Thursday, June 28, 2012

Back to Basics

Here are a couple of shots of the initial reno demolition (attic loft). It has been a finished room for some period of time (since the 20s, we imagine) but the space has heretofore been limited by dormers and low ceilings.

That's lathe stuck to the studs, which you cannot yet see. We think it's about 100 years old. The old carpet is still on the floor - a totally different colour than it used to be! I suspect that the floor is hardwood. We'll know soon enough. Scott and I are arguing about finishing. I am inclined to spend the time and money to restore the original wood (presuming it's salvageable). Scott wants to put in pre-finished hardwood on top of the existing floor (with padding in between to protect the original floor and provide sound insulation). This will cost less and will not damage any original flooring which can be restored at another time.

That's cellulose insulation - effectively, newspaper?! It was all the rage in the 1920s but we think they pumped it in (it's known as blown insulation) in the 1980s. (Speculation, of course.) See how the sill plate has been cut into? I wonder why.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Short Cut to Short Rows

Craftsy lured me back last week with a "We Haven't Seen You in a While" coupon. I got Kenneth King's jeans tutorial for $19.99. When first I looked at it, months ago, I'm sure it cost $80.00.

I just went to visit, for kicks, and found a new course on short rows taught by Carol Feller - for FREE! I don't know if it just managed to be free for me (that I think this is within the realm of possibility says a lot about me) or if it's simply a free course. Maybe it's just free today? At any rate, you can't go wrong with a free course on short rows. Even if you can't imagine ever needing to use them, trust me, you will.

I'm intrigued to see that Craftsy course fees seem to be coming down. Courses that went for 80 bucks (and I don't think I'm imagining that) are now half that. I wonder what that's about?

Update 2 seconds after posting: Apparently, everyone who's left comments on the short rows course is complaining about the video taking forever to load and then glitching. Hmmm... I guess Craftsy hasn't got its act together yet? Maybe you can go wrong with a free course? I'm going to see if it'll work for me...

Yet another update: I've been watching the video for an hour without incident. All I can say is that the instruction is excellent - Ms. Feller is the clearest and least chatty instructor I've watched on the site so far. (Note that I'm not looking for a conversationalist. I just want the instructor to explain the issue clearly without fluff and this teacher delivers.) I've worked a lot of short rows lately. Over a couple of projects, I've applied them to create shaping in sleeve caps, bust darts and the curl-over curve of a shawl collar. I'm really happy to have access to this video to learn about the Japanese method (and when it's most useful) and how to manipulate stitches to pick up wrap and turn loops tautly. No complaints here so far.

It Took A While...

So, I've finally finished my cropped shawl sweater, a month after beginning the project. That may not seem like a huge time investment for something created from scratch, but it was protracted from my vantage point. The last 6 weeks have been other-worldly on the busy front. I've got to get through this next week (a few events, readying the kid for 6 weeks away and getting myself organized, reno starts tomorrow - demo starts on Wed. etc.) and then I'm off to NC.

Let's start with the pics and then I'll tell you about my findings:

While it looks better on me, what with me being a real person, it's too wide in the shoulder... Remember, this dress form is wider than me, and you can still sort of see it. Mind you, on me, the front comes together in a nicer way.

Here's that join that traumatized me. In the end, it's not noticeable to others. I'm going to see if I can provisionally cast on these stitches in my next attempt. If it doesn't work, at least I will have tried.
Overexposed to show the detail...

This is the true colour. Look at those adorable buttons. I got them with Mardel in NYC last year...

I hand-sewed silk petersham ribbon to back the button holes and the buttons. What a production... (see below)

