Christmas presents

I stayed with my parents last week, as I can’t stay with them at Christmas this year, and just managed to finish the Christmas presents I was making for Dad and brother before I left. Contrary to my giddy expectations of a previous post, Dad’s cardigan was not ‘the one’ – the first one I’d have completely finished ready to take with me or even, the pinnacle of endeavour, to have posted before I left in order to reduce the amount to carry on the train. It is a very heavy cardigan!

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When I got home I’d almost finished sewing it up (partly on the train!) but had still to make the buttonband and collar and of course to sew on the buttons. Due to having other things to do when I was there, a large hitch with the buttonband, and my usual inability to judge how long things will take to do, I ended up having a couple of nights of very little sleep while I worked on it and only finished sewing on the last button 2 hours before I was due to leave. Do I never learn?

I don’t recall ever having done a buttonband with a circular needle before, and found that my usual modus operandi when it comes to picking-up-and-knitting (which I hate) didn’t work here. I usually use a thinner needle to go along in the opposite direction, then knit on the way back, because I find it really hard to pick up the right amount of stitches. But pushing a circular needle all the way round, which was in any case difficult because I used the actual size you’re meant to use rather than a thinner one, and it kept getting stuck, left me with the unforeseen circumstance of then actually not being able to knit. Idiot! Thus we live and learn. I think it took me a whole ‘evening’ (after I’d gone to bed because I didn’t want Dad to see the garment, so for ‘evening’ read 10.30 p.m. – 1 a.m.) to push the needle through and a large chunk of the next ‘evening’ to pull it out again.

I also ran out of yarn for the collar, because I did a yarn substitution due to the yarn for which the pattern was intended not being available, and guessed incorrectly how much yarn would be needed. In the end, though, I think it’s better like this because I don’t know how much he’d love having a big lumpy collar. That did mean I never got to try short row shaping (wrap and turn), which I’ve never done before, but it was leaving it rather late to try a new technique so is no doubt for the best.

The pattern is for Berocco Vintage Chunky and called ‘Fitzgerald’. The actual yarn I used is Paintbox Wool Chunky, sold only online by LoveCrafts in the U.K., so far as I can tell. When I ran out I looked online and they’d sold out of that colour and the product couldn’t be bought anywhere else so may be made exclusively for them. It’s 50% wool, 50% acrylic. I thought I preferred 100% wool but that’s expensive and I actually think this is okay, though not eco-friendly.

It’s a very heavy garment though, especially with the moss (seed) stitch and cabling, so I hope he’ll wear it. It looks as thought it should be an okay fit.

 

The other present I finished was a pair of pyjama bottoms for my brother, with pockets, made from glow-in-the-dark fabric. Just what every self-respecting 29-year-old wants! Ah, what it is to have an embarrassing older sister. Fortunately, no-one except you need know!

Because I’ve made this pattern before I didn’t struggle with it, praise be, and when I set off to visit my family had only to sew the ends of the waistband elastic together, slip-stitch the casement edges together over hole for the elastic, and put the waist tie through. I’ve long since given up on that difficult bit for finishing seams (can’t remember what it’s called: overstitching?) and just use pinking shears instead. I used to think I was a perfectionist, then I discovered what it really takes to be a seamstress and settled for third-best.

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Autumn stripey jumper

I wanted to call this ‘rainbow’ jumper but it isn’t the ROYGBIV colours. It’s knitted in Sirdar Colourwheel, which I wouldn’t normally go for because it’s acrylic, but I’m glad I did, I do love it. It fits nicely, is comfortable, and because it isn’t wool doesn’t make me itch. The pattern’s by an independent designer and I bought it from Ravelry, being the only pattern I could find for the yarn that was for a garment rather than accessory (shawls). I only just managed to make it with the two balls of yarm, as I had to cut pieces out periodically for the sewing. I did faff about unravelling one ball and rerolling it from the other end, so I could have the dusky pink at neck and cuffs rather than the yellow or orange, I just thought it would look better that way. Did have a few problems with the pattern and had to contact the designer, but it turned out my problems were because her team had accidentally posted and sold the interim rather than the finalised version of the pattern! I actually finished the knitting and the neck a few months ago, but didn’t bother finishing the sewing up until the weather got cooler and I wanted to wear it.

In other news, I’ve a new job so we’ll be moving house / flat in January – once we’ve found somewhere to move to. I’ll be really sad to leave our allotment, so am looking to rent somewhere with a small garden, which fingers crossed might be possible where we’re moving to, which is a bit less expensive than where we are now, where renting somewhere with a garden would be far beyond our means. I’m already really busy trying to finish work and continuing professional development projects before I leave this job, but will get even busier soon when it comes to packing the flat (and garage!) up. I’ve got two Christmas present craft projects to finish but am nearly done with one and making good progress with the other. Whether I’ll have it finished in time to take to my parents’ when I go to visit them shortly, as opposed to my usual rush to finish it at nights when I’m staying there, is another matter…

Could this be ‘the one’?

