Thursday, May 30, 2013

SF Day 1, part 2: Britex 1

First off, let me just admit that I was surprised to hear all the San Franciscans say "Brite-ex" -- in my mind I've always been pronouncing it as "Brit-ex!"

So, after Stef and I parted ways, I wandered back toward my hotel.  Luckily for me, Britex was right along the way.  Hubby and I had accidentally discovered its location the night before when we were looking for a quick dinner.  The sweetie even offered to stop in with me then and there, but I was kind and spared him, knowing I'd have opportunities to return on my own in the coming days.

The first thing that struck me when I walked in the door was the very high ceilings on the first floor!  Then I looked down and saw roll after roll of beautiful silk prints on the tables, and tall shelves full of bolts lining the walls.  (Sadly, photography is prohibited within the sacred walls of Britex.)  A little overwhelming, especially as I was tired from the trip out and a full morning. 

After about two minutes of looking at some of the silks on the table, I started to feel stressed.  I'm the kind of person who, when I do shop, can't bear to shop in department stores or at places like TJ Maxx or Marshalls (as much as I'd love to - my BFF is always finding the greatest stuff in those stores!).  It's just too many choices; I get overwhelmed and can't focus. 

So I decided to employ my usual shopping strategy, which is to scan all the tables and shelves to see if anything pops out at me, rather than try to look at all the offerings. And having taken a gander at some of the price tags on the silks, I decided to start with the remnants room up top.

After I've done the complete round on my walk-through, I step away for a little bit and then see what filters to the top of my mind.   On this occasion, I did that by going to the notions department.  I'd forgotton to bring along a tape measure with the socks I planned to knit!  In addition to the tape measure, I picked up this nifty little gadget:

I'd often wished for something like this but had never seen one in any other fabric store.  I find my seam gauge isn't very accurate for measurements like 3/8" - the little slider just won't stay put.   This nice little tool will get used a lot, I'm sure.

All the while I was in the notions department, I kept remembering a piece of fabric I'd seen in the remnants.  So I headed back upstairs to purchase it:

This is a nice, wide piece of cotton/lycra sateen with enough width to make a dress.  I'm envisioning some kind of dress with a fitted bodice and slightly full skirt.  However, I'm not allowing myself to start on it until I've done some more reading on fitting and have figured out what I need to do up top.  So for now, it's stash!

I noticed this fabric because of the color combination, but when I pulled it out I was just as delighted by the print.  It's a horizontal wavy stripe pattern that reminds me of bamboo.

Here's a zoomed out look to show how the stripes are arranged:

I'm really happy with this purchase, and even happier that it didn't break the bank!  I've heard so many people say that Britex is quite expensive, but I'd convinced myself the prices would be similar to those I pay at the "fancy" fabric store near my home.  Wrong!  I really had a few moments of sticker shock!  And I won't be complaining about the prices at Fishman's any more!

Once I'd purchased my fabric, I was pooped.  So I headed back to my hotel for an early night.  I needed to rest up for the adventure the following day!

And as the title implies, I did go back to Britex on another day when I found myself with a spare hour.  But since I'm a crazy blog lady who likes to keep things chronological, I won't be sharing that for a few days :-)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

SF Day 1: Stefanie and ArtFibers

Hubby and I arrived in San Francisco on Wednesday, May 15.  The next morning, I met up with Stefanie of Knitspiring Odyssey at a very unique yarn shop just a couple blocks from our hotel, ArtFibers.

I first "met" Stefanie about a year ago when Evelyn started her Ravelry group and organized a charity hat knitalong.  Stef was one of the earlier members to join the group, and she was also the winner of the July prize, which was a box bag that I made.  It was great to finally meet her in person:  just as you'd expect from reading her blog, she's a real sweetie, and adorable to boot!  Here's a picture of the two of us:

Stef really loves hats, and on that day she was wearing a gorgeous Sideways Grande Cloche that she'd made.  Purple is definitely her color, don't you think?  Also, I really need to get with the program and make that pattern!

Stefanie suggested ArtFibers as a meetup location because it was a shop she hadn't visited yet and was interested in checking out.  If you ever decide to go there, make sure you have the address with you:  the space is on the third floor of a small building sandwiched in on Sutter Street, so it's really easy to just walk right by the little doorway that leads to the elevator which takes you up to the shop.

But once you step off the elevator:  what a space!  The third floor loft is lined with windows, so there's lots of natural light, and all the shelving is kept at mid-chest level (for me) so that the overall effect is open and airy.

