Look, Ma, I made a coat!

Yep. I made a coat – the white one shown on the Simplicity 2508 pattern packet (sorry about the bad picture, I took it just now in really bad lighting so I could show y’all). Isn’t it adorable? Before I found S2508, I’d been looking at Vogue patterns and was pretty set on a standard peacoat pattern. But the asymmetrical collar on this coat! The sleeve bands! The buttons, oh my! I really love button details. Just in case you couldn’t tell. :P

I know it seems pretty crazy to sew a coat as my.. what, fifth sewing project? I can barely sew in a straight line! But when I was looking at my momma’s fabric stash, she had this lovely houndstooth wool – perfect for a coat. And I like wearing coats. I was a bit hesitant at first, not wanting to mess up this lovely wool, but my momma, who has more faith in me than I do, said, “Go for it!” So I did. (Thanks, momma!)

From the beginning, this project was a tough challenge. I learned so much from the process of making this coat, important stuff like… it’s really hard to cut patterns with a cat around.

Lesson 1: Crinkly tissue paper = instant toy for cats. Apparently.

Eventually, Isabelle and I came to a compromise.. sort of. She would help me keep the pattern grounded. Just in case it started floating, of course. It’s important that the pattern stay still and all.

I would tell her to move. She would ignore me and nonchalantly start grooming herself.

Yeah, I know. She’s so good at helping me with my crafting. I don’t know what I’d do without her. :P

Lesson 2: Cats like wool, even if it’s not yarn.. and even if there are pins all over the fabric.

When I started pinning and cutting out the pieces, Isabelle was very courageous in helping me keep the fabric grounded, even risking the possibility of being poked with pins. Once the actual sewing commenced, she lost interest. I think the sewing machine noise both fascinates and scares her a little. It definitely freaks Cheetah out, but he scares really easily. Oh, he helped me with the project too (no pictures, sorry) – mostly by knocking things off my cutting table so I could pick them up later.

So.. I kind of really love this coat. It’s warm! It’s cute! Though, I will admit there are many, MANY mistakes. Among the things I learned, probably the most important lesson is to cut carefully. I wasn’t careful enough when cutting the pieces out, so some pieces were kind of uneven, and this made it hard to sew.

Also… I really need to learn to sew straight. :)

This back tab is one of my favorite details, but you can really see where my top stitching went awry. :P

The process of making this coat taught me a lot of different techniques. I hand-basted a LOT, and I can see how basting makes the seams so much more even and accurate than pinning does! When I was doing the hem, I learned to slip stitch. Through googling information on tailoring, I learned that I should include a back stay to help support the back and shoulder area. I also learned how to use fusible interfacing to stabilize the hem of the coat. So much information – I honestly never knew there were so many details in tailoring,  and I know I haven’t even delved into it very much! I can’t wait to start another coat soon and try out some more techniques.

There were two really frustrating moments for me while making this coat. The first was trying to figure out how to make buttonholes on the sewing machine. I found the buttonhole foot, googled how to make automatic buttonholes on a Babylock machine. I tried for soooo many hours and still could not get it right, to the point where I was about to give up and try making handsewn buttonholes (yes I was that desperate). My mom came home and offered to help me, but she couldn’t remember how to do it either. Finally though, she managed to find a website that explains really clearly how to do it! Once I figured it out with the help of that website, it was SO easy! And fun, even.

The other frustrating moment was sewing on the buttons. There are 21 buttons on this coat… that’s a lot of buttons. Now, I really love the look of buttons on clothes; I’m really attracted to making cardigans when I knit. But I hate (hate!) sewing on buttons. I’m really bad at it. I used to not sew them on sturdily enough, so they’d fall out. I also have a really hard time sewing them evenly. And! I get lazy so I try to use a really long piece of thread, but often the whole thing just tangles and… yeah. Okay. That last one is probably my fault. :p

In any case, it took me two or three tries to get all the buttons sewn on my coat, especially on the front since the two columns have to match or else they just look.. wonky. Sloppy. But now that they’re on, I LOVE them! Check out my sleeve band!

And my pocket!

Originally I wanted to make welt pockets, because I tend to think they’re easier to use… but these flap pockets are so cute, especially when buttoned. Kind of makes it a pain to slip my hand into the pockets, but it’s okay. :P

I found these buttons at Stonemountain & Daughter, this awesome fabric store in Berkeley. Oh man, I was so overwhelmed when I went there! Walls and walls of fabric, most of which I have no idea what they are. And! A whole wall of buttons. Amazing! It took me awhile to pick these black ones out. I wanted something that wasn’t plain, but also not too busy. I think the ones I ended up with are perfect, solid black with a little texture for interest. :)

I decided to include a really bad picture of me wearing the coat so you  could see the collar. :P I tried to take a picture of it flat, but it didn’t look right. No picture of the coat in its entirety though, sorry – it’s really hard taking pictures of myself. I think I took like 10 just to get a semi-okay one of the collar..

