Friday, 9 June 2017

Cleo Dungarees are here!


As a kid from the nineties I basically grew up in dungarees.  I was a stubborn kid at that, and knew what I liked, so at some point my mother had trouble getting me into anything but dungarees.
Even before dungarees made a fashion comeback, I had plans to make myself a pair to see how I'd like them as a grown up. Obviously I'm only getting to it now, which probably means the trend is on its retreat again (I'm always late to ANY party).


Judging by the amount of times I've seen this dress in my blog feed and instagram timeline, I'm probably the last person in the sewing community to make this dungaree dress. From the moment I saw these I wanted to make it, even though it diverges a bit from my usual style. I've been branching out a bit, trying new things. I notice I'm drawn to trying different silhouettes from my usual style, though I still like fit and flare.


 I can definitely see why this pattern has taken the sewing community by a storm. Not only is the dress itself a beauty, it's a quick and easy projects as well. The sewing process was a dream and I breezed through it. I finished it in two sittings, where I usually have to take quite some time for projects. I usually sew in bouts, especially these days, when I just don't have the time to spend a whole day behind the machine.



I picked a red corduroy fabric to make this in. I was a bit worried about how this would handle, especially reading a multitude of blogs strict warnings on mistakes to make while sewing ribbed fabrics. In the end a sturdy needle and a bit of bluff did the trick. I did all the top stitching in a matching colour, so it did not have to be extremely exact. I made the mini version, although there is a knee length version as well. Just as a heads up, the mini length is quite short. It wasn't too short for me, but I'm quite short myself, so longer legged ladies might want to add a bit more length with this pattern. I'm not really used to wear mini length any more so I was a bit worried whether that would be an issue but I actually really like it with this style. The only hardware that this dress needs are the buckles on the straps, but they are the simplest thing ever. They are basically no-sew buttons, which you just push trough the fabric and tada.




This project has convinced me that I need more corduroy in my life. I mean I always like the fabric (again, born in the nineties) but now I want to fill my whole wardrobe with it!

Sunday, 14 May 2017

What's going on


The past two weeks or so I've been struggling with what's probably the worst fever I've had in years, and I'm still stuck with a stubborn cold that just won't go away. Struggling with fever, cold and spring allergies, all while spring weather has come peeking out for the first time, is no fun at all. Most of the time I felt too poor to even attempt to knit, which is just something that shouldn't even be allowed.

Anyway as I'm starting to feel human again I thought it was about time to show my face here again.
Last time I was here I said I had a lot going on; dissertation mostly, but that I wasn't ready to give up on the blog yet. However if I'm going to keep breathing life into this small internet place of mine I'm going to have to do a couple of things differently, at least for the time being, until my life has a somewhat normal life pace again. Instead of either waiting for weeks/or months  to have a new finished project or the time to take (modelled) pictures of new projects, I figured I will drop in once in a while just to keep you up to date as to what is going on at the making front.

Knitting:

Normally I'm quite a monogamous knitter; I start something and then work on it until it's finished. At the moment though with time and energy being sparse and my creative focus alternating between all over the place and non-existent, I've been casting on and abandoning things in a record speed. I now have about 4 or 5 somewhat active projects on the go, ranging from "I knit a few stitches on this project everyday" to "in theory still active but only because I have not been willing to give up hope on it yet" projects. For the sake of not bombarding you with a lot of projects that might not go past the fledgling knit project status, I'll just go over my two most active projects:

Windermere

Jup I'm still at it. In my defence, it is a big beast of a project, I'm modifying a lot lot on this project, and almost every colourwork motif is different. It has been put on hold quite often in the past couple of months. The good news: I still really love both how it looks as well as working on it. The yarn is perfect. I'm almost finished with the body and then it's just the sleeves. Hooray! I'm right on track to finish this at the height of summer. Ha. Ha. Ha.

I'm was stuck for a bit at the point where the shoulder steeks should come, an element that is not in the pattern (as it is worked in pieces) so I'm on my own with this and although I have done steeks many times before I've never done shoulder steeks, so I had to first read up a bit on this topic before I tried to fudge my way through this. So far so good though, I've started to knit the steeks, but I'll still have to see how it ends up when cut.



