Owls sweater: My first knitted garment!

Owls Lady Stitcher

I felt really excited about sewing during Me-Made-May but somehow my sewjo has really collapsed in the past fortnight. I think it’s down to a combination of having difficulty finding the right fabric for the projects I want to work on and feeling a tad overwhelmed by all the sewing events I want to take part in, but don’t have time to.

BUT I am happily back into knitting! After some hiccups on that front, I’ve regained knitting confidence through the Owls sweater knit-along organised by Kat of A Krafty Kat and Sabs of Tybalt: King of Cats. I’ve had the Kate Davies pattern on standby for, literally, years but never tried it. Knitting is so much more of a commitment for me than sewing (and it’s much harder to modify the fit as you work) so I think I’ve been unnecessarily cautious about picking knitting patterns to try.

Owls Lady Stitcher Back

The knitalong was perfect for building knitting confidence: Sabs and Kat were great for giving advice throughout the project and the pattern is quite easy to follow. The only real difficulties I encountered were in trying to use the magic loop method to sew the sleeves in the round. I gave it a shot because I couldn’t find the right sized DPNs, but once I got my hands on them, knitting the sleeves was a dream. (I also knit quite tightly and had to cast off three times (!) before the neck opening was wide enough to squeeze my head through.)

I used Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky in Ruby (bought from This Is Knit in Dublin) and love the colour and softness of this merino wool. It makes for a really cosy – albeit seasonally inappropriate – sweater! I also decided, like fellow knitalonger Charlotte, not to sew on the button eyes as I prefer these little guys without them.

Owls Lady Stitcher Closeup

Buoyed by the success of this, my first finished knitted garment, I’ve already launched into a new project: the Panelled Effect Lady’s Jumper from Jane Waller and Susan Crawford’s book, A Stitch in Time. The pattern requires a bit of concentration but is not so complicated that a novice knitter can’t manage it. I’m using another Debbie Bliss yarn – a 4-ply in a steel grey colour.

Lady Stitcher Panelled Jumper

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Man versus elastic: Moneta by Colette Patterns

Moneta Ladystitcher Front

A few months ago, Colette Patterns announced plans to jointly release new knit patterns alongside a book dedicated to sewing knit fabrics. They also offered an opportunity to sign up via email and receive a free preview chapter of the book shortly prior to the launch date, so I quickly signed up and waited to see what the book would hold.

That one chapter convinced me that the book, The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits, would be an invaluable resource when learning to sew a wider range of knit and jersey fabrics. I feel I’ve gotten off to a good start by sewing a whole bunch of Coco tops and dresses (pattern by Tilly and the Buttons), but have really wanted to get stuck into sewing a broader variety of knit fabrics. I don’t have an overlocker or serger though, so have been really reluctant to give them a try.

After Colette released the new knit patterns, I quickly made up the Mabel skirt in some leftover ponte, but had to wait a bit longer before tackling the Moneta dress as it was impossible to find plastic elastic in Irish sewing stores (between dropping in and looking online, I checked over a dozen shops but just couldn’t find the right elastic!). I had held off from ordering from overseas as the postage was higher than the price of the elastic (!) but I finally ordered it from Minerva and it was delivered really quickly.

Moneta Ladystitcher Back

This fabric is a red baby rib knit from MyFabrics.co.uk which I spotted on sale while waiting for the Colette package to be released, and took a bit of a gamble on it (it looks like it’s sold out by now). I also used some of that remnant light jersey polka dot fabric from my night Coco for the side seam pockets.

I’m not sure whether the red fabric is slightly too light for this project or if my stitch settings were off, but I had a really tough time sewing the plastic elastic in to the waist to shirr the skirt before joining it to the bodice. I felt like I needed at least one more hand to pull the elastic and fabric through behind the needle while keeping the elastic – but not the fabric – stretched in front of the needle. I tried different stitch combinations but the elastic was frequently pulled in to a tight tube shape as I tried to attach it.

Eventually I sent a plea for viable alternative methods out over Twitter, so I have some different techniques to try the next time around! I did persevere with this technique though and managed to get the elastic in as per the pattern instructions, but it looks like a sewing machine vomited on the inside of the waistline.

Apart from the shirring, the rest of the dress came together really quickly and without a hiccup so I will certainly be making more Monetas! I just have a lot of shirring practice to get in before now and then… 🙂

The one thing I really did fall in love with while making Moneta was my new twin needle. I had debuted one already on Mabel, but I felt that maybe the needles were slightly too close together (2.5mm) for a smooth finish so I bought a second one (4mm ‘twin stretch’). This rib knit is prone to fraying but by turning up raw edges by 1cm and stitching at 3/8″ (sorry for mixing the measurements but that’s how I really worked instead of converting everything to the same unit!), the zigzag formed behind the twin stitching perfectly caught and sealed the edges.

