Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Verena Sleeveless Knit Shell

Summer is here in full force with temperatures topping 100 F (38 C) already. That’s far above normal for this time of year. I thought I’d be a little ahead of schedule with the summer tops in my project queue by starting in May. Not quite!

Front view of woman wearing blue hand knit sleeveless shirt with lace detail at the lower edge.

My first tank top for the season is #09 Sleeveless Shell by the Verena Design Team in the Summer 2008 issue of Verena Knitting. I used Plymouth Yarn Hannah in the color way 5 Navy. The yarn is 65% cotton and 35% rayon from bamboo. It’s a dense yarn made up of six 2-ply strands and it’s amazingly soft, although prone to splitting.

After my last sweater debacle, I didn’t want to take any chances with fit this time. I bought enough yarn for the largest size to ensure I wouldn’t come up short. And I swatched, and swatched, and swatched again.

I know cotton and rayon have little elasticity, so while the drape is lovely the fabric may not hold its shape; it can grow with wear. But I also know that those same fibers can shrink with washing and drying. I tested different gauges along with different washing and drying combinations, and felt I had a good handle on how the yarn would act as a fabric.

Ultimately, I saw a little growth in the swatches — enough that, with a bust size between two pattern sizes, I felt comfortable making the smaller of them. I debated lengthening the body of the shell, but decided against it. I was worried that the weight of the finished piece might make the shirt hang more than what I was seeing in my swatches.

Back view of woman wearing blue hand knit sleeveless shirt with lace detail at the lower edge.

The pattern is relatively straightforward. The transition from the body into the straps was unclear, but with close examination of the photos I was able to work it out.

I thought the lace chart was odd; it showed the pattern for 25 stitches plus selvedge, but the instructions were to only work the center 12 stitches plus two stitches at the beginning and three stitches at the end of each row. I never used the rest of the chart. In addition, decreases were to be made while working the lace but the decreases weren't accounted for in the chart; I had to count stitches to make sure everything was aligned once I began decreasing.

I’m happy with the shell. So far, the fit is good and the fabric doesn’t show signs of changing shape. But there are a few items I would address if I were to make it again. I would adjust the stitch pattern in the straps because they want to curl. And, while I’m happy with the overall length of this tank top, I would feel more comfortable if the lace started lower on the body; it reaches above my belly button right now.

If this heat wave continues, maybe I’ll find that I prefer the lace placement as is. A little extra “air conditioning” might be just the thing!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Two Kinds of Cloths

I never know whether to call them washcloths or dishcloths. The same cloth could be used for either purpose. But today, the two kinds of cloths I’m writing about are different patterns.

Two crocheted cotton orange washcloths or dishcloths stacked on top of a white cloth on a white background.

Alex Cloth

Last week, I wrote about crocheting the Alex Bath Mat by Busted Hook Patterns. I used a cone of Lily Sugar’n Cream Solids in White for the main color, and two balls of Lily Sugar’n Cream Ombre in the colorway Summer Prints for the accent color.

I crocheted until I couldn’t make another full repeat of the pattern, and ended up with 0.3 oz (8.5 g) of White and 1.35 oz (38 g) of Summer Prints left over. Why not make a coordinating cloth with the main and accent colors switched?

Two bright orange crocheted cotton Diagonal Dishcloths on an Alex Bath Mat with another cloth made from the Alex pattern

Once again, I used an I-hook (5.25 mm instead of the standard 5.5 mm). I started with a 32-stitch chain for a cloth that measures 9.5 inches (24 cm) square. I ran out of both colors toward the end, but was able to crochet the last few rows as an accent stripe with some extra white cotton yarn from another project.

Diagonal Dishcloth

With a 3-ounce (85 g) ball of Lily Sugar’n Cream Ombre in the colorway Soleil Ombre and the Diagonal Dishcloth pattern by Ananda Judkins, I was ready to make more cloths.

This is another easy pattern. Crocheted as written, except once again using my I-hook instead of the recommended H-hook, I was able to make two 9.5-inch square cloths with a little yarn left over. After a trip through the washer and dryer, these cloths are 7.5 inches (19 cm) square. They worked up very quickly and have a nice springiness to them — both in feel and in brightness.

Two bright orange crocheted cotton Diagonal Dishcloths on an Alex Bath Mat with another cloth made from the Alex pattern

All of these are going to be used as washcloths, although our dishcloths are looking a little worse for wear. Maybe it’s time to plan — and shop — for making dishcloths!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Alex Bath Mat

Road trip! I think most makers can relate to that moment when the highest priority in packing for a trip is choosing the projects.

For a recent road trip, I packed four projects and enough supplies to make some duplicates — such optimism! Over the course of 30 hours of traveling, plus some making time during odd moments throughout our visit, I finished about half of the first project.

Alex Bath Mat Crochet Rug from an Angle in White with flecks of Yellow, Green and Blue

Choosing a Road Trip Project

I like crochet projects for travel, particularly repetitive patterns in cotton. I find the single crochet hook less fussy than two or more knitting needles, and less scary for my fellow passengers when I fly. An H-hook (5.0 mm) doesn’t look that different from a pen, but a set of US-1 (2.25 mm) sock needles in the round looks like a lot of stabby points.

I like cotton because it’s inexpensive, washes easily, and it’s grippy enough that if the hook slips out, the stitch usually holds its shape without unraveling. And that’s another point in crochet’s favor: if the hook slips out I might have to remake a few stitches, whereas if a knitting needle slips out it could lead to major reconstruction.

