Monday, January 28, 2008

Kitty Mitts

I recently told you about my sister's move out to California. A few months after she moved, she couldn't find a job yet and was having a hard time adjusting. Then, to add to an already difficult time, her sweet 14 year old kitty Dorrie, got sick and died.

She was devastated, and I felt so far away and helpless to comfort her. Now, you can probably see where this is going because I already showed you the picture above, but I got the idea to dye her some special yarn in the colors of Dorrie's fur.

Please note! I am not advocating sending dead-cat-matching-yarn to everyone in their grieving process! I doubt Miss Manners would give the seal of good taste. But for Allison, I knew it would be just the right thing. And it was. It gave her a little cheer.

It did turn out perfectly if I may say so myself. Black and white with a little brown and pumpkin orange. I just did 2 skeins, just a tiny special batch, and sent her one and kept one myself.

Now, it's hard to find a project for yarn with such a history. This yarn has been marinating in my stash for a year, waiting for the perfect project. I wanted something a little more special than socks. I was thinking "scarf", but when I saw Carole's fabulous gauntlets, I knew that was it!
Ok, now I'm going to show you a ton of pictures of these gauntlets, because I love them so much! And if you were sitting here with me, I would make you try them on because they feel so good! I accosted a couple people at knitting last week who made the comments that they were almost "energizing" like those gloves that grab your wrists and feel warm and fabulous.

I think the secret is the wrist shaping. It really makes them feel wonderful, as well as look great.
The pattern is Elegant Gauntlets from The Purl Stitch by Sally Melville. Not your run-of-the-mill quick and easy fingerless mitts (I have made a lot of those and love those too!) These take a little longer, but the first part is mindless knit in the round stockinette for several inches, then a little interesting shaping, then a tiny fiddly thumb, then you're done! Great pattern. In fact, when I finally get around to posting my projects over in Ravelry, I'll give these an A+, or a 10, or a giant happy face, whatever you guys do over there.

Yarn: One skein Sophie's Toes color "Special Kitty."

And because I have a feeling that somebody's going to ask: I have never sold this color on etsy. I wanted it to be special for my sis. But she and I have recently agreed that it is a great color, that deserved to be enjoyed by others. I dyed another batch (this new one is more of a black-white equal mix rather than predominantly black like my mitts) and have re-named it "Kitty" and will have a few skeins in the shop tomorrow evening, with some pretty valentine yarn.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wacky January

Here we are, in the midst of Wacky January. I always think January is such a roller-coaster. The first week, I've got the adrenaline rush of the clean slate. So many project ideas built up in November and December that I didn't have time to work on. Christmas projects finished and gifted. The chance to start new things, things I really want to work on.

The next week, crash and burn. The realization that we are still at just the beginning of a long cold winter. Not as much progress made on the million mile long to-do list that I thought. So many projects and possibilities tends to paralyze me.

Then, we have a sunny day, and all of a sudden everything looks great again. And so it continues for the rest of January: grey days, feel like crap, sunny days, feel like a million bucks. Whew.

To combat Mother Nature and the hold she has over me, here is my strategy:

1. Just trying to work steady, and be content to check smallish things off my list.

2. Making very few big goals and breaking them down into bite sized chunks so I feel like I'm accomplishing something.

3. Going to bed earlier and getting up earlier to capitalize on the more energy-filled part of the day.

4. And on the very cold days, just hunkering in and not fighting to have more energy. Being happy doing puzzles, playing cards, and knitting, giving thanks for these little kids that are so cuddly and loving and still wanting to sit on my lap. (Even that gangly 8yo boy, who I'm afraid will ask me for the car keys any day now.)

Good Lord, I didn't mean to be so wordy this morning! Must be the sunshine.

How about a little show and tell:
Cute denim skirt. Simplicity 9825. My effort to dress a little less "Hello, I'm going to be at home dyeing yarn and sewing today and just dropping the kids off at school in my jeans and a tee shirt uniform." The grey stretch denim is from Vogue Fabrics in the South Loop. $1.99 a yard--can I get an Amen, Sister?!

The double needle I used for the stitching actually cost more than the fabric! But worth it.

There's nothing like an Extra Wide Double Needle to make you feel like a bad-ass sewer! Double needle and light brown heavy topstitching on denim, with bar tacks thrown in here and there, are the necessaries for making denim look professional.

I added the triangle insert at the bottom, it's not in the pattern. I copied it from this Boden skirt that I liked.

I'm so ready to wear my new skirt with Beryl, which is humming right along!

Here's a closer view of Beryl. That's black (vintage) Cotton Ease. Since I took the photo, I have sewn in both sleeves and knitted the neckband. I need to block the bottom; it is having rolling issues. I might need to sew some ribbon on the inside if blocking doesn't solve the problem. I also need to shorten the sleeves a little, cutting off the cuff and re-knitting down. But it is very close to the finish line.

Another random project? How about these cuties.

