Almost a dress

There is a finished quilt that hasn’t been photographed. A shawl that needs ends woven in & blocking, another skein of handspun (woolen lace weight this time) and now an almost finished dress.

Almost finished! #armyofdresses

We’ve started to get some hot & humid temperatures here in Montreal (29°C yesterday) which have made me wish for more hot weather dress options. I have more options for “transitional” weather periods which is usually a fairly short period of time.Especially this year it seems.

This dress has been almost almost finished for a while. I cut out the pieces 2 summers ago, started working on it last year sometime and worked on it a bit a few months ago. I picked it up again this week as a quick finish. The vintage voile is just the thing for hot weather.

Now, I just need to finish attaching the collar, add some buttons and I’ll have another dress in the rotation.

Fleece-sanity

A sheep’s fleece has taken over my front studio space this week. It was quite accidental and surprising as I’ve had this fleece for years. I can’t even remember where this fleece came from. A family run farm either in Ontario or here in Quebec. After a number of offers through friends of friends, my brother finally gave me this bag full of fleece to play with some time after I got my wheel.

I’ve never quite worked up to digging into this fleece until now. Since this came from a farm where sheep are raised for food instead of wool, it’s not the cleanest of fleeces. Combined with my understanding that fleeces from “meat sheep” are considered “garbage”, I figured it wouldn’t be worth the considerable effort it would take to clean this. Also, I don’t have any proper wool scour. All these are reasons that this fleece became a “never never” project and it got put into a fibre bin for a few years.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I heard mention of PLY Magazine by some indie dyers/spinners on Twitter. I decided to try out an issue. Reading through, the Winter Woolen issue popped out at me. I’ve been trying to teach myself longdraw for the past few years, since I started playing with cotton.

Longdraw is supposed to be faster, but somehow my spinning hasn’t really increased in speed much in the past few years. My spinning posture has been pretty awkward too. I’m not convinced that I’ve really gotten the hang of longdraw just yet. So I was quite excited to see that there was an entire issue devoted to the subject and ordered a copy to see how the magazine was.

After sitting around on my coffee table for a while, I finally took a look inside. I was quickly hooked and read this issue straight through cover to cover. My friends will know how rare this is for me to do with any kind of magazine. I will often buy some magazine, flip through, read some of it and then rant about how none of the articles are in-depth enough. This usually leads to someone suggesting that I stick to books.

But this issue was completely satisfying to me. So much good information! Lots of articles! New ideas! Knowledge from people who know more than me! After finishing reading through the issue, I feel much more confident in continuing my efforts to learn woolen drafting methods.

I was immediately inspired to drag out this fleece I’ve been storing for years based on the article about down breeds of sheep by Beth Smith. Basically the article refutes the idea that these are “garbage” fleeces not worth processing and suggests that the wool is well suited to making socks. Dense, warm, and even somehow “felt resistant”.

So I dragged out this bundle of fibre, dumped it on my floor, and got to work preparing it to scour. I started by picking out vegetable matter and lightly fluffing the locks before scouring.

After scouring a few bundles, it’s become apparent how fibre needs to be REALLY clean before getting wet. All the caked on mud bits stayed pretty much as they were after an overnight soak, scour and multiple rinses.

So my pre-scour preparations are now more thorough. I’m using my flick carder to open up each lock. So the fleece taking over my floor is slowly getting prepped for the next step.

It’s unbelievable how soft and fluffy the washed fibre is. It’s going to be so fun to play with!

Mitten Repair Shop

I’ve found myself repairing some knitwear recently. The last few days have been spent working on repairing some wonderful fair isle gloves friends of mine brought back from a trip to Iceland last year. While these gloves are really well knit, they’re a bit delicate for the inescapable winter chore of shovelling snow. Well inescapable for most Canadians.

While fixing these gloves, I found myself returning to the long avoided task of fixing my father’s fair isle mittens which succumbed to a similar fate. I knit these mittens as a Christmas present back over the ’11-’12 holiday break. My dad loved these mittens and I quickly heard back about how wonderfully warm they were, perfect for an Edmonton winter (which is a true test for hand knit accessories).

The downside to knitting these “ultimate” mittens was that my dad wore them for all of his outdoor winter activities, including shovelling the driveway. After 1.5 winters, the exceedingly soft alpaca that they are made from was worn through on many parts and I had to figure out how to fix them.

While I found it wonderful that my dad loved his mittens so much that he was wearing them all the time, it was heart wrenching to see how roughly these mittens had been used. I decided the best way to fix them was to reknit the tops of the mittens & thumbs, not a problem as there was plenty of yarn left over from the first time around.

But there was a bigger problem that was causing me to delay this repair. Sure, I could fix them, but in another year or so, I’ll be fixing them again. I could be set for Christmas presents for life, re-knitting mittens for my dad every year. As much of a hard time as gift shopping can be, I’d rather not knit the same thing year after year.