The Good:
  • It's a lovely cut.
  • Practical!
  • The yarn worked really well, even though it was a light worsted rather than a DK.
  • My many sizing alterations and, ahem, experiments, seemed to work pretty well.
  • It's not hard to make once you know what you're doing.
  • I had awesome help from everyone - thank you!
The Less Good:
  • Those short rows were mind-bending until I figured them out.
  • I learned (the hard way) that you need to end the upper back and upper front pieces on the same row (right at the underarm join), or you're pattern will be uneven. Oh well - it really is not noticeable unless I point it out.
  • This thing is too big in the shoulders. Next time I'm going to take 12 stitches (about 2 inches) out of the upper front and back to get the cap to sit right on my narrow shoulders. I will add those stitches back at the underarm join when I start making the body of this top down sweater, so that I don't lose necessary width at the full bust. I don't think, given the construction method, that I can do this any other way. But if anyone can identify potential challenges with my proposed work around, pls. advise!
  • I had enough yarn to lengthen the body slightly more, and to lengthen the sleeves. Next time (I'm going to use exactly the same yarn in a diff colour so that I don't have to rescope sizing), I will add about an inch to body and to sleeves.
The Ugly:
  • I really do not like that join at the shawl collar. I don't know if provisional cast on will solve the problem. It will remove the horizontal seam, but it may not fix the half-stitch off challenge.
  • I did not start the first few rows of the through-the-back-loop rib very elegantly. It does show on the finished product (not that I'm going to highlight it for you). Alas, that's a learning curve element that will not be repeated. I more than got comfortable with the rib stitch in the course of making this sweater.
  • The instructions were not particularly helpful - and I identified an error that cost me a few hours in ripping back the left-collar. Directions instruct one to short row on the inside of the collar instead of the outside. Note: I find knitting instructions to be suboptimal at the best of times. I think it's more about the convention and my lack of experience than about the instructions themselves.
And Let's Talk About The Machine Buttonholes:
  •  Lord, this was a production - and not one that I can guarantee will really add much to the finished sweater. I mean, it's not like there's so much weight on the (short) button band that everything's going to stretch all to hell...
  • ...Except, in trying to get the sweater under the needle on my Singer, I had to stretch that band all to hell. Here's hoping that some steam and reblocking will tighten the whole thing up again.
  • To its credit, the machine did not mess up the buttonholes - and this sweater plus ribbon is about as much bulk as one could insert under the needle under any circumstances. (The buttonholer imposes some restrictions because you can't lift it up very high.) The pile of the knit rib made things particularly challenging.
  • The reason that the buttons are not perfectly aligned on the band is because I had very little option to maneuver things once I eventually positioned the band under the needle. I actually used a piece of plastic to help slide things around. You can even stitch through it, but I didn't find it necessary with the Singer. It didn't struggle with the buttonholes at all (this machine is STRONG).
  • There is nothing quite so stressful as applying a make or break technique to your garment at the last second. This was a very good learning experience, but I wonder if I'll use it again on this particular sweater.
But enough of the chatter. What do you think of the finished product? Do you think the machine buttonholes add or detract from the final result?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Grade 6 Was So Last Year

We had her hair styled (alas, all the curls fell out due to humidity) and she chose the necklace (from her collection) - which works great with the outfit, IMO.

The graduation event was surprisingly emotional - and has inspired intense discussion (some of it very sad, very deep) between me and Scott.

I wish for my child that she will take the sustenance of her longstanding community into a new one, to find what thrills her creatively, what intrigues her intellectually. I see her on the precipice, between childhood and independence, and I hope this next phase will be kind. I hope she finds her place. I hope she makes wonderful friends she will know when she is 42. I hope that I can nurture her through the next phase, that my compulsion to fulfill my own creative goals doesn't impinge on my ability to parent her well. I love my girl, even though it's hard for me to be somebody's mother. I hope she understands.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

This Crazy Thing I Did

You know how I went shopping for the grad dress. Well, other than prosecco, what I really needed was an easy shopping moment. I decided it would be educational to show M how it works: You find something you want/need. You look for the right size. You take a couple of sizes into the change room (just in case). You try on. Optional: You ask the SA for another size. You debate the merits of the garment in all of the sizes. You decide whether the purchase is viable (this takes 5 minutes). You buy. OR You walk.

The item in question, for me, was jeans. You know I wear them tout le temps. I've tried to make them. (Disaster.) Note: I will make another pair of jeans. I just need some more time to get over the last experience - and to feel more comfortable with making buttonholes.

Anyway, I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I have been intrigued by Not Your Daughter's Jeans for quite a while. They're supposed to disguise one's post-natal / middle-aged abdominal challenges. In full disclosure, I've had those challenges since before I had a kid or approached middle age.

I found myself at The Bay - looking for M's grad dress shoes - on a sale day - and the jeans were right next to the shoes.

