Applying knitting mind to sewing projects

7 Apr

I’m a lot more patient when knitting than when sewing.

I know, starting out, that knitting a garment one stitch at a time takes a long time. I go in with a patient, long-term expectation. But for some reason I have it in my head that no matter the complexity of a sewing project, if I just sit down and devote a whole afternoon/day/weekend to it, it’ll be done. This has no basis in logic. Yes, I can knock out quick projects like a skirt or a simple dress in an afternoon, day, or weekend. But there’s no rule that I have to–and just as in knitting, sometimes two steps forward follows with a big step back.
For some reason I routinely sit down with a knit or crochet project telling myself “I’ll just do a few rows of this lace before dinner” or “I’ll carry this scarf with me for the train ride, maybe I’ll get a half-inch finished today.” I take small bites, and am satisfied with small progress.  Maybe it’s because with sewing, I have to set up the machine, cutting table, ironing board, etc. and I feel like that effort should be rewarded by a completely finished item. But I’m going to practice changing those rules. I’m going to bite off only small parts at a time. “Tonight I’ll just cut out the pattern pieces.” “This afternoon, I’ll just add the zipper.” “Maybe tomorrow I’ll set in those sleeves.” Small, attainable, goals focused on process.


This is my hobby, after all: something I endeavor because I enjoy.  So doing it over and over, multiple days (weekends) in a row (even working on the same project) should be no problem for me. And when I find myself rushing through a hem or an interfacing, I’ll remind myself of a current work-in-progress in yarn, and try to make the mental transition.

Who wore it best?

31 Mar

On a recent day in late March, all the fashionistas were stepping out wearing the same fuzzy, fawn-colored fiber:


Francesca, the model/singer/songwriter on the left, wore hers in a curly, casual up-do, while a human sewing and knitting blogger on the right chose a more contrived cowl version, knitted in an Indian cross-stitch pattern.

91% of alpacas surveyed agreed that Francesca’s look was more successful, spontaneous, and on-trend. At any rate, alpaca wool in its own natural color is clearly a must-have for this season.

Tee shirt Makeover

28 Mar


I’ve been dressing up some tee shirts. It’s a simple wardrobe makeover: find some lace, insert it into a tee shirt, and voila, a dressier, more fashionable casual wardrobe.

But in case anyone wants a “how to”, I took some pictures along the way.

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So then, she was all, like, “Noooo, I’m going to make a scarf out of YOU!”

24 Mar


I visited an alpaca farm.  If ever there was a strange animal, it’s an alpaca. Long-necked, cleft-lipped bobble-headed beasts with a gait right out of the “Ministry of Funny Walks”, or, to an avid knitter: YARN ON LEGS.

I had this idea that I wanted to meet my yarn. You know–when you travel, you might sample national cuisines, or pick up a bottle of wine from a place you visit, to savor the flavor of the terrain.  I wanted to make something where I had firsthand experience with the source of my materials. And so I went looking for wool animals, and found these hilarious boys and girls.


Believe me, they are ridiculous animals. But I love them. I now, of course, sort of have this fantasy where I quit my day job and have a herd of alpacas and knit and weave all the time and wear only alpaca fiber that I have sheared from the animal with my own hands….well, okay, not that far. But there is something delightful about getting in touch with your materials, especially when the source is a shaggy animal with an absurdly cute face.


In the meantime, I have lots of good yarn to work with that did come directly from the fiber of the animals I met, so that goal is accomplished, and it is beautiful, luxurious fiber, indeed.


I’m especially looking forward to working with this one: it’s 600 yards of a reddish/brown dk yarn, and it looks pretty good both in the skein as well as on the original fellow who sported it, and I’ll tell you, it’s a real challenge, to find a pattern that will be worthy of him:


Now, of course, I feel like I should knit up some beautiful garment, and take it back to the farm, and find the original alpaca whose wool went into the yarn, and pose for a photo with both the animal and myself adorned in the same fleece: one raw, one spun and knitted up.  Maybe that’s a little silly.

