Tuesday, May 25, 2010

keepin it real

This is what my frustration looks like right now:

My dining room. Not so good for dining these days. Or for anything else. You know it's bad when I just give up and cover the sewing machine! Clockwise from the left we have a pile o' ironing that just keeps growing; dotted swiss pajamas for Daughter that are so close to completion...yet so far; notions and machine, gathering dust; shoebox with china tea set that AJ keeps breaking so it is hidden away; jeans hanging on chair that need patches sewn down; knitting projects in various stages of completion; paperwork from kitchen table, thrust aside so we can actually eat; markers and glitter glue, put here so my darling son will stop writing all over the house with them.

You can perhaps understand why I am not getting much done in this mess.

But I would really like to finish these:

And I'd like to do it ASAP because we're looking at temps in the high 80s this week, with nights in the high 60s/low 70s. Our house is situated north/south, and the wind usually blows east/west, so air circulation is a problem, especially at night. In the summer we've found the only solution is lots of fans and the lightest pjs we can find. This dotted swiss is like air, so light and lovely. If only I could find an hour to get the armhole and ruffles done.

So many ideas and projects to work on...


For now I will take my knitting outside and try to work a few stitches in the sticky heat, while the children do some of this:

I think I'll get out the kiddie pool, too. I can sit with my toes in the cool water and let the kiddos splash around. Last week we were wearing sweaters, today it will be almost 90. Weird!

But first, the ever-obtrusive therapy appointment to get through. Bleh.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

another EZ sweater

I took down my woe-is-me post. I couldn't stand to read it, so how could you? Bleh.

Let's talk about knitting instead. That's what keeps me relatively grounded and happy and gives me a feeling of accomplishment.

Here's the latest F.O. - another Elizabeth Zimmermann "percentage system" sweater, this one for my son:

I was going for about a 26" chest measurement here, so I started with 120 stitches for the ribbing, then increased to 130 (26 inches X 5 stitches per inch).

The rest is just about exactly the same as the other EZ sweater I made for Daughter, the only real changes being the stitch counts, and 2X2 ribbing instead of seed stitch. The sleeves are long and the sweater is boxy...just what I am hoping AJ will need come fall and winter.

Needles used: US 6 and 7
Yarn used: almost exactly 4 skeins Knitpicks Wool of the Andes in the jalapeno colorway. I love this yarn. It doesn't feel really heavy when you're knitting with it, but it has a springiness that really comes through in the squishy finished garment. All the sweaters I've made with it end up feeling a lot more substantial than sweaters knit with other worsted weight wools. This will be a really warm sweater for my little guy.

Two sweaters in two weeks! That's a new record for me! I think I'll try the percentage system for a cardigan next...just give me about a week.

Friday, May 14, 2010

a little knitting

We haven't had any knitting content around here for awhile, hmmm?

Let's see, what do I have? Oh yes. First of all, the extremely boring socks I've been working on for Hubs...seemingly forever. These were obviously a labor of love!

Really, really boring and gigantic socks. I should have thrown something into that photo for scale. These babies are ginormous. I bought the yarn (Patons Kroy...I believe the color is called Linen, but I always call it "putty" because that is what it reminds me of) way back in, I don't know, maybe January or February of 2009. I intended these for Hubs' birthday in July of last year, but just wasn't able to get them done with all that was going on.

Well, now they are finished, and will be wrapped up for this coming birthday, even though he knows about them (and tried on the first one for me so I knew the size would be right).

Next up, something I started last weekend and could not put down...this was like knitting crack, people!

An Elizabeth Zimmermann "EPS" sweater for Daughter. Knitters, if you haven't made one of these, you really should. It is so satisfying! You just start out with whatever needles/yarn/gauge you want and magically come up with a sweater that fits!

