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My friends Kelly and Josh are having a baby soon and I made them a couple of tiny kimonos as a present!

Kimono #1:

Kimono #2 (please excuse the awful photography):

Pattern: Lucy’s Kimono, from Heather Ross‘s Weekend Sewing

Fabric used: Kimono #1: anonymous pale blue quilting cotton with black swallows; black store-bought bias binding. Kimono #2: all Amy Butler, all the time–the main fabric is Full Moon Polka Dot in yellow, and the bias binding is homemade, from a fat quarter of Acanthus purchased at Purl Soho, so between the designer quilting fabric and the crazy markup at Purl, this basically means it is the most expensive cotton bias binding ever. (By the way, I love Amy Butler but what on earth is this Photoshop disaster going on on the splash page? And why does it take 5 minutes to load the fabrics list for each collection?)

Pattern notes: Heather Ross suggests in the pattern intro that this is one of the easiest patterns in the book, which I think is not really true. It’s small, which is nice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a lot; the pajama pants from this book were much larger but also much easier to sew.

I found it pretty difficult to sew the bias tape around the curve of the neck because the front meets the back at a very acute angle that the bias tape has to be eased around. I couldn’t catch the second side of the bias tape consistently on kimono #1 when I was machine-sewing, so I ended up hand-sewing the bias tape in place to finish it.

I didn’t think the pattern pieces were clearly marked (I may have traced them off wrong, admittedly, but I don’t think there were any notches and the pieces are big blocky shapes, so you could conceivably sew them wrong by 90 degrees). The back and sleeves seem to be gentle trapezoids; I assume the wide end of the back-trapezoid goes towards the bottom end of the baby, and the wide ends of the sleeve-trapezoids get attached to the body of the kimono.

I didn’t use the super-narrow bias tape called for in the pattern; I think mine was 1/2 inch. It seems incredibly fiddly to work with the suggested 1/4″ bias binding for this pattern, and my version doesn’t look terribly different from the one in the book, so I’m not totally sure she used 1/4″ bias tape in the sample, either.

There are errors in the pattern–for instance, it calls for 1/2 yard of bias tape, but I think you actually need 1 1/2 yards; it says to sew the shoulder seams with wrong sides together, which is wrong, of course–they should be sewn right side together, unless you’re going for an edgy deconstructed look for your baby garment.

The book is pretty unclear about how the ties should be handled. As any woman who has worn a wrap dress knows, both sides of the wrap cannot be treated identically, because one side ends up on the inside of the dress and one side ends up on the outside. You are instructed here to “make sure the ties themselves… extend on the right side of the Kimono Front and Back in your sewing set-up” but I don’t know what that means for the side inside the wrap. I figured that there were basically three alternatives here:

  1. Don’t do anything with the inside part of the wrap (I didn’t think this was right because the book instructs you to make two ties.)
  2. Sew the 2nd tie to the inside of the wrap and tie one bow inside the kimono and one bow outside the kimono. This might be what was intended, since the photo in the book doesn’t show two sets of ties visible on the outside of the kimono. However, this seemed both annoying for the parent dressing the baby to fasten and annoying for the baby to wear–how would you like to have a bow tied on the inside of your shirt? Probably not a whole lot.
  3. Leave a hole for the second tie to go through so both ends can be tied on the outside. This is what I ended up doing, taking a cue from every wrap dress I’ve ever owned.

I did this by basically just leaving about an inch and a half of the side seam unsewn and stitching the tie onto the seam allowance on one side rather than catching it inside the seam like on the other side. Here’s a view of the inside of the kimono: you can see the hole with one tie passing through it, and the second tie sewn to the seam allowance: these two ties are tied in a bow on the outside of the kimono.

Here’s a view of the outside of the kimono, with the one tie extending through the hole:

As you can see, the seams inside the kimono are pinked. I think it should be pretty easy to do French seams instead, since most of the seams are straight and very short, but the fabric I picked was sturdy enough that I figured pinking would hold up fine.

