Monday, November 28, 2011

Weekend Update

Hi Folks!  Back to the grind, eh?  I have lots of things I need to do today, but I wanted to show a couple of the things I accomplished over the weekend.

First off, I finished the first front of my 1958 sweater and started the second one! It's coming along so nicely:

I've already steam blocked these two pieces.

Yesterday, I finally sat down and began my muslin for the Peony dress.  A real, honest-to-goodness muslin, made out of actual muslin fabric!  My first time ever! This dress needs it; in contrast to most of the other things I've made, the fit is important on this one.  I'm only doing a muslin of the bodice though:

I traced out and cut a size two, and then ended up moving the lower front darts one inch out toward the side seams, and shortening the bust dart by one inch:

The fit is almost there, but there is a little poufiness in the stomach area that I'm not quite sure how to deal with.  I'm continuing to read the chapter on fitting in the Colette Sewing Handbook, so I'm hoping to find some info that will help me correct that.  This is the first time I'm making significant changes to a pattern, and I'm a little scared but also proud of myself!

Finally, after all the knitting and sewing were done, I sat down and put this on:

Zoya Kristen, Feel Collection winter 2011
Isn't that lovely?  The color changes depending on the light, sometimes leaning grey and other times leaning almost aqua.  I can't stop looking at it!

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Back home now, after spending a lovely two days with my family in Michigan.  I ended up wearing one Ginger skirt and packing another, and I was pleased that I styled each of them in a new way.

On Thanksgiving, I wore my "Special Ginger" - the one I made for the Sewalong with the pretty bow print fabric.  I had Hubby snap a pic right before we hit the road:

This is really more of a spring and summer skirt, but after I made it this summer, I never wore it!  It felt so special to me that I was keeping it for a special occasion - which never materialized!  I realized it was silly to have a piece I'd made and loved just hanging in the closet, and inspired by the styling posts Caitlin has been doing on the Colette blog, I paired it with a plain white tank, dark charcoal sweater, charcoal tights and black booties.  I was pretty pleased with the look, and happy to finally wear my skirt.

This worked for me because the patterning on the skirt contains white, medium grey, dark grey and black against the pale jade background.  I don't think I've ever mentioned it before, but I tend to be a matchy-matchy person!  I really have a hard time putting together outfits with contrasting colors, especially with print fabrics.  Any ideas out there of alternate ways I could style this skirt?

On Black Friday (in which I did not participate), I wore my "Magic Ginger."  I call it that because it goes with so many tops I have!  I wore it with an ecru tank and the Ash shrug/cardi I had knit years ago from Rowan 36.  It was nice and warm so I got to go bare-legged with some plain black ballet flats.  But I didn't get any photos until later in the day, by which time we were bowling.  Not the most appropriate outfit for bowling, but it was a whole lot of fun!  I stink at bowling, by the way!

Sorry if my white legs are blinding you!

And here are some gratuitous shots of the lake near which I grew up.  I took it for granted as a kid and never really realized what a pretty lake it is.

I hope everyone who celebrates it had a fabulous Thanksgiving, and that those who don't had a stellar end to the week!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Cranberry Caramel Almond Tart
from Book of Tarts by Maury Rubin

That was kind of a lot of work!  But so worth it.  Mmmmmm!

We'll be spending the next couple days partying with my side of the family.  Hope all my American friends have a fabulous Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011


Remember this goofy photo?

Well, Caitlin emailed me a few weeks ago via flickr and asked if I would like to be a Featured Seamstress on the Colette blog!  I have to admit I'd forgotten about it, and when I was scrolling down my reader this morning, it was kind of a shock to come across my own face!

If you're interested in sewing and aren't reading the Colette blog, you really ought to be!  And if you've come over here from the Colette blog, welcome!  It's no secret I'm a big fan of Sarai, Caitlin and the brand.  My new favorite thing is the outfit/styling posts (a la Polyvore) Caitlin has been doing lately, showing different ways of styling Colette garments.  Genius!

Speaking of Colette patterns, I'm slowly working toward making the Peony dress.

I've traced the size 2 bodice pieces and will be making a REAL muslin this time.  I want to get the fit just right.  But I'm taking my time; Hubby bought me The Colette Sewing Handbook the day it came out, and I've been reading a little bit each day.  I think I will have to do a fair number of adjustments with this pattern, so the information in the book will be invaluable.  Sadly, I don't think I'll have any time for sewing until after the holiday.