So the real fix is a bit more that perpetually re-knitting some mittens, it’s the creation of a mitten system. Yes, I am fixing this pair of already beloved mittens, but I’m also going to knit a second pair of “work” mittens out of a more hard wearing yarn. Alpaca is quite soft and warm, but the average Canadian snow shoveller requires fibre that is a bit tougher. Some sturdy wool mittens that will felt rather than fray with the reality of everyday winter chores.

So…what exactly happened in 2013?

Clearly last year’s efforts to try and post projects from 2012 bogged down any kind of posting about more current projects from 2013. So I’m going to do one mega post in point form of what the heck I made last year. Some of these projects have more pictures, feel free to click through to Flickr and have a look around.

SEWING 2013

I made 2 giant yellow tote bags.

Finally finished making a box bag from a thousand years ago.

Made a baby box bag out of the leftover yellow fabric and sent it to my Mom with the previously mentioned gianormous tote. She uses it to keep all her lipsticks together.

Made a set of 3 box bags as a birthday present for my friend Susie.

Started piecing a quilt. Finished the top, sandwiched it around Easter and slowly hand quilted most of it during the rest of the year. I have 4 blocks left to go.

Finally put button holes in 2 shirt dresses. I used the button hole attachment for my old Singer Featherweight. The resulting button holes are really nice.

Almost finished another shirt dress.
Made a 3rd version of Vogue 8728 for myself, with added side seam pockets and contrasting bias edging (didn’t have quite enough yardage).
Made 2 versions of the Amy Butler mini dress for my Mom. Cut out and coached her to sew number 3.
Almost finished sewing DKNY Vogue V1160, again for my Mom. Got stymied on the last step, rolled hem in polyester chiffon. Still have to finish that.
I paused sewing here for a while. Too much sweatshop sewing this summer.
Worked on the ever-growing hand pieced hexagons here and there.

Then did some Hawaiian appliqué during Christmas holidays. I finished a block I’d begun last year, and made it halfway through another block.

SPINNING 2013

I finished spinning a batt I’d started in 2012 (I think). Aspen Grove Farm Batt purchased in Lunenburg during our 2012 summer trip to the Maritimes.
Then I started spinning another batt purchased from Lettuce Knit during a weekend trip to Toronto. It’s still waiting on my wheel for me to finish it.

KNITTING 2013

This was the year of the striped baby blanket. I made 3, and have given away 2. I really like the colour combo on the 3rd one, but fear that most people might find it too ugly? And the 3rd baby’s Dad is a big Montreal Canadians fan…



I started a Damson shawl, then put it away for bad behaviour (not enough yarn and too ugly).

I knit the 2nd Cladonia shawl for my Mom.

I made myself some “early Winter mittens” to wear from 0°C to -15°C, then it’s time for stranded mittens to take over. I started these as cable on the side mittens, but didn’t like them. So I switched to a knit from the top pattern.

I participated in the Westknits Color Craving Mystery Shawl, which ended up kind of giant.

I finally finished my Koigu Pomatomuses. These were going to be flip top, and I did make one of the tops. Then I decided I would find the tops more annoying than useful, so finished them as is.

I decided that after five Winters of wearing the same beret, it was time for a new Winter hat. After scouring all the slouchy cable patterns I could find, I finally settled on Rosebud. And then I knit 2.


I started some leg warmers over the holidays which are still in progress.
And I think that’s everything. Phew.

I made a shawl once.

Begun in the summer of 2012, finished early in 2013 and now eventually blogged in 2014.

Finished & blocked shawl

Left side of shawl

Shawl detail

Right curve of shawl

Pattern: Cladonia by Kirsten Kapur
Materials: Fleece Artist Peter Rabbit & Handmaiden Great Big Sea
Start Date: July 28, 2012
End Date: August 17, 2012
Blocked: February 8, 2013

I made this shawl for my Mom, out of yarn she selected during our trip to the Maritimes in 2012. There’s another version of this shawl with nearly the same yarns in blues that I knit for her in 2013.

I had cast on a version for myself in some non-fluffy yarns, but it sat unfinished for long enough and I finally frogged it last week along with some other long-standing unfinished lace projects.

10% Quilted

Mmmmm....sandwiches.
Sandwiched last weekend.

To hell with the back log. I’ve been enjoying some hand-quilting this morning. This stage always is super exciting, this is where the magic happens. From sandwich to quilt! It’s happening! It starts getting all ripply and cosy.

First broken needle from hand quilting. CRAFTS.
Broke a needle yesterday. First time I broke a needle while hand-quilting.

I got the best compliments yesterday when I was hand-quilting in public. The best comment being: “It looks like I should be all curled up underneath it now.” I know I’ve already said this but this is the magic step. All the cozy magic is being built into the quilt. I’m casting spells for infinite delightful naps.

Sunday Morning Hand-quilting

This morning I was hanging out in a sunbeam, quilting, drinking tea and listening to Rock ‘n’ roll. Delightful way to spend a Sunday morning.

