Saturday, August 24, 2019

Live Oak Shawlette


A friend once told me that their team motto at work is simply the word pivot. They even had t-shirts made up with this verb that means to turn around a central point. They have one primary goal in their department, but they often find themselves taking that goal in different directions.

I was reminded of her story as I worked on my most recent project.

Details of wool hand knit lace shawl edge in gray with colorful flecks on dark wood.

In the spring, I bought a skein of Skinny Singles by Hedgehog Fibres in the colorway Juniper. I was so taken by the overall look — gray speckled with an assortment of bright colors — that I missed that little detail about the singles construction.

I was all set to cast on for a pair of socks when I realized my oversight. Singles yarns aren’t as durable as plied yarns, and therefore not ideal for the abuse that socks need to be able to withstand.

It was time to pivot.

After going through my pattern library, I decided to make the Live Oak Shawlette by Romi Hill. It seemed to have just the right balance of simplicity and detail to play well with my flecked yarn.

Details of wool hand knit lace shawlette edge in gray with colorful flecks on dark wood.

The cast-on was new to me, but overall the pattern is simple and straightforward. I thoroughly enjoyed knitting this shawlette, watching the colors come together as the center stockinette took the shape of a semicircle while the outer lace moved the design into straight lines and angles.

Although I’ve made plenty of scarves, I rarely make shawls. When I wear one, I feel like I may as well be wrapped in a blanket. But at about 40 inches across (102 cm) and 13 inches high (33 cm), this shawlette feels more like a playful scarf. (And the pattern includes instructions for a larger version, for those of you who prefer a full shawl.)

Wool hand knit lace scarf in gray with colorful flecks draped on a metal ladder in front of a blue wall.

This is one pivot that I’m glad I made.

How have your unexpected turns worked out recently?

Friday, August 16, 2019

M7092 Sleeveless Top

A while back, my husband needed new undershirts. Out of convenience, he looked for some while at a nearby supercenter and chose four in a new-to-him brand. That was a mistake.

Woman standing in front of a porch rail wearing oversized t-shirt with stretched out collar.

The fabric is soft and has good stretch, but that's the extent of its positive points. Did you notice how the collar sticks up? Who could wear that under another shirt?

The four shirts had already been washed, and the packaging and receipts thrown away when we noticed the poor fit. I suppose we still could have returned them, but it didn't feel right at that point.

I thought I might remove then resew the collars to get them to lie flat. I set the undershirts over the back of my sewing chair and they were forgotten after my husband purchased replacement undershirts from a familiar brand.

A few weeks ago, I walked by the pile of undershirts for the umpteenth time. I remembered that I have some Rit dye in the laundry room, and an idea bloomed.

I’d been wanting to attempt garment sewing again — maybe pajamas so beginner mistakes wouldn’t matter as much — but didn't want to spend money on fabric. Why not change the color of those undershirts and reuse the fabric?

I followed the instructions on my package of purple all-purpose Rit dye to color three of the four undershirts, hoping the cotton content labelled on the shirts was correct. I’ll admit, I would not have been surprised if the dye didn’t take because the shirts were made from a synthetic material.

Wonder of wonders, the fabric really is cotton! And a lovely purple now, too!

This is where things get a little silly. Any experienced clothing sewist will probably wonder why in the world I cut up four men's shirts to make one semi-fitted nightshirt. What was I thinking?

Well, I was thinking that I want to get better at sewing from patterns. Learning isn’t about efficiency — that comes later.

McCall’s M7092 sewing pattern was already in my pattern library. I chose to sew View A, which is a sleeveless top. The upper bodice crosses at the center front with accent fabric at the neckline and gathers near the bust line.