The owner of the shop, Roxanne, was really friendly and helpful, and spent a lot of time talking with us and explaining the concept.  ArtFibers sources their raw materials from all over the world, and then has unique yarns created for their shop right here in the US.  One thing that Stef and I both really enjoyed was the large posters on the walls with pictures and information about different fiber types.

Each yarn has its own little display, complete with a notecard stating the fiber content and many sample swatches in various colors and stitch patterns, so you can get a great idea of how the yarn works up.  All the yarns are on cones, and the prices listed on the notecard are per yard - you can have as many or as few yards wound off as you want!

We spent quite a bit of time going up and down the aisles, touching all the samples and looking at the colors available in the bins.  Of course, neither of us wanted to go away empty-handed - but boy, was it hard to make a choice!  I finally figured out which yarn I wanted, but then couldn't decide between three colors.  While I was thinking it over, Stefanie started flipping through a magazine and came across a picture of Veera Valimaki's Color Affection Shawl - perfect!

Roxanne got on Ravelry and looked up the pattern for me and we figured out how much I'd need of each color, and then she wound it off for me.  I ended up getting a yarn called Carezza, which is a merino/alpaca/silk blend.  Yes, it is as luscious as it sounds!

And here are the colors I chose:  a silvery off-white, a gorgeous aquamarine and a misty plum:

Roxanne very kindly offered to ship my yarn to me, which meant that not only did I not have to carry it back with me in my suitcase, but she also didn't have to charge me tax!  (Although I was surprised to learn that the sales tax is a couple percent lower in San Francisco than it is in Chicago.)  Stefanie also walked away with some yarn, but I'll let her tell everybody on her own blog what she got :-)

By this time, a couple of hours had passed and we were getting hungry, so we asked Roxanne for a lunch recommendation.  She directed us to a little French place just around the corner, Cafe Claude.  This place and a couple of others were down a side alley that you'd probably walk right by if you didn't know there was something down there!  I saw that type of thing in a few places in San Francisco - I think it's pretty cool!  Anyway, I liked it so much, we ended up taking some friends there the next evening for dinner.

After lunch, Stefanie had to run off to a meeting, and I wandered back to my hotel . . . via Britex, which I'll tell you about another day!

So that's the story of my first blogger meet-up in San Francisco - it was a great start to a lot of great adventures with amazing people!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

San Francisco Ate My Shoes

Hello, hello!  I wonder if anybody guessed that I've been gone for the last two weeks? 

The last five blog posts were scheduled before I left :-)  I'd planned to continue replying to comments and commenting on your blogs as well while I was gone, but I discovered that it's not that easy with just a phone and an iPad!  I'm also starting to feel that Bloglovin' is a hindrance in some ways, but that's a story for another day . . .  At least I was able to keep up with reading your posts and your comments here - thank you for all the lovely comments you left!  I was especially fascinated by all the different approaches to list-making.

Anyway, Hubby had a conference to attend in San Francisco, and since we have a fair number of friends and family in that area and we hadn't been there for ten years, I decided to tag along.  And this time,  instead of staying in bed with a sinus infection like I did ten years ago, I went out and about while he was busy with his meeting. 

Before I left, I organized meet-ups with three bloggers who I've "known" and followed for a long time - I'll be telling you all about those adventures in the next few days.  I did consider making an "announcement" a month or so ago with an invitation to meet up, because I know there are at least a few other bloggers in San Francisco who I follow.  But as I said, we have quite a bit of family and old friends that we also wanted to see - there just wasn't time for everything!  While we were there, Amy at Sew Well announced a meetup at Britex for the following week.  I was bummed to have to miss it, especially as our hotel was only a couple of blocks from there.  But we'd had that evening set aside to see an old and dear friend, so I had to let it go.  I'm hoping it won't be another ten years before we make it out there again!

We were blessed with nice, if cool, weather on our trip, so we mostly got ourselves around by walking.  I always prefer to walk if I can, so I brought along my trusty old Dansko Margrete shoes.  These things are at least ten years old, and have been all over the US, Europe and Turkey. 

These have always been one of my most comfortable pairs of shoes for walking, but about half way through the trip I started noticing that they weren't so comfy any more.  But I just figured, "Hey, I'm getting older, I can't take all this walking as easily as I used to."