But - I have finished the back of my 1958 sweater!  I started the first pocket lining, but ended up spending much of my day yesterday editing an article for my brother-in-law, after which we headed over to our local jazz club to hear Kenny Barron.  And after that we went out to get Indian food.  Mmmmm . . . curry!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


So, the day after my first post about my 1958 sweater, I decided I wasn't happy with the way things were going and ripped it all out and started again.  I had only done 4" on the back, so it wasn't too heartbreaking.

While I was getting gauge with the 3.25 mm needle, that gauge was based on the rib fabric being opened out a little.  As I was working, I decided that I really liked the look of the fabric better when it's allowed to pull in.  So I restarted with a 3.5 mm needle (US 4) and, because I wanted the fit to be slouchy, went up from the size 12 (34" bust) to the size 14 (36" bust).  And now things are moving along nicely.

Yesterday I completed the armhole shaping, which is a really interesting one - done almost like a raglan, but just for a couple inches, after which the rest of the armhole depth is knit straight.  The number of decreases and the way in which they're done leave a line of rib almost like a full-fashioning.  At first I wasn't sure if I liked it and was thinking about doing the armhole in a way that would avoid this, but then I decided it would be more of an authentic vintage adventure to knit the pattern as written.  Here's how the shaping looks up close:

I'm really having fun with this stitch pattern.  One of the things I like about it is that two repeats equals one vertical inch, so it's really easy to count your length without getting out the measuring tape!

It would seem that the designer really loved this texture too - I've found a few other sweaters in two different magazines that use it.  I'm especially in love with these two patterns:

From Bernat no. 65, the same book I'm using.
Note the funnel neck, skinny belt, pencil skirt
and jewelry.
To die.

from Bernat no. 84

The cardigan is from a magazine I acquired recently - Bernat no. 84 from 1960 - like the Bernat no. 65, patterns designed by "Mirsa of Italy."  I just love how the texture of the pattern stitch interplays with the stripe pattern.  Not to mention the wide collar and inset pockets!  This one may be in my future!

Here's the cover of this magazine:

And finally, here's a gratuitous nail shot:

Essie Cocktail Bling - which is so similar to Bangle Jangle that I'm wishing I hadn't bought both.

Friday, November 18, 2011


I totally lifted this mani idea from something I saw on Pinterest:

I had put on Zoya Neeka from the fall 2011 Mirrors collection a couple nights ago, but I got a fair amount of tip wear yesterday when I was doing some cooking (and thus, hand washing of pots and knives).  So last night I applied Zoya Karina just at the tips, topped it with China Glaze Matte Magic, and then used my dotting tool and CND Super Shiney topcoat to make the dots.

I'm really liking this gradient effect, and it's a great way to deal with tip wear.  I did this the same way I did my glitter tips.  I dotted the upper color just along the tips after wiping most of the polish off the brush, and then stroked it downward toward my cuticle, lifting my brush up at about halfway down the nail.  I have to admit though, it does look better with the matte topcoat.  The color transition is a little abrupt when it's shiny.  I'd like to figure out a way to make the transition more subtle.  Any ideas?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Look what I made!

Butterscotch Cookies

I've lived in this house for two and a half years, but somehow I never realized until recently that my microwave also has a convection feature! 

I've never had one of these before, so I got out the manual and read the instructions before making anything.  It's quite simple though, so this morning I whipped up this cookie dough and popped in the freezer.  A couple hours later it was ready to cut, and 15 minutes after that they were ready to eat!  Now I can have cookies whenever I want!  Uh-oh!

This was my first time using this recipe and I think I like it.  (As of this writing, I've only tasted one cookie.  Further research is required.)  This one came from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers, a book I use a lot.  Because I remembered to set my butter out first thing in the morning to soften, it only took me about 10 minutes to get the dough together.  I made a half batch because the full batch makes 6 dozen, and even I can't eat that many cookies!  I'm giving you the measurements for the half batch here:

Butterscotch Icebox Cookies

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 c. unbleached white flour

With a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in the egg, vanilla and salt.  Mix in the flour until well blended. 

Shape the dough into a log about 1 1/2" in diameter.  Wrap in wax paper and put in the freezer until firm, at least 1 hour.

When ready to bake, cut off 1/4" slices and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 12 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack while still warm.