Cheetah was rather confused by the whole process. Intrigued, though – he watched me instead of looking out the window! Haha. Oh, and sorry about the weird face (mine, not his).

All in all, I enjoyed the process of sewing this coat. I’m proud of myself for finishing it relatively successfully! I know I’ll get a lot of wear out of it this winter, which makes me ridiculously happy. :)

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I have this new bag, you see…

Oh dear. Has it really been nearly 15 days since I last blogged?! There goes my attempt at blogging weekly. :(

The thing is… lately, there just hasn’t been a lot of knitting going on. I started a pair of socks for my brother, using the Java Socks pattern from Knitty, and while the mini-cables add a lot of interest and texture (and look super nice to boot!), they are such a pain to do! It feels like some of the slowest knitting I’ve ever done. Plus, they’re socks for a guy (read: big feet therefore requiring much more knitting). And they’re brown, which.. is a little boring. If it was brown flecked with magenta or something colorful, that’d be more fun – but less masculine, I suppose. :P

They’ll get done eventually. Hopefully before I head back down to Southern California in two weeks.

I have to admit, there have been some distractions. First there was the giant red cabled scarf (more on that later). And of course, I needed a hat to match it.. right?

Then I got a new messenger bag, and it’s so roomy that I can totally fit my knitting in there along with school stuff. Yay! But I didn’t want to just stuff my knitting in there, it’d get dirty or tangled or something. What I needed was a bag for my knitting. Something pretty. Something roomy.

I checked out things at Etsy, and there were some cute project bags. But I didn’t really want to pay $30 for a bag.

The only solution, I decided, was to make one myself. Thus:

Okay, I know it doesn’t look like much, but I LOVE this thing. It’s pretty. It’s roomy. It’s in Cal colors (yes damnit that still matters). I put pockets in it. :D

It even makes the brown sock look awesome (and renewed my enthusiasm for the project)!

Who knew that this one bag would lead me into a bout of sewing obsession…

Next I decided I needed a laptop sleeve.

I really like the fabric combination on this bag. And look, I even added a D-ring so I can attach a strap. :D

‘Course, after this, I thought I could use more of a challenge. A dress, maybe. I really like dresses, but don’t have a lot of them because (1) I’m picky about the style, (2) I’m picky about the colors and/or print pattern, and (3) I’m cheap. Considering these factors, sewing one for myself seemed like a good plan.

I found a pattern for this pleated dress/tunic thing. The picture on the pattern sleeve looked really cute and casual. So I made it.

Alas, I forgot that lack of a visible waist = big, flowy sack on me. So it’s done.. but I’ll probably never wear it. :P

P.S. I don’t know if you noticed that purple flowery fabric in the background of some of my pictures, but that was destined to become another dress. A much more satisfying one. :P

P.P.S. Sorry about the lack of progress on your socks, lil bro. I promise I’ll finish them (!). It just might take awhile….

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Alpaca.

If you know me, I may have expounded to you on occasion about the wonders of alpaca: its buttery softness, its warmth, its drape, and have I mentioned its buttery softness yet? True, alpaca lacks the bounce one finds in good wool… but it more than makes up for it with its qualities. Plus, the animal (a relative to the llama) is adorable. :)

So, I was thinking about alpaca last night. Specifically, I was thinking about making a giant red cabled scarf. The weather in the Bay Area has been less than summery lately, and a warm drapey scarf in a cheerful red seemed just the thing to make and wear. Then I remembered that I’d started such a scarf awhile back.


The yarn is Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky in a gorgeous, vibrant red. It is unbelievably soft in the skein, though it does shed quite a bit (note: definitely not the best idea to wear a white tank top while knitting with this yarn). I can’t attest to whether it’s scratchy to wear, but comments on Ravelry have mentioned this as an issue. I don’t have a sensitive neck though, so hopefully it will be alright. :)

When I first bought the yarn, I already had some idea of what I wanted to do with it. I knew I wanted a drapey cabled scarf with somewhat irregular looking cables. Luckily, I found a pattern that matched my specifics through Ravelry, Back Cove Scarf, and didn’t have to come up with my own. Yay! :)

It turns out that I’ve bought quite a bit of this alpaca yarn. That’s not that surprising, considering how much I love alpaca, but what’s funny is that I didn’t realize I was buying the same brand each time. Also, the projects I’d planned when buying this yarn have all been scarves! I foresee a lot of alpaca scarves in my future…

When I was going through my stash, I found some skeins in brown and pink, earmarked for a horizontally striped scarf. I originally wanted to make a scarf with big, chunky stripes, but now I’m thinking maybe I’ll do thin stripes instead.

