Episode 47 – Fiber Updates

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In this episode, I update you on the fiber adventures I have been having since starting a new job.

2016 Resolution

I’m the kind of person that likes to set goals for myself. I’m constantly resolving to clean my house better, spend more time with my kids, work harder. It’s not really a New Year’s thing for me, more of an all-year-round thing. The problem is I often set goals that are 1) too abstract and 2) too lofty for me to reasonably reach. This year when deciding to set some goals, I did things a little differently. 

One goal I have is to really embrace my yarn stash. I went from a pretty small (ish) stash to one that made my husband look at my craft room and say “woah, you have a lot of yarn.” So many skeins were bought this last year that I loved, but I had yet to cast any of them on. Enter tangible, attainable goal 1: Knit 12 pairs of socks. I can knit a pair in about a week and a half if I work hard on it, and a pair a month is definitely doable for me. I decided to use the “brown bag” approach, where I choose 12 skeins and pick one random bag each month and knit it. I love to knit socks and I have a couple patterns that are my go-to, and I’m not worried about being stuck in a rut with any of these.  

I will put in a disclaimer, though, that the yarn I will use in January and February have already been chosen. January will be knit out of the first handspun I purposely designed to be socks. It’s an incredible Superwash BFL Nylon blend from Sunvalley Fibers. I have been aching to put this on the needles since it was skeined up, but Christmas knitting got in the way. I’m so excited to see how these socks turn out! I’m also participating in the Wooly Wonka Fibers Handspun KAL, (#handspunkal) and would love to have you join us. 

February’s yarn is from The Lemonade Shop in the colorway “Stormy Day.” I do like it, though it’s not really something that fits my personality. Suburban Stitcher is doing the Rainbow-Along, though, and I didn’t have anything to participate last year. I decided to use this year and the brown bag challenge as an opportunity to use this yarn. My sister also saw it and mentioned she might like some socks knit from it, so they will have a happy home when they are done. 

Other yarns I’m planning on knitting this year are some sock blanks, a Harry Potter yarn from Oh Loops, some White Birch Fiber Arts I picked up at Stitches, and a lot more. I figure this keeps my stash moving and prevents me from hoarding, as well as giving me a reason to buy sock yarn at all of the events I will be at this year. (Gotta stock up for 2017!) 

Do you have any long term knitting pland for 2016? 

A Wee Bitty Sweater

How are you? I’m doing well, figuring out this new medication thing and still mostly staying home with my family. Lots of knitting has been done, but I really wanted to tell you about this sweater.

My sweet baby nephew, Ian, was born in August of this year. He and his family live 1,300 miles away, and we had plans to go visit them about 3 weeks after he was born. Of course, this meant I had to cast on a sweater for him. I have a thing about babies being cold, it gets my anxiety going and makes me sad. (Though, of course, he wouldn’t actually be cold because he has wonderful parents who take very good care of him. But, still…) 

I couldn’t just choose any sweater for him. I imagined a beautiful fair isle sweater that would allow me to use the techniques I learned from Franklin Habit’s Snips and Zips class. In other words, I wanted to steek the snot out of something. It just had to be something nice and small (so I wouldn’t lose focus on the knitting) and it had to be useful (see above comments about cold babies.) I chose the DROPS pattern B13-5, a lovely pattern that includes a cardigan, hat, mittens, pants, and booties. It’s incredibly adorable.

The cardigan pattern itself is written to knit back and forth instead of in the round. This sounded absolutely terrible, and I wouldn’t be able to steek, making it even more terrible. So, for the first time, I drastically changed a pattern. I figured out my stitch counts to include 5 steeks: 2 on the front (one for the button band, one for the collar), 1 on each side (sleeves), and 1 in the back (remainder of the collar). I had to call on many friends for help and suggestions, including the lovely and amazing Vicki from the Heartland Knits podcast. (She also informed me that this sweater is, in fact, a Norwegian sweater, not Fair Isle.) 

I also decided to use a zipper instead of buttons. There were two reasons for this: 1) buttons scream choking hazard to me (until I find another baby pattern that just HAS to have buttons) and 2) I know how much easier a zipper is to use instead of buttons on a baby. My mental image includes this sweater as an everyday jacket over what ever long sleeve shirt Ian is wearing. It is also knit out of Brown Sheep Company Nature Spun Fingering. It’s not the softest of yarns, nor superwash, so a jacket-type item would be a good use for this hard-wearing yarn.