No, not the bestest garment wot I’ve ever knitted. I don’t think I even like it that much, in truth. But it could be the first garment intended for a Christmas present that gets finished without it being a last-minute rush at 1 a.m. Not necessarily on Christmas Eve, this one, like previous ones, is for Dad and I go to stay with my parents in early December, so I want it finished about a month before Christmas. Usually what happens is that I have it almost finished before I go home but then end up staying up til past midnight in my old bedroom, night after night, til it’s done just before I leave! The plan is not this time. This time, I want to have it finished in plenty of time and post it home, because it’s big and heavy and it will be a significant non-addition to my luggage.

It’s okay, but not what I’d choose to make with unlimited funds and time. The yarn’s chunky so it’ll be warm but really heavy, which the recipient might not like (the weight, not the warmth, he’s always cold), but that can’t be helped.

The yarn’s Paintbox Wool Chunky, 50% wool and 50% acrylic. That’s a substitute for Vintage Berroco Chunky, which is 52% Acrylic 40% Wool 8% Nylon and costs twice as much. I used the yarnsub.com website to find it – it said Paintbox has very similar qualities but less yardage, so I guessed and bought 14 balls instead of the 12 called for in the original pattern. I’ve used 3 and a tiny bit to make the back, but because it’s so thick I’ve changed balls mid-row instead of at the end, so as not to waste yarn, but I don’t like doing this because it leaves a thick bit mid-row. I’ve done it on the back because I think that’s less noticeable, but won’t for the front. The colour is British racing green, not the teal colour the photo’s come out as.

The pattern’s a bit complicated in that the chart’s got colours as well as dot-and-dash symbols to indicate different cable stitches. I printed it out (it’s a pdf download) on my black and white printer thinking the symbols were enough, but hadn’t checked and didn’t realise sometimes the same symbol appears in different colours on different rows, so when I did spot that I’d done a whole repeat and had to pull out 20 rows. I also forgot that after the first go of the chart you start each repeat on row 3, and did my first row from row 1 – fortunately these two mistakes were both on the first repeat, so it could have been worse. The eagle-eyed will spot that I made a mistake with one of the first cables, just above the rib, so that one goes forward and the next goes back. I decided to just leave it, I’d done so much by then and being on the back and base I don’t think anyone will notice, and I can guarantee Dad won’t care! He won’t be able to see it from where he’s sitting anyway!

I have actually finished all the pieces of my multi-coloured jumper, including the neck, but have left stitching it up for now as it’s too warm to wear it so I thought I’d crack on with this cardigan and sew up the multi-coloured jumper later. That means I’ve got three unfinished cardigans & jumpers on the go… ah well, come January I’ll be back on target. Maybe even December, if this is indeed ‘the one’.

Chunky cardigan back

Knitting, sewing, gardening

I’ve been working on and off on sewing a top using fabric I bought in a sale a few years back without a plan other than I’d use it to try and teach myself how to sew. I bought three lots of fabric in that sale and have made simple tops with two of them, neither of which turned out brilliantly but I’m learning. They don’t have sleeves so this is my first attempt at sleeves. I haven’t got as far as the sleeves yet… first I had to do a ‘facing’ for the first time. There could be a long-term problem with this top because you were supposed to cut the facing piece against the grain and I didn’t have enough fabric, nor could I find it on sale anywhere. I tried buying a contrasting piece but when the fabric came it was the wrong shade of red so I’ve given up and am just making it, thinking I can use it as a prototype or practise piece, because it’s unlikely to work out according to plan anyway.

Here it is so far. I’m working on it slowly because finding time is a problem, I’m working on the allotment during daylight hours at weekends and the sewing machine and tv are in the same room so evenings if husband’s watching TV I don’t like to start noisy sewing (though he doesn’t vocalise an objection I still feel bad). Anyway, there you go.

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I find seeing where the stitching’s going difficult when sewing close to the edge so had a couple of pull-out moments and the sewing’s in two parts.

Knitting’s going okay. I finished one side of the neck in the annoying lace-knight cable jumper. Second side of the neck you’re supposed to rejoin yarn with right side facing, but the end where the yarn is it would have to be joined wrong side facing, so again I need to concentrate on it. The acrylic mix self-striping one’s racing along although I don’t love the mustard yellow:

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I had great fun at the weekend trying to list my ‘stash’ on Ravelry (it’s still not all there!) and breathed a huge sigh of relief at finding the pattern I decided a long time ago I wanted to use for the Rowan Calmer yarn I bought at a Knitting and Stitching Show. That was one colour and the pattern I found has two more colours and I remember spending ages searching the internet to find some contrasting yarn – and of course having to pay full price and so counteracting the effect of buying yarn cheaply at the Show – so it would have been a pain to have lost the pattern.