For this sweater I used some pretty purple heather-y Wool Ease that I got for my birthday. I like to knit most worsted weight yarns on a US size 7 needle at 5 stitches/inch. The problem is, most patterns I've come across want you to knit worsted weight at a gauge of more like 4.25 or even 4 stitches to the inch on US 8 or 9 needles. Sorry, but I disagree with that! First, I can never actually get that gauge anyway, and second, it makes a loosely knit fabric that will tend to pill with wear.

I primarily used Knitting Without Tears as my reference for this sweater, though there wasn't much to look up. The basic idea is this: you come up with a "main number" based on measurement and gauge (for me this was 150: I wanted a 30" circumference at 5 st/in), then you base all other numbers on that. I wanted the bottom to be slightly narrower than the body, so I cast on 10% fewer stitches to start (135), knit the seed stitch on a smaller needle (US 6), then increased to 150 on the first knit round using my size 7 needle.

She recommends starting the sleeves of a child's sweater at 1/3 of the body number (1/5 for adults), but I didn't want a boxy sleeve for Daughter. She is very slim and has long slender limbs, so I went with about 1/4 (38 st) to start the sleeve, then increased to 50 (1/3 of the total body stitches) at a rate of 2 stitches increased every 6 rows. You can see the increases pretty clearly on the sleeve in the photo above.

Is this making any sense?

Once I got to the 50 stitches, I knit plain for several inches...I think the sleeve underarm ended up at 14", which is a bit long for Daughter right now, but summer is beginning and I intended this sweater to be for next fall and winter. It is oversize right now but should fit nicely for at least one and perhaps two winters.

I knit up the body in the round to the armholes (11"), then joined the whole mess, leaving 12 stitches free of both sleeve and underarm, to be woven together at the end. I got that number by using 8% of my "main number" of 150. How cool is that? It all works out so neatly.

Anyway, once I got it all joined and knit a few rounds plain just to make things look nice and tidy, I began raglan decreases, and as EZ says, you find yourself going along like a house on fire...the rounds just keep getting smaller till suddenly you're shaping the neck, knitting the collar, and voila! You're just about done! A quick kitchener stitch of the underarm and that's it. AWESOME.

I'm not thrilled with the collar, as I forgot to switch to a size 6 needle like I used for the seed stitch ribbing and cuffs. It's a bit loose, so for the next time I'll certainly remember to do it right. But Daughter loves it and I'm too lazy to rip it out, so I'm satisfied enough to leave it alone.

So addictive, I started another immediately, for number one son:

Sleeve halfway done while listening to the rain pour down last night with the window open...it was so nice! I love opening the windows! (I do find it odd that I'm still comfortable curled up under blankets, knitting, in the middle of May...it should really be in the 70s by now...)

This method, at its most basic, does not produce a particularly elegant garment. But modified with a little shaping or some pretty stitch patterns, it could! I'm envisioning stripes using up leftovers right now...and some stitch patterns in the yoke...so fun! Anyway, it works out fantastically right now for simple, hard-wearing sweaters for my kids to use and abuse as they run around both inside and out. I want them to be warm and comfortable and wrapped in handmade goodness. These EZ sweaters fit the bill.

Monday, May 10, 2010

a few more summer garments

Ok, so, it's May 10 and I am wearing a wool sweater. WOOL. It snowed yesterday, people. The highs this week are only in the 50s! Boo.

We can't wear our summer clothes yet, but the yucky weather gave me a bit of an excuse to continue sewing them:

More from Butterick 4176! Wow, I would say I am getting my money's worth from this pattern.

The swing top is exactly the same as the dress, but shorter. Having made two of the dresses, I didn't even have to consult the instructions for the shirt. Very easy! The shorts are the same as those I've shown previously, also very, very easy to construct. Daughter picked the fabrics last week at Joann's. It took some convincing to get her to agree to coordinating patterns...once she saw a picture above the bolts of fabric of a little girl in a similar outfit, she was totally into it.

