Wednesday, May 25, 2005

What's Up?

I had a great time in SF last Saturday. I met up with some internet pals from patternreview. Neefer posted a picture of most of the gang as we were headed out to Satin Moon and Fabrix. Satin Moon was just for browsing - the fabrics are gorgeous but the prices are high. Fabrix was more our style...BARGAINS! Most of the fabric is $1.99. Most of it is also either "yuck" or nothing special but there are good finds here and there. At first I thought I might be the only one not buying anything (yeah, right!), but then I spied some teeny tiny black piping that I couldn't pass up at 25 cents/yard. Browsing through the fabrics I did find some good stuff: white corduroy, from which I plan to make a zippered, princess-seam jacket; some gray sport shirt-type polyester with mesh backing that would be good for trying out a shirt pattern for my husband; an orangey striped cotton from which I'll make either summer lounging pants or a tunic top; and a white cotton with a smattering of colorful, nautical images - I'm thinking summer skirt.

My husband drove me up to the city (what a sweetie!) and while I had my girl-time he walked and roller-bladed in Golden Gate Park. It was a gorgeous day, so after the get-together he picked me up and we went on a walking tour of the Haight district. Beautiful Victorian houses! One had the coolest front gate I've ever seen - I wish I'd had a camera. Haight Street is a combination of old-hippy, trendy, and tourist. Can you believe that there is a Gap store at the corner of Haight and Ashbury? We had dinner at a Thai restaurant on Haight and then headed over to the piers to watch the KFOG Kaboom fireworks. We learned the hard way that the odd numbered piers are north of the Bay Bridge and the even numbered piers are south of the bridge...and quite a walk from the more touristy north piers. We weren't alone in our mistake, however, and we had a lot of company on our walk south. However it was more of a walk than we were up to so we (and lots of other people) found a pier that offered good viewing and camped out there instead. The fireworks display was worth staying later in the city. We don't get up there as much as we'd like.

On Sunday I'd planned to go to the Sunset magazine open house. The Sunset headquarters are only about 30 miles from here and every year I seem to miss it. So this year I decided to go, but we were too pooped from our adventures on Saturday. Oh well. There's always next year. So Sunday was a day of relaxing instead. I finished Twisty Top II and worked on the kitchen valances (finally!). I finished one valance and only need to hem the second.

Vacation plans are being finalized. We're off to Amsterdam, Belgium, and France next month. Woohoo! First stop is Amsterdam. I have a list of fabric stores to visit there but think I may just visit the Albert Cuypstraat market, which is supposed to have fabric vendors as well as lots of other stuff. But if we just happen to be near one of the fabric stores while we're out walking the canals or visiting museums...well, maybe I'll stop in. Although Belgium is known for its lace, most of the lace they sell is made by machine some place else (mostly Asia) and sold for the tourists, so I'm not on a lace-buying trip. Besides, I don't even sew with a lot of lace. I bought some beautiful French lace a few months ago at a sewing expo and I don't even know what to do with it. Our trip into France is pretty much limited to Le Mans for the big race. I'm looking forward to the race but will definitely bring a knitting project (and earplugs) along! I wish I had more vacation time - there's just so much I want to see and do over there!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Search for Pants

Once a year (it seems) I hit the stores in search of pants. It's generally pants I'm after because I pick up plenty of tops at Costco (good prices, designer labels but no dressing rooms) or I make my own. But pants are hard to fit and although I have plenty of patterns and enough fabric to clothe a small nation, I've only sewn one pair of wearable pants and now they're not wearable because I've lost weight since then. I guess I prefer spending hours trying on dozens and dozens of pants to find one that fits instead of spending the time making and altering a muslin and then, of course, sewing the pants. So last night I ventured out to the local mall. Macy's was my first stop.

The first thing that hit me was bright pink...and bright green...and bright blue. Bright colors are "in." At least that's what the Macy's buyers think. And this was not just in the junior department, the comfortable-elasticized-pants department was also inundated with the brights. I was dismayed that this local Macy's carried only bare bones designer collections and nothing high end. I wanted some nice looking and well-fitting pants and was prepared to spend some cash for them. Instead I had to search through the disheveled racks of made-up designer names. Nothing I tried on fit. Nothing. Most of the fit problems were caused by my usual problem area - hips. But some of the pants were just plain weirdly cut, although I suppose they may fit someone. Cropped pants are everywhere despite making most women look stumpy. I tried on a pair and laughed out loud. The three inch wide waistband coupled with the short length made me look about 5 feet wide. The bright green color didn't help (I was hoping to match the twisty-top I made, ok?).

