Monday, December 29, 2014

Alabama Inspiration

I mentioned briefly a post or two ago that we went to Austin, TX for Thanksgiving to visit some old friends.  The wife of the couple is an artist, and I was fortunate that she was willing to indulge my request to visit the Alabama Chanin pop-up store at Billy Reid in downtown Austin.

I wasn't really sure what to expect beyond finished garments.  I was hoping that there might be some DIY kits, but there were not - probably better for my pocketbook!  But there were two of the Alabama Chanin swatch books available to leaf through.  So gorgeous!  The girl who was minding the shop that day said it was fine for me to take pictures, so I took a lot, and I'm sharing them here with you today.

It was so fantastic to see and feel the garments created by the artisans who work for Alabama Chanin.  And I was a little surprised - they looked a lot like the things I've been making!  That is, I'd expected that the quality of stitching would far surpass mine, but they look just as rustic and imperfect as the stitching I've been doing.  Not every stitch is perfect, and I like that a lot.

My favorite pieces were those made of "Alabama Fur" and the heavily beaded fabrics.  These garments are quite substantial!

All these photos were taken on my phone, so the colors are not always true, but I'm hoping they are clear enough that they inspire you as much as they do me.

Outside the shop:

Hanging garments:

Petting some other garments:

Looking at construction:

And the beautiful swatch books:

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to see and feel these amazing garments, and thankful that Natalie Chanin has open-sourced so much of her work so that those of us who love to create can make our own. 

I've got 2 pieces underway right now, and more in the pipeline, so I'll be sharing those soon!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tangier Ikat Quilt

The last item in my FO parade is a quilt.  I pieced the top of this quilt last spring, and it's been sitting around since then waiting to be sandwiched and quilted together.

The fabrics are 10 different prints in oranges, hot pinks and dark corals, with accents in green, aqua and white.  I bought these as a fat quarter bundle which included one cut of each print in the series.  It's been over a year since I bought the fabric, so of course it's no longer available as a FQ bundle, but some of the prints are still around.

I wanted this top to look very busy and kind of souk-esque.  I think I succeeded!

I find fat quarters to be a difficult size to work with.  I much prefer to cut quilt pieces from yardage.  It took me a long time to figure out how to use all of the fabrics, in the way I wanted to use them.  Some of the prints are quite large, as you can see, and I didn't want to break those up too much.

Finally I decided to cut each piece into squares and rectangles of 9" x 9", 9" x 6" and 9" x 3".  The 6" and 3" rectangles got sewn together to make 9" squares, and then all the squares were sewn together with the rectangles being oriented in different directions.  The main purpose of this quilt is to give me some beautiful, cheerful fabrics to look at throughout the dreary days of winter.

I had every intention of free-motion quilting this with random squiggles, but I gave up after about 3" of that!  This quilt is heavy!  And rather large, so I didn't think my arms could hang in there long enough to get it all done.  So I switched back to my walking foot and just did straight-line quilting spaced about 4" apart.

The batting was also pieced together from scraps of previous quilts, using my edge-joining foot and a wide zigzag stitch.  I was glad to get those used up - they take up a lot of room!

The binding is a very pale blue and white stripe, which I think ties in nicely with the aqua and green in the main fabrics.  And the backing is plain muslin.

I was anxious to start using this quilt, so I sandwiched, quilted and bound it all in one day last week!  And it's been used every night since :-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Queen Anne's Lace

Finally!  I know a lot of you have been waiting to see this finished!  And so have I!  Thanks to being stuck in the house the week before last to wait for my HVAC guys, I powered through and finished it up, spending a whopping 5 hours that day finishing the second sleeve, weaving in all the ends, cutting the neck steek and picking up the neckband stitches, and finally knitting and tacking down the neck.  By the time I finished, I was too tired to be elated!

As you can see, while it is a gorgeous piece of knitting, it's not the most flattering of garments.  I knew that going in - I mean, it's square dropped shoulders!  I did reduce the sizing from the smallest size by one pattern repeat (I worked 7 repeats around rather than 8).  This shaved about 5" off the circumference of the sweater - one pattern repeat is the width of one of those diamonds you see.

What with all the progress posts and videos along the way, I don't think I need to say much else!  If you want to look back on any of it, you can click the Starmore button in the category cloud at right.  My Ravelry notes are minimal, as the only change I made was to the stitch count on the body.  I used all the original yarns and colors used by Alice Starmore - you don't mess with perfection!

You can see here how wide the sleeves are.  The 40" final bust measurement fits me perfectly in the hips.  Ahem.  If I were to do it again, I'd make the sleeves narrower, but that's really the only other change I'd make.