Dough will keep in the freezer for up to two months, but if you're not going to use it within a day, place the log in a freezer bag.

I love the brown sugar bits that don't break up!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Cicikom is a Turkish brand of pajamas.  My mother-in-law knows how much I love them, so she sent me these via my sister-in-law:

Aren't they the cutest?  So soft too!

Last night I put Zoya  Jaime on my nails - a soft, semi-sheer lavender pink.  I'd been wearing so many dark colors lately, I just wanted something lighter.  But after I put on my pajamas, I couldn't stop thinking about stamping them, so this afternoon I did this:

Not actually my best stamping job, but since I'm STILL doing laundry, it'll do!

I stamped with China Glaze Concrete Catwalk, which ended up being less opaque than I'd expected.  I used the Konad plate m57, although Bundle Monster set 2 has a similar plate.  I filled in some of the leopard spots with China Glaze Millennium.

Fun times!

Monday, November 14, 2011

I really should be cleaning . . .

The family's all gone now, and I have mountains of laundry and loads of cleaning to do.  But I'm so excited about my new knitting project, I couldn't wait to share it, so I'm taking a little break!

When I graduated from college and moved out of my parents' house, I lifted a couple of my mom's old knitting magazines.  I (much) later confessed, and she told me that since she hadn't even missed them, I was welcome to keep them!  They were the first of my small collection of vintage knitting patterns, and still my favorites (because they were Mom's).

Pretty much every fall, I tell myself that this year, I'm going to knit an actual vintage pattern.  I've never followed through.  It was on my mind again the last few weeks, so right before my family came, I dug out all my vintage pattern books.  I ended up not having time to browse through them though.

Yesterday morning I finally had a spare half hour to sit down with  my knitting.  I dug out my Wallace sweater, which I haven't looked at for ages.  I just wasn't feeling it; the original pattern calls for a yarn with some halo, and my stockinette in the Louet Gems just looked flat.  So I ripped out the whole thing, then got out one of Mom's old books to see if I could find a better use for the yarn.

And I think I did!

Here's the magazine:

I'm doing the cover sweater to the left.  Here's a closer look:

And a look at the black and white picture next to the pattern, which I think shows the texture better:

And here's my fresh beginning:

The magazine is called Bernat No. 65:  Bulky Knits Designed by Mirsa of Italy for Women and Men.  (I did a little google search, and there are some copies out there available to buy.) I'm curious if this one was originally my mom's - it was published in 1958, at which point she wasn't even 20 yet.  One pattern is missing - a men's pullover.  Will have to ask Mom about this!

The pattern calls for a worsted weight yarn to be knit on size US5 (3.75mm) needles, but my yarn is a very dense DK weight, and to get gauge I had to go down to a size US3 (3.25mm).  This eyelet mock cable is a much better use for this ropey yarn - it gives the fabric a springiness that the yarn itself lacks.

So, wish me luck with this project!  Sometimes I feel like certain yarns in my stash are doomed - I can just never seem to find the right project for them.  I'm really hoping this one works out!

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Portfolio

Finally got to wear my Lisette Portfolio Dress today:

Note:  corduroy sticks to tights, even if you wear a slip.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's all about the sweater. And the glasses. And the hair and the shoes.

I put on my retro outfit today and got Hubby to take some pictures before we headed out with his sister and her husband:

Hubby does not like my new glasses, so this one is for him:

I put my hair up in a 1940s 'do and put on my Frye Carson oxfords as well:

Poor Hubby.  He's really not feeling the retro look, but I love it!

And one last shot with the glasses:

I think you can tell I really love my new sweater!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Some technical thoughts on Alouette

I know that there are some folks out there who are interested in making this sweater (or already have it on needles!), so I wanted to be fairly comprehensive in my notes.

You may remember that when I started the sweater, I gave a rundown of the two versions of the pattern, so I won't repeat that info.  It took me a while to decide which version to make, as the sizing and shaping were slightly different, but I finally decided to go with the version in the Rowan Vintage Knits book, for the most part.  This is the pattern that included a size XS, although if the pattern were to be believed, the finished product would have the same chest measurement as only size on the other pattern, which has the same number of stitches as the size S.

At any rate, I threw caution to the wind and cast on without a clear plan in mind - after doing my gauge swatch.  As I'd suspected, I needed to use a 2.75 mm needle (US 2) rather than the 3.25 mm (US 3) the pattern suggests.  This seems to be my standard needle size when I use 4 ply yarn.