So I left Macy's behind and headed for the one "designer" store in the mall: Ann Taylor Loft. I was pleasantly surprised at the selection and prices. They had their share of bright pinks, greens, and blues too so it's not just the Macy's buyers I'm afraid. There were also lots (lots!) of cropped pants. Between the sale rack and the rest of the store I must have tried on at least 20-25 pairs. One made the final cut. One. And I wasn't all that happy with the buttoned front pockets but they fit and the price was reasonable. Apparently there was an additional sale because they rang up at $14.99. Can you believe it? I spent more at Target buying socks and a plain white T-shirt. It's too bad more pants didn't fit at the Loft. Many pants were close to fitting, but I knew that despite how much I wanted to believe they fit, the drag lines in the front clearly meant I needed a bit more fabric in the hips. I wouldn't sew up fashion fabric if the muslin fit like that so I couldn't buy the pants. Even if they were also $15. But when I look at the Loft website, most of the pants on the stick-thin models have those drag lines. What's up with that? It could be the fabric too. I noticed that most of the pants were of very thin fabric, which is unforgiving and in my opinion unattractive unless the fabric is allowed to flow over the hips and butt. There was no flow of fabric over my hips and butt.

The other frustrating thing about clothing shopping is seeing all the items I could "easily" make. How can I justify buying something when I have the similar fabric and pattern? I was thrilled to see that my twisty top is right in fashion (thank you Burda WOF magazine!). So too was the fabric I chose. So that was good, even if the pants-buying was not.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Painting and sewing and knitting

Not all together...and not painting as in artistic. On Sunday, while my husband was at a friend's house helping to install new sinks in their bathroom I made myself busy at home. Oh and here's a tip - if remodeling, spend the few extra dollars and don't buy the cheapest sinks or you will be replacing them when the overflow rusts out and leaks water everywhere. With the whole day ahead of me I thought about all the creative projects I could do, but as I was cleaning up the kitchen, the wall above the backsplash cried out to me to please finish painting me. Ok, the counter was (relatively) cleaned off so I could get to the wall and the paintcan has been sitting there since we tiled the backsplash So a Sunday afternoon project was underway. I got out the painting supplies, opened the patio door to enjoy the fresh air and singing birds, and finished the painting. I even covered some boo-boos in the adjoining family room. Don't you love finishing a project?

The sewing consisted of working on a second twisty top. You'd think it would be easier to make a second garment from the same pattern and for the most part it was; however my brain, which anticipated that this would be easy, aparently decided to switch off altogether. After a few dumb mistakes I am mostly finished with Twisty Top Two.

As for knitting, I'm working on a new small project. I'll post pictures when it's done, which will hopefully be soon. I really want to start on a real project but do not want to have too many projects going at once, so I should finish the small one first.

This weekend I'm looking forward to getting together with some patternreview friends in SF. We get together a few times a year to chat, swap fabric and patterns, get fitting help, and show off a new project or two. Since our host lives close to Fabrix and Satin Moon, guess where we're going? But I am taking public transportation home so I will have to limit my buying. This is a good thing.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Twisty top

I unearthed the dress form and put away my yarn so here is the completed Burda twist top.

The front:


and the back...


And here's another purchase I made from Kinokuniya last weekend:

Little sheep clips! They'll be quite fun to use as bookmarks in my knitting magazines or to hold a bit of yarn together.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Got gauge?

Let me start by saying that I'm not a very experienced knitter. I taught myself to knit (left-handed) from a book a long time ago when I was in college. There was no internet then and knitting was considered to be something grandmothers and hippies did. I liked it because it gave my mind a much needed rest in between homework and exams. But I didn't have anyone to help me with my knitting or to stress how important it was to make sure you have the correct gauge for the pattern. In my first year of knitting I somehow managed to knit a baby cardigan with matching pants and two adult-sized vests without ever worrying about or knowing about gauge. But gauge did bite me on other attempts. I tried to knit myself a sweater with an argyle pattern across the chest and after finishing the front realized it would maybe fit a child but certainly not me. Later I had visions of a chunky knit cowl-necked sweater in black and white (it was the 80's, ok?). This time I used the yarn called for in the pattern but ended up frogging it (rip-it, rip-it) a few times when it became obvious that the front would again be too small. I can't recall if I checked gauge first - you'd think that I would but I guess I didn't. I recently found the still-unfinished sweater and frogged it once again.