You may recall that, recently, I tried on every pair of jeans in a "denim boutique", only to find that there wasn't a-one with a rise that hit my navel - except for a tall-brand (name eludes me right now). Amazingly, the tall jeans fit my proportions pretty well - because I'm all legs in as much as I have height. But over time they've stretched out everywhere. I knew from the get-go that the fabric memory was mediocre, but I bought them out of impulse - and I've vaguely disliked them ever since. (Note: It's rare that I buy something I come to dislike, but it does happen...) I'm still looking for a pair to approximate my Second Denim (Yoga) jeans - a brand I loved, the quality of which has floundered in recent times. I really cannot recommend the new crop.

This is where NYDJ (I cannot bear to call it by name) comes in. While waiting for M to choose shoes, I was pleased to try them but amazed to find that the petite style was WAY too short (I'm only 5'3" people). The regular size, however, was the perfect length, and they are very well-constructed jeans indeed. The fabric memory is awesome. The rise is HIGH (but not visibly so). The pockets are well-positioned to give the impression of a high-derriere. The width of the bootleg is not extreme, but balancing. There are no stitching embellishments (at least on the style I tried). The denim is dark and rich. Happily, there are no signs of branding to call one's attention to the horror of the name.

Seriously, ladies, this denim is an excellent product and it looks awesome. When I tried these jeans on, M said: Wow, they're amazing! You have to get them! When I told her the brand name she snort-laughed and said: Do NOT tell anyone! That's the worst thing I've ever heard. If they're not daughter's jeans, what are they? Mom-jeans???

Now, the thing is, name aside, they're not cheap. Note: I think you're high to go cheap on jeans unless you are a) very young and slim or b) truly unable to afford anything else. Good denim shows its chops. It's cut well, it wears well. It trims and lengthens. It looks luxe, no matter you pair it with. I managed to get a discount, though the jeans were not actually on sale. But I would have paid the $170.00 price tag (which comes to $192.00 after tax). As it is, I paid $160.00.

I also believe that they are optimally constructed for a shorter woman with an apple shape that's proportionate but not extreme.  (What I mean is, though they come in plus size, I don't know that they're ideal for that shape. If you fall into that bracket and you've tried them, I'd love to know your thoughts!) I don't think they're long enough in the leg for a really tall woman (though I didn't see the "tall" sizes). I don't think they'd work fantastically for a pear-shape - as the derriere fits well on the basis of the fit constructed around a proportionately larger stomach. The legs are pretty slim, if stretchy, so I don't think those with width in the upper thigh or low hip will necessarily find them flattering. Essentially, I'm suggesting that they fit a slimmish apple frame with a proportionately large stomach - the kind of shape you see in certain middle-aged women who've had kids or who are embarking on the journey to menopause. Wow, I sure do make them sound sexy.

Hilariously, they are so vanity-sized, it's absurd. I bought a size 4 (a stretchy 29 inch waist and 39 inch hips). I think this size might actually be a bit loose as the denim wears. You can see they're appealing to the woman who used to be an RTW size 4. But I'm not knocking it.

So, have you tried this brand? What do you think of my perspective on the demographic? Does the name totally put you off? Do you agree that California-designed denim is the best around? (I do.) Let's talk...

Sunday, June 17, 2012


This post is brought to you by a weird woman who's worn sunglasses more or less non-stop for the last 3 days - I'm wearing them even now as I type this in my living room (and I've diminished the brightness on my computer screen) because the migraine I got late last week seems to have left me quite photosensitive.

M and I, on our crazy adventure today (migraine-inducing for anyone) ate lunch at Holt's and I just know our waiter (a really discreet guy I've known for years) thought I'd had work done. I mean, when ladies wear their sunglasses at the Holt Renfrew upstairs restaurant, it's code. Even M said: Mummy, they're being really nice to you today.

But enough about me, this post is about shopping for a grade 6 graduation dress (plus shoes!) with and for my daughter. I put it off for as long as possible, what with my strong contention that graduating from grade 6 is ridiculous and that spending wads of money on a forced occasion adds insult to injury. Did I mention I have a reno starting in a week? And I'm going to NC (2 grand for tickets people)? And I've got Scott's birthday dinner next weekend? You can see where I'm coming from...

Alas, I'm not going to be the mother who makes her kid wear one of my dresses on principle (largely because she can't fit into any of them). We went out, but first we made a pact. Our pact was that she would back off if I refused to buy something because I couldn't approve of it and that I would back off if she refused to try something because she couldn't approve of it. And, that if we started to fight for any reason, we would hug instead.