Don't they look angelic?! In reality, the other 30 photos I took looked more like this one:

I used the pattern from Grand Revival Designs (it's under "free patterns"). So cute! I made a couple of modifications. I cut my band wider, 9" instead of 5.25". I ended up lining the hats with Minkee too. I have never sewn with Minkee before, and let me tell you, that stuff shed like crazy. I have red and lavendar lint all over my sewing room. Not something you want to sew while wearing corduroy pants, either. Learned that the hard way. So, in other words, I didn't know how they were going to wear them without permanently linting their hair. So I just lined them. Makes them super warm, too. (Keeping this pattern on hand for future use with fleece--and you wouldn't have to line them, in that case.)
For the flowers, I just cut out 2 basic 5 petal flower shapes, sewed them right sides together leaving a little opening, and turned them right side out through the opening. Hand stitched the opening, then used a running stitch to gather up the center, and sewed a button over the gathered stitching.
I love these so much and I would really like one for myself. Is that so wrong? Cute and warm? And I happen to have an extra sparkley button. Just sayin.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What is Making Me Happy Today

I started a new project and it's true LOVE.

I've been wanting to make a Koigu turtleneck ever since the Fall 2002 issue of Vogue Knitting. It has taken me awhile to collect enough dark blue and green Koigus (and I've thrown in a little Sophie's Toes since it's the same weight.) It's a turtleneck that uses 6 different but very similar shades of Koigu KPPPM in 12 row stripes, so the stripes kind of blend together. Above is my sleeve/swatch. Delicious.

Made even more fun, when tucked inside a colorful bag! (My own bag, made just like the one I made my sister for Christmas.)

And even more fun to carry on the go when tucked inside this bag!

A little color overload sure helps, when the days look like this.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Yarn shop update today! In order to ward off the January drearies, I did up a batch of the my Layers of Color Collection. They are all double dyed, resulting in deep, rich, colors. You can read more about the process on my blog here. Have fun!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Because I *Really* Needed a New Bag

To Recap: I've been wanting to make a recycled sweater felted bag like these for awhile.

Here are my materials:
A sweater from the thrift store, Grayson E. leather handles from Wool and Company, and the lining is a heavyweight cotton overdye from Wendy Richardson.

I felted the sweater by running it through the washer and dryer with some regular laundry, twice. I was initially disappointed at how much it shrunk up, but in the end it didn't really matter.

I wanted to cut each side 15" by 15". After you put the gusset in, that will make a standard tote bag size of 12 high by 11 wide, with about a 4" gusset. The problem was, that the sweater was way too narrow after felting, so I had to include those shoulder seams (see the curved seams in the photo above) in my side pieces, but I put those seams at the bottom and, becuase they are hidden in the bottom gusset, they don't show.

Here's a picture of the sleeve, cut apart. I loved the stripe and wanted to include it, so I used it for a pocket on the outside of the bag. (For the record, the bottom stripe that looks purple, is really a royal blue.)

My diary wouldn't be complete without showing a photo of my assistant, who had fun stealing the parts and dressing up with them any way she could!

I decided to underline the sweater with canvas, to help stablize the stretchiness of the sweater while sewing it, and to eliminate the slouch that you usually have with felted bags. I'm not usually a big fan of sloppy felted bags. The canvas, as well as the sturdy cotton lining help this bag keep its shape.

Ta da!
For the pocket, I cut a cotton lining square the same size as the pocket, placed them right sides together and stitched most of the way around, pulled them right sides out, and hand sewed the opening, just like making a pillow. Then I double topstitched it to the outside.

The handles were the hardest part. I tried to to sew them by machine using a size 100 needle and the zipper foot, but the tension got messed up and they looked like a wreck on the inside. So I ended up sewing them by hand, using 4 strands of brown thread that matched the color of the stitching already on the handles. And some places I double sewed them, to make sure. It involved cursing, but it was worth it!

In spite of some difficulty, it was overall a fun project. I liked the bag when it was finished, but after carrying it around for a few days, it's growing on me even more and I'm starting to feel love. Now I'm on the hunt for a black sweater.....

Friday, January 04, 2008

Happy New Year

Long time, no see!

When last we left our heroine, (heh) she was valiantly trying to clean, cook, craft, play, bake, wrap, and decorate, while simulaneously make about a million things. I didn't finish the trees or even start the tree skirt. My memory of the week before Christmas is a bit of a blur, but at least it was a fun blur.

For the record, here are some things I did finish (I use the term loosely):

I did make an apron. Shown here embellished with a week's worth of flour and sugar. This is an adorable pattern. Fits great and looks totally cute on. (I'd like to show you a photo of it on, later, when I get out of my pajamas.) Oh yeah, now that I'm looking at it, I'm realizing that I never did get around to sewing the pockets on.

I love this fabric--festive and Christmasy, without having Santas or Snowmen. I think I can safely wear it all year round.

I attempted my first box bags for my brother (above) and sister (below). I got these fabrics last summer because I absolutely loved them and they screamed Christmas presents and maybe a little something for yourself to me. I think I got them at Reprodepot, but unfortunately I can't find them there now.

I made the first one using this tutorial.

Then, I tweaked the measurments on the second one to make it bigger and added the tab below the zipper. I also changed the lining method, because I didn't like having unfinished edges on the inside (zigzagged-but to me, unfinished). I constructed the lining separately, turned the seams to the inside and handstitched the lining to the zipper.*

There's more, but I've got to run as the kids are still home until Monday. There's a lot of Uno to be played! Hope you are having a wonderful vacation and all your handmade efforts were appreciated--I hope they ate the pie off the floor!(click the link if you want to read a great story of love and appreciation).

*Full Disclosure: the whole truth is that I actually gave the bag to my sister on Christmas morning without any lining. The lining was cut out and sitting on my sewing table. I sewed together the lining 10 minutes before we left to drive her to her plane, and gave it to her so she could sew it in by hand. Love ya, sis!