Parallel crafting

November 30, 2015

I thought I'd show you what I'm working on at the moment. Normally I don't have a lot of active projects that I'm knitting on at the same time. I tend to focus on one project until it's done, even if it means ploughing through when I've grown tired of a project. I fear that if I let a project linger too long, and start working on something else, chances of it ever getting finish will diminish considerably. Lately, however, I found myself juggling a couple of projects. This resulted partly out of practicality: one of the projects I was working on solo has a pattern that differs per row, so it doesn't make for the most mindless knitting ever and therefore I can't easily combine it with other activities. But I will confess that another big part of the reason is that I've been enthusiastic about a couple of other projects and I've just been lured in to cast them on.

1. First up is one of the projects from the seven skeins club. They are the Kokkeluri mittens by Kate Davies. I've the first mitten finished, apart from the cast on edge, which I need to unzip and bind off with and I-cord. The pattern advises to do so when you've finished the second mitten, which I've yet to cast on. I'm very happy with the first mitten and love how it looks, but I've been procrastinating casting on for the second because this is the project which needs a lot of focus as virtually every row is different. I figure that once I've actually cast on for this project, progress will be quite swift. I will try to cast on for this this week at least. Now I've said it you can hold me accountable for it (HA)!

2. Next up is my current favourite project: Jenny at the Fair. A long, all-over fair isle cardigan? Yes please! Because I enjoy knitting on this project so much it goes really fast. I've got the body done, up to where the sleeves join, finished the first sleeve, and am now working on the second sleeve. NO carrot and stick needed for this one!

3. Number 3 are plain Icelandic socks for my boyfriend. I already made this pattern twice for myself, and he has asked for an even simpler version, so there really shouldn't be a problem here (except maybe motivational issues). I finished one sock, and really should cast on for the second now, as to avoid a serious case of second sock syndrome. Now, you must be thinking: a non selfish project, during Christmas preparation month, how well-timed and thoughtful of you! Not so fast dear reader, I'm only making this because he asked me to make it and offered me sewing gear in exchange. In my defence, my will to knit for him has significantly dwindled since he lost his favourite handknit scarf on a plane ( my boyfriend has a peculiar talent to be able to lose absolutely everything, including his passport during same plane journey).

I'm technically only working on one sewing project at the moment, but it is taking A LOT of will power to not start different projects. I'm trying to finish my current project before I start any new and trying to sooth my raging startitis. My current sewing project is the Moneta dress by Colette. Incidentally this is my first real garment using stretch fabric. I'm equally excited and bewildered that I'm finally tackling this. The sewing goes quite fast, when I'm actually sewing, and not you know...dreaming about new ideas.  I'm hoping to be able to sit down for it this week long enough to have it finished. But after that: party dress sewing is on!

So what's going on in your crafty corner? Are you knee deep into Christmas crafting or confidently working on projects for your own use?


Finished Sewing Projects

Cooper in the Forest

November 18, 2015

Sometimes, you have to walk a bit to get to a forest. Sometimes, the forest comes to you: this week has been especially windy, with leaves and even small branches zipping along my window. Nevertheless, a nice long walk was tempting. In the woods and parks, the municipality doesn't clear out the autumn leaves like they do on the city streets. Instead, a thick, mushy carpet covers the ground. The wind whizzes through the trees, and as tiny raindrops start to fall, you can almost imagine even the barren leaves on the floor coming to life.

Inspired by this weather, I entered new sewing waters and made my first bag! This project has been a long time coming. Making a bag has been on my list for a while, but I stuck to sewing clothing. Clothing felt a lot less intimidating than sewing a bag. I know it's supposed to be the other way around (as you do not have to deal with things like sizing); and indeed the pattern itself advertises that it needs no fitting and should be easy. But neither that, nor the friendly reassuring words from bloggers was enough to reassure me: because I had been knitting clothes long before I sewed my first garment, making clothes has always felt more familiar and less daunting when sewing. The parts and concepts seemed that much more familiar.

In the end I needn't not to have worried so much, while there were a couple of new techniques to discover, most of this project went fast. The pattern was great, and because of the clear description it was a lot easier than expected.

Backpacks are my favourite kind of bags, and I basically use them all the time so choosing what kind of bag I wanted to make was easy. It was surprisingly hard to find nice backpack patterns out there, or perhaps I'm not looking in the right places? (Do tell me if I'm not!) I found very few, and those that I did find were either children's patterns or not really in line with what I was looking for. I wonder why, do pattern companies think that there is no market for bag patterns? In the end I found two pattern candidates, but went with Cooper by Colette, because it looked like it had more interesting finishing than the other. It has tons of pockets, both inside and outside the main bag. I'd seen some versions of the pattern floating around on blogs which I really liked. So I bit the bullet, and started gathering supplies.

I got my materials from a bunch of different places, as none of the places where I usually get my fabric had the hardware involved in making this bag. In the end I ordered the webbing, magnetic snaps and jiffy rivets, during the process I discovered I had even ordered the wrong ones of the latter so they didn't even make it into the bag. As far as I can tell they only have a aesthetic function, so it isn't a big deal that they're left out (apart from wounding my pride in my sewing related material gathering skills, of course). I used canvas for the outer fabric of the bag, and cotton for the lining. I was really pleased to have found the forest print canvas. The dark green uni-colour canvas complimented the canvas printed with all kinds of forest animals: foxes, hedgehogs, owls and squirrels. In the photos, I'm wearing it together with Freydis for extra forest-vibes. Sewing with a fabric print that has a difference between right-way-up and upside-down seemed a bit daunting because of the many pattern parts, but the sewing pattern provided all the cutting advise needed.