We spent a lot of time hugging.

And thank goodness I reneged on my part of the bargain or she never would have been forced to try on this (the last hope for humanity, in case you're interested):

It's Max Azria - a cherry red silk ruffled number with boning (and silicone seams). It's actually sleevless. Those straps keep it on the hanger.

It is beautifully made. Honestly, it's top-notch RTW construction. Originally, it was $400.00 and it was reasonably priced, IMO. We got it for $150.00 which, given that the kid is not going to any cotillions in the next year, is a total insanity.

But wait, you might think, she'll wear it sometime in the future - to a wedding! Um, she has gazelle legs. Her legs are longer than mine at this point and my legs are very long. This thing is on the cusp of too-short already. And it's a petite size 0, so good luck finding someone else who'll fit into it.

In truth, I had to renege on my part of the pact because she flat out REFUSED to try anything on. Store after store yielded nothing she would even consider. She didn't like ruffles, colour, black, white, short, long, sleeves, sleeveless, tight, loose. Lord.

People, today I learned that my child is a terrible shopper. As bad as my mother?! She's like a deer caught in the headlights wherein dresses are the headlights. OMG, I thought I was going to lose my mind.

Of course, this shouldn't come as any surprise to me. I've been buying her everything she wears since she was born, on my lunch hour, and it always fits (it's a gift I have) and she always loves it (well, 90% of the time) so that's that. Horrifyingly, I have facilitated the kind of shopping anxiety in my kid that, formerly, I have only seen on television shows.

Here's what you need to know about me. I am an awesome shopper. Oh, many things I do mediocrely, but shopping is not one of them. I'm decisive. I know what will fit me (or you, or anyone on the street). I know what won't fit anyone under any circumstances. I know how to talk to the SAs so they find things in the back that are perfect that otherwise never would have made it to the floor. I have terrific taste (dare I say it myself - and I am totally bragging right now so I'll keep on)... And I do ALL THE FREAKIN' work. All you need to do is be willing to try the fucking things on and you are going to love yourself at the end of it.

Long story short, after I threatened to make her go to grad naked, my daughter agreed to try on the red dress. Is it an inappropriate cut for a 12 year old? I prefer to ask whether it's any less appropriate than grade 6 graduation. In jeans and a t shirt, she already looks much older than she is. It's not as if I'm trying to pull of a Toddlers in Tiaras thing. The dress fits perfectly and she will be wearing it with flat sandals. OK, flat, gladiator sandals. In gold. (What, they are actually an eclectic match for a kid who knows how to work hard and soft. And have you ever tried to match a fancy red dress with anything other than a leopard pump?)

Natural shopping my kid may not have, but style she has in spades.

A Short (Row) Discussion

Let's talk briefly about short rows (again). I can't say I really understand them in most contexts - they still hurt my brain (which has been going through some migrainous challenges this week...) - but I do get where they're coming from with the shawl collar.

In fact, as happens so frequently, a mistake (costing me hours and ripped-back yarn), recently explicated how they work to shape a collar.

OK, they're not actually adding depth to the collar, as I see it, though I suppose you could view it that way. They're acting like notches in a sewn curve (i.e. the notches you clip into a bust curve of a princess seam to get it to lie properly). They're giving shape to the collar by adding little pie-shaped wedges around the outer curve.

When you knit you can't clip your yarn to achieve the proper turn of fabric and drape, so you have to introduce appropriate "shaped-space" into the construction of your fabric.

Here's the very general, unadorned anatomy of the shawl collar short row:
  • Row 1: You knit over to a specified stitch, wrap around the next stitch, turn your work around.
  • Row 2: Now you knit back to where you started at the beginning of row 1. You have a weird little row that doesn't actually affix to anything, except by a wrapped loop. This is the short row.
  • Row 3: You knit back to that wrapped stitch, pick it up and keep going till you get to the end of the "real" row. At this point you've introduced an extra wedge of a row that doesn't actually add to your row count, though it does shape your garment.
All things being equal (and I can think of how this could be proved wrong, but I'm being general here) a wrap and turn that happens farther into the collar ribbing (closer to the side of the rib where the stitches will be sewn to the collar) will yield a broader pie-shaped wedge.

