Saturday, August 29, 2015

FO: Shermy the Sheep

I finally managed to get pictures of my latest creation and my submission to the Ami-Along. It's a candy covered sheep!
I've had the Sherman the Sheep pattern from Monster's Toy Box ever since it was released, but I just never got around to making it up. A few weeks ago, I hit a thrifting treasure trove - about 30 skeins of brand new - with the labels - manufactured in the last few years - yarns ... and they were only 25¢ each! Some of the yarns were even ones I had always wanted to try out for animal making, so add those two aspects together and I couldn't load them into my cart fast enough. Take My Money! Anyway I've always wanted to get Bernat Dippity Dots, but I just couldn't justify buying yet another skein of yarn that I don't need at Joann's when I was trying to save money. Make the price 25¢ though, and I'm all there - I got 6 skeins of this yarn! Woot woot!
So, my awesome cutesy yarn to try PLUS the Ami-Along caused me to search through my patterns and I came out with the perfect combination - a very colorful sheep! I call him Shermy :)
Now, I had to make a few adjustments to be able to use this yarn on this pattern. The yarn is technically classified as Worsted weight, but in fact the white yarn strand is more like a sport weight - it's the fluffy dots that are worsted weight thickness. Since I wanted to make sure that my sheepy didn't leak his stuffing, I went down to a size F hook (the pattern calls for an H). I tried to use the thinnest yarn I had for the contrast that was still the right color, so all the beige is Red Heart Soft Solids in off white. The other issue (and one that I've read is common with others who crocheted with this yarn) is that the dots like to end up mostly on the  back of the stitches - so I actually crocheted this guy completely inside out.  I did my usual back stitch only, but instead of working around the outside of the circle I was creating, I inverted it and worked from the inside. This might not make sense unless you give it a try, but it worked really well for this project. Since the feet and head change yarn midway through, I crocheted his beige parts inside out as well. So if you're looking close at his stitches and wondering why he looks different, that's why.
There were still a decent number of fluffy balls that ended up inside his body, but the majority was on the side you see. I figure one day I can try to pick them out towards the front ... if I feel like it, lol.
The feet joining was s bit difficult to figure out with working them inside out, but we got there in the end and it was pretty smooth sailing after that. One thing to note if you use this pattern - you probably should weigh the feet down with poly pellets or something as the head tends to want to tip forward. This isn't a huge issue with the way he is shaped because his head is so low to the ground, but it is noticeable if your head doesn't end up perfectly level with the feet.
I used 12 mm eyes since I sized down in the hook, and while the pattern gives instructions for his nostrils, I felt he needed a cute little smile as well :)
And there you have it: Shermy the Candy Sheep :) I love how he turned out, but I will warn others wanting to use this yarn - it is a bit of a pain to crochet with. I'm hoping it works better for knitting.

It's been so long since I made a cute animal, and I'm so glad the Ami-Along gave me an excuse to get back in the game!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Book Review: Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth

This book has been on my radar ever since I found out my beloved tv series was based on a book, so when it was up for grabs at the library (it's a very popular one, so I had to wait a while), I snapped it up.

Call The Midwife is the memoir of a woman who worked as a midwife to London's East End during the 1950s. The East End has always been the slummiest of slums in London, and in the 50s it was no different. The London docks employed many men in those days, and their families all lived in this area - the inhabitants were poor, uneducated, and without birth control, so you can imagine how many children there were running around. Jenny Lee shows up to the area thinking she is going to work at a hospital only to discover that Nonatus House is actually a group of nuns/midwives. The book is really a collection of stories on different types of delivery issues and social issues that Jenny encounters during her work. She tells about breach birth, premature birth, normal birth, eclampsia, mixed race birth, prostitution, underage mothers, and much more. She balances the fun stories with the not so fun ones well to keep an upbeat tone. If you've seen the British tv series, you pretty much know the stores - I was really surprised at how well the series follows the book. The whole first season of the show covers the first book (there are 3 books), and while it does embellish a few things and gives more detail and personality to the characters other than Jenny Lee, all the changes were fairly understandable and translate well. The book is just a nice introduction to the world of home birthing, and a peek into the slums of 1950s London.