The hardest part was keeping track of all the different pieces and fabrics. There are a lot of pattern pieces involved in the construction of the bag, scattered over 3 different fabrics. As I said, I was not familiar with the construction, I had a hard time keeping track and visualizing where everything should go. In the end I just gave up trying to understand it all, and blindly followed the pattern. Honestly, that worked out well.

Another new thing was installing all the hardware. I stressed a lot about the magnetic snaps, but in reality they were installed in a couple of minutes (after which I felt ridiculous for all the stressing).
The webbing caused some more problems. I had relatively thick cotton/nylon webbing (cotton on the outside, nylon on the inside). I like the feel and look of these a lot more than pure nylon webbing, but problem I had was that the webbing was so thick at certain points that my machine refused to sew it. I searched the internet for some tips, and tried a couple of them. What worked best for me was to change the canvas needle I was using (one of the higher numbers of the universal needles) to a thick denim needle, but more crucially I stopped sewing electronically on the machine. I still used my machine, but instead of turning on the motor, I turned the crank by hand. This worked wonders, and after that I had no trouble with sewing the webbing any more.

Here you see the backside of the bag, with a tree that was friendly enough to model it.
I learned quite some new things, while working on this project. This was my first experience with top, edge and under stitching. With dresses you usually try to hide all the seams and stitches, but these techniques are all about being visible. I'm glad I tried these now, as I know it is used on clothing as well, and (when it is done properly) gives a really professional look to the project. In this case it also servers to make the bag a lot more sturdy. I'm satisfied with how my stitches came out. There are some wonky bits but most of it is decent enough. Slow and steady definitely wins the race with these techniques. Speedy sewing is not so speedy if you have to unpick all your top stitching because the lines resemble a line drawing made by a 3 year old.

This project makes me very happy. I made something that I've been wanting to make for a while and it actually came out nice. I tried a bunch of things I hadn't done before, learned loads in the process, and it didn't end in disaster!  I hope it has opened the door to other new/more advanced sewing (such as knits). Who knows, maybe I'm even up for making a coat in due time. The first snow has been forecast where I live for next weekend, so I hope you'll enjoy these last autumn walks!



Nikka Vord

November 06, 2015

Isn't it funny how I always think that during any given exam period I will have time to pop in here for a blog post and rarely do? I need to work on my time management a bit. Last week I wrapped up my midterms. I celebrated during the weekend by spending a couple of days at my parents, and by visiting my brother. We had a big get-together on Saturday to watch the Rugby World Cup final. Alas my favourite teams didn't even make it to the semi-finals, but to make up for it my mum made two epic rugby cakes: one shaped and decorated as a ball and another as a rugby field (she has watched a lot of Bake off type of shows lately).  I ended up rooting for the team that has a knitter as their number 12, and this was not entirely fruitless. Some knitting may, or may not have been tossed around when he scored an amazing try. Back to business: while I was there I took some pictures of my latest finished garment: Nikka Vord.

When Gudrun Jonston published The Shetland Trader Book Two last year I squealed with delight when I saw the designs. The patterns are right up my alley, the photos are beautiful, and I loved the yarns Gudrun picked for her book. Unsurprisingly, the patterns that spoke to me the most were the colourwork patterns. Especially Northdale and Nikka Vord called to me. As part of my apparent  mission to knit an ludicrous amount of yoke sweaters I went with the latter. Thinking back, a stranded yoke in DK was suspiciously absent from my wardrobe.

Another reason why I wanted to knit this sweater is because I had wanted to try the recommended yarn, Jamieson's DK, for a while.  I've knitted quite a bit with that other well known Shetland yarn brand, Jamieson and Smith (they are different companies, but have similar names, and thus they get frequently mixed up in Ravelry discussions and the like), but never with Jamieson's. The thing is, Jamieson's proved quite hard to come by. Recently a couple of stores have started selling Jamieson's in the Netherlands (yay!) but they stick to their fingering weight yarn, spindrift.  In the end the only option for me was to call one of these stores that stock spindrift and asked them (nicely) whether they were willing to order some jamieson's dk with their next spindrift order. Fortunately they said yes! So while I did had to wait a couple of months, I did get my yarn in the end.

I'm glad I went trough all the trouble to get my hands on it, because I love it. The colours are gorgeous, look very natural and are perfectly heathered. The feel of the yarn hits somewhere between Icelandic Lopi and Jamieson and Smith's. All in all this yarn is right what I needed. I do love the original yarn colours, with it's subtle yoke and oatmeal heathered main colour.

The yarn comes in 25 gram balls, which means the yardage of each ball is fairly small. This means that if you're making a sweater you have a lot of ends to weave in at the end, even more when you make a stranded colourwork sweater. I'll admit that this was not my favourite part of making the sweater. Normally I weave in the ends as I knit the sweater, but this time I left them all until the end.

I already talked a bit about the process of knitting this sweater in this post. Unfortunately I had to reknit quite a large portion of the sweater when the bust part turned out way (WAY) to big. As the sizing for the first part of the sweater came out right for me, this is odd, even more so because this never happens to me -that is to say, the bust area isn't exactly the area where I generally encounter the most positive ease in my garments. I ripped back the sweater to before the bust increases and just knit it without them, and now it fits fine.

 Overall I'm really happy with the sweater. I love the subtle colours of the yoke. I think I will be wearing this one a lot. A welcome addition to the Treehouse yoke sweater family.

I'm starting to notice that slowly winter is -wait for it- coming. The days are shorter, and there's less light out there, making the time frame for taking pictures noticeably smaller. Last year I practised with taking photographs indoors. I never really got the hang of it, but it won't be long until I'll have to resume practise. Nevertheless, I'm one of the few people in my environment who adores winter, and I greet her as a friend. Hope you're all enjoying the tail end of autumn!

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