idea how that could happen. We both saw exactly where the button dropped, and I tore everything apart, even crawling on the floor and sweeping in the corners of the room - it basically disappeared. I was so bummed, I can't even tell you, lol. A few days later I came across my Great Grandmother's little basket of really old buttons ... the whole collection had 1 of these buttons! Huzzah! Anyway, so there are 5 fisheye style buttons, two raised edge buttons, and then one lone carved edge button at the bottom. I was really worried about the pairing at first, but now that I have them sewn on the sweater ... you seriously would never be able to tell unless I point out that they don't all match perfectly. I took those close up shots to show you the difference. They are all the same size, same color, same sheen - I actually really love that they are different now that it's all done.
One of the reasons it took me so long to finish this sweater is because I wanted to stabilize the button bands ... and basically I just never cracked down and made myself try until I got it right. I'm ashamed to admit that this was the first time I used the button hole on my new machine and I was scared, lol. I really shouldn't have worried about it as it was nice and easy when I finally buckled down. It took some fiddling to get them marked correctly so they lined up with the knitted holes, but not too bad. I followed Lladybird's awesome tutorial and all went well. The hand stitching took quite a while, but I watched Frozen while I did it so it wasn't so bad, lol. Now the button bands don't pull and look like my sweater is too small - no fat girl in a little sweater :)
And here is a shot of it how it will actually be worn - realistically I never button my sweaters. I like how it looks unbuttoned too, so that's always good :) 

I've already worn this to church last weekend and I really loved it - I even made my quicky Instagram pic from Sunday my profile pic on Facebook which prompted all kinds of comments from friends. In fact, that is the reason I'm posting this today instead of on FO Friday. I still just love the alliterative title even though the group posting of our finished objects seems to have dwindled away. So, I think you'll be seeing more finished projects on random weekdays now :)

Anyway, I'm really excited to have this cardigan now and I'm also ridiculously proud to say that I made it :) Isn't knitting great?! Now if the weather would just go below 90º so I could actually wear it without fear of a health risk. Come on fall weather!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WIP Wednesday: The Week of Sweaters

I have dubbed this past week as The Week of Sweaters. I managed to finish 2 (!) that I have had in the works for a long time - check back on Friday for at least one of them. I also had several doctor's appointments and other things that involved sitting in a waiting room for extended periods of time, which means I was able to make a surprising amount of progress on my newest sweater project, Emelie.
In any other sweater, I would think this wasn't very much progress, but considering this is fingering weight yarn and I started it 10 days ago, this is pretty remarkable in my book :) This cardigan is knitted from the bottom up, so I have finished the ribbing and I'm into the 3rd repeat of the lace pattern on the front:
I know the pic is crappy, but it is incredibly difficult to photograph black yarn, especially when you're trying to spread out the stitches at the same time, lol. I am really loving this project so far.It's just enough of a pattern to keep it from being boring, and it's just straight knitting or purling in between. I've also decided to eliminate the decreases at the side, so it's made it even easier as there are less instructions to keep track of. Plus, this yarn is straight up heavenly. It is so soft and light weight, I just know I'm going to wear the daylights out of this when its finished. I can't wait! 
I'm also plugging away at a custom order - a friend of mine wanted The Hulk for her son's birthday :) I couldn't find a pattern that I really loved, so I'm making my own. This has proved to be a little frustrating at times, but I like the pieces that I have finished already. I had hoped to make bobble stitch muscles on his chest, but they just looked like he had a cluster of boobs, lol, so I will be making his arms muscly instead. 
Reorganizing and rearranging my sewing room really restored my desire to sew, so I pulled out my crazy print Simplicity 2444 that I cut out weeks ago and got to work. I haven't rushed putting it together in hopes that it will help with my precision - my mantra has been, "Slow and steady wins the race," lol. It must be working because this has been a pain-free project! I marked the pieces and sewed up what you see on Monday night - I think I spent 3 hours on it then - and last night I put in the zipper.
Look at that sexy zipper! This is by far the best zipper I have ever done - it came out perfect! I followed Sunni's Mastering Zipper Techniques free Craftsy class to the letter, and what do you know, it worked! I used knit stay tape at the opening, pressed the seam allowance under, stuck the zipper down with Wonder Tape, and stitched nice and slow. I was so proud, I could've cried, lol. Also, with the zipper in, I tried the dress on ... and it fit! It's a miracle! I've had so many problems with fitting that to see it fit like it should was an amazing boost. I can't wait to finish it up now :)
That's all for me this week :) Check back on Friday for a pretty epic finished object! And head over to Tami's Amis' Blog to see what others are up to.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sewing Room Revamp - Tour My Space