The allotment’s doing well though we’ve had problems bringing on squash from seed this year for some reason, don’t know why. Also, May’s had some cold snaps which delayed when I could plant them out. We’ve made a new flower bed this year (a long and narrow one with rose bushes in it, the one with the lovely magenta alliums here we made last year). In the new bed we’ve planted a combination of plants grown from seed indoors and some sown where they are to flower – I’m looking forward to seeing how they come on, we’re just getting to the stage where it’s possible to tell which are weeds and which are wannabe flowers!

Knitting projects

I’ve temporarily run out of enthusiasm for my patchwork, maybe because trying to use up material for my last 12 blocks is giving me combinations that don’t quite work and / or need a lot more thinking about, and my weekends are devoted to the allotment just now. I’m having a burst of knitting enthusiasm instead, though my hands and shoulders are beginning to feel the effects.

In an attempt to stash-bust I started in December knitting a pattern I bought several years ago. The yarn is recycled cotton and comes in balls wrapped round wide cotton tubes, so is taking up a lot of space in my various knitting containers.

I strugggled with the pattern at first because it’s been a while since I did a lace knit and had forgotten what some of the stitches entailed. Then I kept dropping stitches without realising and of course lacy knits are a pig to pull out.

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Don’t really like the yarn either! I bought it in an online sale so didn’t see it before I bought it. Truthfully, reminds me of a dish cloth but I’m probably being unkind. But it’s made from recycled jeans (didn’t realise that when I bought it) so is eco-friendly. I’m ploughing on regardless, despite a nasty feeling it would have been better in the next size up. Might have been all right in a different yarn, but the cotton seems clingy, particularly in this pattern type with its cable panels. I’ve finished the back and it does stretch out widthwise more than it looked like it would when on the needles; maybe blocking it will help, I don’t know. If not, it may go to Knit For Peace or similar.

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I’m nearly finished the front, having started on the neck. Having eventually got used to the lace pattern repeat makes it quicker, but the cable panel is a 24-row repeat so of course I can’t remember that! Working out the shaping while keeping the pattern correct is a bit of a brain-teaser.

During the school holidays when the trains were a bit quieter at commuting time I could knit on the train but I need to stick out my elbows when purling two together and doing s1k1psso, so wasn’t getting more than 2 rows per journey done before someone sat next to me when the train stopped, so I’ve given up on that again now the holidays are over.

What I am doing now on the train is much more fun, a simple pattern in an acrylic mix with a self-striping yarn. It’s okay to do on the train, less need for sticking out the elbows! I wouldn’t normally choose an acrylic mix but the yarn shop where I live was closing down and I felt bad for her, not having used it much because I wasn’t really keen on most of the stock – being a small shop she sold mostly acrylic mix wools, and I always think they crackle with static, and bobble. Mind you, 95% of the wool garments I’ve knitted bobble too, some really badly (e.g. Rowan Polar) so I’m open to persuasion on that score. Anyway, I thought I should buy something as she’d a lot of stock to clear, so having done a preliminary browse to make notes on what she had, then gone to Ravelry for possible projects using that yarn, I got two balls of Sirdar Colourwheel with which to make a jumper. A lot of the yarns stocked are really intended for scarves, which these days make my neck itch regardless of fibre content, though I still have loads of scarves I can’t quite bear to part with. I found only one pattern using this yarn that wasn’t for a scarf or shawl, so that is the one I’m making.

I really like the way it’s knitting up, and the fibre content actually feels really nice. Just have to see how it holds up once the garment’s completed.

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Christmas projects

I finished the jumper I was knitting my Dad for Christmas, which had to be done early as I was staying with parents last week so wanted to leave it with them to be opened on Christmas Day. It’s too big! Which is to say, I am gifting my father a large cable knit tent, with the expectation he wear it. The irony is that I started knitting the next size down and after about 50 rows decided it was going to be too small so pulled it out and started again. I’d bang my head on the desk but a) it wouldn’t solve anything, b) it would hurt, and c) what brains I have have been scrambled enough already.

Dadjumper

This is the second jumper I’ve knitted in this yarn, Rowan Hemp Tweed, and thought I knew how it behaved, and even shortened the sleeves slightly because I know I knit sleeves too long in chunky yarns, but in the end I just misjudged the relative sizes of father and jumper.

