Monday, April 30, 2012

Box Bag Bonanza (and a Giveaway!)

In a couple weeks, my mom and I will be traveling to Germany to visit my aunt. I've been meaning to make my mom a cover for her Nook, to keep it protected during our travels, and last week I finally got around to it.  I made it in the same way I made my iPad cover, only to the dimensions of the Nook.

Recognize these fabrics?  I went fabric-diving in the big plastic tub where I keep all my leftover bits.  The outer fabric is from my recent blue Ginger, and the lining is from one of last summer's Sorbetti.  (Sorry - I just can't bring myself to write "sorbettos.")

I got inspired by all the pieces of fabric I found in my box, so on Friday, I decided to make some more Box Bags.  These are better than my first one, because I actually went out and got the heavy interfacing I was supposed to use, and also I made the handles narrower, which I like better.

From my very first Ginger skirt!

lined with plain green quilting cotton.

From my bias-cut Ginger skirt

lined with fabric from my Violet blouse!

And finally, another one in the sushi print, this time with a red zipper:

lined with black and white gingham.

And guess what?  I made the sushi one for you!  Well, for one of you!  If you'd like a chance to win this bag, leave a comment on this post by midnight US CDST on Friday, May 4. On Saturday, I'll use to choose the winner and post it.  No restrictions - I'll send this anywhere in the world!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Miette 12: Sleeves!

I'll warn you right up front:  this is going to be a long and picture-heavy post.  The good news is, once you've gotten to the sleeves, you're almost done!  Each sleeve is only about a third of the stitches of the body, and they decrease from there, so they're much quicker to knit.

I have a lot of pictures because I'm trying to show you a couple of my tricks step-by-step, and now that my beloved Picnik is gone, I can't edit them into a collage.  I'm hoping to try these again in video when I do my second sleeve, which may be easier to follow.  But I'm not 100% sure that will work out, so I'm going to put up the pictures today.

First let's take a look at the body so far:

I worked a couple extra rows of ribbing, because I liked
the proportion better.

I omitted the purl ridge before the rib, and I didn't do the kbl
rib the pattern called for, I just did plain 2/2 ribbing.

Once you've finished the body, it's time to pick up the stitches for one of the sleeves. The best way to do this is with your circular needle, threading it through the live stitches that are held on the yarn.  Thread your needle through all your sleeve stitches before removing the yarn - you never know when a stitch will get dropped, so it's nice insurance to leave them on the yarn until you're sure they're securely on the needle.

Once they are, you can cut the waste yarn and slide it out.  Now you've got this:

See that big gap under the arm?  The pattern tells you to pick up two extra stitches there, which will fill in that gap and be decreased in the first row, to get you back to the number of stitches you started with.

Now, I diverged from the pattern here, but you may not need to.  Here's why:  I have big biceps!  (I do regular weight training.)  In my size and with my gauge, my sleeves would only be 9.5" in circumference if I followed the instructions.  My biceps are 10" when not flexed and I really don't like my sleeves to be too constricting.  So I decided I wanted 0 ease in the sleeves.  Zero ease means I want the same measurement in the work as my body measurement.

At my gauge of 5 stitches to the inch, I needed 50 stitches to cover my hulking muscles.  I had 47 stitches already on the needles, so I decided to pick up four extra stitches under the arm, two on either side of center,  to give me a total of 51.  AND I didn't decrease these right away.  In fact, I didn't follow the pattern's decreases at all, but I'll get to that in a minute.

Here's how I picked up my stitches:

Here's that big gap . . .

and here I'm picking up the first stitch, using a new ball
of yarn and leaving about a 6" tail.

I picked up 2, placed a marker and picked up two more . . .

then continued knitting.

From there, I just continued knitting around and around.  I know some of you haven't knit in the round before, and are a little intimidated by it, but it's really easy!  No turning the work and purling, you just keep knitting and knitting around and around.  The marker is the beginning of the round ("row"), so every time you get back to the marker you've worked one row.  This is a good introduction for you to knitting in the round, because the stitches were already there for you - you just had to pick them up and knit them.  When you start something new and are knitting in the round from the beginning, that's where you'll have to be careful and not twist your cast-on row.  But we don't have to worry about that here!

Now, even though we picked up those stitches under the arm to fill in that gap, you're still likely to have some unsightly holes - I sure did.  Never fear!  I have a cheat for that too!

Here are my yucky holes, after I've knit a few rows.

I turn the work to the inside, and start pulling on some of
those loops from the back.   

Eventually you'll find one which, when pulled, will seem to close up a lot of the holes!

Pull it until the holes look as nicely closed up as possible,
without scrunching the work, and then tie it in a little
overhand knot.

Now here it is from the front - much better!  But I can still
fix a few of the remaining holes.

Go to the back of the work again, and using the length of
yarn left from when you picked up the stitches, start to
weave in and out around the remaining holes to close
them up a little more.

