Friday, January 25, 2019

Repairing Socks and Knitting Needles

In the hierarchy of fun projects, repairs rank just below practical projects for me. Repairs to practical projects? Oof.

In late 2016 and again in mid-2017, I knit wool furniture socks from scrap yarn. I made sets for our six dining room chairs and a set for our sofa. The socks protect our wood floors, and stay in place better than adhesive felt pads. I chose wool because I thought it would be gentle on the floors while also being durable.

Chair wearing a knit sock next to one with a slipped felt pad.
A chair wearing a sock next to one with a slipped felt pad.

This past December, I noticed that the set on one dining room chair was worn through. Thinking the rest of the chair socks were likely the same, I mentally prepared for knitting another six sets.

Close-up of the hole worn through the bottom of a chair sock.

I had knit the original sets from the top down. As I gave it more thought, I realized I could simply take apart and reknit the lower end of each sock. And I was excited to discover that only the one set needed to be repaired — on the chair our children use the most when doing homework. My chore had eased considerably!

But our kitchen chairs had begun slipping off their felt pads, as had our coffee table. That’s another seven sets that needed to be knit. The project was squarely back in the chore category.

Close-up of the newly knit bottom on a chair sock.
The lighting is different, but the top of this repaired sock is the same.

It’s slow-going, but I’ve repaired the initial set and knit three more sets so far. This time, I’m using scrap acrylic yarn. I’m a little nervous that it might be too abrasive for the floors, but acrylics are so soft these days that I’m optimistic. It will be interesting to see if they’re more durable than the wool.

A set of hand-knit chair socks on the legs of a kitchen chair.


Needle Repair Tip — or Needle Tip Repair?


When knitting the furniture socks, I’ve been using worsted weight yarn on US-5 (3.75 mm) double-point needles. I double the yarn at the bottom of each sock for extra durability. Unfortunately, this also puts extra strain on my needles. Have I mentioned that I can be a tight knitter to begin with? The needles I’m using are birch hardwood; a few of them have begun to splinter at the tips and catch on the yarn.

Close-up of splintered tip on a wooden knitting needle, next to nail file and polish.
Can you see the roughness of the damaged needle tip?

Fortunately, wooden needle tips can be easily repaired. I keep a nail file with my knitting supplies, and it works well to buff out those splinters. After I’ve “sanded” the needle tips, I give them a light coat of clear nail polish to protect them against future wear. To ensure the nail polish has time to cure, I like to let the needles rest overnight before knitting with them again.

Close-up of repaired tip on a wooden knitting needle, next to nail file and polish.
Sanded smooth and clear-coated.

I’ve made it to the halfway point of this practical project, and I’ve salvaged a set of damaged knitting needles. Meanwhile, I’m daydreaming about projects that rank higher on my fun-scale. How do different types of projects rank for you?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Grapevine Socks

I may have mentioned this before: Socks are comfort knitting for me.

After my bad sweater experience, and with a cold coming on, I felt the need to cast on a new pair of socks.

Feet crossed at the ankles wearing dark green hand-knit socks on white background

With a skein of Dream in Color Smooshy in colorway 43 Boot Camp, I started knitting Grapevine by Charlene Schurch. The pattern is from her book “More Sensational Knitted Socks,” and it knit up quickly on US-1.5 (2.5 mm) needles.

Top view of feet wearing dark green hand-knit socks on white background

The lace motif was probably a little more complicated than I needed while nursing a cold, but it would have been fine under normal circumstances. If I made any mistakes along the way, I haven’t noticed them yet! The fit is perfect.

Feet with soles together wearing dark green hand-knit socks on white background

I’m off to drink more orange juice. What are your go-to comfort projects?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Knit Diamond Pullover, Garment Ease and Schematics

It took me six weeks to knit this sweater.

In November, I wrote about starting the #07 Diamond Peplum Pullover pattern by Jill Wright from the the Holiday 2012 issue of Vogue Knitting. The yarn I chose is Plymouth Yarn Reserve Sport in the colorway 306 Mauve Mix. It’s incredibly soft and the colors are a mix of light to medium lavender, ivory, and beige.

Front View of Hand-Knit Diamond Peplum Pullover in Light Purple

This sweater highlights the struggle I have with garment patterns, for knitting as well as sewing. The instructions describe it as a “very close fitting pullover” but give no further information as far as how the pattern’s measurements should relate to the wearer’s body measurements.

If you’re familiar with making clothing, then you know about the concept of ease. Ease is the difference between your body measurements and the garment measurements. This is useful in not only achieving the look you want but also in making sure you can move in your clothes!

For some items of clothing, particularly those made with fabric that doesn’t stretch, you’ll want positive ease. That means the garment will measure larger than your body.

But for other items, made with fabrics that stretch, you may want zero ease or even negative ease. That means the garment measurements will be either the same as your body measurements or a bit smaller.