It was so great to use that much of Franklin’s class! I cut all 5 steeks without so much as a bead of sweat, and I was even able to hand sew the zipper in relatively nicely. It’s definitely my first project like this, and I’m sure 10 years from now I will look back and cringe a little at my stitches. For now, though I know it went to a loving home and will be well used. I can’t wait to see my little man again 🙂

Project Information:

Ravelry Project Page

Original Pattern

Yarn: Brown Sheep Company Nature Spun Fingering

Franklin Habit’s Website

#becauseofknitting

**The hashtag #becauseofknitting was originally from Michelle of the Actually Knitting Podcast in her episode 16. Give her a listen, she is fabulous and a dear friend of mine!**

Do you ever have those moments of epiphany? Where everything just falls into place so magically and you had no idea it was set up that way? I had a moment like that recently.

The truth is, I crave human companionship. I think that’s the reason why I started listening (aka became obsessed) with podcasts and even started one of my own. Even though others aren’t necessarily in the room or talking directly to me, I feel like I am having a conversation over coffee about knitting and other parts of my favorite craft.

As I mentioned in the last blog post, I have met some of the most amazing people through the podcast. My epiphany moment was when I looked at all of my current projects and realized every single one had a story with someone who had touched my life. I am currently knitting three different projects using yarn and a project bag from Danie of One Twisted Tree and the Prairie Girls Podcast, who has become such a dear friend and business accountability partner. Patterns by Susie of the Prairie Girls Podcast and Sarah of the In a Sknit Podcast make me smile every time I look at them. A project bag by Boston Jen of the Down Cellar Studio podcast and a needle minder from Java Jennie of the Kitchen Counter Crafter Etsy shop make me so happy to remember Stitches Midwest this past summer. Oh! Loops Yarn and a pattern by Lydia Brown of the Fiber By Design podcast make me remember how generous and kind Sarah and Lydia have been to me this year. Sock blockers (gifted by Laurie) and a fireflies project bag (gifted by Kristen of the Happy Stitcher Designs Etsy Shop) make me feel so much joy at having listeners who have chosen to bless me with their thoughtfulness. 

It’s not just the generosity that makes me feel overjoyed; it’s the level of relationship I have discovered through knitting. I feel bad because there are so many other amazing friendships not pictured in this photo I have made through knitting, but I thought this might be a good start. I know I will meet many more of you at Stitches West and Zombie Knitpocalypse come 2016, and I am looking forward to building relationship with you too! Have a blessed day!

How has knitting led the way to relationships and friendships for you?

Sew Many Dresses – Collared Shirt Dress

I did it! I finished a dress for myself! I love the idea of this sewing challenge, and making garments  that fit my body is a blast. No more being angry in a dressing room, wondering why the shoulders fit but the waist doesn’t. Anyways, here is my new dress!

Sewn from Sew Many Dresses, Sew Little Time by Tanya Whelan. Top is Collared Shirt Dress, Bottom is A-line Skirt with button extension.

Sewn from Sew Many Dresses, Sew Little Time by Tanya Whelan. Top is Collared Shirt Dress, Bottom is A-line Skirt with button extension.

I sewed this using the book Sew Many Dresses, Sew Little Time*by Tanya Whelan. I used the “Collared Shirt Dress” for the top and the “A-Line Skirt” for the bottom, adding the button extension. The fabric is some slightly stretchy denim I picked up at JoAnn fabric. 

Adding colorful facings to a garment can be a fun pop of color. 

Adding colorful facings to a garment can be a fun pop of color. 

First, the good news about this dress. I love how it looks on me. I did make some alterations, such as adding 8 inches to the waist (yes, 8 inches!) but it wasn’t terribly difficult to alter. To do this, I used techniques I learned from the class Sew the Perfect Fit on Craftsy.* This dress is perfect for going to the store, hanging out with my family, going to church or school, or even just spending time at home like I am now. It’s easy to dress up or down and fairly comfortable. 