But then again, I don’t think alpacas mind “silly” very much.


“C’mere, honey, and give mama a kiss!”

Scarf in winter

23 Feb

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time on airplanes, lately. The end result of that is that I finished another scarf.

It’s also in Madelinetosh, merino light–colorway “moccasin”. The pattern is “Semele” and it was a joy to knit–an interesting construction, knitting the leaves at an angle to the body of the scarf. And like most lace projects, watching it bloom in the blocking process–crumpled little leaves opening up to show the full stitch detail–was a great pleasure.



Finally, after all this time.

10 Feb

I finished a sweater!
I started it last May, and it was supposed to be a “quick knit”…but you know how these things go.


The pattern is called “Colors of Kauai”, by Hanna Maciejewska (here on Ravelry, for you knitters).  The yarn is Madelinetosh DK, a single-ply merino which is heavenly to work with and knits up faster than my all-time favorite, Madelinetosh Merino Light, for when I want that Tosh experience without committing to quite as much stitching.

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Thank heavens for technology

2 Feb

I’m working on a sweater I started quite some time ago. I’m coming down the home stretch, with only one button band and a narrow collar to go. The button band is knit in rib, perpendicular to the sweater body. And I lengthened the whole thing, and I like the look of closely-set buttons, so all told there are fourteen buttons running down the front.

Fourteen buttons require fourteen buttonholes, oriented vertically to my knitting. I avoided thinking about this stage, but was well aware of it creeping up on me–the possibility of knitting this area from fifteen separate pieces of yarn, using a conventional vertical buttonhole method.

But lo, these are marvelous times we live in, and times when conventional methods give way to creativity and crowd-sourced problem-solving. With a single quick Google search, I had found a blog from “Jeshknits”, with an ingenious solution. No need to separate the yarn at all! I swatched a piece to find out just how many rows I would need to work this over, to fit around my chosen buttons (six) and how it would look on my k2, p2 rib (just fine) and now I am off, just a short time later, with a speedy solution to what could have been a tedious situation.

To think: in a previous era, unless I had a Jeshknits in my own family or knitting circle, I would not have learned this new technique, and might have spent all my knitting energies repeating the same things. This goes for Jenny’s super-stretchy bind-off, every single Cat Bordhi video I’ve ever watched on YouTube, and dozens of other sources that have informed my knitting practice over the years. Truly we live in marvelous times. Even centuries-old skills like knitting are improved by this era of information-sharing.


The Little Black Mess

15 Jan

I did it: I finished a little black dress. Whoo-hoo, cheering, applause, etc.

Except that…well. I’m pretty much not happy with the results at all.  As a finished garment, it is in no way competitive with anything I would buy off the rack as a “little black dress”.  It looks, instead, rather like a high school home economics project.


It turns out that while during the process of sewing, the black fabric hides every single stitch and issue, making it difficult for me to see what I’m working on, the inverse of that is true with the finished garment:  in black, every single stitching/fit problem is highlighted and visible for all to see. See that slight puckering at the center of the neckline? That’s from an imperfect join of lining to dress fabric, where even tightly clipped, I couldn’t get the lining to lay right and had to hand-tack it in place with a few stitches.   Front and center, clearly visible to the eye. Then there’s the drag lines on all the seams, and on the darts. Drag lines on darts? I have no idea what is going on, there. The seams sag, the fabric pooches under my belly when I lean forward, the whole thing twists and bunches and hangs weirdly.


It’s crazy, because the other dress I’ve made with this same pattern is one of my favorites to wear, but  this one doesn’t work, at all. So you win some and you lose some–this one is getting hacked to pieces, quickly. I don’t want to even look at it, but I might chop it off and add a wide elastic waist and convert it to a quick pencil skirt.

In the meantime, I also, disappointingly, put holes into the fabulous textured tights I was wearing with it. Goodbye, lovely tights–you were fun while you lasted.