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

Me-Made-May’14: Second and final round-up

Lady Stitcher MMM

Day 16: Colette Truffle | Day 17: Sew For Victory blouse, blue remnant skirt (unblogged) | Day 18: Coco top (unblogged), RTW skirt | Day 19: Colette Moneta | Day 20: Coco top, Beignet skirt

(The first half of my MMM’14 round-up is online here)

Well, the month-long project that was Me-Made-May has come to an end! I enjoyed it much more than I had expected, and made some interesting realisations about my sewing which will really direct how and what I work on over the next few months.

The first, and probably most important, thing I’ve realised is how much I really enjoy the clothes I’ve made. In one way, this encourages me to keep sewing, but in another, it makes me feel I should slow my pace a little and take more time over the process.

I didn’t start sewing because I wanted a major wardrobe expansion. While I really want to sew and to learn more techniques, I still don’t want to amass loads of ‘stuff’. So, to balance things out, I’ll be phasing out my RTW wardrobe (I’ve had most of it for several years and it’s really showing that wear) with things I’ve made.

Lady Stitcher MMM2

Day 21: Moneta, collar crocheted by my sister | Day 22: Vintage Pledge shirt dress, RTW jumper | Day 23: Simplicity 1913 (unblogged) and RTW shirt, sweater | Day 24: Simplicity Lisette Traveler flannel dress (unblogged) | Day 25: Coco top, Foxy Delphine skirt

Which brings me to the second point I realised over MMM: the range of garments I was able to draw on over the month. I actually hadn’t realised how much I’ve sewn over the past seven or eight months since I started this blog, but my sewing has been focused ona very limited range of garment types. I’m not a whizz with the machine – apart from Tilly’s Coco pattern I’m really not that quick at making things. What I really need to do is to consider the type of project I work on: when I started sewing, I had very few skirts and because they’re so simple to make and to fit, I’ve concentrated on making them above other types of clothing! As a result, I have a lot of skirts and very few tops!

I’m trying to rectify these issues by 1. focusing on finishing techniques (like embroidery) and 2. making more tops and dresses.

Lady Stitcher MMM Last Days

Day 26: Mabel skirt, seed stitch scarf, RTW vest, cardigan | Day 27: Grey Coco | Day 28: Moneta dress | Day 29: Hazel dress | Day 30: Truffle dress | Day 31: Foxy Delphine, RTW vest, cardigan

When I started MMM, I thought I’d soon make my first pair of trousers, but I still haven’t found the right material. The downside of buying fabric online is the risk involved – either you take a chance and order something based on the photo and description, or you order swatches. Sometimes, by the time the swatches have arrived, the fabric has sold out! So I’m still keeping an eye out for trouser fabric, but I don’t think I’ll be making them any time soon.

One thing I really won’t miss from this month is taking photos of myself! I spend a lot of time at home and our house has very poor natural lighting, plus we don’t have any mirrors you can actually see the whole of yourself in, so taking photos was the biggest challenge! I did, though, really enjoy seeing what MMM outfits everyone was posting to Instagram and I found some brilliant blogs through it.

What areas of sewing are you concentrating on for the moment? Did MMM help you re-focus your sewing or knitting?

Me-Made-May ’14: The halfway point

I, Sue (ladystitcher.wordpress.com), sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I will endeavour to wear at least one item made by me each day for the duration of May 2014.

Here we are – it’s the middle of May and we’re already halfway through this year’s Me-Made-May project. I’ve really been enjoying taking part so far and have found it quite challenging to not just keep wearing my five favourite things over and over.

I’ve been sharing daily updates of my pledge progress on Instagram and have pulled those photos together for my first MMM round-up post.

First 5

Day 1: Moonrise Kingdom dress, seed stitch scarf | D2: Easter Mortmain and RTW jacket for a wedding | D3: Grey Coco | D4: Vintage Pledge shirt dress, RTW cardigan | D5: Colette Mabel skirt and Sorbetto top (plus charity race medal – it was a family day out!)

The most notable absences in my handmade wardrobe are tops, trousers and cardigans/sweaters. I don’t plan on chucking out my RTW wardrobe any time soon, so there’s no urgency in making cardigans but I would really like a wider variety of tops that aren’t T-shirts. I also really want to make trousers, too! I have two patterns to hand but haven’t found the right fabric yet.

Second 5

Day 6: Grey and gold Coco, seed scarf | D7: Remnant fabric skirt (not blogged), RTW shirt and vest | D8: Beignet skirt, Simplicity 1693 top, RTW top | D9: Grey Coco, basketweave scarf (not blogged) | D10: Grey and gold Coco, RTW sweater, seed scarf

Since the start of May, I’ve realised just how often I typically reach for jeans, a T-shirt and a sweater in the morning. Looking back over these photos, I’m really surprised to see that I only worse jeans once in the first half of the month. I’ve also realised just how much I was wearing my grey and colour-blocked Coco dresses pre-May; I’ve consciously been limiting their rotation for MMM’14 but have already worn each a couple of times.