10% Quilted

Yes, this is one of those quilts everyone was making that time. I started this last month sometime? Sewing the top was pretty fun/productive. And yes, I’m still enjoying hand-quilting. 1 day + 1 evening = 10% quilted. Not a bad ratio.

Tropical Tradition

Fall & Early winter ended up being really quite busy. Unfortunately that means crafting took the back seat again. So much so that I had no idea what craftivities to even pack and take with me.

I’m currently partaking in my family’s rather awesome tradition of running away to Hawaii for Christmas. A great escape that makes all the hectic running around during the year that much more bearable.

While most active crafty blogs take this chance to pause and reflect, I’ve been rather too out of step to really reflect. And too far away from everything to really catch up on things at the moment. As ever, I have been making things but (again as has become the new habit) I’m behind in recording things. So I guess I have to postpone my reflections until later.

And hopefully I don’t get too caught up into the busys once I get back to Montreal. That’s the one thing I really don’t want for 2013. By invoking the “busys”, I’m not trying to say that this space or that crafting & making isn’t of importance to me. The opposite really. it means that other parts of my life have (annoyingly) been demanding too much of my attention and energy, which sucks. I’d like 2013 to have less of me face-planting on my bed when I get home. Rushing around is SO not my thing.

Perfect socks

I rashly cast on a pair of socks last week. It couldn’t be avoided. As soon as I saw this incarnation (Ravelry link), I just had to dig out my Regia Nation Color and cast on right away. As the pattern is written as toe-up, I decided to make them Magic Loop too.

The toes look a little strange once started. My knitting curled as I was working on the toes reminding me of that iconic image of the Wicked Witch of the East from the Wizard of Oz. The very beginning part is really just to fit your big toe (purple stripe) and then as you start up the bias increases, you make the part that will fit the rest of your toes (teal stripe). And there’s really a right sock and left sock simply from this bias shaping. Though the instructions are the same for both socks until you get to the beginning of the heel instructions.

These socks never got boring. It might seem like the increase on one side and decrease on the other would become second nature, there’s so much more to do in this pattern to make them into socks. Increases to make the gussets leading up to the heel. All kinds of extra increases to make the fabric for the heel which is then grafted to itself. Then once you’ve grafted, you work decreases to get back to your original stitch number. Work straight for a bit (if you want longer socks) and then work short rows to straighten things out before you start up on the ribbing. Never a dull moment.

Pattern: Skew
by Lana Holden
Materials: Regia Nation Color 5399
Modifications: Magic loop baby.
Start Date: March 1, 2010
End Date: March 6, 2010

Oh and can I rave a bit about the resulting socks? They are awesome! If the fit works out well like mine did, then you might find you have the perfect pair of socks. Yes, I’ll repeat that. Perfect pair of socks. I do find that putting them on is on the tricky and snug side, but once they’re on, they’re awesome. Because of the strange slanted toe, there’s no seam to restrict foot movement. And the stretch of the fabric compliments the stretch of the toes — sideways. It’s all the beauty of bare feet, but like warm.

The bias of the fabric on the foot and leg and close fit of the sock keep these socks from having the usual handknit sock slouch that I usually get. You know what I mean. Socks are normally tugged up nicely for photos, but when worn, especially as you walk, they start to slouch and look sloppy. Lastly these are one of the few pairs of handknit socks that I have that will actually fit into my favourite sneakers. Needless to say, I’ve been wearing these socks for 3 days straight. I think I should cast on another pair right away. I think I’ve found my go to sock pattern.

Leaf Lace Scarf

This yarn has been burning a hole in my stash since February. Really dying to be knit. Even while working on other projects I’ve kept one eye on the lace patterns trying to find something worth using this super squishy awesome yarn. There were a couple of shawl contenders but would have been a stretch with one skein.

I came across this pattern during a crafternoon with Mr. Peabody and knew immediately it was THE pattern for this yarn.

I initially cast on as written in the pattern, with 4.5mm needles and two pattern repeats. After one chart repeat I could see the gauge was too loose and the scarf too narrow for my liking. I ripped and restarted on 3.0mm needles with an extra pattern repeat and went to town knitting away until the whole skein was used up.

Pattern: Haruha scarf by Mari Muinonen
Materials: Malabrigo Yarn Lace in Sealing Wax
Start Date: approx. September 30, 2009
End Date: October 24, 2009

I. Love. This. Yarn. Love it. Malabrigo lace is super soft squishy fabulous. With just enough spin to keep the fibres together this yarn is super nice to knit with. And the resulting fabric is just great. A nice density but really light too. The scarf is quite warm for how thin and light it is.

This scarf has been my pseudo mindless knitting in cafés, hanging out in yarn stores, at work during lunch for the past while. Mindlessly adding inches here and there in between working on other projects. Now I have to really think about what I want to work on next. Or maybe I’ll just cast on for another mindless scarf in the meantime.

Some contenders include:
Lace Ribbon Scarf
Anne
Chevron Scarf