Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yes, Jennifer K., you are a goddess among women.

I made an awesome laptop sleeve.

Ok, it probably doesn't look any different from the other things I've been making recently with this Heather Ross Mendocino fabric, but it is, my friends.

For one thing, I made it with super-heavyweight interfacing, so I had to figure out how to cut my fabric 3/8" larger and do all the seams with the zipper foot so I could sew right up next to the edge of the interfacing.

For another thing, I cut the zipper to be exactly the right length to fit my laptop, and no bigger. Actually, I wish I had made it just a touch bigger, because it's a pretty tight squeeze!

But the thing is exactly, exactly the right size. Not a fraction of an inch too big! Just look at that zipper closing. Uh, but don't look too close, because you'll notice that things aren't totally aligned there.

Yes, Jennifer K., you are becoming the mistress of your sewing machine.

(oh, also, I had a good idea about how to fix the problem of the not-quite-square zipper corners. More on that when I have a chance to try it out.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sock Yarn Stranded

The sock yarn baby sweater is finished! I'm quite pleased with it.

The stranded yoke looks just darling.

The wrong side is the neatest of any fair isle work I've done -- I think knitting in the round is the key here (the first time I've done this with a stranded sweater!).

The steek threads are all snipped down and hidden underneath button band ribbons. I had to put the ribbon kind of halfway into the button band, but in fact, I think that it looks fine, and it makes it much easier with the buttoholes. Other sweaters with ribbon-faced button bands I've made, I've used my sewing machine to make buttonholes on the ribbon to match the eyelet holes on the button band, and they are a pain to do, plus the shapes of machine-made holes and eyelet holes are not the same and it's just an awkward business.

Here's the other side. I have to say, I may be a pretty neat knitter and finisher, but I am a total moron at sewing on buttons! My knots are never neat, you don't know how many times I threaded the needle through the wrong side of the button or the wrong side of the band and had to cut the thread, and then I had to rip out and reposition almost all the buttons at least once in order to get the bands to lie flat. Ugh!

But all in all, a totally fun knit and a great finished product! I've written up pretty detailed instructions and will post them soon.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

tutorial: picking up stitches

The body of the new baby sweater is finished, and I'm picking up stitches along the fronts for the button bands. I thought I'd stop and take some pictures and do a little tutorial for any of you readers who have never picked up stitches for button bands (or other things, for that matter) before. You can click on any of these pictures to see a much larger image.

If you look carefully at your cardigan fronts, you'll see that between each column of stitches is a little ladder of yarn that makes a column of little holes. The column of holes you want to work with is the one between the very first column of stitches of your cardigan front and the column of stitches next to it.

Hold your work so that the right side is facing up and the button band is closest to your chest (your columns of stitches will be running sideways). Tie your working yarn to the back side of the work at the very right edge of the front. Poke the tip of your needle into the first hole (the one farthest to the right) in the column you were just looking at, from the front side into the back side. In the photo below, I've already picked up some stitches, but the process is exactly the same:

Here is what it looks like from the back side of the work:

Wrap your working yarn around your needle the way you would wrap the yarn if you were making a stitch.

Pull the loop of yarn you just wrapped around the needle from the back side into the front side of the work.

As you are picking up stitches, you are going to need to skip a hole every once in a while, because rows are shorter than stitches are wide. (Recall that gauge is sometimes given for stitches and rows, and it will say things like "5 stitches and 7 rows = 1 inch.") In this case, I need to skip every fourth hole.

When you get to the end of your cardigan front, you will have a whole bunch of loops of yarn on your needle, ready to turn and work just like regular knitting!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Progress on the new baby sweater continues. I'm quite pleased both with how nice it looks (with the ends all tucked in on the front) and with how little yarn it seems to be taking up -- I had planned for three balls of Knitpicks Essential Kettle-dyed (the old 50g balls), but I think it will squeak in with just two. Sweet! And the yoke is all done with scraps, so for the price of a pair of socks, I get a baby sweater!

Meanwhile, I have discovered the joys and dangers of Etsy. It's an awesome, awesome site. The problem for me is not that I go on Etsy and order tons of handmade things, but that I go on Etsy and look at beautiful handmade things, and think, "I could make that!" Hence, the huge pile of designer fabric scraps and lots of zippers:

None of which I really need. But I did make some cute things today! Here are two little coin pouches.

I learned how to make a fully lined zippered pouch. I have not yet learned how to make it perfectly straight, but I'm getting better. I made the orange one first, and then the pink one, and I think the pink one is straighter. I also don't know how to make square top corners, and though I don't dislike these sort of "mitered" ones, I'd love to know if there is indeed a trick to squaring them.

Do I need these things? No. But they are cute. Did I spend $25 on zippers alone? Yes.

Then there's this little buttoned metrocard holder. This one I actually kind of do need, because I am constantly losing metrocards with like $40 on them. The plan is that a slightly bigger holder (that's super cute) will keep me from dropping the card in my pocket where it will slide out again. It's adorably reversible (and also definitely not square):

Also adorably reversible is this little purse for the two-year-old older sister of the baby who's getting the sock yarn sweater:

I'm a little disappointed with the strap -- it just looks kind of clunky. I also didn't really measure the buttonhole tab, and it's a little too long. But the combination of fabrics is really sweet. And the best part is this:

She loves playing with wallets and taking credit cards out of them, so I made her her own little wallet, with a few old cards of mine. So sweet!

Yes, I may have lost my mind. Adorable fish-print-induced mania!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cheaters never -- or in this case always -- win

The birth of another friend's baby gives me another opportunity to design baby knitwear! I am super excited about this design, because it makes use of a lot of cool "cheats" to make something pretty simple look pretty complex. One of those cheats is a kind of steek that I learned about in Robson/Gibson-Roberts' Knitting in the Old Way. Like many people, I've been a little nervous about trying out steeking, despite the fact that so many people do it every day with total success. Plus, I was using a superwash yarn, which is not "sticky" enough for many kinds of steeks. But the kind of steek I used here works really well without any sewn reinforcement!

After I knit the neckhole ribbing just like a regular cardigan, I cast on eight extra stitches and started knitting in the round. Whenever I came to the eight added "steek" stitches, I knit with both yarns held together (if I was on a row with two colors). After I was done with the yoke pattern, I unraveled the eight steek stitches all the way up to the cast-on.

Then I cut four "rungs" of the ladder formed at a time and knotted them together on each side of the steek:

The advantage of this kind of steek is that it is totally controllable. You are guaranteed that you'll only be working with the steek stitches, and you can cut and tie them as slowly as you want to. No scary sewing and cutting knit fabric!

Of course the disadvantage is this:

Every single row means two ends to weave in on each side of the cardigan front. Pretty messy! I am still deciding what to do about this fact: I am inclined either to "french braid" them down the front or to trim them down and sew a ribbon on the inside of the button bands to cover them up.

The rest of the pattern is forthcoming, as soon as I've finished knitting the sweater!