If you want a long rectangle of (ribbed) fabric to mold into a shawl-curve, you'll need to introduce wedges of different widths (i.e. "notches") at various intervals in its construction.

Does this make any sense to y'all, or is this the kind of thing that needs to be seen to be believed?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Take Heed

When you don't know much about something, and that something is a weeks-long, constructive kind of craft, you may find yourself on the receiving end of some irrevocable, crappy outcome.

My wonderful knitting friends have come out (in comments and email) to advise why, sadly, my misaligned rib is not something I can fix at this point.

First, Alexandra sent me this pic, to confirm this is an accurate representation of my problem. (It is.):

She followed with this explanation:

The band you're picking up from was knit from the top down, right? And now you need to pick up stitches from the cast-on edge of that band, and knit upward in the opposite direction? (Ed. note: Yes and yes.) 

You can't make the stitches align perfectly in ribbing. They will always look a half-stitch off. You can only pick up from the cast-on edge and match perfectly knitting the other way in stockinette and garter stitch. (The same thing applies to grafting, incidentally.) It is the nature of knitted fabric. If you zoom in on the designer's photos on Ravelry, you can just see the misalignment on the collar at the shoulder line. It's not obvious because of the marled yarn (the designer) chose.

Then, Karen sent me this fascinating link to explain what's actually going on (It's from that terrific new blog I found a few days ago.)

The short answer here, is that if you're going to have to pick up stitches on rib, and you want your rib to match what's come above or below it (depending on whether you're knitting top down or bottom up), you must have cast on the first row of the original rib provisionally. (Effectively, your first row of stitches must remain live (and on a holder) so that you can just take them off that stitch holder and keep on knitting in the opposite direction when the time comes.

Needless to say, I can't go back and fix this now (unless, maybe if I undo the original knot and tink back the stitches (which is a dicey plan if I mess that up - and by the way, I just made that up, so don't take my word for it). I mean, I could rip the whole thing back but that would be HIGH.

Instead, I'm going to hope that it's not overly noticeable a) once blocked and b) given that the colour is dark. What's the bet I'll notice it forever?

I've decided to view this as a useful life lesson and knitting experiment. I'm still not at the point where I've attached the ribbon by hand and machine knit the stitches (my alteration on this project to stabilize the rib at the closure). I can tone down the freak-factor when I get to that part of the project now that this is the first of 2 of these I intend to make. In the next version, I could also stand to go down a size (using the same yarn and smaller needle) and, potentially, add 4 extra stitches to the rib on each side.

Note: I will only make another, given that I like the design, provided I can cast on the rib stitches provisionally, because what's the point, otherwise. Mismatched stitches, I don't think so! (I need to look into this potentiality more carefully.) I have to say that this pattern is not outrageously clear - nor is it very good, on balance, given that this is the outcome I'm about to experience. There are many elements that a number of experienced knitter-helpers took issue with. No one said it was a badly written pattern; everyone said it was "interestingly written" or "unusually written" or "not written they way they'd write it". Hmmm...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Shout Out To the Experts: Picking Up and Knitting from Rib

Quick questions (oh, pls., knitting peeps, I hope you know the answer):

I'm about to start the shawl collar of my sweater. It calls for picking up stitches from the top of the rib band (26 stitches). Keep in mind that the rib band is P1 TBL (through the back loop) / K1 TBL (through the back loop).

The problem is that I can't seem to pick up those stitches (and I've tried 8 times and have all but stretched the band to shit) in such a way that the knit stitches align. Everything is just slightly off, leading to a very crappy looking join that will be noticeable in the finished product.

I am aware that picking up stitches sometimes requires going through tiny stitches at the cast on edge. I've paid very careful attention to those. When that didn't pan out (cuz there don't seem to be any tiny stitches - given the through-the-back-loop element of the construction), I went for the big stitches. That didn't work either. I've begun the pick ups in different spots to ensure that I'm catching the first stitch in the right spot. I really don't know what's left to be done.

Can anyone tell me how to manage this?? If I don't get perfect alignment I suspect it's going to look horrible.