In and out . . .

and across . . .

and in and out . . .

and when you're happy with how it looks, weave in the
rest of the yarn to finish it off and secure it.

Et voila!  Isn't that so much nicer?

Ok, now here's how I shaped my sleeve.  The pattern has you work 35 rows, and then begin decreasing - if you're not adding stitches like I did, you can just follow the pattern from here on out.  But my sleeve had 4 more stitches than it ought to, to fit my big 'ole arms:

Perfect!  Not too tight, and not too loose!

So I worked the 35 rows straight, and then did paired decreases on the next row and every 5th row after that 4 more times.  What's a paired decrease?  Decreasing one stitch either side of a marker.  So my decreases went like this:  

          k2tog, k to last 2 stitches, ssk
          work 4 rows straight
          repeat these two rows 4 more times

The paired decrease eliminates 2 stitches per row, so working 5 of them decreases 10 stitches.  I had 51 stitches to start with, and I needed to get down to 40 stitches, because the lace pattern is based on a multiple of 8 stitches.  So after working the decreases above, I needed to get rid of one more stitch before starting to do the lace.  Here's how I did it:

          knit to last stitch of round, remove marker and slip this stitch to the left-hand needle, knit this stitch together with the first stitch of the next round

Here are my paired decreases.  You may
notice that I've switched to DPNs - the
circular needle I was using was too  short!

After I finished my decreases, I did the lace row as per the directions, again omitting the purl ridge before the ribbing like I did in the body.  I also worked 8 rows of ribbing, rather than the 10 the pattern called for, just because I like that proportion better.

When working top-down items, I find it best to do my bind-off with a needle one or two sizes larger than the needle I'm knitting with, to avoid having the edge too tight.

I also want to show you a little trick I use when binding off knitting in the round, to help it look a little neater.  The first bit of this is an old Elizabeth Zimmermann trick:  rather than just binding off every stitch, which will give you this at the end:

See how much higher the right side is compared to the left?

Instead, bind off to the last 2 stitches, then work those two stitches together (either k2tog or p2tog), and then pass the last loop over:

Quite a bit more even!

This keeps things more even, and also eliminates the unsightly loop you get from the last stitch.  I always do my binding off this way, both in the round and with flat knitting.

However, with knitting in the round, when you get to the end of the row, the right side is always going to be higher than the left side.  Why?  Because you're not really knitting rows - you're knitting one long, clockwise spiral!  So here's my little trick to make the very last bit more even still:

With the last loop from the bind off still on the needle,
go into the very first stitch you bound off . . .

and pick up a stitch there.

Now bind off that stitch as well . . .

and draw through a loop of yarn like you normally would
to finish a bind-off.  Now both sides are level!

BEFORE you cut your yarn, try on your
sleeve to  make sure it fits well.  If it does,
you can cut your yarn and weave in the end.

Ta da!  Here's the first sleeve!

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Remember the beginnings of the Wholehearted shawl I showed you last week?  I finished it a couple days ago, but I've already moved on to the next project and totally forgot to post about it!  I was just reminded a few minutes ago by a comment on the original post, so I thought I'd get it up here while it was in my mind!

I always pose my shawls on my knitting chair!

I really loved making this pattern - I think I finished it so quickly because it's one of those things I just didn't want to put down!  It was really great for working on when I didn't want to think too much (like I have to with Miette).  That said, I did miss a couple of increases so my stitch count was down by 4 at the end!  Oh well!

Lavender merino and charcoal merino/silk,
both handspun fingering weight.

I steam blocked this shawl with my iron, like I usually do.  Quick and easy!  I pulled it more straight, rather than letting the edges curve, although they do curve a little.

I'm really happy with the way this turned out, and I'm pretty sure I'll make another at some point.  It was so fast and easy, because although fingering weight yarn is used, it's done on US6 (4mm) needles, and since there's no lace there's not too much to keep track of.

If you'd like to make this shawl too, Evelyn at Project Stash has a KAL going on until May 31.  And don't forget that the proceeds from the sale of this pattern go to helping the designer's daughter, who lost her home in a fire recently.

I know a few of you are making this already.  Anybody else tempted?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Miette 11: The next part!

How are all the Miette KAL knitters out there doing?  I think some of you are making quite a bit of progress, so I figured I'd better get going and work out some of the next steps to show you!

If you recall, after I tried on my sweater, I decided I wanted to deepen the raglan a little bit.  I put my stitches back on the needle, and worked four extra rows with no raglan increases, to give me about an extra half inch on either side of the armhole, for a total of one extra inch under my arm.

