Back in the (sewing) saddle!

When I was 8, I got to spend a week with my mom’s parents and pretend I was an only child. That week was life-changing because my grandmother taught me to sew. Meemo had been taught by a dressmaker and was an amazing seamstress. Since I was only 8, I only learned the basics but it was enough to set me on the path.

I made some truly sad looking things at first. I was rushing to finish things and made careless mistakes. At one point my mom, who had basic sewing skills, told me I had to do a better job or she wouldn’t buy me more fabric. I knew my mom meant it so I took more care. In my junior high school home ec class I already knew quite a bit and was a snotty know-it-all. I think the teacher was ready to strangle me. In high school, I made the three dresses I wore to formal dances. My favorite was the slinky red Qiana halter dress and matching bolero jacket that had marabou feather boa trim on the cuffs and shawl collar. I wore it with platform sandals.  I remember thinking I was fat!

Sr Christmas dance with paulettte

Here’s the lovely red Qiana formal I made.  My younger sister is to my right. 

 

When I started college, I wanted to be a textile research scientist. I started as a home ec major because they had a textile analysis program. I ended up changing majors a couple times but am glad I started out this way because I was able to take some amazingly sewing classes for college credit and improved my sewing chops dramatically, including pattern alterations.

In my 20s, I made a lot of my clothes because it was cheaper (it was the early 80s) and they would actually fit. I even made many of the suits I wore to work. I discovered an awesome fabric store in the DC suburbs, G Street Fabrics and took some amazing skill and fit focused classes. I still have the pattern alteration reference materials I purchased at that time.

I continued to make clothes, especially casual ones, into my 30s but stopped after I gained a lot of weight and didn’t feel good about my body.

Since I quit sewing clothes, I’ve done some home dec sewing. I’m most proud of the queen-size quilt I made about 10 years ago. I’m sure I’ll make a couple more but don’t anticipate it becoming an obsession.

Fast forward to last year… I’m retired and have more time to play. I’ve made many project bags to hold my knitting projects and as gifts. Many knitters I know in person, from Ravelry, IG or other digital sources are sewing. I see many IG posts during #MeMadeMay and pout because it’s too hot to wear any of my knitted socks or sweaters in May. I learn about indie pattern designers and online fabric stores. I get the itch to make clothes again.

My first few attempts were a total fail. I started with an indie sewing pattern and made a couple wearable muslins.  When I tried on the second iteration, it wasn’t flattering but worse… I wasn’t able to take it back off.   Luckily, the side seams were only basted;  I had to unpick the side seam to take it off.  If I were a newbie, I would have quit after that disaster. Instead, I decided I would stick with top patterns that have closures or are made with knit fabrics.

Before tackling any more tops, I decided to sew a skirt.  I started to draft my own skirt pattern but stopped when I decided it was time to join Weight Watchers and get back to a healthy weight.  It just doesn’t make sense to work on ‘perfect fit’ when my body is changing almost weekly.

Instead, I’ve sewn four simple skirts from the same pattern, Sew So Easy’s Simple Summer Pleated Skirt. For two, the first and also my most recent, I used some knitting-themed quilting cotton while the other two are more “normal” cottons. This pattern has a contour waistband, front and back pleats, pockets and a back zipper.  I wasn’t really happy with the pocket and swapped it out for the Suki Kimono pocket on my most recent version and I’m much happier.  Eventually I’ll make more fitted patterns with front and back darts but this pattern is perfect while I’m losing weight.

Pictures clockwise starting with the large photo: Suki Kimono, Perfect Tee Shirt and Summer pleated skirt, Mandy Boat Tee

I’ve also made a Helen’s Closet “Suki Kimono”, Pamela’s Patterns “The Perfect T-Shirt” and two Tesutti “Mandy Boat Tee”.

I didn’t like the fit on the first Mandy Boat Tee I made.  It was a bit too tight in the arm and not quite as boxy as I’d hoped.  I made a few simple mods and am thrilled with the second one.  I made it 4″ wider in circumference by adding 1 inch vertically between the center and side seam on both the front and back.  I also added 1/2″ length to both the front and back in the armscye area and an inch to the width of the sleeve.  The result was perfect other than body length so I made it about 5″ shorter so it would hit high-hip instead of being a tunic.  Now, I’m obsessed with the it and want a dozen.  In fact, I’ve already got fabric lined up for my next two.  Off to cut out the first one.

Time for some knitting math!

OK!  I’ll admit it.  I’m one of those odd ducks who likes math.  (I’m know I’m not alone in the knitting world; there are lots of knitters who have math, IT or science jobs / backgrounds!)

Patterns are written for a specific stitch and row gauge.  For shawls and many other accessories, it doesn’t really matter that much other than the fact that you might run out of yarn.  For many sweaters, gauge matters a great deal.  For the ‘boxy style’ sweaters I love to knit and wear, not so much but I still do some math to make sure I’m getting an amount of ease that’s consistent with my desired fit.