Please help!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I've got a way to go, is how I see it. Despite the fact that this is just my perspective (rather than reality, I strongly suspect), it's forcing me to adapt. The responsibilities are "big" and they are small: getting the kid off to Montreal for a truncated, 2-day school trip that will necessitate preventative comb-outs as soon as she returns - note to reader, I don't fuck with lice anymore; my increasingly busy, and responsible, career compounded by an unexpectedly rewarding intramural side-project that takes just as much time; preparing for the reno (which apparently starts in less than 2 weeks); organizing the numerous details of my trip with M to North Carolina (where she will stay for 6 weeks); M's grade 6 graduation with associated requirement to go shopping-with-tween for stupid shoes and ridiculous dresses worn once, birthdays and dinner parties...

The list goes on.

While, in my youth, I took on stress after stress (not realizing their effects given my intense and anxiety-prone nature), with age (ahem) I realize that I don't love being pulled in all directions. What I love is immersing myself in something without care or responsibility for anything beyond it. (I know, join the club. :-))

I'm trying to take the long view here. It's a busy few months ahead. Some of the time will be busier than others. Some will be messy and tedious. Some will tug me in conflicting directions, necessitating high-stakes, sharp reasoning, the ability to provide expert advice or patience or good will. It's an embarrassment of life-circumstances converging, and I'm trying to contextualize them.

Last month, a woman I sort of knew (very peripherally), died of a horrible illness over the course of 18 months. She left behind a husband, great friends, close family and two children under the age of 12. She was 2 years older than me. She's the third person in my age bracket, I know of, who's died in the last year.

Life is in the moment, and in the quiet other moments which punctuate the loud ones. Even as I scrambled to meet the deadlines of my work today, as I felt insecure, now I write this post peacefully by myself, birds chirping outside. For each social event that seems momentarily obligated, the opportunity to eat and drink with friends sustains me. Parenting, not my core skill, throws me the occasional thrill in a child who uses humour so incisively, I know her grades do not define her. I have money (sort of) to undertake a home-transformation that may well improve the quality of my life (or the look of my house, anyhow, and we know how house-proud I am). Hell, I've got a sewing friend to fit with and a knitting network - both of which enrich my creative life immeasurably. I've got you all, in the blog world - the greatest community ever. I've just got to calm the fuck down.

This time in my life is brief, I know. It's a time free of grief, free of encumbrances (those I don't fabricate, I mean), full of movement. It's a time when I'm not too young and I'm not too old. I haven't lost the past; I don't fear the future. It's important to remember that occasionally.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

In Which I Can't Decide to Write About Just One Thing

Talk about your mash up post!

For starters, I really want to hang out here today (and for the next 2 months):

See the full post (with lots of pics) at Desire to Inspire...
That is, after I finish my yearly Parkdale horticultural tour with Nicole. Not a cloud in the sky and expected temp is 31C. I do love this tradition. Here's hoping someone's got a fancy garden with a pool I can pretend I own (a rarity in these parts, as you'd expect)...

Yesterday, S came over for a few hours and we completely changed the alterations of my first muslin. It's amazing how much we accomplished by viewing the fabric in a different light. Then we transferred the changes onto my pattern. Man, it took forever! Like a bottle of wine forever! And there were two of us doing it. OK, two of us drinking a bottle of wine. We started to understand why Sarah Veblen suggests making only a couple of alterations per muslin. Note: We really struggle with the waste of time and materials involved in using that technique, so we do push the envelope.

OMG - my altered flat pattern looks so Frankensteinian, it's crazy. S assures me that as soon as I make a new paper pattern (one that doesn't show all the added paper and slashes and markings), it will no longer look strange. But right now I feel freakish so unique. We even added these tiny darts at the front neck (sounds awful but they look great - like a design feature). It's strange to think that, were I to change the neckline from a high jewel, the need for those darts would simply disappear. I have so much fun working with S, who has a very technical approach to sewing and who gently reins me in whenever I approximate things free-hand! On the flip-side, it can look like a bomb went off in the sewing room and that doesn't bother her a whit! (Meanwhile, I have small anxiety attacks and pick up bits of paper and thread just to feel in control of my universe :-))

Eventually, I'm going to apply my learning (detailed posts to come as soon as I have the mental energy) to this AWESOME pattern, which Gail so generously gifted to me:

The side and front darts are exactly in the same orientation as my bodice shell's (my altered bodice shell). I love the hair those models are sporting. And that the pattern is called Slenderette! Who doesn't want to make a dress called the Slenderette Sheath??