However, doing so threw off the vertical lace pattern that goes down the front.  So for my extra four rows,  I had to follow the lace pattern from my charts for the first and last six stitches of every right side row.  Here's how these four rows worked out for me, doing the medium size:

Row 47:  instead of removing the sleeves, I purled across
Row 48:  I worked this row as written, noting that it corresponds to row 2 of my charts
Row 49:  purl across
Row 50:  I worked the first and last 6 stitches according to row 3 of the charts, and knit all other stitches
Row 51:  I removed the sleeves as written in the pattern for row 48

To remove the stitches on to yarn, just thread some
contrasting yarn onto a needle, and slip the sleeve
stitches onto it, tying the ends together once all the
stitches have been removed.

From there, I moved on to the Body section of the pattern.  This section starts with Row 50 for all sizes, but remember - I added 4 rows.  So from here on out, I had to work the first and last 6 stitches of every right side row according to the charts.  I had already worked rows 2 and 3 as above, so on my first row of the body, I started with row 4.  I found it easiest to place markers to keep these six stitches separate from the rest of the work:

And also to have all my notes written on the sides of my charts.  

I've mentioned before that I like to use a sticky note
to keep track of what row I'm on.  I also clipped my
two charts together, because it was easier for me to
have everything on one piece of paper right in
front of me.

All sizes work 5 rows even before beginning the decreases for the bust darts.  I had decided I didn't want the bust darts though - I want my sweater to be flat on the front (like me!).  So I chose to move my decreases to the side "seams."  (Really, there are no seams, but you know what I mean!)  I counted the total number of stitches decreased for my size - 28 stitches, decreasing four stitches per row six times, and two stitches on the final decrease row.   So that is 7 rows of decreases.  I decided I wanted them spaced out with decreases every four rows, with the first decrease occurring on row 56.  So I made myself a list of the rows on which the decreases occurred in pencil on the side of my charts (rows 56, 60, 64, 68, 72, 76 and 80) and kept track with my "Katcha Katcha" counter.

Here's how my decreases looked after they were done:

I worked my decreases like this:

(RS) pattern 6 stitches from chart, (knit to 3 stitches before underarm marker, ssk, k1, sm, k1, k2tog) twice, knit to last 6 stitches, pattern 6 stitches from chart.

The decreases on row 80 were only worked on the back, because I only needed to decrease 2 stitches in that row.  

It's important to keep the stitch counts in line with the pattern, because there's another bit of lace at the bottom, before the rib.  That bit of lace starts with row 82 in the pattern.  But remember, my lace pattern is off now!  So I had to keep working straight until my work matches with row 82 (which corresponds to row 6 on the chart).  I worked to the end of the chart (row 12 + 1 purl row) because I was on row 8.  This also gave me the extra bit of length in the body that I wanted.

Why is it important to get to the place where your next row will be row 6 on the chart?  Because Andi has made the vertical and horizontal lace patterns meet in a very nice way, but it relies on being at the correct row vertically:

See how the lace rounds the corner?

I've actually finished my body now, and I did a couple of changes to the bottom as well.  The pattern has you do a knit row on row 89, which gives a garter ridge before the ribbing.  I wasn't so crazy about that look, so I purled back.  I also did plain k2, p2 rib rather than the K2tbl rib that Andi used, because I prefer the look of it.

I hope this wasn't too much to throw at you guys!  As always, I'm happy to clarify anything that didn't make sense!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Grey Wall, part 3

I'm showing these FOs in reverse order - this is actually the oldest!  I finished it almost a month ago, although I didn't keep track of the date.  This is a bonus project - I squeezed it out of the last bit of coral silk left over from my Kimono Dress.  I believe this is Sorbetto #8 for me:

Outfit details:
Vintage multi-strand necklace
Coral silk Sorbetto
embroidered skirt, Anthropologie circa 2008?
Coral sandals, Ann Taylor circa 2005

After I made this top, I decided I simply must have a vintage multi-strand necklace to go along with it.  Of course, Etsy is the best place to pick up things like that! Check out this beauty:

I just love it.  Although the beads are plastic, they don't
feel cheap.

Bust darts are a teeeeensy bit high.   Don't care.

I had just spotted an enormous
butterfly on my balcony!

I learned something very important with this project.  Or I should say - a realization finally dawned on me:  I have a broad back!  Like I said, I've made this pattern at least seven times before, but when I finished this one and put it on, it felt tight across the back.  I really wasn't sure why, but after thinking about it I decided that it was because this fabric is twill, and thus doesn't have the crosswise stretch that plain weave fabrics have.

But I've also been reading fit books lately (as I know I've mentioned) and one thing I read in Fit for Real People had been simmering in my brain:  the authors said that if you find you have tightness in the upper sleeves when you reach your arms forward; or if you find that your blouses are always riding up your front neck toward the back, then you likely have a broad back.

I've been trying to observe the fit of my clothes - both RTW and self-made - and I've realized that both these things happen to me with most tops.  Aha!  So I think it's going to be time to try out the broad back adjustment on the next thing I make. Which is a little scary for me!