Here are two photos that show the patterning well, although you've seen it ad nauseum by now.  I decided after seeing these photos that super pale lipstick does me no favors ;-)  It looks like I have no lips!  So I switched back to red for the last few.

Yes, the sweater makes me look a lot heavier than I am.  But that's OK; you can't believe how cosy this thing is.  Scratchy, yes.  But so lightweight and WARM!  Toward the end, working on it was the same as having a snuggly blanket on my lap, which is why no knitting on this happened over the summer.  I'll likely be wearing a chambray shirt under this, but for these pics I just tossed it on, as I was doing a marathon photo session that day.  You can probably tell that by the time I got to this sweater, the light was gone.  But I think you get the idea.

I have a good idea what my next Starmore will be - oh yes, there will be more in my future!  Take a gander at some of her newer designs on her website.  I'm thinking of giving myself a kit for my next birthday :-)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sugar Maple Pullover

This fall, all I really wanted to knit was pullovers.  This one was a holdover from last year's to-knit list.  Last fall I intended to knit the original cardigan version, but this fall . . . it had to be a pullover.  Easy enough - just get rid of the front steek stitches!

I used the yarn and colors of the original pattern - Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport in a heathered green, with contrasting patterns in shades of wine, pale grey and white.  I don't remember the exact date I cast on, but I'd say that the actual knitting only took 2 weeks at most.  That was stretched out over about a month though, because of travel and blazer-making.

This sweater is worked in the round - body and sleeves worked separately, then joined at the armhole.  Which means that once you get to that point, it is a LOT of fabric to shift around.  Still, it's easy knitting - all stockinette, and the Fair Isle patterns are traditional in that no row uses more than 2 colors.

To change things up a bit, I decided to use a tubular cast-on.  The one I used here is used in many Brooklyn Tweed patterns, and I think it will become my go-to tubular cast on for working in the round.   It has a beautifully rounded edge and is nice and stretchy.

Once I had the tubular edges at the hem and cuffs, it didn't feel right to have a normal bind-off for the neckband.  Years ago I knew one that was sewn; I'd learned it from a Katia knitting magazine.  I still have the magazine . . . somewhere in the depths of my garage.  So I did some googling and found the very same one!  This one has the benefit of having photographs of each step too.

You can see the fold line in the top picture, going right across my stomach.  This one was in the drawer when I got it out for photos, but rest assured that it's already been worn.  I was worried that the wool might be too scratchy against my bare skin, but I wore it that way for an entire day and it was scratchy, but not unbearably so.

I really enjoyed this pattern.  The charts in particular I thought were very well done.  I have always loved yoke sweaters, so I think I'll be knitting this one again at some point in a different color scheme.

Ravelry notes here.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Blazer

The Blazer.  I don't actually have a whole lot to say about this!  I posted a lot of in-progress photos and comments on construction on Instagram as I was making it, so I'm not inclined to repeat it all here.  I will say that although this project took far longer than I expected it to, it was completely engrossing and enjoyable for me.  I learned so much, and had so much fun working alongside Shar and Lisa.

And I'm thrilled with the final result.  This is the best fitting blazer I've ever owned, thanks to all those fit adjustments I outlined in this post.  The tissue-fitting ended up being pretty much spot on - the only change I had to make in the fabric was to bring the low round back adjustment in about 1/8".  Now that I've got the fit where I want it, this pattern will become a TNT for me; I've already started gathering supplies for a second version, which will be hand-tailored.  For more information on the pattern, see Lisa's post here.

If the blazer looks a little rumpled in these photos, that's because it is!  It's already been worn a few times - sadly under a winter coat, so it got a bit smooshed.  For these pictures I went more formal than I did when I wore the blazer previously - once with jeans, a cream top and leopard belt and shoes, another time with jeans tucked into black tall boots and black sweater.

I admit that I had a little trouble setting in the sleeves - which is strange because I'm usually pretty good at that!  There are a few wrinkles at the shoulder that I just couldn't get out for the life of me, even after adding in sleeve heads.  There are no puckers in my sewing, and since both Shar and Lisa have no wrinkles at their shoulders, I suspect it has to do with my rather thin fabric.  I promise to do better next time.

Here's the (rumpled) back, which does not bind at all - bliss!

I can do this:

And those lovely pocket flaps aren't just for looks - these are real pockets!

Here's my blue-violet lining:

And finally, just for kicks, here it is with the collar popped.  I have a little side project going wherein I'm watching all the TV shows I missed in the '80s while I was busy studying in high school, college and graduate school.  So I sort of felt like I had to go there.

