Monday, October 21, 2019

Refreshing Old Makes: Dying My Favorite Skirt

Today's post is another simple one with a big result. My Brown Melissa Skirt is, to this day, still one of my favorite things I've ever sewn. I posted this back in November of 2015 (!) and I wore this skirt at least once a week (usually a few times a week, to be honest) for years. Years! But over time, the color in the skirt faded pretty badly - also I gained weight and wasn't able to wear this for about a year - plus one day when I did try to wear it, I noticed a few oil spots that I spent quite a bit of time trying to remove to no avail. I folded this up in my sewing stuff and would occasionally try removing the stains only to be disappointed each time. Last month I started going through some of my old makes I hadn't been able to fit into due to my weight gain - I've lost weight recently and wanted to see what beloved pieces were now wearable again - and this skirt popped into my head. When I discovered it fit great, I knew it was time to finally buy some hard core dye and try to get this back into rotation again.
This skirt is made of a mystery thrift store fabric that I have never been able to successfully identify. I knew it had some polyester in it, which meant that regular Rit dye wouldn't work. I had to buy Rit Dye More, which is designed for synthetic fabrics. I will confess I was afraid that I would spill this dye in my kitchen and irreparably stain something, which also made my put off this project. But I really wanted to wear this on my trip to Epcot in September, so I bit the bullet and risked it. 
Unlike regular Rit dye, Rit Dye More is a bit more particular with how to get the best results. You have to do this in a pot on the stove to keep the temperature consistently high. You're supposed to mix the dye then sustain just before boiling in the water for the entire duration and you're supposed to keep your piece in the dye for at least 30 minutes, stirring constantly. 
Not having any throw away utensils on hand, I used a large wooden paint stick to stir my skirt. Waiting for that huge pot to almost boil took quite a while (I used my canning pot because it's the biggest I have and it doesn't get any food put in it so I wouldn't worry about ingesting chemicals from the dye later on), but then the standing at the pot and stirring for 30 minutes felt a bit like an eternity. The whole process took about an hour and a half with all that heat up time and everything. Then it tells you to rinse in cool water until the water runs clean, and for good measure I threw it in the washing machine with a color catcher and a mild detergent just to make sure I wouldn't end up with dye transfer later.
After all was finished and dried, this was my skirt :) It's not quite as dark as when I first made it, but I love this nice medium brown I achieved. It's certainly much deeper than the faded mess I started with. Also if I decide I want it darker one day, I could just do the whole process again and maybe keep it in longer. We'll see if the sewing lasts long enough for me to contemplate that, lol.
And happily, my oil stain is almost completely masked by the darker color. I can see it because I knew exactly where it was, but no one else notices a thing while I'm wearing it. Success! Also a happy byproduct of the dye is that it dyed my buttons as well. The buttons are a carved resin, and a few of them had worn down through the brown colored outside into the gray centers with time and probably slapping the insides of my dryer. Now the buttons are evenly brown again, even on the areas that were gray. Yay!
I know this is a terrible picture, but this is how it looks on :) I wore this to Disney all day and had no dye rubbed on my undies, which was another worry of mine. I'm happy to report that dying this was much easier, if a little more time consuming, than I originally thought and I would have no qualms dying a synthetic fabric again in the future should the need arise. Now I have my favorite skirt back and wearable. Yay for refreshing old makes!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

FO: Refashioned Old Navy Top

So this project is so simple it kind of feels like cheating to even make a blog post about it, but I haven't posted any refashions in a while and I thought I could show how such a simple thing can transform a piece into something you love. 
I found this at a thrift store a while ago - it was an odd length - too long to be a shirt, too short to be a dress for anyone with any decency, lol. I suppose it was a "tunic", but I just don't do tunic length anything. It's probably the most unflattering length I could wear. I really liked the top itself, and I purchased it knowing I would shorten the hem. During the time when I was waiting for Hurricane Dorian to not show up, I came across this top and decided that I could totally have a new shirt to wear that day with very little effort. So I finally re-did the hem :)
I really like a lot of the details on this top. It's originally from Old Navy, but I love the exposed zipper at the neck, the contrast fabric yoke and pocket. It's just a fun piece that I doubt I would've ever made myself yet I really love.
I started by putting it on and deciding on the length I wanted. I marked it all around and chopped off about 9 or 10 inches from the length.
See what I mean? Indecent dress length, lol. At least on me, that is.
 Next, I just pressed my hem under and stitched it with my preferred twin needle and wooly nylon thread in the bobbin.
Just look at that fine hem! This whole thing took seriously about 20 minutes, and most of that was deciding on the length I wanted and then marking it correctly. 
So there you go - my shirt that I was able to wear out 20 minutes later :) I love the finished product, and I just share it to show that refashions don't have to be some big ordeal. Sometimes it's the really simple fixes that give us pieces we can love and wear for a long time. Yay for easy changes!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

