Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Closet clean-out

I finally tackled my closet - well, the hanging clothes part at least. I might get to the stacked stuff later today if I have the energy. I tried to channel Stacy, Clinton and Tim* and be honest about what must go. Some people suggest that things not worn in the last year should go, but I'm not that brutal. However, most if not all, of the things I bought in the previous century went into the donation bags. I even parted with a few items I sewed, which was tough, but I had to be honest with myself that the Loes Hinse bouclé jacket was too big and the t-shirt with short kimono sleeves made out of lime green slinky just didn't look right on me. I also never wore and would never in the future wear the one piece wrap around silk blouse I made in a class I took a long time ago.

I removed, but will not permanently get rid of...just yet, a bunch of cute but just-a-bit-too-small blouses. They might be an incentive to lose some weight but I can't have them in my closet along side the few things that do fit. Nothing is worse than pulling out a blouse to wear in the morning and realizing that it's too tight. Actually there is something worse - wearing it out of the house and being uncomfortable and self-conscious the whole day!

Unfortunately now there's not much left in the closet that I'm excited about. You might think I now have a great excuse to go shopping. Actually I may have an even better excuse - I might be going back to work soon. That's one reason I wanted to do the purge, to see what I have to work with and what essentials I should focus on buying.

Tim Gunn has a list of 10 essential items he thinks every woman should have:
  1. Basic black dress
  2. Trench coat
  3. Dress pants
  4. Classic shirt
  5. Jeans
  6. Any occasion top
  7. Skirt
  8. Day dress
  9. Jacket
  10. Sweatsuit alternative
Looking at my wardrobe, I'd say that I have numbers 3, 4, 5, and 6, maybe 8, and probably 10. That's an ok start but I don't have anything in my closet that would be suitable for an important business meeting. Fortunately I probably won't have to dress up for work but I'd like to have some clothes that make me look professional.

As much as I'd like to be able to sew my wardrobe, I have to concede that it's just not possible. I'm too slow, for one. I also haven't had enough practice altering patterns to fit and that adds to my slowness. So I'm going to have to face the shopping mall or live with what I have. Last time I attempted a major clothes shopping trip, I got extremely frustrated. Everything seemed too-trendy, didn't fit, or I knew I could sew the same thing with fabric and patterns from my stash. Then I found Ann Taylor Loft and for the last few years it was a joy to shop. They had outfits at reasonable prices and the clothes fit. I must now emphasize that they WERE my favorite store. I stopped by there last Friday and was so disappointed that they've changed and, it seems, greatly reduced their inventory. I guess the latter is due to the economy and the former is an attempt to attract younger buyers. The few jackets they have are really short and adorned with ruffles, and their blouses are all about poofy sleeves and more ruffles. Maybe it's time I graduate to Ann Taylor (and not Loft), but gosh the prices at the Loft were so good!

Well, maybe I'll go tackle the mound of stacked sweater and tops. I know there are a few things that need to go and I'll probably find some things I've forgotten about.

*That would be Stacy and Clinton from TLC's What Not to Wear and Tim Gunn of Project Runway and Tim Gunn's Guide to Style.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Surveying the neighborhood

I spied him out the kitchen window and retrieved my camera, changed lenses to the telephoto, and went outside to snap his picture. I took about 5 shots and then he (she?) flew away. I guess he (or she) is camera shy.

Surveying the neighborhood

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The knitting UFOs

I enjoy knitting and by that I mean I enjoy the act of working the yarn into intersecting loops to create a fabric. I don't enjoy the finishing part. As someone who also sews, you'd think that I wouldn't have a problem with the final construction of a sweater but I do. I can't use my serger to quickly make the seams...well maybe I could but that would require adding seam allowances to the pattern and also the sweater could not be frogged if I hated it or tired of it. Seaming a sweater requires "hand sewing" the seams with yarn. It's fiddly, time consuming, and a major headache for a perfectionist like me who wants the seam to look invisible. And then there are all the ends to weave in. But if I don't finish the sweaters I knit then I don't have sweaters, only have sweater pieces.

I am itching to cast on for a new sweater project, but I am going to try to finish a few of the UFOs I have that are only a seam (or two...or three) away from being completed. Time for an inventory of my knitting UFOs.

1. White cotton sweater from Stitches magazine. This is my oldest project. I knit it on airplane flights and while sitting on console monitoring the health of a newly-launched satellite (the satellite behaved perfectly, hence the time - and need for knitting to stay awake). I picked it back up again a few years ago and finally finished it...well, the knitting part at least. Then I discovered that the gauge was different for the sleeves and being cotton, it won't block enough to make up for it. I don't really like the sweater any more, so this one will be frogged.