So I swatch.  And I to measure my swatch before (if I remember) and after I wash and block it. *In this case, blocking is simply laying it out to dry naturally.  It’s not a lace shawl!

If I’m lucky enough to match gauge exactly, I pick my sweater size and cast on.  Usually, I’m not so lucky.  If I like my fabric, it’s time for sweater math.  (Amy Herzog has a great YouTube video  on evaluating your swatch to determine if you’ve got a good fabric for a sweater.)

Now for the math.  It’s not hard.  And… it’s worth learning how to do it.  I’m going to use Pistachio Saffron, a free Knitty pattern designed by Carol Feller for my example.

 

Calculating gauge:

Swatch with measure lines

My blocked swatch measurements:   22 stitches over 4 3/16 inches;  33 rows over 4 1/4 inches.  Calculate the stitch gauge over 4 inches by dividing the stitch count by the distance and multiplying by 4.   22 / 4.1875 x 4 = 21.01 stitches over 4 inches.

Do the same to calculate row gauge.  33 / 4.25 x 4 = 31.06 rows over 4 inches.

My gauge vs. the pattern:

Stitch count:   21.01 vs. 22.  This is 1 stitch every four inches.  Doesn’t seem like very much but I need to so some simple math to see if I’m right!

Row count:  31.06 vs 31.  I’m fine here.  But… I’m short so I’ll have to do some math for body length, rate of increase for a-line shaping, arm length and rate of decrease for the sleeves.  (I’m not going to cover that in this post.)

And… now for the sweater math!!!!

The 4th size has a 48″ bust circumference which is about right for me for a very relaxed sweater.  But… I’m not getting gauge.  What size do I need to knit to create something close to that?

Sweater schematic

Pistachio Saffron pattern schematic designed by Carol Feller and published in Knitty.com.

Because I have fewer stitches per 4 inches, I’ll get a bigger sweater.  This is good to know because it will help me make sure that my math is right.

3rd size:   43.75″ (on schematic) x 21.01 stitches / 4 inches = 45.8″ circumference.

4th size: 48″  (circled in red on the schematic) x 21.01 stitches / 4 inches = 50.25″ circumference.

 

 

The pattern states that the model is wearing a sweater with 5″ positive ease.  If I had just assumed that my gauge was close enough, I’d end up with a sweater with too much ease.  Thanks to some simple knitting math, I figured out I should knit the 3rd size instead!

 

 

Rebooting my blog!

It’s been over 2 years since I’ve posted.  It was awkward to post from my iPad or phone when I was injured and I never built the habit of posting regularly.  I’m going to post every week or two or I’m going to shut it down. Time will tell which way I go.

I’ve recovered completely from my broken bones thanks to my husband ‘s support and a wonderful therapy team.   I’m very lucky that I had good health insurance and we were financially in a position to cover the costs not covered by it.  Even before the accident, I supported health care / health insurance reform.  My support is stronger now than before.  I cannot imagine how this would have impacted us if we didn’t have decent insurance.

I started sewing garments again.  My early attempts were a dismal failure…. I’ve learned that a woven t-shirt just isn’t going to work for me.  This derailed my enthusiasm for a few months.  Since then, I’ve joined Weight Watchers and have lost weight.  I needed some summer clothes that fit and would be easy to alter a bit as I lose more weight.  I love wearing skirts when it’s hot.  Somehow I found the So Sew Easy’s Simple Summer Pleated Skirt pattern and decided to try it.  I pulled some quilting cotton from stash to make a skirt for the Zombie Knitpocalpyse Knitting Retreat.  Finally!  A sewing success!  Since then, I’ve made two more from stashed fabric.  I anticipate making even more when these get too big.

55AD8C19-9EEE-4623-A450-D390A4DC67D8_medium2Knitting is still my #1 passion.  I’ve knit several sweaters in the last couple years and try to have one going at all times.  I’m currently knitting Light Trails by Suvi Simola in a lovely light blue yarn, Miss Babs Yummy 2-Ply in the Faded colorway.  I’ve just started the first sleeve and hope to have it finished by the end of July.

 

 

 

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It’s been so much fun to see how this knits up.

I try to have a simple knitting project going at all times.  Right now it’s a pair of vanilla socks using a hand-dyed sock blank that I bought from Gayle’s Art.  It’s so much fun to knit with this sock blank.  I’m using my go-to heel construction, the SoxTherapist’s Fish Lips Kiss Heel.  Thanks to some tips from PattyJoy, I’ve made a few tweaks to the sock and it’s fitting much better.  I can’t wait for her to release her newest sock pattern so I can use her secret sauce to get even a better fit.

 

 

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My last pair of socks weren’t quite that simple. But… OMG!  I loved knitting them and want to make more pairs.  Yarn: Mint Rain Self-Striping Twist Sock; colorway: Make Me Smile


 

 

I’m a lucky so-and-so!!

I got a Ravelry message from someone who read my last blog post. It made me realize that I need to continue to share my journey to recovery even if no one else reads it. 