Lots of corners on the inside of this sucker. I accidentally pressed and sewed down the seams down kind of randomly because I wasn’t always keeping future seam dependencies in mind. Some are pressed open, some are pressed to one side. The book probably instructs you on what to do, but at a certain point I gave up on following the instructions in any kind of detail.

If you decide to make this kimono and make your own bias tape, I strongly recommend a Clover bias tape maker. You will be one cranky cowboy if you try to make bias tape with one of the crappy metal ones instead. Also, Yahaira has posted an excellent tutorial for making continuous bias tape–including a link to the conversions for how much fabric turns into how much finished bias tape.

A mother at the baby shower said “I like the kimono style because if ‘things happen,’ this can be taken off without having to pull it over the baby’s head”–a practicality that hadn’t even occurred to me, naive as I am in the ways of baby-vom, but seems very sensible.

Oh, and I got them this, too:

Why, yes! That is a Captain Kirk onesie from thinkgeek.com. A necessity for any well-dressed baby. (By the way, Josh and Kelly, if you’re still working on narrowing down names, check out this book. I think Cthulhu is a beautiful name for a little girl. Or Zaius, if it’s a boy.)

I have two new finished objects to show you, both made from Knit Picks Cotlin yarn in Moroccan Red, an inexpensive DK weight cotton-linen blend. I blogged about it before here, when I made a Bainbridge Scarf with it for my friend Jeanne.

Now that I’ve used it a bit more, some further thoughts: the color of this yarn is lovely and bright, and the yarn is pretty soft and drapey as far as I can tell. The two things I disliked about it were the occasional long, pokey fibers I would have to pull out of the yarn, presumably bits of flax, and its tendency to shed red fuzz as I was knitting with it (mentioned in my last post). It made me feel sneezy, and if I washed my hands after knitting with it for a while, little red fuzz pills would rub off my palms. These skeins seemed less fuzzy than the one I knit before–maybe it’s the effect of aging the yarn a bit.

I was undecided before, but I’ve decided I like it after all and I would use it again, especially since they’ve added a bunch of new colors that are right up my alley. Of the old ones, only this red and the natural linen color really appealed to me. Maybe Nightfall. But I wasn’t crazy about the sherbet colors like coral and turquoise. I love all the new ones, though–Coffee, Glacier, and Kohlrabi are all beautiful.

The Cotlin yarn for these two new FOs and the Bainbridge scarf is all from the same batch. I got it from chemgrrl, who bought too much for her super-adorable Cherry sweater. I was curious about it, so she gave me the skein I made into the Bainbridge scarf, and then she swapped me the sweater quantity, plus some mohair, for some Elann Den-m-nit
I had so she could make a jacket or something for her small niece.

I had it lined up for a lobster for a friend’s baby, but I’ll have to find a different red yarn for that, because the Cotlin is now all used up!

First up, Rusted Root! (Wow, it’s been ages since I’ve done a proper FO post)

Pattern: Rusted Root, from Zephyr Style, given to me as a Random Act of Kindness by knottygnome
Size made: Small (for 32-35″ bust), although my gauge wound up being off and the sweater measured about 34″ before blocking when it should have been 32″. Not that the pattern tells you this, of course.
Yarn used: Knit Picks Cotlin, Moroccan Red, approximately 4.5 skeins
Needles used: US size 7/4.5 mm Denises for most of the sweater; US size 3/3.25 mm for the ribbing on the sleeves
Date started: May 5, 2008
Date finished: May 11, 2008
Mods: More tedious details about size and yarn usage can be found on the Ravelry page. I started with the neckline ribbing (since you pick up the same number of stitches as you cast on, in the same ratio, without short rows or any such things going on, I see no particular reason to pick up the neckline later) and worked 5 rows instead of 3, using the larger needles instead of going down a size. I did paired M1 increases around the raglan seam lines (lift from back and knit through front loop, k2, lift from front and knit through back loop).

I totally reworked the waist shaping, and then my gauge was off and I was unable to finish my reworked shaping scheme anyway–after I’d worked only 3 sets of hip increases out of my desired 5, the sweater was long enough and I decided to stop.

I also put in Elizabeth Zimmermann’s phoney seams on the sides before starting the ribbing.

