home, -ish

We moved! With no disasters. The cats were incredibly good.

IMG_4892.jpgOverlooking a La Quinta parking lot, I can’t remember which one.

We got here and had three snowstorms in March to welcome me back to true winter.IMG_5014

But eventually things have changed from looking like this:B7979491-54E9-4246-A373-96D0788D6052 (1)

To looking more like this:IMG_5164.jpg

And this:IMG_5200

And this:IMG_5190

This is what spring looked like when I was growing up. It’s very strange both to remember this landscape, because it was my default for so many years, and to find it completely unfamiliar, because it has been so removed from my reality for so many years.

In any case, we made it. And I have been knitting – as soon as we got here, I had to start making a hat, because it was really REALLY cold, and I had foolishly packed all my handknits to go on the moving truck, which took about a week to reach us. So I’ll show you those soon. Until then, have a birch tree.IMG_5118

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It’s happened

I’ve cast on for a project, set it aside, and absolutely forgotten what on earth it actually was.

Back in July I wrote about figuring out I’d unintentionally colorblocked a project – in the accidental way, not in a purposeful and attractive way – and was planning to frog it. And sometime between now and then, I did exactly that.

I remember that I was inspired to frog the project (which had been languishing abandoned in a project bag for stretch) by seeing something I really wanted to knit, which I thought the yarn would suit.

But I can’t remember what on earth that actually was.

Merry Christmas/Christmas Eve, everyone!

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(WAIT, I REMEMBERED!!! The current plan is for a Sibella cardigan by Carrie Bostick Hoge. But it took me way longer to remember that than it should have. I think this is a sign that I need to finish some projects.)

Coming up for air

The less time I have to knit, the more I wish I could do nothing else but. Seeing everyone’s wonderful pictures and videos and recaps of Rhinebeck doesn’t help – I am so envious! I didn’t discover knitting until I’d moved away from the east coast, so I’ve never been, but am SO determined to get there one of these days. (I enjoyed this video quite a bit – so fun to see everyone’s Rhinebeck sweaters.) Probably in reaction, last night I found myself reading through the Vogue Knitting Live program for NYC in January, and wondering whether we could swing that. I’m sure it’s a completely different vibe from Rhinebeck, but I wouldn’t mind an excuse for a weekend in NYC, either. Has anyone ever gone to Vogue Knitting Live? What did you think of it?

Anyway, since I last wrote, not much and quite a bit has happened, knitting-wise. My attempted Lena tee remains shoved in a project back awaiting frogging. However, I did finish (mostly) the sweater that began as a swing cardigan that was too big, and got frogged – meet 80s Lipstick (wrinkled as are all my sweaters when I photograph them):

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This is Lipstick by Joji Locatelli (called “80s Lipstick” because the idea of teal lipstick just seemed so 1980s to me). It’s made out of Malabrigo Rios in Teal Feather, continuing my obsession with what is not the world’s most practical yarn for the desert (worsted-weight wool). So I chose this short-sleeved cardigan, thinking it might be a bit more climate-appropriate. So far, I’ve only worn it once (to travel to a cooler climate), but it’s wonderfully comfortable. The color is a little more green than it looks here – it was hard to photograph. And while the skeins were all bought from the same place at the same time, I did end up alternating them – in my first try with this yarn I realized you could see where the skeins changed. I’m actually really happy with how uniform the fabric looks here.

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I have to finish putting on the buttons (I bought gorgeous sleek silver buttons from Purl Soho but can’t find them right now, so the ones in the picture are a couple of placeholders). At the moment the front edges tend to curl open, due to the reverse stockinette panel (you can get a sense of that in the top picture), which I find annoying, but I made buttonholes the whole length of the front so I think once I get all the buttons in place I can deal with that better. Also my blocking game has been hindered by SMALL FURRY PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO EAT YARN, so this was mostly just washed and left to dry away from cats – you can see below that none of the lines that should be straight actually are.

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As always, I had lots of help when I was trying to take pictures.

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(At least he’s not eating it.)

Now my dilemma is this: my sister saw this and absolutely adored the color, which makes me want to make her some kind of sweater for Christmas (probably something completely different in style as she’s skinnier than me and goes for fitted over loose). But she refuses to wear wool, and I don’t know of any non-wool yarn that quite reproduces the beautiful tonal variations you get in yarns like Malabrigo and Madelinetosh. Any suggestions?

 

Outtakes

I don’t think you have to like cats to like knitting, or vice versa. But a lot of knitters out there seem to have cats.

And if you are a knitter with cats, the following pictures, taken while I tried to photograph my Mountain High sweater, may be familiar to you.


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These guys are an absolute MENACE to my knitting. In particular, the gray boy is obsessed with everything yarn: he pulls knitting out of my work basket, he tries to drag handknit sweaters out of my laundry basket (…through the holes in the sides), and one of the first things he did after we brought them home was find some bright pink Cephalopod Yarns yarn and start to eat it, chomping away with strings hanging out of his mouth like pasta.

img_2733It’s a good thing they’re cute.