I also found some pretty blue yarn that I’d bought, envisioning a soft cabled scarf.

But! I’m already making a cabled scarf with the red yarn.. Also, I found a really cute cowl pattern while browsing Ravelry last night: GAP-tastic Cowl. I’m thinking this yarn would look pretty cute in that pattern, so I may try it. :)

Really though, it’ll be awhile til I get to all these scarves. I’m sorta working on the red cabled one right now, but it’s mostly when I need a break from knitting my brother’s socks. There’s also a blanket for charity that I need to start soon. Aaand every now and then, when I need a break from knitting, I go back to spinning. So much fibery stuff going on! I wish I could say this is uncharacteristic of me, but really, it isn’t. Having 20+ projects constantly going on as well as my short attention span are probably the reasons why I have a hard time finishing things up. :P

 

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A few thoughts on handspinning…

Lately I’ve been on a bit of a spindling kick, thus once again neglecting my knitting.. yes, even my Cria project. :( On that project, I’m now past the arm/body separating and onto the boring knitting, so my interest has flagged a bit — but no worries, I WILL be finishing it eventually. :P

The fiber I’ve been working on is a 4oz braid of BFL (Bluefaced Leicester) in the Spice colorway from FatCatKnits. I bought this braid awhile back, when my interest in spinning was first reinvigorated, along with a braid of alpaca/merino/silk and a braid of Polwarth.

The colors in this braid are so pretty! There are spots of bright, deep reddish orange among the yellow, green, and brown. I was a little worried that the color would be really bright when spun up, but as you can see in that skein, it’s actually pretty muted compared to the unspun fiber. To keep the color changes intact without any muddying or barberpoling, I chain-plied the yarn – my first time using this plying technique! I thought it came out pretty well. :) Overall the yarn is.. hmm.. maybe a light fingering weight? It’s not as even as I’d like it to be, nor as soft; I probably overspun it as I’m not very good at controlling my twist yet. But still, I’m pretty satisfied. The skein shown above is roughly 126 yards, and I still have over half the fiber left to spin! I’m hoping I can make it to 400 yards total. :)

I’m using a purpleheart Bosworth mini spindle for this project. Unfortunately, I’ve misplaced the tag so I’m not sure what weight the spindle is. I absolutely love this spindle, and I definitely want a few more Bossies in the future. It has such a nice, balanced spin to it. I know it’s possible to spin with any old weight attached to a stick, but I find I enjoy spinning a lot more when I’ve got fabulous tools to work with. Plus, it’s easier…

One of the reasons I enjoy spinning more than knitting sometimes is that spinning is so much more of a challenge for me right now; I’ve been knitting for so long that, unless a pattern I’m following uses really unique techniques, I’m pretty much on autopilot. Spinning takes a lot more focus and concentration on my part, and there is SO much for me to learn still! Now, this is not to say I don’t enjoy knitting anymore — because I do! It’s relaxing, and I like making things that I can wear.

To be honest though, I feel like I’m more creative when I spin than when I knit. When I make a yarn, I’m the one calling the shots on it – does that make sense? What I mean is that I’m the one who decides how much twist to add, if I ply and what technique I use, how thick or thin I want the yarn to be. When I knit, yes, the end product is mine, but I almost always use someone’s pattern, so the design isn’t mine at all.

I think most people are more impressed by the sweaters/hats/scarves/etc that I knit than when I show them a skein of yarn I’ve spun all by myself. It’s kind of funny, because it’s the opposite for me. I’m constantly amazed that I can actually make yarn! And you know what else? Now that I’ve dabbled with spinning, I feel like this whole other world full of fiber and yarny knowledge has opened up… there are SO many different kinds of fiber and blends out there, it overwhelms me a bit. I get really excited thinking about all the different sheep wools that I have yet to try spinning. :)

I also get really excited when I think about all the different handcrafted spindles out there! I doubt I’ll get a spinning wheel; I really would rather use the money to get more spindles. This is probably another (and big) reason I’m so into spinning right now — the spindles! I love the fact that they’re handmade; you can really sense the love and care put into crafting them. And the wood is SO damn pretty. Yes, I really think half my obsession with spinning has to do with the tools rather than the craft… I’m slowly but steadily building up a collection of spindles. But at least I’m keeping better track of my spindles than my knitting needles! :) Plus, there are people who collect weirder (and more expensive) things, right?

Oh yes, and my cat also likes spinning – the fiber part of it, anyway. When I was testing out some bunny fur, he kept sticking his head into the bag to sniff it and would not leave me alone! Haha.