I knit the neck and hip ribbing (about 9 rows) on size 7 needles, since I didn’t want them to draw in particularly, then knit the sleeve ribbing for 5 rows on size 3’s (I used k1fb to increase one on each sleeve to make the k2, p1 ribbing pattern work properly).

I used a sewn bindoff for the sleeves to make them stretchy, and a suspended bindoff in rib for the hip (since I hate sewing with that long, long tail over long distances… I really should have used the sewn bindoff at the hip, too; it could definitely be stretchier, but it’s not terrible as is, either.)

Notes:
I hope to have more photos later. It’s unblocked and hot off the needles in this photo (so it’s all uneven and lumpy, and it’s being worn over a clearly unsuitable tunic top instead of a camisole).

The thing is, I committed a Cardinal Sin of knitting with this sweater. I didn’t knit or wash my swatch the way I would wash my finished garment–I knit a flat swatch instead of one in the round (hence the aforementioned gauge issues), then hand-washed and laid it flat instead of machine-washing and drying. Then I finished the sweater and threw it in the washer and dryer. We’ll see what happens! Hopefully I can still wear the sweater afterwards. It seems silly to have to hand-wash and flat dry what is essentially a t-shirt, so if it’s not easy care, I guess I might as well find out now instead of after it’s a cherished essential piece in my wardrobe and I accidentally toss it in the hamper. Anyway, I did read up on it beforehand and people have said it tightens up a bit and takes very well to machine washing. Not sure about drying. If it’s a disaster, I surely will have notes on it in the near future–it’s in the dryer as I type this. Wish me luck!

While I think the finished top is really cute, I did find the pattern kind of weird and annoying to work with at certain points, for a few minor reasons. Believe me, I totally understand the headaches of trying to sort these things out when drafting a pattern, and I don’t think I could do any better (people who live in glass houses shouldn’t point fingers at other people’s pattern-writing abilities!) but nonetheless, should you be in the market for Zephyr Style patterns and wondering about how they’re written, let me tell you what my gripes with this were:

  • No schematics in the pattern. This is the biggest annoyance. I couldn’t decide if I should make the XS or the S (since both cover a 32” bust)–seems like the S gives a 32” actual bust size, meaning negative ease if you’re on the larger end of the range. I wasn’t sure if the sleeves would actually fit over my biceps (thankfully, they did)–I had an issue with the sleeves being too tight on my Green Gable and had to redo my bind-offs on that top before I could actually wear it. There is also no information about the intended or modeled ease.
  • No stitches put on hold/cast on at the underarm. Just a note, not a gripe (yet). I’ve just seen the put 8%-of-underarm-stitches-on-hold thing in numerous patterns, though I’m not sure what type of functional difference it makes in the fit. I’ll see how it fits when it’s done and washed.
  • Asymmetrical waist shaping decreases. OK, actually, there’s nothing wrong with this, but I kind of like symmetrical ssk/k2tog shaping on either side of a seam instead of using just k2tog on one side of the seam.
  • Very sparse with the stitch counts. I’m pretty sure I got it right, but it would have been very helpful to see a detailed breakdown of stitch counts in the puff sleeve increase/decrease sections in particular so I could easily double-check my work and see if everything was OK. I’m not personally bothered by the lack of information about the increase rounds, as I’m capable of figuring out the number of increases per increase round from looking at the directions, but a beginner might have issues.
  • The lace is not charted out, and sl1-k1-psso is written as 3 separate steps (separated by commas) which confuses me since the 3 steps consume 2 stitches and result in 1 stitch. I prefer seeing it written using hyphens/dashes. In any case, I rewrote it using ssk.
  • The lace also calls for you to read your knitting on every other round, knitting into the knit stitches and YOs and purling into the purls. I don’t mind this, but again, if you’re a beginner, it might be easier to have it specified as “Row 10: K7, p2, k6″ etc.
  • As someone’s notes somewhere on the internet point out (I can’t find them now, of course), the poof in the sleeves tends to vanish for many people, probably because of the tiered increases–i.e. XS and S have the same number of increases for the puffed sleeves, meaning the XS sleeves will be puffier than the S in proportion to the rest of the sweater, and the same deal for M/L, XL/XXL. We’ll see how mine come out. I don’t have my heart set on it either way.
  • Not a lot of information about the techniques they use. M1 is specified as Make One, but there are at least 4 different actual increases that could mean. The instructions for knitting the sleeves on two circulars are very sparse (they tell you to divide the stitches onto two circulars and knit in the round, but I can see this potentially causing issues for a beginner who wasn’t familiar with the technique). No cast-on is specified, even though they specify that you should use the backwards loop cast-on in their FAQ because apparently a lot of people were having issues with their necklines or underarm seams binding because the cast-on wasn’t stretchy enough.