I also enjoyed putting the pattern together, including figuring out the facings. I used scraps of floral fabric I had saved for the facings, and I love the little pop of hidden color in the garment. It feels like a secret only I know about. I also had a mishap with the seam ripper while opening the button holes and ended up learning how to mend the giant gash I made in the middle of the garment. Needless to say, I will be using very sharp embroidery scissors in the future for that step.

Ripping and mending a buttonhole. The fix isn't perfect, but it's hardly noticeable when I wear the finished garment.

Ripping and mending a buttonhole. The fix isn’t perfect, but it’s hardly noticeable when I wear the finished garment.

Now, the bad news about this dress is that I had quite a bit of trouble with the pattern, and it wasn’t from my newbie lack of experience. This is the 2nd/3rd dress I have sewn for myself, so I’m not brand-new to the craft, but some errors in the pattern and overall execution directions had me scratching my head more than once. For instance:

  • The collar and collar band both said in the directions and pattern to only cut one of each, when you actually need two. It took several YouTube video watches and questions to my mom to verify the book is incorrect.
  • There is a vent on the back of the A-Line skirt to allow the wearer to walk without looking like a penguin. However, while there are directions for this part of the project, there are no photographs of what the back of the skirt looks like. It left me feeling confused and watching more YouTube, which led to a finish I liked better than what was described in the book.
  • The directions on attaching the top to the skirt are incredibly lacking, with only a little more than a blurb on page 32. There is also no visual for this step, and it is incomplete as (after a lot of research) the sewist should stitch two seams on this part of the dress, one slightly inside the original seam allowance to keep the dress from ripping from the weight of the skirt. 
  • This is not an error, more of a finishing technique that should have been accounted for: I would recommend not pressing and sewing your button extensions until the top and bottom have been sewn together. This would have made the corner where the top and bottom are attached much cleaner and more polished than I was able to achieve by sewing them both ahead of time before attaching.

There are still some other aspects of this book I am learning for myself, like how to make the darts and seam lines line up when altering the fit of the garment, but I think this knowledge will come with time of sewing. I also need to wash the dress again (yes, I did prewash it) and do a final press to get pieces like the collar to stay down perfectly, I just haven’t done it yet because I was too excited to wear it right away. Overall I did enjoy the concept of this book and will definitely use it again, but it left a lot to be desired in execution of directions and technical editing. I would consider it a good resource for a somewhat experienced sewist that is able to understand the instructions through past knowledge. I hope you enjoy my project!

*Indicated Affiliate Links*

Have you recently sewn a project you are very excited about? Tell me about it, and feel free to leave links to your own site in the comments below!

A Dress for Me… or Not?

I love wearing dresses. I love looking at dresses. I love styling dresses. It would only make sense that I would love to sew dresses, right? 

That’s what I thought when I started this project. I picked up the pattern McCall’s M6891 on sale at Joann with some beautiful gray fabric with cherries. I looked EVERYWHERE on the pattern package for sizing information and couldn’t find it, so I assumed I was a size 8 like I was in a previous Vogue pattern. 

First mistake.

I brought everything home and prepped it (did you know you can iron patterns? It makes them oh so much easier to use!) and got started. I cut everything out for the size 8 AND THEN I found the information on sizing.

Shoot.

Apparently a size 8 requires a 24 inch waist, which I don’t think I have had since my high school swimming days when a friend yelled “Hey! You have a six pack!” at me. Needless to say, 13 years and 4 kids later, my six pack and 24 inch waist are well… not 24 inches any more.

At this point I started weighing my options. I hated to waste the fabric, and I still wanted to learn how to sew this dress. I reached out to a couple of friends and asked if one of their daughters would like it. Now that I knew someone out there would use it, I decided to move forward.

Everything was going great. Nice, long seams make sewing seem so much more efficient than knitting sometimes. Until I ran into the collar.

Let me preface by saying I have read several blogs about the collar, and it left even experienced seamstresses confused. I decided to push forward. 

Then it was terrible. I tried to rip out my stitches, and THIS happened. A great big ugly hole, right in the middle of the collar where my seam ripper got away from me.

At this point I took a breath and decided to finish the collar as best as I could. That hole, though, is glaring at me, reminding me of my apparent incompetence at sewing. I sent this photo to my mom, and I’m going to take her advice: put it in time out and bring it to her house to fix it.

Moms are the best. We’ll see how this saga ends soon.