I also noticed some black pieces of rubber on the floor in the hotel room on a few different occasions.  And I thought, "Hmmmm, I must have dragged something in off the street."

On Sunday morning, as we were taking all our stuff to the lobby of the hotel to start heading toward the airport, I started feeling really wobbly, and thought, "What is going on here?!"   I finally checked the soles of my shoes and this is what I found:

They were completely disintegrating!  How hilarious is that?!  And no wonder I kept feeling like my feet were rolling to the outside!

It's the end of an era.  These shoes have stood me in good stead for many, many years.  If you look at the first photo, you can see that I had to replace the elastic on the left shoe a long time ago, and I only had white on hand.  I think it's finally time to retire this pair.  Fortunately, I'd bought a new pair of Danskos just before we left; I guess it's time to start breaking those in!

And time to get back to life as usual!

Sunday, May 26, 2013


I'm a list-maker.  I always have been.  I'm one of those people that will even put an already-completed item onto a list, just for the pleasure of crossing it off again.

For knitting, my list is mostly the first half of the first page of my Ravelry queue.  My Ravelry queue is fluid - I use it to keep track of projects I intend to make as well as projects I could make using stash yarns I have.  Because of the brilliant way the site is organized, it's easy to move things around within the queue, so the first page is usually made up of the things that are at the top of my mind.

Sewing is a little trickier.  How many times have I heard a person who both knits and sews say, "I wish there were a Ravelry for sewing!"  If only . . .  but we're left to our own devices.  I've tried a few different ways.

Around the beginning of the year, I made 3 different sewing spreadsheets using Google Drive:  one for projects I wanted to make and for which I already had the pattern and fabric; another for patterns I wanted to make but didn't have fabric for; and a third for stash fabric.  I took pictures of everything, resized them and added them to the spreadsheets.  And that worked for me for a little while.  But I found it cumbersome - it wasn't easy to make changes and move things around if, say, I wanted to use a stash fabric with pattern B rather than pattern A.

So at the beginning of April I sat down in front of my stash and made a hand-written list in a little notebook I dedicated just to this purpose.

By now, the list extends to the following page, which I didn't bother to picture.  You can see that I've been able to cross off a fair number of items in the last month and a half.   You can also see that I've made some changes - for instance, I have a piece of black stretch twill that I'd originally intended to use for another pair of Colette Clovers, but then decided I'd like to try out the Burda 7447 pattern instead.  And the entry "yellow plaid Sencha" has a star next to it because I'm not sure the fabric is an appropriate weight for the pattern - I'm still thinking it over.

This is working for me a little better than the Google spreadsheets, but I'm still not 100% in love with this method of list-making.  Part of the problem is that my ideas about what I want to make change pretty quickly.  It's easy to make changes here, but I know that once my notebook doesn't look nice any more, I won't want to use it!

I also sometimes feel overwhelmed by my list:  it makes me feel that there is too much to do, so I procrastinate about starting anything.  It weighs on me sometimes.  But other times it feels like a little notebook full of possibility.

How do you all keep track of things you want to make, if you do at all?  Do lists encourage you to stay on track, or do they feel burdensome?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A new favorite detail.

Remember my pretty green skirt?  Well, as is often the case, once I took the pictures, I realized I'd forgotten something!  I was so intent on how to arrange the patch pockets against the fullness of the skirt that I forgot to sew down the fold at the top of the pocket, and it took seeing my photos to make me realize it!  All I can say is, I'm glad I figured it out before I washed the skirt!

I got it out the other day to fix it, and decided I'd like to try using pick stitch to make the top edge of the pocket a tiny bit decorative.  And OMG - I love it!  It's very subtle, but it adds a tiny bit of texture.

I really enjoy hand stitching, and this stitch was so fun to do.  I can see now why people are so crazy about doing hand-picked zippers.  I've never done one because I prefer the look of an invisible zipper to a lapped one about 99% of the time, but now I really want to try it out.

Before starting, I used my water soluble marking pencil and a ruler to trace a stitching line so it was easy keep everything straight.  I used my thread doubled, and twisted the two strands together a little bit so that the pick stitches came out like tiny knots.  They look like itty bitty studs to me.  I kept running my fingers over them to feel the texture.  That's not weird, right?

And now that I see these photos, I'm thinking about going back and doing this all along the two edges of the waistband and at the hemline!  What do you guys think?