FO: Lady Russell Goes Cashmere

I'm sure you've noticed a trend in my last few posts - I've been doing a lot of knitting on very old projects. I've hinted around it all for months, but things have been extremely stressful for me as I'm getting a divorce. It is what it is, and I'm actually very good with it at this point, but at the beginning I found myself alone with my thoughts and time yet also pretty depressed and having no motivation to  plan any new projects. My old wips came in very handy during this time, and I managed to knock out several of the larger ones I had sitting around, which gives a nice boost not only as a finished item but also as one that had been guilting me for a long time in the corner of my mind. Anyway, after finishing my Dahlia Cardigan and Someone Else's Blanket, I reached for my next largest work in progress - this shawl.
This is the Lady Russell Shawl by Joy Gerhardt that was the cover project from Jane Austen Knits, Fall 2012. I used to collect all of the Jane Austen knits books back when I first started knitting, but this is the first project I actually made from any of them. I started this back in May of 2016 (!) according to Ravelry. I remember at the time I was looking for a new project to throw myself into, plus I had been to the temple and got a little chilly (possibly the first time that's ever happened to me there) and I thought it would be nice to knit myself a shawl in a white yarn to have with me there. Somehow I picked up this pattern magazine and made my decision immediately and cast on, not really thinking about the fact that I hate knitting shawls, lol. In my defense I might not have fully known that at the time since I had made so few, but I know this now - I'm not a shawl knitter. They feel like they will never end because each row takes longer and longer to knit as they just keep getting bigger. Maybe I should knit one that starts at the largest end and narrows down? Anyway, I made up my mind and started the project only to have to pull out the beginning section about 8 times before I finally did it correctly. I was determined, but after all the frustration just with getting going, I think I only did the first lace section on the chart before setting this aside for something more fun to make. I would pick this up on occasion between projects over the years, but I never got very far before setting it aside again. I know now that this is no fault of the pattern itself - it was just my dislike of knitting shawls. Anyway, I was determined in my stressed out haze to finish this project back in August, and I am so happy that I did :)
So this pattern features an all over lace pattern that is simple but lovely. You start off at the center top, making a traditional crescent shaped shawl, then you make short rows along the side edges that grow into elongated wrap pieces of the lace pattern, then you finish it all off with a ruffled edge. You can see the "wings" as I call them in the above photo. It was certainly an interesting construction as I had only ever made triangle shaped shawls before. I also like that this pattern was named for Lady Russell. She is from the book Persuasion and she's an older lady with lots of opinions on what is best for the friends in her life. Somehow this pattern fits her perfectly and I could see her wearing something like this, particularly in cashmere yarn as she would never settle for anything less.
The wing pieces make it possible for you to wear the shawl like this - knotted at center and wrapped around your shoulders, which I feel is very traditional and practical. I think the shape of this shawl definitely gives it the historic feel of Jane Austen Knits.
And it also looks lovely from the back while worn. I really love the lace pattern on this and how the fanned out V shapes continue occasionally on the eyelet lines that separate each section of the shawl. I guess this would be a good time to also talk about the yarn I made this with. So back in 2014, I got on a big "recycled yarn" kick. I would search for sweaters in my thrift store adventures that were traditionally seamed (as opposed to being serged at the shoulders) and could therefore be unraveled. I posted about my unraveling here and this yarn was from one of the sweaters I repurposed into yarn. This sweater was a Ralph Lauren 100% cashmere cable knit in a very fine lace weight gauge. The yarn was 2 ply, but in my unraveling process each strand came apart and I didn't know any better so I just separated the plies, lol. So this is just a single ply of cashmere yarn, which as you can imagine was extremely prone to breaking - as in so much breakage that I was worried I would rip the knitted areas before I finished making this, lol. Thankfully I have avoided such a disaster thus far, but between me accidentally pulling on the yarn too hard as well as all the times it broke while unwinding the sweater, I had SO MANY ENDS to weave in. It was worth it though for how light and airy yet warm this shawl is. It's quite surprising how cozy this feels on when you consider the yarn is more like a thick thread and the design is full of holes. I used 100 grams of this yarn for the shawl, so I have a bunch left, but we will see when I decide to pick it up again, lol. My guess is it will be a while. I wonder if I could try to ply them together again? Oooo, maybe later.
Another interesting thing about this yarn is that it turned out to be lace weight. Back when I first started this project, I thought it was fingering weight, which is what the pattern suggests using, so I didn't think anything about it. Now that I am more experienced, I know for a fact this is much smaller than fingering weight. Nearing the end of the project, I was worried the shawl would come out laughably small due to my smaller yarn. Thankfully that did not happen, lol. But the finished shawl is definitely a little smaller than the pattern example. I'm totally fine with this since I live in Florida and won't really be needing an enormous shawl to wrap up in, but it's something to consider if you try to knit this in a smaller yarn. I even used the suggested needle size, and thankfully again I did not end up with an unattractively loose gauge or anything like that. The yarn has a bit of a halo to it, so that seemed to make up for any spaces.
Here is a close up to show you what I mean. I did stretch this bad boy to the max while blocking (due to my fear of it being small), so the stitches are quite spread out, but I think it actually adds to the stitch definition. I think it's neat that you can see where each stitch is connected in the fan design. Another point I must mention is that ruffle. Holy cow, that ruffle. The final step to this shawl is to pick up along the entire edge and increase to give it that ruffle. I wound up with about 650 stitches on my needles. 650! And I had to knit 2 inches of that. Needless to say, it took AN AGE to finish. In reality it was only a few nights while watching movies, but man it felt like I would still be knitting this shawl next year. It did turn out really pretty though, and I love how the ruffle finishes it off. I just doubt I'll be signing up for any knitted ruffles for a while, lol.
As I do live in Florida, and as I don't want to only wear this in the temple, I knew I would need to play around with other ways to wear this shawl. I just don't have a very "shawl-friendly" wardrobe, I guess. So here I tied it around the back and tucked the edges up underneath, then pulled the shawl down around my shoulders. I think this is a very practical way to wear this for me. I can see it with a solid colored long sleeved shirt, the shawl being the focal point.
Sorry for the weird coloring on this photo, but this is the other way I will probably wear it frequently. This is with the wing pieces wrapped around and brought back to the front and tied underneath the drape. I like the informal feel this gives to the shawl and it definitely keeps my neck warm :) So all in all, this piece is much more versatile than I originally expected it to be.
So there you have it - the shawl that took forever! I'm very happy with how this turned out. It was a long time coming, and I now enjoy not only that I finished it at long last, but also that it will easily incorporate into my wardrobe during the cooler months and that it's such a dreamy and soft yarn. Since this was completed, I have started a new project (and I'm nearing the end now), so it seems my haze of wips has lifted. Here's to new futures with lovely knitwear :)