Stasis

My other most active project is a newer one. It was born out of the need for a more straightforward project for those days when I'm extra brainfried. My other projects at hand were all dwelling on the complicated side of the knitting spectrum. So, of course I reached for my go-to type of project which is a yoke sweater. After going back and fort a bit on which project to go for I eventually landed on Stasis, a pattern that has been in my queue since forever, and a yarn that has been in my stash almost as long as that.
We'll see if this project will survive the fledging  status. I do find this new habit of casting on and abandoning things a bit annoying as it means that finishing things happens slowly, or never, but I figured that since I'm at least still making things I'm not going to be to hard on myself.


Sewing:

I've finished this dungaree dress relatively recently, although not so recently that I shouldn't have pictures yet. Still, somehow taking modelled pictures just hasn't happened yet. I'm looking forward towards blogging it as it is one of my favourite makes and I want to write about it. Reasons why the photo's haven't happened yet range from petty reasons -such as have been working all week and am too tired- to my resident photographer and I not being at the same place (work related trips in the weekends can mess up any plans) and then when I thought it was going to happen the fever struck, and a runny nose just does very little for me on pictures. I got so impatient to blog about it that I even posted a photo of it on instagram, which I usually don't do if I haven't blogged yet
.

YarnloveChallenge


In April I participated in the YarnloveChallenge on Instagram. I like challenges because you have the opportunity of meeting a bunch of cool new people. Having set topics to post is really helping my activity levels, especially at these times when I'm just so busy that I have very little else to post about. However, at some point there where at least four different photo challenges going on and it became a bit much to keep up with. I only participated in one myself but I definitely felt some photo challenge weariness towards the end of the month. So it turns out that I can have to much of a good thing? I don't know, I think I will be taking a time out from the photo challenges for a bit.

I do like seeing al the pictures for Me Made May, I've been toying with the idea of participating in this one. Last year I was fairly sure that 2017 was going to be my year. I decided early on that I was not going to participate this year either, with my workload at the moment I want to add little extra. I have a tendency of taking on to much work, and I have a tendency to see things through to the end even when the workload is crushing me. I knew things were going to be intense, so I decided early on to keep myself in check and just be okay with missing out on some stuff. I also have to be okay with, though this is quite a bit harder, a VERY low knit and sew productivity.



Well I thought this was going to be a quick blog post, but it turns out that if you put me in front of a writing device I just keep going and going. I hope inspiration finds you well!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Driftless cardigan




It's been a while since my last blog post, I've got a lot going on at the moment. I'm working on my research and dissertation and I'm also trying to figure out what I want to do after all this, all this being my life as a student. While I'm doing this I try to stay sane by keeping up with normal life, meaning knitting, my sewing machine, petting my cats and staying in touch with close friends. It's been  juggling and blogging has fallen by the wayside.

I have to admit that the current disastrous state of the world diminished my blogging mojo as well. I've read this on some other blogs too, and I think I've mentioned it here before. Tomorrow my country has its general elections, and so far the polls are not looking good, with an extreme right wing, global warming denying nut-job looking to become the moral victor. Let's hope my country comes to its senses in the remaining hours before the vote. 

In all honesty, I'm not really sure where I want to go with the blog. I know the blogosphere in general has been in decline, with instagram and vlogging taking over, and quite a few of my favourite bloggers have either quit altogether or post drastically less. I don't think I'm ready to quit as of yet, there is something inherently healing about writing, so I'm going to try to pop up her at least once in a while to catch up on the creative front.


I thought I would start off nice and easy by sharing a simple project I made a while ago: a Driftless Cardigan. For a change I didn't knit a cardigan but sewed one instead with knit fabric (Is this blasphemy?). Driftless is a pattern by Grainline Studio which they released around this time last year. I've been meaning to sew one since about that time, but you know how it goes. It's one of their patterns which only comes in pdf format. I hadn't tried sewing from a pdf before, but wanted to for the longest time, so this seemed like a good way to tackle that.

All in all, sewing a pdf pattern was a breeze. I first taped the printed sheets together, and then traced the patterns onto pattern paper. Yes, it was an extra step, but not a complicated one and it worked very well. I can imagine though that with more complex patterns the process gets more complicated and takes longer, so for dresses I still prefer paper patterns.