The pattern is from Martin Storey’s Easy Aran Knits. There were some errors in the pattern, fortunately easily noticeable, e.g. the rib at cuffs and hem was described as being row 1: K3, [P2, K2] to end; row 2: P3, [K2, P2] to end, whereas row 2 should have been [P2, K2] to last 3 stitches, P3. Actually, that was it apart from one regarding the number of stitches on the holder when making the neckband, but I’d have to double-check before defaming the pattern writer! I once met him for 10 seconds at a Knitting & Stitching Show and he was very pleasant.The cable design’s lovely.

Dadcable

This is the first garment I’ve made with a shoulder saddle and sleeve extensions, to be sewn up at the back. Never having done that before I found it difficult and I think the end result’s a bit bulky, maybe I used the wrong stitch when sewing. The neck also looks small, but it feels okay on (I tried it on to see how big it was on me, seeing as we’re I think the same height now). The sleeves dangled beyond the ends of my fingers.

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In other Christmas projects, I’ve been making myself a pair of pyjama bottoms in a Christmas fabric. The third ‘dressmaking’ project I’ve attempted, neither of the first two having been spot on, and I wanted to avoid tailoring or fasteners, so pj bottoms seemed the way to go! Found a fantastic brushed cotton fabric at a reasonable price at Croft Mills online fabric shop (U.K.). Some brushed cottons are £10 a metre, which I didn’t want to pay, this was £5-something.

It’s a 5-option multi-pattern thing so the pattern took a lot of reading. Mistakes made include: misreading pattern so that I thought two small circles next to each other symbolised button holes (for the tie to feed through). Fortunately the symbols mean a gap had to be left there in the seam, so all was not lost. This is the first time I’d made button holes on a sewing machine and it was great! Thanks to the buttonhole making facility on my Singer sewing machine. Took me three attempts to get it to work because I didn’t realise you have to pull down a lever, and I put the metal plate on the buttonhole foot at the wrong side of the fabric, but fortunately it didn’t seem to matter. Here they both are on one leg, taken on the wrong side where the interfacing is to make it easier to see: the buttonhole where it’s meant to be, and where it isn’t! buttonhole

The pattern includes pockets, and it took me hours one Saturday afternoon to fathom out the construction on one leg, but once done the second leg was really quick. These are the legs under construction, showing fabric on right and wrong sides:

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And a pocket:

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I managed sewing the centre seam joining the legs (done twice for strength as per instructions), but sewing the outer seam, not so much. Ahem. Managed to sew the legs together on one side. Thought they looked strangely like a skirt, which could not be right. Bit like the time I sewed a jumper sleeeve to its body…

At least I realised when I’d only sewed one seam and not two! I’ve nearly finished now and have only the hems to finish. The pyjamas are also too big but I’ve tightened the elastic and it’s passable. I’d like to make them again in the smaller size. I’ll post a picture when they’re finished. It’s a unisex pattern and I’d like to make a pair for my brother (in a different fabric of course) because I think the size I made would fit him nicely, but he didn’t look overly enthusiastic when I showed him these. Can’t think why. I might make some anyway, but the only fabric I liked is in the US so P&P would cost a lot. It’s his birthday in April, I’ll try for then. And try not to sew the legs together. Lucky him, tee hee.

Snowmen

I’ve been making snowman Christmas tree decorations for the church I go to to sell at its Christmas Tree Festival. Thank goodness I’ve finished! They’re knitted in 4 ply wool and are around 2 inches high. They take ages to make, the arms in particular, which have to be rolled up and sewn down the edge before being sewn onto the body. The pattern was published in the Woman’s Weekly magazine when I was a small child and is by Jean Greenhowe. Mum knits these too and used to sell them at craft fairs. She adapted the pattern though, as the original pattern is for double knitting and had the head and body separated by tying wool around the outside whereas Mum threads it through the stitches when she reaches that point in the knitting. The original pattern had a broom, but that’s a step too far when one is trying to mass produce them! Downsizing to 4 ply meant the hat pattern had to be changed too.

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My Mum is a master of the art of snowman making, and kindly made lots and posted them to me for the church sale. As you can see, hers are more colourful, squidgy, smiley, and it has to be said, more popular (hmph!), than mine:

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She also made a few ‘snowman pops’ from a magazine pattern, just heads. So these are they in total:

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The church sale is in three weekends’ time but I’m away both for it and the weekend before, so had to deliver them to the lady who organises the sale either last weekend or next, so was pleased to do it last weekend as I’m running out of time for a number of other things, including knitting a jumper for Dad for Christmas. These photos are a bit dark because I took it on Saturday night when I’d finished the last one before delivering them on Sunday morning. Ugh, it was 11.30 p.m. when I finshed, suffering from Snowman Induced Fatigue Syndrome (SIFS), a rare condition, known to exist in only one person.

Mind you, it doesn’t help that I had to knit extra because I kept becoming attached to ones I’d made, especially if they have cute smiles. Here’s one that’s going to be on my tree this year!

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