I've been toying with the idea of changing things around in my sewing room for quite a while now. I liked it before, but it was just feeling too crammed. I originally had my desk situated so that my back was to the wall - I know it seems silly, but this was so that I could monitor the door, lol. I don't like to be snuck up on. The problem became that with the table where it needed to be, I had to kind of scooch in and around the desk edge to sit down, also things tend to get piled around the desk area as I'm working on them, so i could be pretty awkward to move around. One thing I have learned about myself is that if there is any type of obstacle to me getting where I need to be, I will avoid tasks that require me to be there. I need things to be easy and carefree. I know it makes me seem lazy, but it is what it is. If there is any awkwardness or when things are too cluttered and junky, I kind of shut down and all productivity goes out the window. That would defeat the whole purpose of this room as its only purpose is to be productive, so I knew it was time for some changes.
I know these aren't great photos - I could've sworn I had a photo of the previous layout on my blog already, but it turns out this was the only one I have that isn't a close up of a specific detail. Never assume :)  And I had to use my phone today for the "after" shot and the light was really messing with the iso. Anyway, I know it's hard to convey that I made lots of changes since the "before" photo is from right after I moved in, but trust me when I say it's an incredible difference when you've experienced being in it before and after. The biggest change you can see in these photos is the orientation of the desk. I finally gave in and turned my desk around. I liked being able to see the rest of the room, but this is SO much easier to move from station to station in the room. I think of it like how they tell you to plan your kitchen - you want an unobstructed triangle of space connecting your work areas so that it's easy to go from place to place. Before I would have to sidle around the desk to get to the ironing board or the table, now it's a straight shot to either - super easy!
Another long-time-coming change is that I finally raised up my table! I always knew I wanted it higher, but I could never figure out a good looking way that would raise it up enough. This change is actually what inspired me to make all the other changes - this whole redo was pretty out of the blue, lol, I just finally felt like making it happen. I was give 3 of these white drawer units by a friend when she moved months ago. I had 2 of them already in the room (one is in the closet) and I used them to store my yarn, so yesterday I brought the third one in to raise the table. The table is expandable, so it has a 5 inch area under the top for all the mechanisms. By just setting the edge that supports the mechanisms on top of the drawers, this raised the table up 10 inches! And so far this seems like the perfect height. It hits me right above my natural waist, so I don't have to hunch way over to cut things out. The weird thing is that when I stand next to the table, I feel ridiculously tall just because the table is up so high. I'm only 5'7", so I'm not all that tall, but this seems a really good height - also since it feels so tall I doubt I would be as likely to just toss stuff on top of it like I used to. I can now stand upright and work at this table which is so awesome. I've already used it :) I did also pull the table out from the wall to clear the area under that basket of tools - it worked ok though because now I can put my wheelie cart and my cardboard cutting surface out of the way but still easily accessible. I also filled the new drawer unit, lol. The bottom is stuffed full (literally) of my finished amigurumi - shamefully they used to live in a large plastic bag under the table, so it's much better this way. The middle drawer is my sewing WIPS and the top drawer has drafting materials (like tracing kits and whatnot). I also have plans to add a removable bar in between the table legs to hold my roll of drafting paper (this is currently in the works, I just have to get the dowel rod cut). I even have space to store my cardboard for photography and my cutting mat in between the drawer units :) I seriously am thrilled with just this one change so much that it wouldn't matter if the rest of the room was changed yet.
Moving around the room, I made a little ironing board station. The ironing board has always been in this corner, but I hadn't wrangled all the other pressing tools together before (they used to be on the shelf unit by the closet across the room - no good). This metal shelf thing is something I got from another friend who moved and it was sitting empty in a different room - perfect opportunity to use it :) Now I have the iron, starch, water, hams and press cloths all contained. Now my husband doesn't have to toss my hams on my desk when he needs to iron his uniform. The basket under the board is all items that need mending and I figure this can just be a regular fixture as well to keep them all contained. 
Keeping with the organizational theme, I had a large stack of patterns and books from all my thrifting adventures over the past few months that had no home. Once I moved the table out from the wall, I had the perfect amount of room for this little bookcase. I got 2 of these cheapy bookshelves on the side of the road (my neighbor threw them out!) back when we moved - one is holding my cookbooks in our den, but this one has been holding random things in the garage while I decided on its in-house use. It worked perfect here! The pink bins were also free (given to me by a friend), and one has all my embroidery floss and supplies while the other has a few sweaters that are waiting to be unraveled. The shelf top is also perfect for holding other organizers. The middle pic is on the other side of the room next to the ironing board. The steam press is on what used to be a shoe rack - I took the cloth dividers out and I will add wood to make real shelves - and the basket inside it is things I want to alter. The plastic drawer units were a yard sale score - all of them for $2 months ago. I had to clean them and they are older so they are made of slightly harder plastic then is used now, but they are a great size for holding all my sewing tools and notions. I have the drawers all divided and organized so I can go right to what I need. I hope to find nice labels soon to make it even easier :) And the final shot is a close up of the ironing station. I used the lower shelves to hold things I had no place for - like my yarn winder and my box of animal eyes. The shelves are also the perfect width to hold 2 of my WIP project baskets. I snagged these in the dollar spot at Target a while back and they are a great size to keep all my in progress animals together - no more misplacing body parts :)
I couldn't get a good head-on pic of my desk due to the window back lighting, but here is a shot to give you an idea. I thought of a different lamp to use while I was writing this post, so it will change soon, lol, but you get the idea. To the left of the desk is the trash can so I can just swipe threads off at random, and next to that is a tower fan - the ceiling fan groans something awful in this room so I never turn it on. Maybe I'll finally try to fix that...