He is also a dirty boy… Yes, that is his foot with litter stuck on it. On my blanket. D:

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Cria/Madelinetosh!

I was going to begin this blog with yet another apology for not updating in a good long while, but then I realized that’d probably be pointless. I’m pretty sure it will happen again (and again, and probably again) until I get into the habit of blogging regularly (assuming it ever happens). You see, I’m a born procrastinator and also an extremely lazy person; neither of these qualities are much help for blogging.

But anyhow, onto more exciting things: knitting! My “main” project right now is Cria, from Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague. I’ve been a pretty big fan of Ysolda’s designs for awhile now, especially the accessories and sweaters. Cria is a simple cardigan with a garter stitch yoke and pockets in the front. I love how clean and simple the cardigan looks – perfect for everyday wear! :)

No pictures of the actual cardigan yet, sorry, as it’s still in progress, and there just isn’t much to show. I’ve only just completed the yoke and separated the body and sleeves. So far, it’s been a pretty easy knit. The only difficult part was in the beginning, when I was figuring out how to join the shoulder rectangles to begin the yoke. For the body, it’s a lot of plain stockinette knitting (e.g. TV knitting) so I’ll probably be able to get through a lot of movies. ;)

The yarn I’m using for this project is Madelinetosh tosh dk (formerly tosh worsted), 100% superwash Merino wool, hand dyed in the colorway Terra. I am so in love with this yarn! It is so soft, and the color is so vibrant, with lovely subtle gradient changes going from red to orange to pink (I have a really hard time describing colors of yarn, sorry!). The yarn shows the garter stitch beautifully, with wonderful stitch definition.

When I first started knitting, I stayed away from highly variegated and hand dyed yarn. Some colorways were really pretty, but I wasn’t a fan of how the colors looked when knit up. To be honest, I don’t really like multi-colored knits, whether they’re sweaters or hats (scarves are okay, sometimes); I’ve always preferred solid colors. If there are color changes in the yarn, then they need to be pretty subtle for me to use it in a project. Gradually though, I think I’ve developed an appreciation for certain hand dyed colors, specifically those that are “almost solids.” I still don’t like colorways that jump jarringly from teal to brown to orange, but I don’t mind purple to blue or green to blue as long as the change is gradual. I’ve come to appreciate the depth that can occur in using yarns with subtle color changes – plus, it makes boring projects a little more interesting. :)

Anyway, please excuse that little tangent. I’m really excited about this project, and even more excited about the finished cardigan! I seriously cannot wait to wear it.

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Mmm Turkish.

I’ve neglected you again, blog! So sorry. There has been SO much going on as of late. Finals were hectic, and I was sad that I couldn’t play the new World of Warcraft expansion (yes, I am one of those people. :P), so once winter break came around I spent some time doing that (My warlock is 85 now, yay!). Then, you know, Christmas and New Year’s and all of that holiday stuff.

But now! I’m back, I think. There has been quite a bit of spinning going on lately, thanks to my new Jenkins Turkish spindles!

The one with the pink is my Turkish Delight in Vera wood; the fiber is Louet Merino/Silk (80/20). I received this in the mail shortly before I drove back home and when I got the spindle, I immediately started petting it and gushing over it. The other Turkish spindle is a Kuchulu in holly – is it not adorable? I am so in love with it. I want another, but don’t have the funds for it right now (especially since I broke down and ordered a Spanish Peacock Tibetan earlier… what was I thinking? I don’t even know how to use supported spindles! But it is an absolutely gorgeous piece of work. :) ) The fiber on my Kuchulu is a 50/50 merino/silk blend from A Verb For Keeping Warm in the Taboo colorway. So pretty! So fun to spin!

When I first started spinning on my Turkish Delight, it was SO HARD! Up until then, I’d only ever used top-whorl spindles, haha. But I love how the spindle can be taken apart, and how you make a ball while spinning – how ingenious is that?! Also, the Jenkins spindles are so pretty. And adorable. And pretty much altogether awesome. Ed and Wanda were fabulous to buy from, and so nice! I lust for another Kuchulu, but it’ll be awhile – especially since I also want to try one of their other designs, the Lark.

I realize this post is kind of a complete fangirl post, but I really am so excited about these Turkish spindles. They’re just plain fun to use; I’ve been neglecting my top-whorls lately because I have a hard time putting down my Kuchulu! I have to start knitting some mittens soon and I’m actually sad that I won’t have as much spinning time, haha.

Okay, that’s it for now. Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and new year! :)

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So proud!

So far I have spun 366 yards of the merino. I am so proud of myself! Pictures and a more comprehensive post to come… possibly after finals.

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