Saturday, September 23, 2006

Finally, some project pictures

First, I want to thank you for the birthday wishes last week! They were much appreciated and made my day feel even more special.

And now...some pictures! Click the picture for a larger view.

I finished the knitting tote bag. I left a review of the pattern over on

Knitting tote bag

Here are the needle roll-ups. Do I really have that many double points? There are more in the top pocket, hidden under the flap.

For the needles

And yes, finally some pictures of my knitting.


And my current WIP, the Top Down Tunic from Knitting Plain and Simple, in Rowanspun Aran:

I'm off on a business trip next week. I'm going to start on another pair of socks so I won't have to lug the sweater around. I'm pleased at how fast the sweater is knitting up. I've never done a top-down sweater before and it's really easy and fast because you just knit, knit, knit. The best part is that I won't have to do any seaming. I still haven't finished my UFO sweater because I have to block it, seam it, and then pick up and knit the neck edge.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I like these:

And I love these boots. But not the price tag ($450). And they probably wouldn't fit my fat calves anyway.

All of these images come from a recent Macy's catalog. So if they strike your fancy too, you know where you can get them.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Today is a GREAT day!

Because it's my birthday!

And an excuse to go shopping! OK, I did play the "it's my birthday" card just a little much. Last week at my LYS for knitting meetup I bought 2 hanks of Koigu and 3 little balls of miscellaneous interesting yarns from Habu, all under the guise of a birthday present to me. I plan to make socks from the Koigu - it's gorgeous. The Habu has been calling me every time I'm in that store for meetup. They have such different yarn but it tends to be very thin and is quite expensive so I bought the small balls to make trims and accents for things I sew. One of the yarns was a mohair loop that resembled curly lambs wool. I envision knitting it up as a collar and maybe cuffs for a jacket.

Then I did some shopping in San Francisco - again telling myself it was for my birthday. My sister was in town so it was also an excuse to show her Britex and Artfibers. Even though I swore to myself I wasn't going to buy more fabric, I was under the Britex spell and could not resist. I bought two remnants: a one-yard piece of incredibly soft wool that is brown with flecks of other colors in it and a two-yard Anna Sui silk print. I was worse at Artfibers, although I have not (yet) sworn off yarn-buying. It didn't help that my sister is quite the enabler. But it didn't take much to convince me to buy. I left with the super soft 100% cotton Rush in green (rush 1) and the gorgeous merino wool Ming in a sort of pale rosy blush sort of color (Ming 12).

Today there is no shopping, unless you count stopping at Costco on the way home, but my wonderful husband baked me a chocolate devil's food cake from scratch and I have presents waiting for me tonight. Yay!

Having a birthday doesn't have to be sad as long as there's chocolate, fabric, yarn, and people who love you.

Friday, September 08, 2006

It really shouldn't be this hard...

I'm still working on the Simplicity knitting tote and I'm determined to make it work in spite of the horrid instructions. I blogged the other day about how if I followed their instructions I'd end up with a bag with raw edges on the inside and it would be flimsy because they recommend fabrics such as broadcloth, gingham and calico yet there is no mention of using any type of interfacing.

I've since discovered more problems with the pattern/instructions. Surprised? I'm not.

1. At first I thought the handles on the front were only stitched into the seam at the bottom of the bag. I didn't see how they'd be secured and thought they'd just be all floppy inside the pocket. But looking at the line drawing I see that they are also stitched at the top.

But I still think the unsecured handles along the front of the bag will get tangled up with the stuff in the pocket and I think only stitching at the top and bottom seam is rather weak for tote bag handles. I top stitched the handles down to the bag for where they're hidden by the pocket so they'll be stronger.

2. The instructions say to gather between the notches of the front pocket piece - the notches are supposed to correspond to where each handle is attached at the bottom seam. I found two problems. Aesthetically I didn't really like that only half the pocket had fullness - flat from edge to handle (notch) and full from there to the center of the bag. It seemed rather odd to me to have an asymetrically shaped pocket like that. Then I noticed that the notches on the pocket and the front didn't even line up. The drawing shows them lining up but the notches on the pattern pieces do not. Oh, but they would line up if you gathered across the pocket instead of only between the notches. Interesting. I gathered evenly across the pocket.

The back of the tote bag consists of three pieces because the needle rolls will be attached into the seams between each of these pieces. Of course when I cut my fabrics I followed the instructions, which means the back lining is also in three pieces. Not a big deal for the lining to be seamed but I think it now provides me a way to incorporate a missing feature of this tote bag. This is supposed to be a tote bag for knitters, but there is no little bag for all the knitting notions, like tape measure, point protectors, row counter, stitch markers, etc. I think I will make a little zippered pouch and attach it into the seams of the lining, but (and I just now thought of this) I will put that part of the lining on the other side (front) because the back of the bag will already be thick with seam allowances from with the needle rolls.

This bag is taking much too long! And I'm not looking forward to finding more mistakes. I thought I would whip this bag up in time for my ASG sewing group next Tuesday night but at this rate that's not going to happen. I didn't set out looking for a challenging project but I sure got one!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sewing a knitting bag

My current sewing project is this knitting tote from Simplicity 4542:

I'm using fabric that's from the "Ugly Fabric" challenge of my sewing guild neighborhood group. A few months ago we put what we considered to be ugly fabric inside a paper bag for a white elephant gift exchange with the goal of making a handbag or tote. I did pretty well as the fabric I "won" isn't exactly ugly - well, maybe not the best choice for a garment, but certainly fine for a handbag or tote. What's the fabric look like, you ask? Ah, photos...I don't know how all the bloggers can add so many photos to their blogs every day. I never seem to find time to do this, so sorry, no photo. I will photograph the final product, if I ever get there. The fabric is navy blue with thin strips of green, red, yellow and white.