Back View of Hand-Knit Diamond Peplum Pullover in Light Purple

The amount of ease you include when creating a garment will depend, in part, on the type of garment. For example, a jacket will likely have more positive ease than a blouse because you need to allow space for wearing other clothes under the jacket. But ease will also depend on personal preference, both for a particular garment type — jeans versus dress slacks, for example — and for how you generally like clothes to fit on your body.

If a pattern doesn’t explicitly state how much ease is intended for the garment, we’re left to guess. There are, unfortunately, no industry standards that I can find to relate fit descriptions to ease.

But we’re not left completely in the dark when the pattern includes a schematic. This to-scale line drawing shows the measurements at each size for every piece of the garment. At the beginning of the pattern, the size information is typically given in relation to bust size alone. By referencing the schematic at the end of the pattern, you can check the rest of the measurements and decide whether any particular aspect of the pattern needs adjusting.

Back to the Diamond Peplum Pullover: my measurements are three inches (7.6 cm) larger than one size, and two inches (5 cm) smaller than the next size. My gauge on US-3 (3.25 mm) and US-6 (4.0 mm) needles measured tighter than the gauge needed for the pattern, which meant my finished garment would be smaller than whatever size I chose. More than three inches of negative ease sounded like it would be too close-fitting for me, but less than two inches of positive ease should result in a nice skimming fit. I set to work, adding an inch (2.5 cm) to the length.

The finished pullover fits me terribly. The top is so loose that the shoulders, three inches wider than the measurements given in the schematic, droop down my arms. Moving down two sizes, which would be a half inch (1 cm) smaller than my actual shoulder measurements according to the schematic, should make the pullover just a little too large at my shoulders. At that size, the ribbing at the bottom would be embarrassingly tight on me.

Action View of Hand-Knit Diamond Peplum Pullover in Light Purple

And, yes, I double-checked my gauge. After blocking, it’s consistently 23 stitches over four inches of stockinette stitch on the larger needles, while the pattern calls for 22 stitches under the same conditions.

What I did not check ahead of time was that the math works between the gauge, the number of stitches, and the schematic. I shouldn’t have to do that, but if I had I would have learned before casting on that the numbers don’t match up as they should.

Ultimately, there is more than one problem here. The pattern sizing is unclear at best as far as ease. The stitch count given for each size is not consistent with the schematic measurements. And I chose a garment style that doesn’t work well with my body shape and fit preferences — I would need to change the bust-to-waist proportions considerably in order for the pullover to fit me, and at that point the look of the garment would be completely different than what was intended.

It took me six weeks to knit this sweater, but only an evening to rip it all out.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Welcome to 2019

2018 was another year full of changes. Nothing drastic, but we’re still feeling the ripples brought about by our move across the country in 2017. One thing that hasn’t changed this year is that I’ve continued to create:

Sewing:
  • 20 hand-stitched flower blocks for The Hexagon Project
  • 5 coasters
  • 2 quilts made, plus 1 repaired
  • 2 pairs of panties
  • 2 cushions
  • 1 tunic
  • 1 dress
  • 1 teddy bear
  • 1 lining for a felted bag
  • 1 pillow
  • 1 placemat
  • 1 luggage tag

Knitting:
  • 5 tops, one of which will be shared in early 2019
  • 4 pairs of socks
  • 4 hats
  • 2 basket liners
  • 1 pair of mittens
  • 1 teddy bear
  • 1 rug

Spinning:
  • 511 yards of two-ply mystery wool
  • 185 yards of two-ply merino wool

My best nine pics from Instagram in 2018 are almost all knitting projects.

I read four art-related books, knit more blocks onto my scrap blankets, and made a no-sew fabric ornament. I finished setting up my sewing space, then organized my fashion fabrics and clothing patterns in Trello. I updated the layout of this site in anticipation of releasing new knitting patterns.

What I didn’t do was actually release those new patterns. I also didn’t explore local art museums and events as I had hoped. I plan to correct both of those in 2019.

I’ve enjoyed getting back to more sewing after having my machine packed and inaccessible for so long. But my new sewing space is in the basement. I don’t like to spend time alone down there when the rest of my family is home, which means I’m still not sewing as often as I would like.

I want to continue to find ways to use the sock yarn I have left over from previous projects, and I want to knit more warm-weather tops. The wool chair socks I knit last year are starting to wear through; I need to either mend or recreate them. Perhaps an acrylic yarn would hold up better?

I’ve been itching to do some spinning, and the bobbin lace pillow has been calling my name. I haven’t tried any exercises from the tatting book I bought before we moved, and I keep coming across my quilling supplies.

All that to say, I’m not sure yet what you’ll see on this blog in 2019. I’m settling into a new normal, and the items I make reflect what our lives call for or allow at a given time. I can’t foresee what I’ll make, but I know that I’ll keep making.

I wish the best for you and yours in 2019! What do you have planned for the new year?