And the repetition aspect should go without saying. If I can quickly memorize the pattern I can easily start and stop as needed, have conversations, and enjoy the scenery.

Dertail of Alex Bath Mat Crochet Rug in White with Flecks of Yellow, Green and Blue

The Project

Which leads me to this trip’s project: Alex Bath Mat by Busted Hook Patterns. The pattern calls for an H-hook, but I tend to crochet tight so I bumped it up to an I-hook (mine happens to be 5.25 mm instead of the standard 5.5 mm).

The pattern is designed for two colors. I chose a cone of Lily Sugar’n Cream Solids in White for the main color, and two balls of Lily Sugar’n Cream Ombre in the colorway Summer Prints for the accent color. Summer Prints is white interspersed with short lengths of yellow, green and blue, so the idea was for a subtle addition of color. And my plan was to keep going until I ran out of yarn.

I ended up with a rug that measures 24 by 36 inches (61 by 91 cm), with just a little bit of each yarn left over. The pattern was well-written and easy to memorize. Due to the colors I chose, the stitch variation doesn’t stand out as well as it might with a more distinct color difference. But I was aiming for subtlety and I love the way it turned out.

Even if I did make half of my one and only road trip project from the comfort of my own home.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Three Years!

Today marks The Art of Making Blog’s third blogiversary. Wow, three years!

This year I’ve had to change a few of the places where I share my posts, and that’s impacted how many of you have been able to read it. Still, more than 2,900 visitors have viewed 8,400 pages over the past year. Thank you for choosing to share some of your time with me!

The five most-read posts from this year cover a variety of topics. I like to see if I can recognize a pattern in the top posts, but I’m not seeing one jump out at me this year:

Five photos lined up horizontally to represent the top five posts for The Art of Making Blog in year three: socks, mittens, quilt, Trello, and another pair of socks.

Maybe the commonality between these posts is making a project your own. I definitely see that as being a topic that most makers can relate to.

I’ve branched out a bit more as far as types of projects, as I had expected to do once we settled in from moving. I’m trying to focus on working through stash, and this goal is helping me see the bright side to not having any local yarn shops. I’m still adapting to making items that suit our new climate.

My main goal over this past year was to figure out a balance in posting slow-moving projects; I don’t want to bore you with micro-updates, but I also don’t want to introduce something then have months pass before I mention it again. I’ve changed on this front in three ways:
  1. I’m splitting my time between fewer projects.
  2. I’m trying to plan out regular updates for long-term projects.
  3. I’ve given myself permission to get away from a strict weekly deadline.
Of course, this is still a work in progress. Case in point: I made it through eight monthly posts about The Hexagon Project before life changed enough to throw off my routine, both for sewing and for posting about it. But life changes and I need to be flexible enough to change along with it. I’ll find a new rhythm for that project.

I hope you’ll stay on this blogging journey with me. Hooray for the beginning of year four!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Finally, a Finish

Finally! My striped sweater is finished, and I’m happy about that on so many levels.

Back view of Elphaba Pullover knit in stripes of scrap sock yarn.

The pattern is the Elphaba Pullover by Mary Annarella. The first time I made it, about five years ago, everything went smoothly. It’s a lovely pattern.

The second time I made it, a few months ago, I used a yarn with a blend of 45% wool, 35% silk, and 20% rayon from bamboo instead of 100% wool as the pattern recommends. The sweater was too big — and then it grew.

The third time I made it, a couple months ago, I used an assortment of leftover sock yarns unraveled from a top I wasn’t wearing. I was back to 100% wool yarn, or nearly so, but the size was strange — too wide but also an odd combination of too long in some areas and too short in others.

The fourth time I made it, about a month ago, there was another fit issue that I seem to be blocking from my memory now out of self-preservation. But I started knitting wider color stripes with this attempt and found that I prefer their relative brightness for this sweater. I also added some black and ivory from my stash to ensure I would have enough yardage.

The fifth time I made it, what you see here and only the second version still in existence, this top finally worked up as I wanted it to. I reused the leftover sock yarns one more time and went down a size from what I had been previously knitting. The pullover’s width is the same as the first version but it has a bit more length, which is what I’d been aiming for in the first place.

Front view of Elphaba Pullover knit in stripes of scrap sock yarn.

The neckline and lace edging proved to be another challenge with my yarn choices. I didn’t want the stripes to compete with the lace stitch pattern, but a test knit of striped garter stitch didn’t look right as the edging either. Knitting the edgings in all one color wasn’t an option based on the yardage I had available, and the self-striping yarns wouldn’t work because they would bring me back to the stripes-on-lace I was trying to avoid.

Gray at the neckline stood out against my skin tone without creating too much visual contrast. I chose the dark handspun merino for the lace on the body of the sweater to give it a visual base. The combination of the ivory with the lace sleeve edge seemed a natural choice based on historical fashion.

I spent at least a full week weaving in the ends. Two ends of each stripe of color would have been bad enough, but there were more than that. Some of the lengths of yarn were quite short after being worked into so many projects. Normally, I would have woven the ends as I knit to keep the task from becoming overwhelming. But with so many missteps on this journey, I held off until I was sure the top would fit.

And, I’ll admit, the fit isn’t perfect. I’ve put on a little weight over the past few months — coincidence or induced by knitting stress? Either way, I think I can block the sweater a bit bigger for now. I won’t be wearing it much, if at all, until cooler temperatures return in the fall. That buys me some time to re-evaluate.

But if I don’t like the fit in the fall? This pullover is going to become socks.