Monday, January 28, 2013

Knitted Color for a Gray Winter Day

It's been a snowy, blustery day here in Massachusetts, so I though we could use some color! This is a cowl I knit a few weeks ago. The pattern is from Knit Noro Accessories, a gorgeous book I recently picked up at my local yarn shop.

The yarn is one of my favorites, Noro Silk Garden, in two colorways. As you can see, it's a large cowl - large enough to wear as a shoulder warmer. I can also put a  shawl pin in it to hold it together more like a scarf. The slip stitch pattern is easy to do and results in the "bumpy" stripes.

With all of these gorgeous colors, it was really fun to work on.

The top you see it draped on above is a new one, made from Simplicity 3634. The fabric is a rayon lightweight double knit milled for Roberto Cavalli. The hand is beefy but the fabric surface is very smooth, much like a silk jersey. It's a delight to wear. Black can be overpowering on me, but I really wanted a black top to wear as a layering piece. This will be fine for that purpose. And it provides the perfect backdrop for the colorful cowl!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Keeping Warm: Knitting Projects

It's been a good winter for knitting, and I've finished several items in the past month or two. First off, a scarf/shawlette in the Wingspan pattern (free on Ravelry).

The yarn is Noro Silk Garden. The "wings" are created using short rows. It's a very easy knit that's adaptable to many gauges of yarn. I chose to pin it together at the ends, but it can be worn multiple ways. It adds a good dose of color to the dark gray top I made in December.

Next up, a funky cowl knit originally for myself, but given to my beautiful sister in a moment of weakness.

Those are I-cords knit on large needles. The yarn is luscious Malabrigo Rasta, and the pattern is Ropes Cowl (on Ravelry). This was a fun and quick knit. I love how well the buttons from Sawyer Brook match the hand dyed yarn. The cowl can be worn very neat and tidy, off-kilter like in this photo, or really messy.

Why did I give it away? It seemed a bit out of proportion for me, like the ropes needed to be a bit longer. And Melanie loved it. My local yarn shop still has the yarn on hand, so I might buy more and make another one to keep.

Last, but not least, are a cowl and mittens. And they're mine! 

I purchased this soft wool yarn at the Classic Elite outlet store a couple of years ago. The colors are a tad softer than in the photo. I love the black marl throughout, and the gradual color changes. The mittens were made using The Grand Plan for Mittens from Interweave magazine. The cowl was self-designed, using instructions from Entrelac by Rosemary Drysdale. It's my first entrelac project, and I'm not pleased with the bumpy edges, but I'm satisfied enough to wear it. The cowl and the mittens kept me very warm in today's single digit temperatures.

I love, love, love how well the buttons - from Sawyer Brook, of course - match the yarn. They were destined to be together!

One more project, a cowl, is waiting for photos, while several projects are in the finishing stages, so there will be more to come!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Felted Spirals Tote

Studio time in late November and early December was spent on designing and sewing a tote for myself. I knew I wanted it to be durable, roomy, and arty. Here's  the result of my efforts:

Yes, I got to play with the needlefelting machine I purchased last July. It's made by Simplicity, and is functional but not particularly well designed. For the money ($140 on sale), it was worth buying. It is easy to use and I could spend hours playing with it. I'm not sure how much I'll use it, but it's good to have it available when the felting urge hits.

The base fabric is wool melton from Sawyer Brook. The roving I used for felting was hand dyed by a friend who has a small yarn dying business. I pulled roving from two colorways that had lots of orange in them. No orange here, though. That's the beauty of working with roving; you can pull it apart to leave out bits you might not want in a particular project. After laying down the roving, weaving it where the stripes met, and felting it over and over, I felted some yarns in spiral shapes, and sewed on a multicolored nylon tape yarn and short rows of beads.

I love the colors of roving, and how they blend from one shade to the next. It adds a lot of dimension and depth to the design. I'm not much for glitz, but I really like the glimmer the beads add. Not wanting to overdo the design, I went with a smaller arty element on the back of the bag.

The chartreuse color is less vibrant in real life. It coordinates with the silk faille lining. I love a light colored lining because it allows me to see my stuff. There's nothing worse than searching through a dark lined bag!

That's a divided double pocket for my glasses and phone, plus a zippered pocket for keys. I inserted a piece of stable cardboard in the bottom and held it in place with black nickel-colored feet. (Sorry no pic.)

For durability and protection, I encased the bottom of the bag in leather. This was leftover from a vest a coworker made for a client. Janee was gracious to give it to me, and it's been languishing in my stash for a couple of years. I was glad to have it, as it protects the bottom of the bag from getting dirty. I also used it for the handles. It's super soft, yet strong, and feels really nice in my hands. This was my first experience with leather, and it sewed very easily. I tried a leather needle but found a denim needle worked better. I had no trouble feeding it evenly through my sewing machine, probably because I used my Pfaff's built in walking foot.

I used an old out of print bag pattern as a starting point, but I redrafted nearly all of it. It looks quite different from the original pattern photo.

The top of the bag is closed with a zipper. I had a waterproof one on hand from JoAnn's, and it looks great. Not that I needed it to be waterproof. But the tape on the waterproof style is very satiny, and the slide moves very smoothly. It was the perfect finish for this bag that was very fun to make and gives me a smile when I carry it!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Swoopy Vest and Cardigan

Needing a couple of quick makes for winter layers, I headed to Butterick 5528 for some assistance. I started with the vest, view C.