Summary:
Yarn: 100 grams 2 ply cashmere repurposed from thrifted sweater - $1.00
Pattern: Lady Russell Shawl by Joy Gerhardt from Jane Austen Knits, Fall 2012
Time: 3 years, lol

Monday, September 23, 2019

FO: Tiny Superman

Sometimes an idea for the perfect project just pops into my head. Anyone else have those moments? Like there was no planning or anticipation involved, it just was suddenly in my head and had to be made. That is how this guy came about. It's Superman! But much tinier. I made this as a fun gift for a friend who I thought would appreciate it. Who wouldn't like to receive a tiny Superman in the mail?
I used the Knit Kid and Purl Girl pattern, which is free from Anna Hrachovec. I've used this pattern a number of times before and it always is so handy for making people, super or not. You can just change out the colors for the legs and body depending on what you want the person to wear.
This is my first time making the cape pieces from the pattern. I probably should've just attached it at the bind off, but I did an invisible seam and it caused the cape to stick out really far.
To help combat this, I tacked the cape down to the body. You can just barely see the stitch in the above photo. If this was a toy a little kid would be playing with, I would've done something stronger, but this is really just to look cool for a friend so I knew it would be fine like this.
The Superman emblem was the most complicated part to get looking right. I first embroidered the yellow yarn as a base for the shield, then I outlined it with red, then I had to sort of mentally envision an S and only stitch every other line before going back the other direction to fill in the spaces. I'm really pleased with how it came out in the end, but it took several tries and pulling it out to redo.
So on my way to the post office with this guy, I hooked him to my sun visor and took a few photos, lol. Here is Superman flying in to save the day!
And there he goes again! I attached a removable mini lanyard to his back so he can be hung from things, but it is removable so the new owner can decide how he will hang around. I had fun taking pictures of him for the short time he was in my possession though.

Any other Superman fans out there? This was a quick and fun gift to make and I had a lot of fun taking pictures, lol.