It’s been ages since I made Green Gable, but I remember having some of the same issues with that top as well.

Anyway–I’m excited about wearing it, so thank you again for the pattern, knottygnome! I desperately hope it fits when it comes out of the dryer.

I had a bit of the yarn left over, about half a skein, so I cast on for a dishcloth.

Pattern: Yvonne’s Double Flower Cloth
Yarn used: Knit Picks Cotlin, Moroccan Red, approximately 1 skein
Needles used: A set of 5 US size 8/5 mm bamboo DPNs (sort of annoying–they kept falling out of the stitches. Two circs or magic loop would be easier to deal with)
Date started: May 12, 2008
Date finished: May 13, 2008

Mods: I was trying to use up the half-skein of yarn left over from my Rusted Root–I ran out of yarn at row 31 and had to rummage around to find the other half-skein of yarn left over from the Bainbridge Scarf so I could finish the cloth. I had some left over, so I knit a little garter stitch loop to use for hanging the cloth up to dry (just cast on 3 sts, knit every row for maybe 2 inches, folded it over, picked up stitches from the base of the loop and knit them together with the live stitches) and used the rest of the yarn to single-crochet around the outer border of the washcloth. Also, I used a lighter weight yarn and larger needles than recommended.
Notes: I don’t know the last time I spent so little time on a project and wound up with something so pretty and functional! Again, this photo is before washing and drying the cloth, so the knitting isn’t terribly even-looking. I think this is a great pattern, though–very easy to follow and fast to knit, with beautiful results.

Cold days call for warm colors.

I took a break from knitting for a couple of days to turn out some sewing FOs in cheery colors.

First up, a shirt in very ORANGE!! cotton. I’m kind of torn about this one. At first I felt like it was a cheery, citrussy, summery piece, but then I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and had thoughts of those orange vests people wear to pick up litter on the freeway. (Orange is not really in my comfort zone as far as clothes go, but I’m trying to expand my horizons.) Furthermore, Rahul was very critical of the A-line shape and said it was “smocky” and made me look “tubby.” I didn’t like this, and he said, in a very logical way, “But you aren’t tubby! My point is that it makes you look tubby but you’re not. I just thought you’d want to know if it looks bad.”

“But I like it!”

“Well, then don’t listen to me! If you like it, you should wear it!”

This exchange was completely infuriating because it was making me really mad, but at the same time, I knew I was being illogical and unreasonable. I showed him about five tops from Lucky with a similar shape and he said he believed me, but that still didn’t mean the top was flattering. I realized that my desired outcome was basically for him to change his mind about the top, which wasn’t going to happen. It doesn’t feel good to realize you’re being a pitch-perfect negative female stereotype in the “Do these jeans make my butt look big?” genre.

Here’s the shirt.

Pattern: The Titus Summer Blouse pattern from Renegade Sewing, from Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley. I think the pattern was made up by one of the store employees–I haven’t seen any references to it online aside from other people who bought it in the store. When I was back at home for Thanksgiving, my bestest childhood friend Sarah showed me two or three of these blouses she had made from this pattern and I loved it so much I ran out and bought it right away.

Fabric used: Some kind of orange Indian cotton with a red warp and yellow weft, or vice versa–is this considered a chambray? The pattern calls for 1 7/8 yards and I was a little bit short of this–1 3/4 yards or 1 1/2 yards. If you’re short of the main color, you could easily use a small amount of a contrasting color for the yoke, either the lining or both sides.