Finished object: dilute torti sweater

Do any of you have sweaters you love almost despite yourself?

I just finished one of these. It’s Heidi Kirrmaier’s Mountain High, which I had seen but never been drawn to until I saw IADJW’s version and became slightly obsessed. (Now that I look at the pattern page, I love the mauve version in the second picture down, too.)

I shouldn’t love this sweater so much, for lots of reasons. Frankly, I don’t think it looks very good on me. It’s worsted weight, and I never knit in worsted weight, because I am bulky enough as it is; I don’t need added bulk. The gauge is tight enough, and the yarn springy enough, that the fabric tends to hide my bustline (which isn’t that prominent anyway). It’s an a-line sweater, with a wide garter hem, which doesn’t do my bottom-heavy shape any favors. The yarn is pretty variegated, which looks busy. I alternated skeins, which kept the pooling to a minimum, but resulted in lot of horizontal striping, which doesn’t make me look any narrower.  And it’s an odd neutral shade mixing cool gray and warm pale yellow, with shades of beige along the way; I look positively haggard in beige and yellow (even light gray can be dicey).

It’s also by far the warmest item of clothing I own, which means I’ll probably be able to wear it maybe three times a year here if I’m lucky.

But.

I love this sweater. Love love love love love.

First, it fits! I absolutely didn’t swatch for this at all – and I’m not sure why, since I usually try to – just cast on and forged ahead. But it worked! (It’s actually kind of big at the moment – I hadn’t realized how the added weight of worsted weight yarn means that superwash worsted stretches even more than superwash fingering; I think it will spring back eventually, though, or I may try throwing it in the dryer briefly). In any case, it’s super comfortable and cosy.

Second, I loved this pattern. It’s yet another seamless top-down sweater – and I know I should try something with set-in sleeves – but Heidi Kirrmaier’s patterns are so much fun. I always find myself a bit baffled to start – this pattern begins with short rows shaping the neck, and I’m geometrically challenged enough that it took me a while to figure out how it all fit together. But if you follow the pattern, everything comes together like a beautiful puzzle. (I’ve knit her Summer Solstice pattern which is even more so like that.) I know some people hate the slog through the body of a top-down sweater, but as long as I can see what it’s turning into, I can knit stockinette for days. Knitting something bottom up and in pieces doesn’t look like a sweater, it looks like a bunch of flat pieces, and my product-knitter self just isn’t motivated by that.

Third, I love that it’s a-line. I know it’s not really conventionally flattering on me, because I have no waistline in this and it emphasizes my hips. But when I’m hanging out at this end of the scale, I HATE having anything fitted at the waist – it’s uncomfortable and makes me super self-conscious. As some fashion bloggers say, I surrender the waistline. Similarly, I like a-line shapes right now because they don’t catch on my hips and ride up, and I never have to tug them down. I get that all the fashion rules say that covering up your body with acres of fabric is less flattering than more fitted garb, and I promise that my more formal work wear is more tailored. But for causal wear I really love having stuff that makes me comfortable in my body, which right now is stuff that doesn’t remind me exactly what the contours of my body look like.

Fourth, I LOVE the feel of the yarn. It’s Malabrigo Rios, and it’s so satisfyingly soft and springy. Yes, it’s superwash, and yes, we’re not really supposed to like superwash, because it’s unnatural and strips the yarn of its natural scale and coats it in plastic. But from the time I was a tiny child I hated wearing wool because it prickled like mad, and superwash doesn’t do that. I finally get to enjoy the lightness and warmth and temperature/moisture regulation of wool in comfort. (Admittedly, there’s only so much regulation can do, and this is going to be too warm for 90% of the time here. But one of the things I’ve realized is that while it seems a waste of money to buy/make cold-weather clothes here, on those few days when it does get cold here, I have nothing to wear. So I can treasure this for cold days for years to come.)

Finally, the color makes me happy. It really doesn’t flatter me at all, which I knew from the start; it began with leftovers from the baby  blanket I made last summer, and I chose the color based on my friend’s nursery color scheme, not on whether the color flatters me. But I have had two beloved dilute torti cats in the past, and this color almost exactly matches the color of their coats. In fact, I was knitting this over the holiday season when we had to put the second of these very special ladies to sleep. So I love that this is a dilute torti sweater, and I can wear it to honor them.

One of our sweet dilute torti girls adoring her papa. See? Sweater color!

I see a lot of discussion in fashion blogs (and on Project Runway!) about whether fashion has to be flattering in shape and color, and I’ve always been someone who tried to wear clothes that flatter my shape and skin tone. But there’s something satisfying and maybe liberating about abandoning that here. It’s not like this is a crazy, hideous, avant-grade kind of garment; it’s absolutely not. No one is going to stare at it for how hideous it is, and I suspect most people won’t even give it a second glance. But given how much women’s clothing normally seems intended to get that second glance, to make people – usually men – look at you, ignoring that feels kind of like freedom.