Joe braved my very cluttered office last Friday to get some of my knitting WIPs. I kept two of them and asked him to put the others back. I’ve done a little knitting  on one WIP since then but not much. But knowing I can knit a bit makes me happy even when I skip a day or two. 

  
Joe is a huge jazz fan. Last Friday night the Beaches Fine Art Series had a free concert at UNF. The Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet was performing. Jason is an amazing vibes player and drummer. He’s the youngest in the very talented Marsalis family. Two very dear friend came over for pizza, wine (I had iced tea), girl talk and laughs. It gave Joe and me a much needed break from all this enforced togetherness. I’m so lucky to have such wonderful friends. They’ve offered to come over and help host a knit night so I can see my knitting friends (and not make more work for Joe).  

I’m not knitting!

Last Wednesday I did a very klutzy thing and fell at the hair salon. My cut and color was done and the chemicals washed out of my hair. Good thing that the latter was done because I really, really hurt myself. 

I fractured my left patella and right humorous and both required surgery. I’m lucky that my head didn’t take the impact instead of my shoulder. That would have been much worse. 

I came home Saturday after we sorted out the wheelchair and rebooked the transport vehicle. Joe freaked out when we realized that they didn’t deliver the leg extension for the wheelchair. 

Our fridge was close to empty because we’re were leaving for The Keys on Thursday.  It’s now overflowing thanks to some amazing friends. 

I should be able to knit but … I’d have to get Joe to wind yarn into a cake and find and then measure needles (after finding a needle gauge) so I get “the right size”. Not a good idea right now. He’s already overwhelmed with all the things he has to do. It would be selfish to ask for this help. 

So, I’m not knitting, and that’s just fine.  

Looking forward and back

It’s the beginning of a new year.  A great time to reflect back on the past and decide what I’m going to continue to do and what needs to change.

In many ways 2015 was amazing. 

One of the most amazing things to happen was becoming a moderator for The Yarniacs Podcast Ravelry group.  It has given me so much joy.  The group is filled with wonderful people from all over the world.  I consider many of them to be friends; I only hope I get to meet them IRL someday.  I had no idea when I started to knit that it would open my world and heart so much.

I purchased a spinning wheel at SAFF in November.  Almost 4 years to the day after I learned how to knit and fell down this wonderful rabbit hole.  It’s a gorgeous Schacht Cherry Matchless.  I doubt I’ll ever outgrow it.  Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s the only wheel I’ll ever own.  Eventually I need to get a travel wheel since this can’t go with me if I’m flying.

And… I knit my first sweater.  I bought the sweater quantify of Malabrigo Rios at A Stitch in Time in December 2012.  It tried to become 3 different sweaters before I finally decided to knit Joji Locatelli‘s Worsted Boxy.

IMG_7044I love it so much I almost immediately cast on the fingering weight version.  I think this style sweater fits my lifestyle perfectly.  It’s a ‘better than sweatshirt’ sweater that is so cozy.  If fact, I’m almost done with the fingering weight one and am thinking about doing another one with a grey gradient set.  Hmm…

That’s enough for now.  I’m still sorting thru my 2016 goals / theme.

 

 

Taming the WIPs???

I LOVE retirement!  It’s exponentially better than I imagined.  (please don’t hate me!)  I have time to knit AND spin every day.

My colorful “seusical” socks are almost done.  Just need to knit the last heel and weave in all the ends.  The drawback to contrast cuffs, heels and toes is that there are a lot of ends to weave it.   The socks are so great looking it’s so worth it.

 

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Yesterday I decided to start working on my Monkey Socks again.  Tried the sock that was one-third done on and it’s baggy.  So… its been frogged.  I should have done this ages ago, especially since I’m sure my tension has changed since I worked on it.  Yarn has taken a bath to get out the kinks and is drying.  I think the yarn and pattern were a good match so I may reknit it.

Note to self: Finish or Frog!!!!

I’m making very S L O W progress on the test knit I volunteered to do.  I picked a very delicate loosely plied 2-ply lace weight yarn so it’s slow going.  I’m not in love with my needles.  Might order some Karbonz and see how they work.  Can’t use my metal needles…. the yarn slips off the tips too easily.  Here’s a close-up of the fabric.  (There will be beads on the last section!)

Picked up Nuvem again.  More lace weight yarn; this time it’s Madeline Tosh Prairie which is a singles yarn.  Love it.  It’s going to take forever.  I think I’m about 20% done.  I’m afraid to weigh the ball and find out it’s a lot less.

 Also making great progress on my Poppy Boxy. I’m seaming the front and back together. I (foolishly?) decided to seam the shoulders as well as the sides.  I’m just over half done.  In order to seam the pieces, I blocked them. I was in such a rush to block the back, I forgot to take the row progress markers off. The cute little black sheep bled a little and I’ve got a few spots. It it doesn’t come out when I block the finished sweater, I’ll duplicate stitch over the spots to hide them.

Seaming in progress

Blocking the back piece. See the dark spots??

 

Until next time….