The 4mm double needle definitely gives a nice smooth finish to hems and necklines – this neckline turned out much smoother than using a zigzag on my Cocos pre-double needle.

Moneta Dress

Whatever way I’m holding the skirt on the right here, it looks like the side seams are puckered but they’re actually alright in real life! 🙂

Skills learned: ‘working’ with plastic elastic ;), using twin needle to finish raw edges

Recommend pattern?: Shirring issues aside, this was a really quick project and I’ll definitely be scouting out some nice knits to make more. I’ll explore alternative methods for attaching the skirt, or might be able to source some wider plastic elastic online in the hopes that it will be less likely to ‘tube’ than the width called for in the pattern. I have a heap of this red knit left over so I might try some of the collared varieties of Moneta, but make it into a top instead.

Knitting inspiration: stitch ‘dictionaries’

Stitch dictionary

So the 1940s tunic/simple sweater I’ve been working on has hit a bit of a wall: I had bought more wool than the project apparently required in case I needed extra, but it turns out that I still need more. Unfortunately, I only realised this after knitting the front, the back, and most of one sleeve. There’s just no way I have enough to finish the second sleeve and I’ve been scouring the internet in a (so far) vain attempt to find just one skein from the same dye batch. Just one! Argh…

I’m trying to think of ways to salvage the project, but I’m putting it aside for the moment to see if the miracle ball of yarn shows up somewhere online. In the meantime, I’m turning my attention to Christmas present production.

Every year, I knit at least two or three scarves as gifts for family or friends and have found knitting or stitch ‘dictionaries’ brilliant sources of inspiration when designing scarves for different people. I bought this one (pictured above) in New York a few years back, after buying a copy for my sister who was then just learning to knit. I thought it would be really useful to have to hand whenever I would start to design my own projects and it’s been invaluable when it comes to scarves.

Stitch index

By outlining different types of stitches or different pattern plans, it’s really easy to modify them and to develop your own border and pattern combinations.

One of my favourite projects so far has been this red merino-mix scarf I made for myself a few years back using basketweave stitch with a moss stitch border. Although it’s fairly lightweight, it’s one of the warmest that I own and I just love the bright red colour:

Me scarf

I don’t have pics of the myriad other scarves I’ve finished over the past few years, but I’ll definitely be drawing on this book again in the coming weeks as I design a new batch of scarves for the festive season. I’ll post pics when the projects are underway, but I particularly love these three designs and hope to incorporate some of them into my plans:

Fancypants stitches

Sewing resources in Ireland

Fabric stores are few and far between in Ireland, limiting a sewer’s options for finding interesting and inspiring materials. With that in mind, I’m compiling a list of each one that I come across as a resource to come back to later when planning or executing different projects. I’ve spent more time as a sewer in Dublin than the rest of the country so I’ll start there:

Dublin

The Cloth Shop – lovely (though limited and quite pricey) range of fabrics at this South King Street shop. They stock a decent range of notions, especially zips and bias bindings, and lots of lovely Colette patterns. Their website is more of an intro to their business rather than a comprehensive resource for ordering from the store.

Fabric Select – impressive range of fabrics in a rather small shop on Parnell Street. Awkwardly, the prices aren’t marked on anything, which can mean a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with the shop staff. They do have a good remnant bin under the stairs though which can be well worth a rummage (the prices tend to be marked on that stuff, alright). Website is pretty rudimentary, but they seem to be quite thorough with phone queries.

Floppy Fabrics – based in Booterstown, this shop focuses on quilting and home fabrics rather than dress fabrics. I haven’t been in store in person, but their website carries comprehensive listings of their stock.

Hickeys – the Stephen’s Green branch closed a few years back, leaving the Henry Street store as their sole Dublin city centre outlet. They also have branches in Galway and Limerick, but I’m not very familiar with them. The Henry Street shop is brilliant for notions as well as all manner of sewing and knitting tools. Their dress fabric range leaves a lot to be desired though, being (apparently) primarily aimed at home ec students and costume-makers. Their website is pretty abysmal.

Murphy Sheehy – Interesting range of fabrics at this small Castlemarket shop (set between the Powerscourt Centre and George’s Street Arcade). Their fabric turns over fairly regularly, so it’s worth keeping an eye on them now and again, and they have really good sales on whatever manages to last long enough in stock. Their Facebook page is marginally better than their website, given that it’s more regularly updated with new fabric arrivals. (Neither is a great reflection on the stock, though.)

Sligo

The Crafter’s Basket – I haven’t been in person yet, but they have a good online resource for sewing and knitting supplies. Their website is a bit clunky, but it’s by far the most comprehensive in terms of listing the store’s wares that I’ve come across in Ireland.

Galway

Hickeys – based in Galway city centre. They stock a good range of notions and a decent selection of wool and sewing and knitting patterns, but, as with the Henry St branch, their fabric selection is a tad grim.