The pattern has a zillion pieces but thankfully they're all rectangular in shape. Since my fabric is striped I took the extra time to cut out the pieces on a single layer so as not to wind up with noticeably wonky pieces. There is also lining, so many of the pattern pieces had to be cut out multiple times. I found a suitably matching cotton in my stash to use as the lining - you know you have too much stash when fabric begins to unintentionally match! My fabrics were not very substantial so I decided to use canvas as an interlining. More cutting...

Finally I began to assemble the tote, following the instructions. Big mistake.

Time was I stayed away from Simplicity patterns like the plague. I found their garment patterns fit poorly (make it in 2 hours and easy fit were synonymous with no fit in their case). I found their instructions were lacking, confusing, or erroneous. Lately their designs have improved and I've found myself buying quite a few at the fabric chain store sales. I haven't sewn any...until now.

My first warning with this pattern was that their suggested fabrics included lightweight broadcloth, calico, and gingham, but there is not a hint of interfacing mentioned anywhere. The tote I'm making has two needle roll-ups, for which they do specify "pre-quilted fabric." I'm not sure why, except maybe they thought the padding might protect the needles somehow. I don't have any pre-quilted fabric so I decided that when it came time to make the roll-ups, I might add some thin cotton batting between the layers.

I sat down to sew and right away hit the first question mark. The instructions say to "attach the lining" to the large rectangular back piece. Huh?? I've only made a couple of totes and handbags but all of them had a lining constructed separately from the outside fabric so that the seam allowances are all hidden. These instructions called for basting the outer fabric and lining together on each of the bag pieces. Although I questioned it, I went ahead and did so for the back piece, sandwiching the canvas inside to give it more stability. After basting the handles on, the next step was to add an exterior pocket. I did as instructed and then realized that the pocket wasn't lined. Thinking I must have made a mistake, I looked back over the pattern layout and found that, no, I followed the instructions. No lining for the pocket. They expect the exterior pockets of this tote to be made of one layer of the flimsy broadcloth, calico or gingham and nothing more. I had backed my pocket piece with canvas so it didn't look too bad without lining. Besides, I reasoned that this was ok since I didn't really want it to look all matchy-matchy with the lining and outer fabric. That was as far as I got last night and then I went to bed.

This tote bag was on my mind early this morning when I was trying to get a few more minutes of shuteye - my brain doesn't like to shut off when there are problems to be solved. I got up and looked at the instructions and I simply do not see how, following their instructions, you can avoid having raw seam allowances inside the bag! I thought maybe they expect you to finish all the seams with binding tape, since it calls for binding tape to be used all over the place anyway. But no. I've decided to take apart the piece I started and sew the inside lining separately and then place the lining inside the bag with the seam allowances hidden. The raw edges at the top of the bag are to be bound by the tape anyway, so I think my plan should work. I'm also going to fix that pocket and add another layer of the outer fabric.

I'm angry and disappointed at Simplicity for the poor construction techniques on this pattern. No sewer would be able to duplicate the look of the bags on the cover without adding interfacing (or stuffing the finished product full of paper). Unless I'm totally mistaken in how I interpreted their instructions, the bag would have raw edges on the inside. I've made only a few handbags from patterns and the one thing I found is that you have to trust the pattern. Basic clothing pieces are pretty easy to figure out - you have a front, a back, perhaps two sleeves, maybe a collar...and you almost always sew right sides together. When the instructions have an error, it's often easy to catch. But a handbag can seem to be a complicated mess during construction, especially if it contains inside pouches, zippered pockets, and tabbed closures. You may need to sew a right side to a wrong side or sew something in an awkward manner. I guess I was hoping that this Simplicity pattern would magically come out right in the end. I'm sure glad I didn't get very far along and I'll just need to spend an evening with my friend, the seam ripper, and then figure out the rest of the sewing on my own.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

About knitting...and not about knitting

I was leaving work the other day and walked past the office mailboxes and did a double take when I spied this on the table:

But alas, it's not about knitting. I work with physicists (although I am not one) and Symmetry is their publication about particle physics. I flipped through it hoping to find something linking knitting with physics but no, it was just cover art. The website for the magazine says about the cover:

After years of knitting together skein after skein of components and contributions from far and wide, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN is close to putting the final stitches in place. And like this handmade sweater, the final product should wear well on particle physicists for many years to come.

Too bad. However, I do think that's a sweater only a particle physicist would love, though it may not be the knitter's fault. I thought maybe the knitter is a physicist (one of the women I work with, who is a physicist, knits. We got a laugh out of this issue and shared our disappointment that there was no knitting content inside). The publication gives credit for knitting the sweater to Corrine Niessner, who in fact is not a physicist and knits much, much nicer things. She was hired to knit this sweater and writes about it in her blog.

As far as my knitting is concerned, I have almost finished my socks. I have a few rows left and the Kitchener stitch to do to close them up. Having only done the Kitchener stitch in my Knitter's class last February, I don't think it's commuter-friendly so I started a new project - the Top Down Tunic from Knitting Pure and Simple.

(picture from their website

I'm using Rowanspun Aran in "Gables", a dark red color. The gauge was exactly right, so I'm off and knitting. This is a top-down sweater, which I've never done before. So far so good. The instructions are pretty thorough, even telling you that it'll look weird in the beginning but just follow the instructions and keep knitting. The website also has instructions and help on knitting top-down.