But I won't be staying there, because the wool is too itchy on the back of my neck!

Saturday, December 20, 2014


This year for Thanksgiving, we went to Austin,TX to visit some very dear friends whom we hadn't seen for several years.  Inspired by Marrie at Purls and Pleats, I decided that my travel project would be a Nurmilintu scarf.  I had one skein of charcoal grey Cascade Heritage sock yarn sitting in my stash that I thought would be just perfect for this pattern.

And what a pattern it is!  Simple enough that I could knit away on it while visiting with friends (and drinking lots of wine), but engaging enough that I never felt bored.  The combination of increases and decreases that form this asymmetrical scarf (an obtuse-angle scalene triangle, in case you're interested in that sort of thing - as a Montessorian I know stuff like that) is so clever.  And I love the lace edge.

I finished this up a few days after we returned from our trip - actually on the same day I finished my blazer!  Of course, this one is steam blocked like the vast majority of my knits.  I thought about wet-blocking it, but it's quite large - I didn't have enough space to pin it out!

This gets worn wound around my neck, but here I draped it just so, in order to show off the lace.

But even when I wear it in my usual way, up close you can clearly see the lace pattern among the garter stitch sections.  I highly recommend this pattern if you like the look of it - it's well-written, including charts AND stitch counts for each section to keep you on track.  And on top of all this, it's a free pattern! 

Friday, December 19, 2014


Next up in the FO Parade is Ava, a grandpa-style sweater in angora, designed by Kim Hargreaves.  For a long time I'd thought I wouldn't post this FO, but I decided to go ahead with it after all, because I really like the sweater.

Ava is one of the many lovely patterns in Kim Hargreaves' book Smoulder, published in September 2013.  (The Holt coat I made last fall is also in this book.)  Shortly after I got the book, I ordered the yarn to make this sweater, and cast on in December of 2013.  And shortly after that, there was a kerfuffle about angora yarns and mistreatment of rabbits.  There were LOTS of discussions on Ravelry forums about it, and although Rowan issued a statement that their angora was ethically sourced, a lot of knitters started to boycott angora across the board, and shortly thereafter Rowan discontinued the yarn.

By the time I became aware of all this (I don't actually read any of the forums on Ravelry!), I'd half finished the sweater.  And I had really mixed feelings about it - of course I don't want to support unethical and cruel treatment of animals, and yet Rowan claims this yarn does not fall in that category.  I slowly continued to knit on it, and finally finished all the pieces around April.  Just in time for warm weather! 

So it sat, in pieces, all summer long and through the early fall.  Around mid-October, I got it out again and slowly started to seam the pieces together.  I felt embarrassed to share about it because of all the anti-angora sentiment.

I finally decided that I would go ahead with it - I'd already purchased the yarn; any cruelty I'd unwittingly participated in had already been done.  But I hope that the statement Rowan made was true, and that this angora yarn is "clean."  It's a lovely sweater, despite my mixed feelings about it.

Ravelry notes here.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Color Affection

Wowzers, it's been a long time!  I've been stricken with a lack of motivation to write, and an increase in motivation to finish things up.  In the last couple months, I've finished up 3 sweaters, 2 scarves, a quilt and my blazer!  Most of these have been finished for some time, and just waiting for that rare combination of me having time to take photos and the sky not being grey.  It's that season again :-)

I decided to post them in order of completion.  So first up is my Color Affection scarf.  I guess it's really more like a shawl - it's enormous!  But I generally wear all my shawls as scarves, wrapping them several times around my neck.  Here I draped it in a more shawl-like way, so you could see the stripes.

This project was started last November, and had been languishing for a while.  To be honest, I probably wouldn't have finished it as quickly as I did if it hadn't been for Jen - she and some other friends started a knit-along in October on Instagram, and the camaraderie was just the push I needed.  I even finished it on time to show it to her in person when I visited Asheville in October!

I love the finished scarf, but I have to admit, I didn't love knitting it.  I like the pattern quite a bit - like most of Veera's patterns, it's an innovative and interesting knit.  But my yarn was a bear to knit with:  very splitty.  Thank goodness it's a joy to wear though - it's a lovely mix of silk, alpaca and merino.  Yes, it is THAT soft.

I guess I should have steamed it before taking these pix - you can see the fold lines!  I'm a bit ashamed to admit that aside from the day I met Jen in Asheville, this scarf has not been worn.  It's just been sitting in my drawer.  I love the colors but they don't actually go with a whole lot in my closet other than grey.  Also, I haven't been going out much - I've been staying home and finishing up projects!

Ravelry notes here.