I know this might not be the most flattering thing I've ever made, but it sure is comfortable. Moreover it is an excellent layering piece and the kind of thing I wear a lot when it starts to get too warm for some of my knitted pieces. The fabric is a wool polyester viscose mix, and it is knitted fabric. That is about the only thing I know about it. As someone who got into sewing with a knitting background it still baffles me how little information is provided with fabric. Us knitters, we're used to know to the exact percentage of fibres in our materials, down to the sheep breed and sometimes even the very farm it comes from. With fabric you seem to be lucky enough if you know what fibres are in your fabric, let alone the percentages.



I sewed almost all of the cardigan in one weekend day during my autumn break. Everything but the buttonholes was done. I tried to sew them the day after, but my sewing machine started acting up and made it impossible to make anything remotely resembling a decent buttonhole. So I put the project aside for a couple of days... Which became weeks... Which became months, until I got myself together early in January and tried again, this time my sewing machine didn't give a hitch, and everything went smoothly, even though I did everything the same as before (I can't even begin to try to understand how this sewing machine logic works).



I also wanted to share my birthday loot. My birthday was last week. I didn't want to dedicate a whole post to it, but it's such a cheerful photo that I liked to share. It's mostly yarn, craft books and a few novels, which suits me perfectly!

So, see you soon,
-and fingers crossed for tomorrow's election-



Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Telja

 

Today I've got a special project to show you guys. Somewhere at the beginning of December, Jennifer Steingass of Knit.Love.Wool contacted me to see whether I would be interested to test knit a yet unreleased design of hers. I've never done a test knit before, so I was flattered to be asked.

I was sold when Jenn send me the pictures of her own knit; a wonderful Icelandic jumper, in a delightful blue hue. So of course, I couldn't resist.The pattern was named Telja, which means, Jenn told me, "believe" in Icelandic.The original design is knit with quince and co, but Jenn told me it was fine to use any other yarn which matched gauge.  She must have guessed my taste in yarn very well as she suggested Lett Lopi to me, which is exactly the yarn I thought of using when I first saw the design.




Inspiration for the colour palette came from outside. I was inspired by the purples, pinks and greens you can find in the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. Not that this phenomenon occurs often -or at all to be honest- where I live. When your TV-time consists solely of nature documentaries, supplemented with other documentaries, you tend to pick some things up. The closest I've ever gotten to seeing the Northern Lights were the webcams from Shetland.org.  I'd been watching a documentary about Svalbard recently, and when I saw the Northern Lights again, I decided on the colour choices for this project. Check my ravelry for the colour codes!


 I have a lot of yarn left, mostly because I waffled about a bit with regards to the sizing. I should point out that this was not a fault with the pattern but rather a brain blip with myself. Since I lost a bit of weight I am apparently entirely incapable of knowing my own size, even when taking measurements. I had to reknit a part of the body because it became rather large when compared to my other lopi sweaters. I suspect me knitting a large part of the jumper while I was also working on my exams, and the accompanying stress had an impact on my gauge as well!


 I love the yoke pattern. For it's apparent simplicity, it's a surprising pattern. The different medallion lockets give the contrast colours a real chance to shine. When I saw Jenn's WIP I thought it was knitted top-down, but I was happy to see that the pattern was actually knitted bottom-up, my preferred construction method. The original has I-cords at the hems and collar, which I left out. Instead I added a ribbed collar. The pattern was clearly written, especially when you've got a little experience with Icelandic jumpers, this pattern should guide you quite easily. Just a note: there are quite a few rows that require you to knit with three different colours, the beware if you're wary of that.



Thanks Jenn for letting me test this pattern. I'm completely in love with the result. If you like it, you can find it in the By Hand lookbook published today and in a little while in Jenn's Ravelry store.

Take care everyone,
xxx



Saturday, 31 December 2016

On to the next!

Hello everyone!

So, that's almost a wrap on 2016. Traditionally, I end the year with a long wrap-up of everything I made and an extensive list of things I want-to-make. Like you, however, I'm anxious to see the back of 2016, so I'm bringing you this year's wrap-up in espresso format: my two favourite makes of the year!