Because I don't like my ribbing to be binding at the waist, I did the ribbing in the same size needle as the main fabric.  I cast on the prescribed number of stitches, ribbed for the prescribed number of centimeters, and increased as written.  So far so good.

Going back to the pattern I decided not to use, I did two full repeats plus six rows of the striped feather and fan pattern.  According to the pattern, at that point I should have been at 29 cm total, and I may have been if I hadn't steam blocked the work as I was knitting.  (I often do this to get an idea of how the finished fabric will look.)  I ended up at 31 cm when I reached the armhole, better for me since I'm long waisted.  This is important because it does affect the pattern later on, when the sleeves are attached.  If I had followed the pattern I was supposed to be following and begun the armhole after 28 cm, my stripes would not have matched up across the upper chest and sleeves as they do.

Having reached the point of beginning the armhole shaping, I had to make a decision.  I was originally drawn to the shaping in the original pattern (the one I wasn't using) for two reasons:  it didn't have a shaped sleeve cap (and would be therefore much easier to work while keeping the pattern stitch correct) and it looked like a much better fit on the model.  I had decided as I went along that I would mix and match, and do the flat (unshaped) sleeve with the body of the smaller version of the pattern.  But as I read ahead, I realized that this would have made the shoulders far too narrow, so I went with the shaped sleeve head after all.

And it really wasn't that difficult to keep the pattern correct, but you do have to remember that for every yarn over there has to be a corresponding K2tog.  As I decreased stitches, I kept the pattern correct as much as I could, and kept whatever leftover stitches I couldn't use at the edge in stockinette.  I did choose to make things easier on myself by omitting the final decrease for the armhole - that kept the counts at 6 and 12, so I wouldn't have to remember to adjust my YOs every time that row came up.  When I got to the shoulders, I just added that stitch into the count for the shoulder bind off.

Although it was a little harder to keep things correct on the sleeves (thanks to my nemesis, Netflix), they were nice and quick to knit.  I was tempted to start the stripe sequence from the beginning rather than in the middle as the pattern states (I'm a little funny that way), but luckily I realized that the pattern was written that way for a reason.  That reason being that the stripes match up with the stripes on the body! Wonderful, and it also made sewing it together a breeze because you always know just where you have to be.

Up until the very end, I was worried I might not get a very flattering fit, mostly because the sweater looks like a stripey sack on the model in the book.  Having finished it though, I now know that they just gave the poor girl a sweater that was much too big for her!  The fit across the shoulders is just perfect, and in the end I think it is probably more flattering than the other sleeve shape would have been on me.  The sleeve head sits toward the outer edge of my shoulder, which I find is a rather vintage silhouette and very comfortable to wear.

I mentioned I did a gauge swatch (as I always do, since I am such a loose knitter) and I got gauge with my 2.75 mm needle.  If the pattern were to be believed (which it is not), I should have ended up with a finished bust measurement of 36" (for both XS and S - go figure).  What I actually ended up with is a finished measurement of 34", which for me is 1" positive ease - the perfect amount for this look.

I finished it up with my 2.25 mm needle (US 1) for the neck ribbing, and a good dose of steam helped everything lay straight at the end.  I've mentioned a few times in the comments that I tend to block most things with my steam iron, on high heat and full steam with the iron hovering just above the knitting, but never really touching it.  For me, this gives the fabric a much smoother finish, although it doesn't seem to even out stitch tension as much as wet blocking.  My tension tends to be pretty even though, especially with wool.  And steaming is just so much faster.

So there you have it!  Extensive and technical, and probably soporific as well!  My hope is that it's useful information for someone!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Alouette by Sarah Dallas

All done, and I absolutely love it - fit is perfect.  I'll show you on another day when I can be bothered to do my hair and put on a little makeup.  And when light returns to Chicago.

Here we go!

Let the finishing fun begin!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Crocodile Fail

This has been in my mind for a while and I finally got around to doing it today:

It's a little too subtle though.  This is Zoya Codie from the Smoke and Mirrors collection, topped with China Glaze Matte Magic and then stamped with the crocodile image from the BM224 plate using CND Super Shiney topcoat.  You can see it a little better here:

But I was really hoping it would be more dramatic.  Oh well, can't win 'em all!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


For anyone who tried to view my video yesterday and couldn't - I'm so sorry!  I think I've fixed it now.