Friday, June 8, 2012

Shorting Out

Short rows make my brain hurt. Really.  I have worked them before, but every time is like a new weird. Depending on where and how you use them, they can produce a very different effect (bust shaping, sleeve cap, shawl collar width etc.). I mean, basically, they add width or length or shape to one's garment without adding to the overall row count. But that's a complicated concept when you actually start applying it.

I finally conceded that I would not be able to figure out the sleeve short row instructions on my own. Good call, as it happens, because when I went to my LYS for help (thanks to Laura at Lettuce Knit), I was amazed by how off I actually was. It's like, in reading the language of Knitting, I am only occasionally fluent.

The happy news is that I managed to create a sleeve cap with short rows. It took 90 minutes of constant work. In that span, while I short rowed MANY times, I actually only completed one actual sleeve row. (Again, the concept is so whack!)

In my travels, I have found some excellent info about short rows. Sadly, none of the sources (below) could help me to understand my actual pattern instructions. What I will say is that the wrap and turn method is in no way difficult to perform. And it works. For me though, when I can't understand exactly what outcome I'm trying to achieve - and when the pattern comes with next to no useful technical drawings and spells things out in 15 words (all of them abbreviated) - it's very challenging. Note: In my brief experience of knitting patterns, they're pretty well all like that.

At any rate, you really should bookmark these:
  • TechKnitting is an awesome new-to-me blog. The writer knows her shit! She's like a structural engineer of knitting. Really, for one brief moment, I actually understood what I was doing and why. Of course, it was merely a brief glimpse at the other side...
  • Knitting Help is always an excellent source of technique videos. 
  •  LunaKnits does a great video showing 3 different styles of short rowing. Wrap and turn is merely one way of achieving the goal.
  • If you want to go all out and change up your sleeve pattern to include short rows (let's just say I see this as a distant possibility), Knitty can help.
  • Knotions provides the only short row tutorial that actually shows you how to create and position short rows for bust shaping (in a pull over sweater). This is very useful info for those of us with tits who need to shape a simple shell.
  • Finally, Fit Your Knits, an awesome Craftsy course taught by Stefanie Japel, goes through a module that expands on the Knotions link above. Among numerous other fitting techniques, it provides a bonus module to show you how to measure yourself to determine where exactly to insert your short rows - and how big to make them. I believe there's even information about how to short-row bust-shape on a cardigan. This course is not free but it's entirely worth the money. (I only hope that the new Craftsy platform facilitates using the course without video streaming delays.)
You're going to need them some day. Why not get a head start?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Updated: Age and Stage

Another long week... I'd be lying if I said Tuesday's birthday wasn't somewhat of an anticlimax. Don't get me wrong - it beats the hell out of the alternative. And my friends have been wonderful - celebrating with me (and food and wine). What could possibly mean more than friendship? However, things have been vaguely relentless lately, if only in my own mind. I don't feel old. Of course, I'm not old. But I do feel momentarily older.

What's age if not experience? And, a propos of this, allow me to share a recent discovery: phyllo brushed with butter and dusted with sugar (baked till brown) is an awesome treat. When cool, pipe on some pastry cream and drizzle with dulce de leche / chocolate sauce / berry coulis and it's divine. But really, if you can only get it up to make the wafers, that's enough. They hold up well in a ziploc bag for days.

Alas, despite years of baking under my belt (um, literally), my knitting experience is fairly shallow.

Here's where things stand:

A word to the wise: I'm loathe to mention this, but note the broken pattern at the underarm (it moves horizontally for a depth of about 5 rows). Key when knitting this thing: You've got to end the upper back piece and front pieces on the same row (see below for construction details). The pattern is 8 rows long. I ended the back piece on row 5 and the front pieces on row 8. Regrettably, the pattern doesn't clearly stipulate how to manage this and my knitting experience is woefully brief. Live and learn, I say. It's really not noticeable when you're wearing it. And if this thing works out, I will no doubt make another.

This is a strangely constructed top-down pattern:
  1. Knit the back from shoulders to mid upper back (to underarm). Put live stitches on a holder.
  2. Graft on the fronts (one after the other) and knit, also to the underarm.
  3. Merge all stitches onto the needle, cast on some extra stitches at the underarms of each side. At this point you knit down from the finished armholes.
  4. Work flat from the underarms to the ribbed hem. Here's where you're supposed to make the knit buttonholes...
  5. Pick up stitches at the armscye to make the sleeves. At this point, one has an option to shape the sleeves with short rows. I intend to give them a go.
  6. Pick up stitches to make the shawl collar. At this point, one has an option to use short rows - though precisely how is a huge mental leap. I intend to undertake this option too...
You'll notice that I haven't made button holes on the rib band. That's because, in a gambit to improve structural integrity, I intend to hand stitch ribbon to the wrong side of the "button band" area (the lower rib) and then machine stitch the buttonholes. How vintage-plus!