This is made with a lightweight poly/rayon ponte from Marcy Tilton. I had purchased it with plans of making a tunic, but after washing it discovered it was too scratchy (!) for my sensitive skin. I tested it for wool, but there was none. It was just little fibers that were sticking out of the fabric surface. Marcy offered to take it back, but I loved the color and the weight, and chose to keep it. I'm glad I did, as it suits this purpose perfectly.

The pattern is cut rather generously, in my opinion. I made the 24-26, which would normally fit me, but it was very loose under the arms. I took it apart and pared a good 4" off each side. It was a very easy make. I cheated a little on the edges, which are supposed to be narrow hemmed. Since the fabric wouldn't ravel, I simply turned under 5/8" and topstitched.

Once made, I wondered what tops in my closet would look good with it. I thought the charcoal one I made in December would, but the depth of color is too close to the purple and it just looks *blah*. I was very pleased to see how good the teal top I made a year ago looks, and how a silk scarf tied it all together.

I'm not sure if this pointed lower edge style is on trend any more, or passe. I don't see it much in RTW, and it feels a bit old to me. I may decided to even out the hem at some time in the future.

The feature I like best in the design is the line of the raglan sleeve, a little more easily seen here (especially if you click on the photo to enlarge it).

There's a nice curve to the seam which echoes the curve of the hem. This cardigan is made with a sumptuous ponte from St. John - nothing to sneeze at, for sure. We had it at Sawyer Brook, and it was just so lovely I had to have it. I seldom think of lovely and ponte as words that go together, but in this case, it's true. The weight and drape are just perfect. I'm not crazy about the color on me - rather dull - but I can give it extra pop with the tops I wear with it.

However, this cardigan reminded me of the problem I have with raglan sleeves. My shoulders are quite round and sit slightly forward. So, the shoulder seam on raglan styles is not aligned with the center of my shoulder. Here's a shot showing the seam and the "ball" of my shoulder, which is more than an inch forward.

I'm not sure, but this might contribute to the extra folds of fabric on the front of my upper arm. I could try adjusting this if I make the pattern again, but I'm not thinking I will. I like the jacket ok, but not enough to make it again and tweak this area.

And then there's the angled, pointed hemline, which just. feels. tired. I don't regret making this vest and jacket, but I have to say I don't *love* them. I'm in the mood for jackets that fit a little more closely and have a bit more construction to them. And perhaps I should stay away from raglan sleeves.

Thoughts, anyone?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Four Tops

I went on a top-sewing binge in December, and completed four long sleeved ones. Photography sessions with me wearing each of them haven't materialized, so I snapped some photos on a hanger so I could show them here.

I used an out-of-print Simplicity pattern, 3634. It's one of those wardrobe patterns, and the top has either a high scoop neck or a scooped cowl collar. I used the size 28, and added bust darts from the side seams. I'm really pleased with the fit, especially through the bust, shoulders and upper arms - those areas that can be challenging to get just right. One drawback is the sleeves are set in. I've inserted them in the flat instead, but I used double ease stitching on the cap to get a good fit. Having to do that is a pain, but it does create a better fitting sleeve.

The top shown above is made from a lofty rayon jersey from Marcy Tilton. It is quite light in weight, and almost a sweater knit. The fabric is marled, using black and blue yarns. The knit is on a slight diagonal. It couldn't be straightened without skewing the vertical grain of the fabric. I've chosen to accept the fact that the fabric was simply knit this way, and embraced its off-kilter look.

I used the plain neckline, and I love how it looks with the Trillian wrap I finished last year. I've just begun working on a black vest which I plan to wear with this top.

Needing a basic color tee, I purchased some of Marcy's Harvard Gray rayon/lycra jersey. This fabric is a dream to sew and wear! I drafted a higher, almost crew neckline for this one.

It's not a particularly exciting top, but a great basic for layering.

The third top is made from a beefy cotton/lycra from Marcy. You know I couldn't make 4 tops without one of them being purple!

On this style, I used my drafted crew neckline and added the twisted turtleneck from Marcy's Vogue 8582, which appears to be out of print. I used this collar on a top a year ago, and really like it. It's a tall tube, and one edge is machine stitched to the neck edge. Then the other edge is hand sewn at the seam line, but the key is to move the inner edge sideways about 4 inches. This creates the soft folds you see in this photo. I find it very comfortable on my neck, and it adds a bit of interest where there would be little.

I used this same turtleneck on my fourth top, this wild printed rayon/lycra jersey from Sawyer Brook.

This print is very large, which is not a problem with my size. But I was concerned about the warm tones in it (orange and nearly olive). The black, gray and fuchsia are the standout colors, though, and I'm glad I jumped out of my comfort zone with this fabric. It feels flattering to me.

I wear this with a gray ponte cardigan recently made (blog post to come soon!), and black pants. I get lots of compliments on the combination. It will also look great with the black crepe vest that's on my design table now.

So there you have it - three solids and a print to round out my top-making for 2012. There is one more to show, made from a different pattern, but I'm waiting for the black vest to complete the look. All told, I sewed 15 tops in 2012, bulking my wardrobe up so that I no longer wear any RTW tops out in public. Since I can't find RTW that fits well, I'm thrilled with the TNT top patterns I've tweaked in the past year. Yay!