24028402086_72de9dd6cc_oProgress picture showing the sleeve stitches held on waste yarn. Mostly because I love the look of the pink waste yarn against the neutrals, and kind of wonder if I should have trimmed the sweater with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s almost starting to look like a bag

Sewing continues. Here’s a peek:

IMG_1475This is – or will be, if all goes well – the Super Tote by noodlehead (Anna Graham), in progress. I kind of wanted a lightweight bag for when I’m schlepping things that don’t fit in my purse, and I fell in love with this cat patterned canvas, so thought this would be a fun project to combine the two. (I say “if all goes well” to cover both my fledging skills, and general randomness, since I already had something of a tragic incident involving some of this bag’s pieces and a puking cat.)

Planning this made clear how difficult it is to match colors and patterns – that is, putting together fabric colors and patterns, and figuring out if they’ll work for the project itself. Here, I originally thought I might make the Metro Hipster, but once I got the fabric I realized the scale was too large and I’d be cutting apart all the charming black cats.  So the Super Tote it was.

So far, I’m fairly happy with my choices, but looking at the photo, I’m not sure if I love the cream topstitching. That said, the lighting was terrible – the background is actually a deep blue, rather than charcoal – so I probably shouldn’t rely on the photo. And the white line down the center is just chalk, which will go away eventually, which I think will make the topstitching look better? I felt like black topstitching would be a little severe, and red would be a little too matchy-matchy.

(The funny thing is that noodlehead just posted a picture of a new Super Tote she made recently, and it’s clear that she made the strap a little differently from the directions in the pattern. The pattern directs you to topstitch the strap at 1/4″ and 3/8″, but the one she just posted is clearly edgestitched and then topstitched. Kind of wish I’d realized that before doing mine, as I like the look of the edgestitching better. But I am way too lazy to redo it, as that would require not only unpicking the seams to remove the strap, but either unpicking all. that. topstitching, or cutting and sewing new straps. Oh well.)

So. My great hope is to finish by the end of the weekend. We will see! And then we’ll see if it turns out well enough to carry in public.

More adventures in sewing things to hold other things

In further sewing chronicles, I have made a stab at making lined bento bags, for carrying lunches to work. I started with one for the husband (I feel a bit guilty because I should have made mine first, to work out the kinks, but I wanted to surprise him and do his first, so he got what is essentially the practice version), then made one for me. I also made myself an unlined one.

The husband’s, not pictured, is made from appropriately manly gray chambray with a gray/white lining. Mine, however, has a cute desert-themed lining:
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As the above pictures may suggest, the geometry on this didn’t turn out quite right. These bags’ success depends on straight lines and correct angles, which seems a lot easier on the page than it turns out to be in practice. I think there are a couple of issues (for my sewing skills at this point): first, I need more practice cutting. For my husband’s bag, I marked all the lines and cut with shears, but for mine, I used a rotary cutter and marked only a few places as a guide for the ruler. I think I do a better job getting the angles correct when I draw all the lines and cut by hand, but I don’t get the cutting line perfectly straight, so it’s harder to sew a straight seam when everything’s assembled. When I use the rotary cutter, my cutting line ends up beautifully straight, but I suspect the ruler slips just enough that my angles end up a tiny bit wonky. (It doesn’t help that there’s a nick in my rotary cutter blade that requires me to go over everything twice.)

The second issue is bulky seams. You start by sewing two big triangles wrong-side together, leaving an opening to turn the triangle inside out to have an exterior and a lining. (I was following this pattern, if you want a visual of what I mean.) The pattern uses 1/4″ seams, and I’m not very good at pressing them open in any way that makes them lie smoothly after the pieces are turned right-side out. So I end up with bulky seams, and then I layer two of these triangles on top of each other and sew through the seams again, and it’s a bit raggedy, and makes the handles sort of hard to tie.

On the other hand, I’m very pleased with my turned hems on the single-layer bag, which you can see below:
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There, the issue was folding the fabric and getting the angles lined up exactly – again probably partly due to imprecision in cutting the fabric.

(I also suspect that part of the issue is that these bags originally developed to carry bento boxes, which tend to be wider than they are tall, and most of what I want to carry in the bags is not shaped like a bento box – so some of what seems like failure of execution is actually a design flaw, on my part.)

I’d kind of like to futz with the measurements, to see if I can come up with a version of these that fits our lunch containers (or yarn) a little better. But I have also been having great fun figuring out how to make a lined skirt (more on that later), and want to try another one of those, as well as make some more zippered project boxes/pouches. So we’ll see when/if I get back to bento bags.

In the meantime, let me show you Stripey helpfully ensconced on the not-yet-assembled-at-the-time pieces of said lined skirt (there are lining pieces pinned to the pattern under there, too, but Stripey is not exactly the princess with the pea, so was happy as a clam).

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