Monday, May 20, 2013

I don't love you any more: the sad story of Burda 7063

Do any of you remember back in January when I posted about all the new Burda envelope patterns for spring?  And my two favorites, the coat I ended up making twice and 7063, a top or dress with shirred waistline?

I had great plans for 7063.  I had some fabric in the stash I thought would make a cute top, and enough fabric for making a muslin of the dress, with an eye toward making the final dress in a beautiful piece of silk I've had for about a year.  And I did begin the dress muslin, but somewhere along the line, I started hating it, and it ended up here:

Sandwiched in between knit yardage and leftover pieces of fabric.

I'm not really sure why I lost steam on this project.  I think it had to do in part with being really sick of this fabric I used for the muslin - it was one of those things where I had enough yardage to make something, but was really tired of the print (having used it twice already), so I thought using it for a muslin would be a good solution.  But it just kind of made me hate the dress and not want to work on it.

I've also started to realize that when I say I'm making a muslin, what I really mean is "first use of a pattern which I fully intend to wear, and which therefore must be wearable."  This one just . . . isn't.  And yes, I know I need to adjust my attitude re: muslins.

The other thing is that, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that as cute as it is, I really don't like to wear garments with shirring because I find it uncomfortable - the elastic against my skin feels too itchy.  So even if I did make this dress or top, it would probably be one of those things that just hangs in the closet.

So I've decided to let myself off the hook and just not finish this.  Which is actually kind of hard for me - it may take me a while, but I almost always finish what I start.  I really hate to abandon a project.  (Well, not in the case of knitting - I have no qualms about frogging a project if it's not going well.  That's part of the beauty of knitting - you get a do-over if you want!)

Have you guys ever fallen out of love with a project halfway through?  Do you scrap it, or make yourself finish?

Friday, May 17, 2013


So here's what I started after I frogged the ill-fated Pip:

Of course, it's another Kim Hargreaves design!  This one is from Whisper, the spring book released in 2011.  It's called Cameo, and it's a short open jacket with deep raglans.   Here it is on Kim's lovely model:

I've wanted to make this sweater since the book came out, and just before getting this spring's book, I ordered the yarn to make it.  Then I got distracted with the new release!  But since Pip didn't work out for me with the yarn I had on hand, I came back to this.

The sweater is knit in Rowan's All Seasons Cotton, a cotton/acrylic mix.  It's a yarn I've used before, and while I don't especially enjoy knitting with it, I do love the final result - it's a great weight for spring and summer and quite easy to care for.  One of my all-time favorite sweaters was made with this yarn.  It's a little more tedious this time because I had to go down a needle size to get gauge, so it's all quite stiff.  But I love this fabric:

I've been having a lot of missteps lately with my knitting, so I'm really hoping I can stay on track with this and actually finish it!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pip, Pip, Cheerio!

Well, I've done it again!  The new Kim Hargreaves sweater I started a couple weeks ago is no more.

Things were going pretty well - I got gauge with my yarn substitution and was liking the fabric.  But as I got close to finishing the back, I realized that the fabric I was creating really had too much drape for this design and it wasn't going to hang the way the original did.

So now it looks like this:

I'm starting to think this yarn is a little doomed.  This was my third try with it.  I originally bought it to make Chicago, but when I did my gauge swatch I just wasn't digging the fabric.  And you already know about my recent attempt at Lou, and now this one.  I feel a certain pressure to make just the right sweater with this yarn, because it is my favorite color and one of my all-time favorite yarns, which has now been discontinued.  So I may revisit the Chicago sweater - there are so many lovely versions on Ravelry.

And I'm hoping I'll eventually do the Pip sweater, because I think it's such a great design.  The yarn it calls for, Rowan Handknit Cotton, is one I've used before and liked, so I'll go that route in future.  I should have known to trust Kim!

Meanwhile, I've turned my knitting attention elsewhere . . .

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Lucky Find

Yesterday, Hubby and I went out for brunch with a group of friends in a neighborhood we hadn't visited before.  Since I ate a little too much, we decided to walk part of the way home, and along the way we came across a used bookstore.  Hubby can't resist a bookstore, so in we went.  While he pored over the CDs, I checked out the selection of craft books, and discovered this:

Now, this book is currently in print - it was reissued by Dover in 2011 - but instead of paying the list price of $21.95, I paid $10, and it's in brand-new condition.

I got really excited because inside were pictures of a sweater I've wanted to make for years:  the Oregon cardigan.