And the final sundress of the 2010 season (I think...), another from Simplicity 5489. Daughter also chose this fabric, so hopefully she will actually want to wear this one. I once again lengthened the top of the dress pattern and eliminated the bias band at the bottom, and on this one I added an extra inch. Daughter is so tall and leggy, she really needs the extra length. And once again the pattern runs between the selvage edges, so I had to cut the pattern pieces on the crossgrain. Which is fine, but I couldn't squeeze the facings out of the remaining fabric. I used batiste with lightweight interfacing again, just as I did on the white dress I posted last time.

I was also quite pleased to find a couple pairs of capri leggings at Old Navy this weekend, so Daughter can wear these dresses to the playground and to school in the fall. We got the "dress guidelines" for her new school and they recommend the children wear shorts, t-shirts, and sneakers to school each day because of gym class and recess. Um, I have made 7 freaking sundresses...she will wear those too! So capri leggings to the rescue!

I think that just about completes the summer sewing for Daughter, except for pajamas/nightgowns. I have one set of pjs almost complete (ran out of bias tape with one armhole to go), and am planning one nightgown. Those, along with the 2 or 3 sets of storebought pjs/nightgowns she already has, should get her through the whole summer nicely.

I still have several items in the queue for myself, and even though AJ does not technically need any more summer items (we got a ton of hand-me-downs from a friend), I have a pattern for a romper that is calling to me. I'm thinking a patriotic madras kind of look, perhaps with a matching skirt for Daughter? Hmmm? A little 4th of July matchy-matchy kind of thing?

Then there's always the knitting...got a Zimmermann percentage system sweater in the works for Daughter (body and one sleeve just about complete) for fall, several pair of socks hanging out on needles around the house, big plans for new mittens for both kids...so many things I want to make!

And there's the garden to get planted, and yardwork to do, and the downstairs powder room that is desperately in need of a paint job. And AJ starts speech therapy soon with an entirely new therapist, 2X/week, so I have a stranger coming around and must keep the house in order for that. I really don't even have time to breathe much these days. It's a little nuts.

How about you? What projects are keeping you hopping?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

so far, 'sew' good

Oh, I love me a lame blog post title, don't you?

I finally got around to photographing and posting the summer sewing thus far...both kids are taking a nap due to a super active morning, so I am taking advantage!

Let's get right to it then.

For Daughter:

3 pairs of shorts, all from Butterick 4176. Cute pattern, very easy to execute, but kind of a high rise on these. However, that might be good for playing outside in the summer...she won't be constantly tugging them up as she plays. We haven't found many storebought shorts that actually fit in the waist for my skinny girl, so hopefully these will work out. The cottons are two really old cuts that I used for sundresses when she was, I believe, 2 years old. I had about 1/2 yard left of each, just enough for these shorts. And the denim is quite a nice weight, purchased from W*Mart when the fabric department closed a couple months back.

#3 (of 4) using Simplicity 5489. Oh, how I love this pattern! It is so easy, and gives such a satisfying result. On the others I made, I used the bias band that the pattern calls for, but on this I simply lengthened the main dress piece by about 5 inches. I only bought a yard of this totally awesome fabric, and when I got home I realized that the design ran from selvage to selvage. Whoops! Not enough fabric to cut all the pieces properly, so I used batiste and a lightweight interfacing for the facing pieces. The buttons are just white plastic, but I didn't want to take away from the print. LOVE this fabric! (Daughter says she hates it, but I think she'll come around.) The 4th dress (from this pattern) is cut out and awaits assembly. That will be sundress #7 total for this summer, so I think I can lay off the sundresses now!

For AJ:

I bought a 1-yard cut of this buttery soft linen in a lovely brownish color, intending to make AJ some little lightweight pants for this summer. Unfortunately I grabbed the size 2 pattern pieces rather than size 1, and as my kids tend to run one size behind their ages, these are too big for this year. Hopefully next Spring they will be the right size. I'm not even sure which pattern I used for these...any basic pull-on pants pattern would give the same result.