I really enjoyed this book - it was just a nice, light read with a good message. If you have any interest in the show, you will definitely like the book. This was a nice way to get a different view of the world for a short time. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Everything's Coming Up Roses

This project has absolutely fought me ever step of the way. I'm participating in the Nosegay Vest Knit Along and using it as my first intarsia project. I have to show how it looks now only to say that you wouldn't believe how it looked last night in comparison.
I finished the colorwork section on Sunday night and I was elated - it was quite the process and took me several hours to do, so when I reached the end I triumphantly posted it to instagram. Then I kept knitting and things started to look ... weird... The photo on the pattern showed very minimal space between the flower and the neckline, but suddenly mine had several inches of the main color in between. I started reading and re-reading the pattern, only to have it finally click that I was supposed to do the armhole bind off and shaping about 1/3rd into the color work - not after it. I was so depressed! The instructions are very minimal since the pattern was released through Knit Picks instead of by Andi herself (who always includes lost and lots of information - most of her patterns are at least 6 to 8 pages long), and it had to fit into the Knit Picks format - this pattern is only 3 pages long, one of which is the measurements and 3/4 of another is the color chart. So basically all the instructions are on one page. Now that I read it again, I see where I messed up, but I still feel like it was a reasonable mistake considering I've never done color work before and I've never made a vest so I'm not totally sure of their construction.

Anyway, this major error meant that I had to figure out how to fix it. Not only did I not want to pull out all that intarsia work, I was also pretty sure that I wouldn't be able to. It was a mess on the back with all my stranding, and I had already cut the excess yarn off. Instead I decided to put my Craftsy class  to good use and try dropping down to where the shaping needed to be and adding in the shaping. My nice edges quickly went from neat and tidy to a stringy mess, but after a few hours of work and lots of tugging at the long strands, I ended up with the fairly decent looking front that you see above. If this vest wasn't designed to be seamed together, this would not have been possible, but since it is I am fairly confident that I will be able to hide all that mess and end up with something at least wearable.
So here's a little trip down memory lane. This was when I first started the color. I had just discovered how to make butterflies of yarn so I didn't have a zillion skeins all twisted up, and things still looked nice and tidy.
Soon after, I ended up with this crazed mess, lol. I can't tell you how many times I had to untangle all this hullabaloo. But I endured, and ended up with this:
This was the picture I posted on Instagram before I discovered my mistake. At first I was very nervous about how much stranding I had to do. The Craftsy Intarsia class tells you not to strand but to make a separate butterfly of yarn for each section of color - I quickly realized this really was not possible for this design. I asked Andi how many balls of color she had used, and she wrote a whole blog post to answer my question! I thought that was so nice of her. She shows a photo of the back of her swatch in the post and I have to say it made me feel so much better about my own work. She had lots of stranding - granted it was quite a bit neater than my own, but once I get my ends woven in I'm sure it will be much better. 
So now my flower looks like this. I will say I did pull my changes a little too tight in a few places, but I'm hoping I can try to loosen things up as I weave in. I find that if I stretch the whole vest vertically, the stitches even out much better. This is good news since my issue now is that it's going to be pretty short. Ah well, at least it's supposed to go over something else when worn so I think it will still be ok, but you can bet I will be stretching this baby to the max when I block it.
So that's really been my whole focus craft-wise this week, which feels like total slacking compared to all the sewing projects I've posted the last little while. This has been quite a lot of work though! So if you'd like to get your fill of other people's projects, head over to Gracey's Goodies and check things out!