I'd only ever seen this as a kit sold by Virtual Yarns, Alice Starmore's website.  After perusing Ravelry, I saw that it was also published in Vogue Knitting Holiday 2007.  As I flipped through the book, I thought I saw the charts needed for this design, so I brought it home with me.

On further inspection though, it turns out that only the leaf chart for the bottom border is included.  However, there are very clear photos which will enable me to recreate the main pattern.  It's even on the cover of the book!

I'm glad I bought the book even though it doesn't have the pattern I was hoping for.  There are tons of great charts included, and tips on designing a sweater using them, so it's a great addition to my Alice Starmore collection.  And the Oregon sweater is way down the road for me anyway:  I definitely want to finish my Queen Anne's Lace before starting another Starmore.

I haven't shown that sweater since last August!  I did a good job of working on it consistently til about mid-December, but have only done a couple rows since then.  But I'm really not that far from being done:  I'd gotten all the way to starting the neck shaping.  Here is the current state of affairs:

What a gorgeous pattern.  Alice is truly a genius.  Here's my armhole steek:

And the beginning of the neck shaping:

I should really turn off the TV and get back to this!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Long time coming.

Yesterday I made Hubby a shirt.  A shirt I meant to make about seven years ago!

This is the third "guitar shirt" I've made him from this pattern.  I like the oversized, bowling-shirt vibe.  The pattern itself is McCall's 8409, from all the way back in 1996 - the year we got married!  It has lots of variations, but I've only ever done this version, View F.

I would guess I bought this pattern in the late '90s, and made him his first shirt around that time too.  It's the same print as his new shirt, but in blue, and has been well worn and loved over the years.

The fabric is nice and soft now from all the washing, and the collar is showing signs of wear.

I think that was probably the first time I made a man's shirt, and because I wasn't as precise as I am now, I stitched the inner collar stand down by hand:

However, I did take the time to flat fell the side seams:

A couple years later, I made him a second guitar shirt when I found this red Hawaiian-print fabric:

Hubby loves wearing both these shirts in the summer, so about seven years ago when I found the same fabric in green, I snapped it up with the intention of making him a third shirt.

And I did!  It just took me a while to get around to it ;-)

Now that I've made so many shirts for him, this one felt easy.  When you eliminate cuffs and sleeve plackets, you save a lot of time!  I also saved time by attaching the inner collar stand with my edgestitching:

And I didn't do any of the easing to get a curved collar.  This shirt will never be buttoned all the way up, so I figured it just wasn't important.

This time I did French seams, which also saved me some time - durable, but without a lot of fuss:

In contrast to the business shirts I've been making, this shirt has a separate buttonhole band piece, although the right (button) side is a double fold.  I wanted this shirt to be nice and soft, so I didn't interface the buttonhole band:

Two of the features of this pattern that I really like are the yoke and the center back pleat:

Can you see it?  There's a lot going on with this fabric!

Here are all three versions of this pattern hanging together.  I call this photo "Guitar Trio" -

I'm proud of myself that I finally knuckled down and made this shirt - that fabric had been taunting me for far too long! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Weirdest Thing I've Ever Made

Let's see if you guys can figure out what it is:

No?  How about if I show you the back:

Still no?

OK - how about now?


This is Hubby's big ol' beer stein.  He keeps it in the freezer so that when he wants a beer, he has a nice frosty glass to drink it from.  He also likes to fill this big boy half with orange juice and half with flavored carbonated water - quite delicious.

For years, we've just been wrapping the freezing handle in a dish rag, but the other day he asked me if I could come up with a more elegant solution.  "Of course,"  I said.  And here it is.

Believe it or not, I used my shirt-making skillz on this one.  I have three layers of fusible fleece in there; in order to get it to curve, I cut 1/4" off the width of the inside fabric piece and eased it to fit the outside piece, giving it a slight curve like a collar.

This is my second go.  I didn't measure before making my first one - just kind of eyeballed it - and it was too tall and not wide enough.  On this one, I initially sewed my velcro pieces to the single layers of fabric before sewing the thing together, all fancy-like.  But when I tried to put it on the handle, it didn't feel sturdy enough.  You have to pull really tight to get this . . . stein handle cozy? . . . onto the handle.  I made it that way on purpose so it wouldn't slip around like the dishrags used to.  So I unpicked the velcro tabs and sewed them through all layers of the . . . stein handle cozy.

So, what do you think?  Will I start a new trend?  Should I make a bunch of these and sell them on late-night TV?

This thing cracks me up!