So today I am starting to embark on a new sweater project and this time, I am checking gauge. My first try on US 8s resulted in 17 x 24 over a 4" square. I found a pattern in the latest Vogue Knitting that called for this gauge and began to knit. My gauge changed. I guess I must have knit looser when it was "just a swatch." That was dumb. I tried again on US 7s just to see what I'd get and it was 20 x 28. I couldn't find anything I wanted to knit or had enough yarn for in that gauge so now I'm reswatching on US 9s. This is frustrating. And time consuming. But everything I read now stresses how important the right gauge is - and of course they're right.

But swatching to find the right gauge is at least a little easier now that I have a range of needles. Because I'm not an experienced knitter, I have a mish-mash of needles, mostly cheap plastic or metal ones from the craft store. Oddly, I was lacking in the size 6-9 region. So I stopped at my LYS to buy some new needles but I wasn't sure whether to buy straights or circulars and at what length. At $12-$15 a pair for nice wood or bamboo ones it would be rather expensive to acquire a variety. And then I took my husband's advice. Yes, my husband had advice on buying knitting needles. A while ago he accompanied me to the yarn store where he saw some Denise interchangeable knitting needles. He encouraged me to buy them, rationalizing that it seemed like a good deal to buy all the sizes at once. But I scoffed at them, thinking that a) they were too expensive and b) they looked like cheap plastic. But faced with my dilemma of buying multiple sets of needles so I could do multiple swatches I found myself looking at them again. Three sales clerks saw me pondering the purchase and each gave the set high marks . So I bought them and a) they were not too expensive when you consider it's equivalent to buying only 3 sets of wood or bamboo needles and b) the plastic is not cheap - the yarn slips easily when knitting and they're nothing like the cheap plastic craft store brands like I thought they'd be. So getting gauge is a now a little easier. But just a little.

Monday, May 09, 2005

I was going to...

I was going to post a picture of the Burda twist top I finished but I can't get to the dress form to take a picture because the room is so crowded with all the yarn I pulled out of storage in my zeal to use my new swift.

I was going to post a picture of my progress on a sweater I started to knit but I realized about 8 rows into it that my gauge was quite different than the swatch I knitted. Much too different. I guess in my attempt to get even stitches on the sweater I was knitting tighter than I did on the swatch. So I need to reswatch and figure out what I can make with this orange cotton/acrylic Di.VĂ© Cotton Club yarn.

I can post a picture of my first Japanese craft book purchase. Spurred on by the surge in Japanese craft books posted on some crafty blogger sites lately, I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon. They just looked so cute! I didn't realize there was a Kinokuniya bookstore (and Mitsuwa grocery) practically in my backyard. Almost makes me want to learn Japanese.

Palm Sized Stuffies Posted by Hello

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Box 'o goodies

I ordered a few knitting things from Joann's online store last week and they arrived yesterday. I bought some darning needles and some stitch markers but those were just extra since-I'm-already-paying-for-shipping items because this

Swift Posted by Hello

is what I really wanted. It's a good thing I bought the swift when I did because it's no longer available on their site. I also scored because I used a 50% off coupon on the purchase. I had to laugh though because the box says it's from Lacis in Berkeley, which is near here (but sadly not near enough).

Before I even changed out of my work clothes I set up the swift and tried it out. All the cats had to come and investigate of course. Yarn! Movement! What fun! I wound a few of the shanks of Manos del Uruguay wool I bought at Stitches a few months ago. Then I thought I'd try out the smaller balls of the baby alpaca yarn from Peru but they were too small. I decided to wind up a ball on the ball-winder anyway, which was a mistake. I always seem to get a tangled mess of yarn when I do this, which is why I wanted a swift. It turns out the alpaca was already in a sort of center-pull "ball" but of course I started from the outside and then the other end worked its way out and got mixed in and...oh what a mess. At least it was a soft mess to detangle. Oh my goodness, soooooo soft! And it kept the cats amused.

I've been meaning to start a decent knitting project, intentionally ignoring the UFOs I have. The too long sock will wait until I decide to a) knit another the same length and give them to hubby or b) frog and start over because I don't like the way the heel turned out anyway. There's also a scarf in the works but it isn't good for TV watching because I have to watch the "yarn" while I knit (it's a funky ladder-ribbon yarn and its slippery too). So I'm thinking about a summery short sleeve sweater. But so far thinking about it is as far as I've gotten. But I would like to get a good knitting project going because...

