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!

cardy1

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.

pjs

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.

Dadjumperneck

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:

legs

And a pocket:

pocket

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.

New flat and a new jumper

We moved into our new flat a month ago but aren’t properly settled yet, there’s too much to do in terms of unpacking, but at least I feel we’re getting there. We lost our sofa, because it was too big to move into the new flat, and given that the new flat is smaller have paradoxically acquired new shelving and a new flat-pack wardrobe, the last after 3 weeks of fighting with the catalogue company to deliver it in its entirety instead of leaving us with 2 of the 3 boxes needed. 2/3 of a wardrobe not much use to anyone! It snowed when we were moving, so lots of cleaning of the old place to do after we’d all tramped in and out gathering up our boxes, gulp…

old flat

The nearest I got to crafting before we left was finishing this jigsaw, which took me I think over a year!

cow

When packing I was keen to have patchwork to keep me going until the move was complete, but I’ve actually barely touched it. Partly because when I went for a job interview – which I didn’t get – I went to a bookshop afterwards and found a great book that I’m enjoying reading, but partly because I know when I finish this block I can’t move on to another one because haven’t enough space cleared for me to start cutting fabric.

IMGP1467
The weather when we moved in

Happily, I’ve finished the Noro jumper, and am pleased with the result. The only thing I don’t like is the sleeve length, which I should have made shorter.

When I went to start the sleeves I found they were missing from the English version of the pattern I’d bought from a German company. While waiting for them to send the missing part, I had a crack and trying to translate the German version, being impatient. I did A’ Level German but that was a shocking 20 years ago and oddly, it didn’t include knitting pattern abbreviations! Amazing what you can find online, though. When the English version came I found to my surprise that there were some differences between the two. The German version was to cast on 44 stitches, the English to cast on 45 and decrease one in the middle of the first row. Why? Different arm lengths too, is that because English people have longer arms than German people?!!!

Because I’d made the body in 6 mm needles instead of 5 mm, there were, as Mum predicted, problems with the sleeves. Fortunately there was no top of sleeve shaping to contend with. The pattern was to increase at each end of every 10th row to 74 stitches, which I started doing and realised it was going to be too long, but for some reason kept going, to prove it to myself, way after I knew it to be the case. I put it on a holder and started the second one, increasing on every 8th row, and that worked better. I got to 70 stitches and realised it was fit for an orangutan, so pulled it out and went back to 68, then pulled out sleeve one and knitted it up the same. I wish now I’d gone back to 66, but was nervous of making it too different. Still, it’s done now, and it’s okay. The neck was done on circular needles, which I’m not sure I’ve done before.

I’ve been able to wear it for two days before the weather here took a turn for the hot – it’s jumped to the mid-20s (celsius) in London, very confusing.

IMG_0228

IMG_0225
Shame the ribbing’s twisted here, but I like the size of the neck, round but quite loose so can wear a shirt under it, helpful when your neck reacts badly to wool! (The colours here are over-exposed, they’re bright as shown in the photo of the whole jumper)

IMG_0226[1]
Sadly didn’t make a great job of sewing on the sleeves – I did try, honest!
I’m now starting a new Noro jumper, a short-sleeved one using sock yarn, and all done on circular needles, which I’m not used to but we’ll see how it goes. It’s a beautiful yarn so I hope it goes okay!

Harvest mouse!

I realise with a shock that it’s been a month since I last posted a blog entry: crumbs. However, at last another autumn block, easing myself back into the saddle after some time away working on the Farmer’s Wife cushion. I have also, to my delight, finished a jumper I started some 20 months ago!

Mouse and brown

I’ve wanted to do another block with the harvest mouse fabric for a while, but find the purple difficult to deal with in the context of the quilt as a whole, and from that point of view it wasn’t a good fabric to choose despite its autumn theme. Putting it with the dark brown and cream autumn leaf fabrics has worked well, I hope, to tie it in more with the other blocks and help the purple-ish ones I’ve already made blend in better. At least, that’s the theory! The colours remind me of copper beech trees.

It’s been a busy month because I’ve been working hard on a talk I’m giving on Friday relating to my work, which has meant lots of reading in the hopes I’m not going to make any obvious mistakes and will be able to answer questions at the end, and choosing carefully what to talk about, to keep it down to the required 40 minutes. I’ve been working on it at work and at home, so will be very glad when Friday’s over!

I’m also on a mission now to finish lots of projects so I can clear some of the backlog lying around in the flat (and attracting moths and damp, great) and start new things! Could take years… But I’ve finished a jumper I started making in Sept. 2015, a complicated cable knit which I had some problems with but also left lying fallow for months on end while I worked on quilting projects, like the green and pink lap top for my aunt. So hip hip hooray for that!

jumper

I’ve started on a new jumper using a self-striping yarn I bought either last year or more likely the year before, when the knitting and sewing shop in our village downsized and was selling off stock. I love the colours and that it’s cable-free, so am going great guns on it. For the next patchwork block I’m afraid I’ve taken apart one I did in the early days of the project but which isn’t working well in the quilt as a whole, so intend to keep the central square of the block but make a new outer part to it, and use the flying geese I’d made  for the original one with different fabrics in a different combination. It’s requiring more mental energy than I’ve had to spare in the last fortnight, so I hope I can resolve that this coming Sunday (Saturday being fully booked and looking like a write-off, crafts-wise).