Monday, August 24, 2015

FO: Gertie's Cherries Rayon Sorbetto

On my recent 4th of July fabric binge I was lucky enough to get 1 yard and 4 inches of Gertie's teal rayon with cherries at Joann's on super sale. This was all that was left on the bolt and I've wished there was more ever since I purchased it. The fabric is buttery soft and drapey - just what the doctor ordered with this awful heat and humidity. Ugh, Florida summer, how I hate you. Since I had so little fabric, I knew whatever I made would have to be super simple. While looking through my patterns i pulled out Colette's free Sorbetto and when all the pieces fit I just started cutting.
The Sorbetto is the first thing I made myself back in 2012 when I started thinking I could sew clothes for myself. That poor shirt never gets worn due to bad fabric choice - quilting cotton just will not work for this one unless you don't mind looking like a box. This rayon on the other hand would drape beautifully and really make the pattern flattering. The only problem showed up when I realized that I had no idea what I was doing back when I fitted the Sorbetto, so I had to change quite a few things on the fly. Somehow I had a crazy amount of excess at the shoulder - I think I removed 3 inches total on each shoulder seam - which was a simple fix, but left the top a smidge shorter than I prefer. It's still wearable, just not 100% perfect. Ah well, you can't have everything. I just won't raise my arms ever.
I also don't really know what's going on at the sleeve. The sleeve is actually an add-on pattern piece someone other than Colette Patterns produced. The sleeve pattern only came in one size (I think it was an 8 or something like that) which was way too small for me so I had to scale the piece up way back when. I did this by eye-balling it around the edge to what I thought would be the right size. It worked on my quilting cotton version, but the sleeves were a bit long in hindsight so I shortened them to the length of a dress sleeve pattern I like. Something about the overall cut (maybe it's a grain issue?) seems to make the sleeves flip out in a weird way. Again, not a deal breaker - just not perfect. I do love the drape of the fabric though :)
Here's my fancy surprise on this shirt - it's finished with self-bias ... that I made ... out of rayon! I have to say I impressed even myself that I pulled this off. Knowing that rayon can be shifty, I started out by spray starching the area for the darts so that I could get them nice and straight. This worked like a charm! My machine was already set up with my walking foot, so I just kept that on and in combination with the spray starch it was a sure fire. I had no shifting while I sewed at all! From there, I decided to use the spray starch on the bias tape too. I received a Simplicity Bias Tape Maker from my in-laws for Christmas this past year and I am sad to say I hadn't used it until now. This machine is a boss! I'm kind of embarrassed to say it, but I've never successfully made bias tape before. I always end up cutting it wrong or burning the crap out of my fingers and have to stop. This machine made it so much easier. 
Once you cut the bias strips and get them sewn together, you just load it on the spindle and the machine does the rest. The only tricky part was threading the bias tape through the tip - rayon is not so good at this. I just sprayed the first few inches of the fabric with spray starch and threaded it through -  no problem! Beautiful! I did have to press down slightly on the little iron piece and hold the folded tape that was coming out so it didn't bunch up, but I'm pretty sure that's because I was using such a drapey fabric. I now have really pretty bias tape, and I can't wait to make more! (By the way I'm not being endorsed by Simplicity or anything, I just really love this machine and wanted to let others know about it - Amazon usually has the best price if you decide you need one!)
Obligatory mannequin shot - because everything looks better on her :) I love this print, don't you?! If I could have, I would have bought enough for a dress but they don't even have it available online. *sigh* Oh well. I'm borderline on thinking this shirt is too plain - do I have a problem? lol I can't decide. I mean, I know it's cute, but I think it could be cuter with something going on at the neck like some buttons or a trim. I haven't found anything that looks good with it yet though, so I'm open to your thoughts.
Detail shots - I used matching minty thread so it didn't take away from the awesome print, and I think that turned out nice on the hems and neck. The bottom two shots are peaks at my self-bias. Since the shirt came out a little shorter than intended, I'm glad I went with the bias since that kept just that little bit more at the hem. Also the front center is slightly shorter than the rest of the shirt, so I'll need to adjust for that next time. At least now I know how to adjust the pattern for the next go round!
Well, there you have it. A cute but simple top that's perfect for the Florida heat. I will certainly be making more shirts like this, and I have a complete obsession with rayon now. So prepare yourself!

Fabric: 1 yard 4 inches cherry printed Gertie rayon from Joann's - $4.19
Pattern: Sorbetto by Colette Patterns - Free!
Hours: 4
Total Cost: $4.19