My pledge focused on better incorporating my handmade clothing into what I was wearing rather than trying not to repeat any outfits. That said, I’ve been happily surprised at how many outfit combinations I’ve been able to put together from the garments I’ve made.

Third 5

Day 11: Coco #5 | D12: Gingham Japanaese pattern dress (not blogged), RTW cardigan | D13: Sleeveless Mathilde (not blogged), RTW jeans | D14: Sporty Coco, Beignet skirt | D15: Nettie top (not blogged), RTW skirt

The pace of my sewing has slowed down since the start of May. For the first ten days, I was visiting with family in different parts of Ireland and since I’ve come home, I’ve been focusing on finishing my Owls sweater. I fell a bit behind Kat and Sabrina’s knitalong during the sewing frenzy for Sew Dolly Clackett and Sew For Victory and I had a bit of a nightmare with the magic loop method. I’m getting back on track now that I’ve sourced the right sized double pointed needles and am aiming to finish the sweater before the end of MMM.

Of course, having some me-made trousers to put with it would be nice too… 🙂

Seed scarf: Tackling negative knitting with simple stitches

Sirdar Click

My sisters bought me four balls of lovely double knit Sirdar ‘Click’ yarn for Christmas, and I thought that I would put them to good use to re-build my knitting confidence with a simple scarf project. I’ve found seed stitch great for producing a lovely, cosy scarf in lighter weight wool, and this knit up really well. Click is 70% acrylic and 30% wool, and comes in some really cool colours. This was the ‘teal twist 203’ shade.

Seed Scarf

My knitting hit a wall late last year about three-quarters of the way through a vintage pattern project. I was working on this 1940s tunic from one of Jane Waller’s fabulous books and was almost, almost, finished…but ran out of yarn just as I started into the second sleeve. I was pretty confident at the time that I had bought more (at least a whole 50g more) than I needed, but somehow, I was short. I tried and tried to source a ball from the matching dye lot online, but it wasn’t to be. I even tried comparing another dye lot, but the colour was way off.

So, the almost-completed tunic has been sitting in my knitting bag untouched for months. I was really enjoying the project and loved the yarn weight and colour. It was really frustrating to get stuck like that so near the end. And that’s not the first time it’s happened – I still have the remains of a long-ago half-knitted cardigan around here too (cringe…).

Well, I think enough time has passed for me to try again. I’m still shelving the tunic (for now!) but I’m determined to get back on the knitting wagon and actually make a sweater that (a) fits and (b) I like. I’ve had Kate Davies’s gorgeous ‘owls’ sweater pattern for ages and now I’ve signed up to join Kat from A Krafty Kat and Sabs of Tybalt: king of cats in an owls knitalong. We’re starting mid-March, so if you’ve never knitted it but fancy giving it a go along with us, just say so in the comments below!

Do you have any tips for getting back on track with a frustrating project or a craft?

Seed Close Up

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

Bloglovin’: Follow me!

I’ve been trying out a few different blog readers (Feedly, WordPress and Bloglovin’) to see which format I like best and I can see the pros and cons with each. I really like the layout of Feedly, but find that the app is a bit glitchy and can be really slow to update with new posts (sometimes I’ll get email updates a day or so before it actually hits the Feedly feed!).

Bloglovin’ seems to be a particularly popular choice among craft, sewing and knitting bloggers so I’m going to give it more of a test run to see how well it performs. So if you fancy following my updates there, you can!

<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/11297177/?claim=8794296tcaw”&gt; Follow my blog with Bloglovin </a>

Stuff to stitch to, starring Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot

Radio

I love listening to podcasts or the radio while working away on a project, but I recently came across these two incredible archived radio play collections and thought I’d share them in case they were to your liking too!

The first is a series of old Hercule Poirot radio plays which were aired in the US in the 1940s – the ‘mysteries’ are kind of random, but I love Agatha Christie’s work and think these adaptations are just great. Here’s a list of the available episodes.

The second series also involves some detective work, though the storylines tend to be a bit more bizarre.

I came across this great collection of old Sherlock Holmes radio plays while looking through Librivox for something new to listen to while sewing. (If you have the Librivox app and search for ‘The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’, you can save them for later listening.) These plays aired in the 1930s, 40s and 50s (though with different casts over the years) and have spectacular sound effects. Here’s a link to the collection online.

Hope you enjoy them too!