2. Liv - this is an Elsebeth Lavold pattern, knitted in Rowan cashsoft. I finished the back and started on the front and have discovered that it will be too small. This one will be frogged and hopefully reknit someday.

3. Clapotis - it's finished and just needs to be blocked. How pathetic is that?

4. Felted bag out of Noro. It's finished and just needs to be felted. I am such a procrastinator.

5. The felted bag reminds me that I have one more cat bed that I knit and never felted. The cats have used it as-is, so the wool will be mixed with cat hair when I eventually get it into the washing machine.

6. Socks for my husband. These were my first, and so far only, toe-up socks. I'm almost to the heel and need to see if it's time to knit it and also I need to see if the sock will even fit. It looks a bit narrow.

7. Jaywalker socks. I ran out of yarn during the second sock so I frogged the toe of the first one, reknit it using another yarn, and used the frogged-yarn to "finish" the second sock. The yarn was a little thin so I doubled it, which made the decreases really hard to work. I'm at the toe of the second sock and not looking forward to fighting with those decreases so the sock sits...unfinished.

8. Blue t-shirt. This was a store pattern for a short sleeve sweater using two different Rowan yarns. I really liked the store display and it was a quick knit. I only have a few more rows to go and then the dreaded seaming to do. I stopped knitting it because summer ended...that would be summer of 2007...and because I'm afraid the sweater will look dumpy on me.

9. Fingerless gloves. I had alpaca yarn left over from the Clapotis and thought it would make lovey fingerless gloves. I started knitting some but the pattern didn't have a thumb, only a hole for the thumb and I want a thumb, which means I have to do some thinking on how to do the gusset. So the gloves sit and my hands are still cold.

10. Capri sweater from Rowan magazine, knit in lime green Rowan Calmer yarn. I knit this last June while sitting on console monitoring a satellite that was just launched. I need to block it before I can pick up stitches for the front band.

11. Lara - I knit this sweater last year and finished all the knitting just in time for the hot weather. I finally blocked it last fall and started seaming it. My frustration over seaming this is what led me to post today. Because the sweater is knit in one piece, from one cuff to the other, the stitches run 90 degrees to what they do in a typical sweater. This means that the side seam is like a shoulder seam - and that means it's bulky. If I had it to do over (and I'm not frogging it so I can) I would have left those side seam stitches "live" so that I could do a three-needle bind off. The good news is that the sleeve seam came out nicely. I have the other side and sleeve to seam and then I need to attach the back collar and it'll be done. Just in time for spring and warm weather. It was in the 70's yesterday - a not-so-seasonal warm spell, but then we don't exactly have harsh winters here anyway. In my search for info on seaming, I came across this nice tutorial. Oh, and one more thing about this sweater - I used Debbie Bliss alpaca silk, the yarn the pattern was intended for, but I have found out (too late) that this yarn pills terribly. All this time (and money) spent creating a sweater that will look raggedy after a few wearings. Great. Well, at least I know this now and will try to treat it gently.

To me eleven knitting UFOs are too many and I need to finish at least the easy ones before I cast on for a new sweater. I mean really...blocking, felting in the washer, and one measly sock toe? I can handle that.

Friday, January 09, 2009

A gaggle of knitting FOs

My knitting needles were smoking over the last few weeks. I made a bunch of knitted items for my in-laws for their birthdays. We visited them in Chicago last weekend to attend my father-in-law's birthday party.

I made this hat on the flight from SFO. I cast on during the ride to the airport and worked on it on the flight, finishing it as we taxied to the gate. The yarn is Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky. The stitch is a simple 2x2 rib. I used a pattern called Pro Bono, which is available free to those registered on ravelry.com.


The matching scarf, also in Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky, was actually the first project and it led to all of the others. I felt I couldn't give one in-law a hand-knit scarf and not the other. The scarf is just a simple 3x3 ribbing. I chose to do 7 ribs to signify my father-in-law's 70th birthday.


I used up some stashed Malabrigo to make my mother-in-law a scarf. The pattern is called Scrunchable, also from ravelry, but it's really just a simple k2p1 stitch pattern done on both sides.


I also made a matching hat and fingerless mitts using the Malabrigo Head Thingie and Malabrigo Hand Thingie patterns from ravelry.



It was cold in Chicago, as one would expect in January. It snowed on the last day we were there but it didn't delay our flight for very long. Here's a view of the Museum of Science and Industry and a frozen Lake Michigan, taken from my in-law's apartment.

Museum of Science and Industry - Chicago

I'll leave you with another picture of Felix hogging the heat register. The world is just too much for him.

Too much