And for me:

Really, really basic pull-on skirt to run errands in all summer long...made from a really old cut of ugly purple-gray linen I got on clearance at Hancock fabrics. I know we were in our first apartment when I bought it, and it predates Daughter by at least a year. The pattern I used is ancient, too: McCall's 3199, "quick & easy drawstring skirts in 5 lengths." I cut the XS in the shortest length, and it fits perfectly, hitting just above the knee. This pattern obviously runs HUGE, as I'm never an XS in anything. I'm not even an S, and often not an M. So yeah, it's got a lot of ease.

Wrap skirt using another cut of fabric and pattern that have been around forever - the pattern is New Look 6637 (long and short wrap skirts, drawstring pants and shorts). I made this pattern about 10 years ago, I'm guessing, and it was a disaster. I didn't really know what I was doing, so I'm betting my darts were awful, and I used ties as called for in the pattern. Now, seriously ladies, who would ever want bulky ties right at their waistline? It just looked awful...made me look frumpy and lumpy and fat around my middle. Ugh!

But then I saw a blog post somewhere about wrap skirts that button, and I thought, eureka! I could totally modify this!

I used a pretty piece of pique, donated to my stash by my mom, who intended it for a sundress for herself, oh, probably about 15 years ago now. The problem is, it is white, and who wants their underpants showing under a white skirt? Not me. So I chose to make another entire skirt out of white batiste, and I simply sewed them together, all the way around, leaving an opening in one of the lining seams. Then I turned it right sides out, pressed, measured carefully for one inner and two outer buttons, and voila! I now have a cute, just above-the-knee skirt that is really quite flattering. And my underpants do not show.

I plan to make at least one more of these, as they are so easy and very comfortable!

And finally, a linen top. I took major liberties with the colors here so the lint on my bathroom mirror wouldn't show up in the picture. The actual color matches the fuchsia in the wrap skirt. It looks seriously awful on the hanger, so I had to take a modeled photo. This is some linen I bought about 3 or 4 years ago at Joann's, meaning to make a long-sleeved blouse from it. And I remember buying it, too, because it was another incident of rudeness at the Joann's cutting counter...I was also purchasing featherweight interfacing that day for another project, and the woman haughtily told me I was buying the wrong interfacing for this linen and my project would never work out.


This is another somewhat old pattern, New Look 6483, which I have used in the past with great success. The only change I made to the pattern was to lower the dart by about 1 inch. I can never understand whose bust these patterns are drafted for. Are your boobs up under your chin? Cause mine sure aren't, but the dart in this pattern points way, way too high. Lowered slightly, it works out just perfectly. I cut the 12 and made no further modifications, and I find the top fits exactly how I like, with slight ease for movement, but no gapping. I LOVE linen, so will probably make a few more of these if I can find enough scrap linen in my stash.

Well, those are the finished garments as of today. I have a few more things cut for Daughter, and then she should be just about done for the summer. AJ isn't really getting anything handmade this year due to his physical needs (turns out they make onesies all the way up to 5T, hallelujah). I still need more summer things because my wardrobe hasn't been updated since before I had children. At least a sundress and a couple more skirts and tops are needed. Maybe some capri pants. I also placed a recent order with fabric.com for several cuts of lawn and dotted swiss to make summer nightgowns/pajamas for Daughter and myself. Now that I've tossed all the breastmilk-stained summer PJs, there isn't much left in my drawer!

I'll keep plugging away at it, a little at a time, until we all have what we need. But really, despite the enjoyment I get out of sewing, I cannot imagine having to make a wardrobe for a large family completely by hand as they did in the old days. I know people had only a few garments each, but still...to make everything, including underthings and linens, all by hand and by candle/oil lamp light? Sheesh. I tip my hat to those frontier women who did it all (with no electricity nor running water, and a baby on their hip).

So, what are you making?