Yes, you did read that correctly. The super-tired woman with a pathological aversion to machine buttonholes is going to give it a go. I will first practice on my gauge swatch, natch, but I'm opting to be optimistic given recent experience with my vintage machine.

Here's the fascinating thing: When you fuck with gauge (remember I went down a needle size but I'm using a thicker yarn than is called for - this yields 5 stitches per inch vs. 5.5) you have to think ahead. I'm more or less happy with sizing - well, I think the finished product may be too large, but not unwearably so. (I waffled over XS or S. Went with S recognizing that it might be too large, when combined with the larger gauge. It's hard to say at this point, but I think the project might be moving in that direction...)

One thing's certain though: My button band area has gone from a 2 inch width (on either side of the centre front) to 3 inches. Why does this matter, particularly? Well, have you run across 3 inch-wide grosgrain ribbon lately?   

Updated: I think I must have been high on drugs when I came up with that sentence... Having just finished binding off the rib at the hem (i.e. the sweater shell is complete minus shawl collar and sleeves), it occurs that grosgrain ribbon wider than 1 inch is going to look bizarre, regardless of what width of band I affix it to. Furthermore, I have a comfortable inch of overlap of the two side fronts at the lower ribbing (the bottom 4 inches of the sweater). If I go with wider ribbon, I suspect it's going to pull.

The issue here is that I am trying to apply a technique (ribbon stabilizer) in a somewhat different way - different than the way described in the tutorial to which I linked above, at any rate. That tutorial shows ribbon  (the exact width of a continuous, i.e. collar to hem, button band) overlaid on that band. I can't run my ribbon this way because the shawl collar doesn't permit it. I'm likely going to ribbon-stabilize along the bottom 4 inches of rib only. That's the area that buttons and buttonholes will lie upon.

Mokuba happens to stock navy grosgrain in every width under the sun (including the presumed unnecessary 3"). My intention is to purchase some tomorrow, a day I'm taking entirely for myself, during which I will dine out for lunch and dinner - with others! - and shop for yarn and notions.

So here are today's questions:
  • What birthday has hit you hardest? Was it due to life circumstance? Self-imposed perspective on what age means? A brief moment in time?
  • Have you used ribbon on a button band, the likes of which I intend to? How wide was the band? How did it work? Did your machine cooperate?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Little Something I've Been Doing...

It's my birthday next week, so my friends are all being extra-nice to me.  As it happens, near-travel disaster was averted (due to flooding of the downtown core and train station on Friday). Ridiculously, my gambit to cab to the train station resulted in a standstill ride of 30 minutes in heavy rain, till I finally realized I was going to have to walk outside if I wanted to claw my way out of the city. Did I mention my brand new umbrella had broken earlier in the day? As had my suitcase?!!

Finally, after navigating hideous crowds and grossness, I boarded the train to Barrie (where friends were waiting to bring me to Collingwood). It was pretty stressful.

Mind you, once I arrived, the weather did its part to encourage us to stay inside and talk and drink and eat and BAKE.

Sandra and I made these for a fundraiser at work tomorrow:

I want you to know that there's a long, alcohol-fueled story to go along with these. I'll spare you the details. Also, they were perfect - despite some serious experimentation - until we hauled them by warmish car for 2 hours into the city. The well-set, glossy cream cheese icing has suffered somewhat, but they're still cute - if more homemade-chic than they were originally.

They're filled with either dulce de leche or vanilla bean pastry cream - which we also made from scratch. Both of these worked beautifully. (Alas, for icing purposes, this morning I tried to warm the dulce in hot water and the differentiation in temps between the water bath and the glass container ended in a broken glass container with dulce de leche guts astrewn. Such a rookie error.)

We also made Napoleons, although some of us can't remember eating them. Oh well, I've still got the fixings... Why is it that I LOVE to eat so in the spring?? I should have titled this post "I Have to Get a Grip"...