My favourite knitted project of 2016 is Afmaeli. It was in very close competition with my Jenny at the Fair cardigan, but since I knitted most of that project in the last bit of 2015 I thought it wasn't really fair to count that amongst the 2016 projects. Afmaeli was always going to be a contender for the "favourite make of the year title" being made in lopi wool and with its beautiful colourwork yoke. I have worn it a lot ever since we've had proper cold weather, and I always feel good in it. Since I've lost weight since I made this jumper the fit is now a bit different from when I just finished it; slightly more oversized and slouchy. It does not bother me, but should it do so in the future I might take the scissors to  the project to make it a bit smaller.


My favourite sewing project is the seda dress which I wore to my graduation. A fit and flare dress is one of my favourite shapes to wear, it's blue -my favourite colour- and has pockets, so obviously I love it. The fit was spot-on when I made it, but now unfortunately it has become very loose, making it look awkward, making it unwearable. That is a shame, as I liked the fabric. I'm not sure if altering the dress is worth the work, because it might be easier to just make a new one. At least I've been able to wear it several times, with much delight, to enjoyable occasions!


Although I'm glad to give 2016 the boot, I know that, globally, 2017 won't be much better. If anything, we're just beginning to pick the fruits of what happened this year. I've made no crafting resolutions, I just want to go with whatever I fancy. Instead, I resolve to rebel in the face of the world's injustice, be kinder for the world as well as myself and speak out, and do my best to make this not the new normal. To try and find a smile wherever possible and not give up on the hope of better possibilities, and try to keep making nice things to add to it. Okay, so maybe that last one does refer to knitting and sewing.

Wishing you all an inspiring, resilient and craftful 2017,

Cheers!


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Theme and Variation


It's been a while hasn't it? There is of course the usual stuff, what with the start of the academic year, me taking on more courses, and the inevitable arrival of the midterms. Like a lot of you I've been trying to make sense of last week's very unwelcome political news and the absolute garbage pile of a a year that 2016 is turning out to be in all corners of the world. I've also been dealing with some other things that have decreased my blogging motivation. One of these things is that I lost quite some weight over a short period of time. Some of the things I made at the end of the summer already look like a potato sack on me. Because of this, I struggled a bit with sewing and knitting altogether. Why even go through the trouble of making anything if I don’t know whether I’ll be able to wear it once it’s finished?


Another reason for decreased desire to show my face here on the blog is because since the summer I'm dealing with some skin problems. I've had allergies before, but as long as I'm not using products with certain chemicals in them I'm usually fine. But over the summer I've been hit with some truly awful and stubborn allergies which are especially bad on my face and neck. I know that it is a bit superficial, but that doesn't detract from me feeling uncomfortable about it. Anyway, I’ve been trying some different treatments over the past few months and although it’s not gone yet, it’s way  better than it was during the summer.

 
Not sewing or knitting certainly wasn't doing anything to make me feel better, so I quickly abandoned that path. I think I now have a (sort of) good balance, I just need to stay away from all things overly fitted until matters, weight-wise, have balanced out. So for a while I focussed on some non-clothing makes. I started my first quilt (short version: -fun- -learning a lot- -advancing in baby steps- -will do a post about it-), I’ve been doing Colette’s Wardrobe Architect and I’ve been knitting more accessories than I usually do.

 
One of the things that I made is the Theme and Variation by Veera Välimäki. I made this what feels like forever ago. Even the pictures have been sitting on my computer for way too long (you'll notice the short sleeves!). I started it at the end of July and finished it a little over a week later. I was in a knitting/making rut at the time, mainly due to what I mentioned above, but I’m guessing the summer heat was to blame as well. So, to get my knitting going again I thought I try something a bit different than usual, though still in line with my style: I jumped on the speckled yarn bandwagon!


If you are a knitter that spends even a tiny fraction of time online, you can hardly have missed the whooshing, splashing, colourful noise of the speckled bandwagon over the past year or so. At first, I was a bit hesitant to join in. I admire Stephen West and the likes, and love following them, but I always thought their style too overwhelming for myself. Nevertheless, this time I grabbed hold of the bandwagon’s rear bumper as it sped by, and I bought myself three skeins of sock yarn, one brightly speckled.