I learned a few things from this project:
  1. I need to learn a good way to improve my size choices because, once again, I used the wrong pattern size. Based on my measurements, I needed to make at least a size 18. My pattern only went up to size 16. Since sewing pattern sizing is often too large for me, I thought size 16 might be fine. Measuring the pattern pieces themselves seemed to confirm this. But the finished top ended up at least two sizes too big. I took in each side by probably 1.5-2 inches  (3.8-5 cm) at the underarm then graded it out to the waist. It’s still too large in the shoulders, but for a sleep shirt it will work just fine.
  2. Reusing fabric from another garment isn’t necessarily a practical choice. True, I didn’t spend any additional money. But in the photos, you can see that there’s some excess fabric below the underarms and along the lower size seams; those are areas where I had to cross an existing undershirt seam, including an armscye, when cutting my new pattern pieces. I wonder if that worsened my problem with choosing the wrong size. In retrospect, I should have cut and sewn a new seam in those places to be sure the fabric was on grain and flat.
  3. On the other hand, reusing fabric isn’t all bad. I lined up the lower bodice pattern pieces along the bottom hem of the undershirts, which saved me from having to sew that hem.
  4. Quality of materials matters! I knew this already, of course. But one of my original dislikes about the undershirts was their uneven seams. Working with the fabric, I learned how much this fabric shifts during sewing — the uneven seams were (and are!) due more to the fabric type than the workmanship. I’m sure this affected the collars as well.
The pattern itself is labeled as “easy” and I agree that it is. I didn’t expect there to be four layers of fabric at the bust; if I decide to make this again as a daytime shirt, I’ll be sure to choose a lightweight fabric to account for those layers. And I’d like to point out that the accent fabric is only attached to the main bust fabric at the shoulders and under the bust, which would make this a discreet nursing top.

The best part? The dye color happens to perfectly match the purple sheep in my favorite pair of pajama pants!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Purple Pointelle

If you’ve been a reader for a while, you know that knitting socks is one of my favorite types of projects. There’s something very relaxing to me about casting on for a pair of socks, and wearing them brightens my day.

What’s not to love?

An overstuffed sock drawer! I’ve gotten away from knitting socks for that reason. And because I have a lot of partial skeins of sock yarn that I need to work through before I have a clear enough conscience to buy more.

This spring while we were visiting family, we stopped into a local yarn shop. My sister, who doesn’t knit or crochet, was admiring some of the colors. I told her that if she bought the yarn, I would knit a pair of socks for her. Win-win!

She chose Sparkle Sock in the colorway Rainbow Connection V1.2 from ShirtsyCat Designs. The subtle color variations are amazing and the sliver stellina non-metal fiber adds just the right amount of sparkle.

Then my sister gave me free rein to choose the stitch pattern. I wanted something pretty, of course, but the stitch pattern also had to strike a balance between being intricate enough to minimize potential color pooling and simple enough not to compete with the color variations in the yarn.

I chose Pointelle from the book “Knit. Sock. Love.” by Cookie A. For as complicated as the socks look, the charts for each foot — yes, the motifs for right and left are mirrored — made the pattern surprisingly easy to knit. And the softness of the yarn made the experience that much more enjoyable. (I’m not affiliated with any of these, by the way.)

As usual before starting the pattern, I researched comments on Ravelry. I found a few that I thought might be helpful, but there was only one that I ended up using. Ibnik shared a pair of videos for “the perfect pick-up” of heel flap stitches. Here they are:

I really liked this technique and will use it going forward. It was a little more effort to pick up the stitches but, in the end, the heel flap looked just a bit more polished to me.

All in all, I had my sock-knitting fix, my sister has a new hand knit pair of socks, and my sock drawer still closes — barely.

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Hexagon Project: Blocks 22-23

After a six-month lull, I’m getting back into a routine of stitching together hexies for my English paper piecing hexagon flower quilt.

Angled view of green cutting mat covered with printed papers, a metal ruler, an X-ACTO knife, a hole punch, cut hexagon templates, and paper scraps.

First up was cutting more paper templates. This is one of those boring-but-necessary tasks, but now I should have enough to keep me going for a while. The current mix of whites and ivories adds a small amount of visual interest, at least.

I’ve been cutting my templates from card stock that’s too thick for our printer. This time, I also added some light press board; I won’t be doing that again as it’s a little too thick for the EPP blocks. It’s difficult to bend the press board templates while I stitch, and I can actually feel the difference in how the seams fold over the thicker surface.

Angled view of two hexagon flower blocks, one in bright primary colors and the other in purples, on a white background.

With more templates at hand, I as ready to get back to sewing. I finished the two blocks I had in progress, as I had hoped to, but Tour de Fleece distracted me from making more.

A lot of time has passed since I grouped color combinations of hexies for the flower blocks. I have them set aside in stacks, and it’s a fun little surprise now to see what I end up with each time I grab a stack to begin a new block.

Top view of two hexagon flower blocks, one in bright primary colors and the other in purples, on a white background.

I can’t wait to see the blocks I have done by next month!