Started: 12/29/07 (cutting out the pattern and fabric)

Finished: 12/30/07 (sewing everything together)

Size: Small (I might want to add a tiny bit of width in the yoke next time–the shoulders seem slightly too narrow on me.)

Mods: Changed the cutting layout to allow for the amount of fabric I had–slightly less than what was called for in the pattern. The pieces seemed to be laid out in a very simplistic way–the U-shaped yoke pieces are facing the same direction on the layout, so you waste big squares of fabric in the middle of each U. I rotated one of them 180 degrees and moved it up and closer to the other yoke piece so that the “U” shapes interlocked. I guess if the fabric had a nap, that might cause a problem? Two of the four yoke pieces just serve as lining for the other two, though, so as long as the two pieces on the outside were pointing the right way, I don’t think you would have any problems even if they were cut upside down.

Notes: This is a very simple and easy pattern, a great confidence-builder for a sewing klutz like me. It only has three pattern pieces–yoke, sleeve, and body–and basically everything is gathered, so it’s easy to ease pieces into other pieces when you’re putting it all together. Despite its simplicity, I managed to sew quite a few pieces together inside out or backwards and spent a lot of quality time with my seam ripper. Maybe I should have used pins.

I used some of the leftovers from the ORANGE!! blouse to make some adorable coasters. I love them!

Pattern: Pulled Thread Coasters from Simple Gifts to Stitch, by Jocelyn Worrall

Fabric used: ORANGE!! cotton, 10 x 15″ piece; blue botanical Anna Griffin Blythe cotton from Purl Patchwork, 30″ x 5″ piece

Started: 12/30/07

Finished: 12/30/07

Notes: I love the book this pattern came from! It has so many utterly simple but really cute ideas–a sophisticated pleated vinyl purse, a clamshell change purse that you squeeze at the sides so it opens like a snapdragon, a wide-wale corduroy leaf pillow cut on the bias so the corduroy wales mimic leaf veins. And of course this simple but lovely coaster pattern. I got it from the library but I might have to buy it for myself at some point.

These coasters are made by pulling threads out of the warp and weft of the fabric with a seam ripper at marked intervals, revealing stripes of the contrasting warp and weft colors, then cutting the resulting fabric into squares and backing them with a contrasting fabric. It’s a very fast and easy pattern; it probably took me less than an hour to make these six coasters, including time spent carefully picking out threads.

The complementary-color combination of blue and orange cheers me up every time I look at it.

Here’s a glimpse of a little knitting WIP. It’s sort of kind of orange. Close enough, anyway. It’s the Heartstrings Flared Lace Smoke Ring (I first saw this pattern on Eunny’s blog) and I’m knitting it in Elann’s new Kidsilk Haze clone, Silken Kydd, same silk/mohair fiber content at half the price, on size 6 needles.

This colorway, Baked Apple, is already sold out. I bought it to see if it would make a good substitute for KSH in Liqueur, but it’s not that close. Baked Apple is more of a russet red, on the orange side of the spectrum, rather than a burgundy or wine color.

I’ve never knit with Kidsilk Haze, but I think the mohair in this yarn is probably not as high quality. It feels perceptibly rougher in the skein than KSH or Artfibers Tsuki (comparison of KSH and Tsuki here), although I don’t find it itchy. I think the hairs are probably longer, thicker, and crimpier than KSH. The silk is very lustrous and strong, and the color of the yarn is nicely saturated.

This yarn seems to be neverending. I guess that’s a good thing, but I feel like I’ve been knitting and knitting and my knitting gets larger but my skein never gets any smaller. I cast on for this project while we were staying with Rahul’s parents in Missouri, on the day after Christmas, and the pattern is actually easy enough that it’s my new TV knit–it’s a very repetitive ribbed lace stitch pattern, in the Pomatomus family, so I just need to glance at the chart at the beginning of each row.

Aside from making things in bright colors, I’ve been listening to this song about the “Paul is Dead” urban legend to keep myself cheerful.  It’s the happiest song about a conspiracy theory I’ve ever heard.

Happy New Year!

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