One of the reasons I started my blog is to teach myself new computer skills, something that doesn't come easily to me.  I figured out what I did wrong yesterday - I uploaded the video as a photo!  I never even noticed the video icon in the toolbar!  I'm actually surprised it played at all, given that mistake!  My file was really large, so I ended up having to create a YouTube channel and upload the video from there.  So, if you are still having trouble viewing it directly from yesterday's post, I'm hoping you can see it here.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Change of plans

Well, only part of my family made it yesterday.  New York sister-in-law came down with an ear infection and was forbidden by her doctor to fly, so they will be coming in next weekend instead.  Turkey sister-in-law and her husband are actually in town for a professional conference which doesn't end until Wednesday, so we will only be seeing them sporadically until then.

I was really disappointed yesterday that our weekend of partying with our family got put on hold, but it did give me time to do some more knitting!  I started my first sleeve, and got it up to the armhole shaping.  I love short sleeves - they go so fast!

Since I had time this morning, I decided to do something that's been on my mind for a while:  I made a video!  As I've been knitting this sweater, I've been knitting in my ends where I could - it makes for a lot less work in finishing.  It got me wondering if this is a commonly known technique, and I thought it might be helpful so I wanted to share it.

I had originally planned on just discussing it and linking to some videos that are already out there.  But when I did a search, the only instructions I came up with are different from the way I do it, and seem to me to be much more tedious.  So I went ahead and made my own video.  I've never done this before, and I was kind of nervous!  For one thing, I really can't stand the sound of my own (recorded) voice!  Also, in order to get the correct focus, I had to hold my knitting at arm's length - not the normal posture for knitting!  There are a few sections of the video where I instinctively brought the work closer to my body and thus the focus is a little blurred, but I think it is still clear enough to see what is going on.  I'm hoping this is a useful technique for all you knitters!

I learned this technique probably about 20 years ago from a Kaffe Fassett book.  I think it was Glorious Knitting, but unfortunately all my knitting books and magazines from the 1980s and '90s are in storage, so I can't check.  It was a real revelation!  Anyone who has ever done any kind of colorwork in knitting will tell you that dealing with all the ends can really be a pain.  This technique takes a little bit of practice, but in the end will save a lot of time.

I knit continental (holding the yarn in my left hand) most of the time, but this works English also.  It works best on stockinette fabrics, and can be worked on the knit side or the purl side of the fabric, on flat knitting or in the round.  It's fantastic for stripes, but I've also used it for stranded knitting and even intarsia.

So, here we go:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Long time, no post

I've been super busy all week preparing for the two sets of in-laws that will be visiting us starting this afternoon - Hubby's sister and her husband are coming from Turkey, and his brother, his wife and baby  are coming from New York.  It's going to be a family-filled week!

I spent Monday through Wednesday cleaning and grocery shopping (much of Monday was spent getting my sewing stuff out of the guest room and reorganizing), and yesterday I went out to one of the west suburbs to see my aunt and uncle and one of my cousins.  They were in town doing a craft show there; they make and sell Cherry Pit Pacs - an indispensable item in our household!  And today, before heading up to the airport this afternoon, I'll be doing a bunch of cooking and laundry - whew!

But in between all the housework, I did manage to finish the front of the Wavy Line Sweater.  I'm still in love with this knit - it is so much fun to do!  Here's how the unblocked front looks next to the blocked back:

Yes, that's a ray of sunshine in the upper left corner!  Hurray!

I also did a quick stamping on my nails this morning, with the hope it will help my mani last through all my cooking today:

The base color was China Glaze Concrete Catwalk from the fall Metro collection - a deep, blue-toned grey.  I stamped it with the argyle image from Konad plate m60 using China Glaze Admire from the Romantique collection.  I'm kind of wishing I hadn't though - this is one instance where the photo looks better than real life!  Oh well, maybe I'll have time to do something new tomorrow!

And look how long my nails are getting, thanks to the Qtica Natural Nail Growth Stimulator basecoat!  I really do feel it has helped my nails become a lot stronger.  I've been using it about 90% of the time for the last two months.  My nails are actually too long for my liking now - it's very hard for me to type quickly because they're getting in the way!  I'll be cutting them down soon, but I just had to say how impressed I am with this product!