And with all my organizational changes I decided to finally hang up a few things I've had waiting. My mom got me that mirrored scroll square for Christmas (!) and I only just hung it up - you can't rush, lol. And the little frame is a really cute postcard I bought at Epcot in the Japan store when I was probably 15 - again, you can't rush. I think it looks perfect here, so I'm glad I saved it :) I also re-distributed my books on that little shelf unit. I rearranged/de-junked my étagère. I pulled out Norman, The Giant Squid for a little time in the sunlight. He is still one of my favorite animals, so I'm happy to see him now. And Soepkip is chilling next to The Stylish Nadine and her wig collection, lol. My amigurumi books have spilled over onto the top shelf and the black floral boxes have rattles, squeakers and jinglers (the small one) as well as my fancy/more expensive sewing patterns like Colette and Sewaholic (the bigger one). Also, I finally hung up my inkjet transfer above my thread racks. I made this back when I did experimental photography big time and I just always liked how it came out. It's a photo of a flowering plant taken with a Holga camera, then inkjet transferred onto canvas. The transferring blurred the lines even more than they already were from the original shot, but something about the color combo and composition I have just always liked. I guess since it's "art" I don't have to be able to say why I like it, lol, I just do. Now i get to see it everyday :)
Here's a close up of the Japanese post card - isn't it cute?! I came across it in a box of stuff I've had since I was a kid and the colors worked perfect for this room. I even had this empty frame that it fit in - talk about meant to be :) So now I have a little nod to my day job in my room that still "goes".

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of my sewing room :) I will admit that there is another wall you haven't seen at all - it's still pretty junked up, lol. I have a large stack of boxes in front of the closet with random supplies and fabric that I haven't found homes for yet. I'm working on it though. I have so much fabric that I will be doing a bit of a purge soon - I'll post here with the link in case anyone would be interested whenever that happens.

I am ridiculously happy with how this room is coming out, and I've already made more plans for its future. One of these days I will make valance boxes over the windows, finish painting the dresser and mirror (it will hold fabric), and hang some shelves and more artwork. It's coming right along though :) And happily I've had most everything I need on hand for the changes I've made, so I don't even have to spend any money. Even with all the things that still need to be done, this is still the most finished room in our house - what does that say about my priorities, lol. I just know I love being in here now, and I really can't wait to really test the configuration and get sewing!

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 voilà! 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.