There might be a fun trip in our future with lots of airplane time. We might be going to the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race in France next month. A friend has invited us to his parent's house which is on the race course. We are thinking of flying to Belgium for a few days (where our friends live) and then make our way down to Paris and take a train to Le Mans along with the throngs of race fans. I'm interested in the race but will definitely bring some knitting to do...and ear plugs. The Belgium part of the trip will be great fun since I've never been. Chocolate! Lace! Heavenly. While in Paris I might try to sneak a visit to Dreyfus in Montemarte. It's a huge fabric warehouse of mill ends. Of course I don't need another bit of fiber of any sort but I might just have to make an exception for French fiber!

I worked a bit on my Burda top last night but didn't get very far. I planned to use my serger so I changed it over from coverstitch to 4-thread overlock only to discover that the step 1 of the instructions was to hem the edge of two pieces. AAAARGH! So I changed the serger back to coverstitch. Fortunately it's very easy to rethread my machine. But stitching the hems was not all that easy. The fabric I'm using is very stretchy and the edges curl. I expected the fabric to stretch as I sewed so I compensated by setting the differential feed to gather slightly. That seemed to work as the first piece came out beautifully. The second piece was not as cooperative but it looks ok. At this rate I might have the top done in time for our trip!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


I'm working on another Burda top. It's this one from the April 2005 Burda World of Fashion:

This top has been the top to make right now among the gang. The other day I found myself at Hancock Fabrics and some fabric bolts jumped out at me. I couldn't resist buying some trendy-print stretchy knit fabric for only $3.95/yard. But I have set a new record for myself (besides the number of yards of fabric I own). Time from store to cutting table = 4 days! I'm afraid though that the size I cut out will be too small so I tried to leave enough fabric to cut another one in a larger size if I need too.

I tend to have illusions of being smaller than I am. Weird. Most women think they're fatter than they really are. Maybe I'm in denial about my true weight, which isn't bad but I could benefit from losing a few pounds (in fact we're going to get back into our regular gym visits tonight). I get frustrated when I think that I wear a certain size or style and then reality hits when I see myself in the mirror. This can be a real problem when you sew! I try to make test muslins first but it's real tedious to do that and often the fabric I use for the muslin doesn't exactly match the fabric I'm going to use. The other problem and hindrance to my sewing is that I want to save my good or favorite fabrics for garments I'll be able to wear. Sometimes that means waiting until I lose some weight but mostly it's because I want to get the fit right and not waste the fabric on a wadder. When I started sewing about seven years ago I found an online fabric source that had fabric from $1 to around $5 per yard. I thought they'd be great for practicing. However, the fabrics turned out to be really nice...and so a fabric stash was born.

I guess I need to update my fabric tally for the year too. I bought 4.5 yards at Hancock last week and also slipped up and bought 7 yards from - the "evil" on-line fabric store that enticed me with their inexpensive yet nice fabrics seven years ago.

Monday, May 02, 2005


After posting the picture of our winged visitor in Friday's post, I became obsessed with finding out what it was: a hawk? a falcon? After much googling on the internet, I think I have identified it as a Coopers Hawk. The lighting in my picture is not the best and you can't see the tail, but having looked at many pictures of falcons and hawks I think most of the ones of the Coopers Hawk seemed to fit.

The hawk was across the street on the lamp post but we do get a lot of birds in our yard, much to our cats' enjoyment (from inside course). We have a bird feeder and a pond in the back and both draw a lot of hungry and thirsty birds. Our neighbors' yards don't have much in the way of trees let alone feeders or ponds so I joke that the bird migration map shows our house with a big X on it. It's fun to watch the change in types of birds that visit throughout the year. I honestly don't know what they are but they seem to be mostly finches along with mockingbirds, hummingbirds, robins, and many Mourning Doves. The Mourning Doves even set up a nest that was quite convenient to the feeder. Most of the finches have reddish breasts but there are some pretty yellow ones that visit too - usually a male/female pair. One evening Aaron thought he saw an owl fly over. He says it was pretty big. My favorite winged visitor so far has to be the Great Blue Heron. I don't know if he dined on our fish, but the morning I saw him he was standing atop our pergola in prime view of the pond. I was dumbstruck at the sight of such a majestic bird. He just stood there and I just froze at the sight. Unfortunately by the time I got my camera he took off. The quirkiest winged visitor has got to be the California Quail. We've lived here for over 7 years and never saw any quail until last summer when suddenly the quail parades began. I laugh because the quail run around the yard like they're playing follow the leader as they run from yard to yard, hopping up on the fences and rooftops.

It's nice to hear the birds and to see them splash in the waterfall. Perhaps I should dig out the bird book we have somewhere and try to identify them. But no, I'm not going to add birding to my list of hobbies. That's all I need...another hobby!