The Book of Haps provided the perfect occasion. Veera's hap offers a very comfortable knit to experiment with colours. The contrast shade is just there enough to make it worth it, but also modest enough to prevent being too much out there. It’s also comfortable in a more literal sense: it’s really comfy to wear! I made the biggest size, which I can wrap around and tie in the back (the model wears it like this in the pictures in the book). If you make one of the smaller sizes you won’t be able to wear it this way. Even though I knitted the biggest size the knitting went really fast because it’s made in garter stitch, and the speckled stripes were just a lot of fun to knit.

I changed the edging of the shawl. I first knitted the edging as described in the pattern, but while it is a more unique edging, I simply didn’t like it that much. So I frogged that bit and replaced it with a garter stitch edging which suits my tastes a bit better.


The yarn is made by Wol-met-Verve, a Dutch indie-dyer. Despite of living in the Netherlands, I had not heard of her before this summer. She’s got a large range of colours, and I especially like her speckled yarns (which she dubbed the Confetti range) and her semi-solid range. As with any indie-dyer, her assortment changes a lot depending on what she has in stock, but you can find her current range here.

I’ve worn this shawl a lot since the colder weather has kicked in. It’s a recent make, but it already feels like a long-time favourite. The colours fit my everyday style and I think the size is spot on. I’ve worn it so much already, this blogpost has a ‘first’ in that I can already judge how the yarn holds up. I’ve got to say I’m really satisfied with it. It’s knitted up smooth but not slippery, and that’s how it stays: soft, smooth and without pilling.

Now, here's to waiting for actual winter to set in. It's not far away now, but I can't wait for it!

Xxx
Nisse

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Double, Double Toil and Trouble


Hey there,

As you may have seen on my instagram, I've been experimenting with a whole new branch of yarncraft: natural dyeing! I planned to experiment with natural dying since the beginning of summer, but you know how it goes, and well I only got to it during my last week of summer break. Dying yarn is just one of those extra steps in the whole creation process that really adds to the connection to the life cycle of your clothes. There's a lot to be said in favour of natural dying: it's better for the environment, it has historical connections going back thousands of years and the challenges and restrictions posed by the materials make natural dying a wholly special art form. Well known yarns such as Shilasdair but also tons of indy-dyers use natural dyestuffs for their yarns.


When I mention historical precedents, I do mean historical. The whole image of the Bland Middle Ages is a myth, because people have been dying their clothing for millennia in all kinds of bright colours, using plants such as woad, madder and later indigo. Because of this, I've often bumped into natural dyers during re-enactment festivals and historical fairs. Such a fair is always a certain type of assault on the senses, with the roaring fires, the sounds of folk bands and fake battles, and the smells of mud, wood smoke, hot iron, charred meat, but you know you've arrived when the smell of wet sheep penetrates your nose, you turn a corner, and there it is, bubbling away in a cooking pot or hanging to dry on a ramshackle rack next to a Viking tent.


Now, on to my own experiment! Although many people like to grow their own dyestuffs, I'm very grateful for that modern equivalent of Roman roads, the internet, which allowed me to order my every need. First, I needed the canvas: an undyed yarn. The undyed shades of Istex can be a good starting point, but I bought three skeins specifically meant for dyeing. It's a sport weight made of 100% Blue Faced Leicester. A skein weighs 100 grams and has 400 mtrs of 4ply superwash wool. I had two dyes to work with: madder and chamomile. Although I drink a lot of tea, it's rarely chamomile so I had to buy a big bag of dried flowers for this dyepot, which is supposed to give off a yellow colour. The madder is supposed to give off a deep red colour, so I was very exited to get started!
  
The Process
I used The Modern Natural Dyer by Kirstine Vejar as my inspiration and my guide! First, I 'pre-wetted' all the skeins, which means I put them on top of a pan filled with water and let them soak up water until the skeins sink by themselves. Next I gently washed the yarn, a process called scouring. The yarn was put in a pan with water and a bit of dish washing liquid and kept at 82 degrees Celsius for about an hour. It was a real challenge to keep the pot at a constant temperature for such a long time, especially with an electric stove which just isn't as flexible as a gas furnace. The same difficulty arose in each of the next steps, but there's nothing to do but wing it, I guess!

The third step was mordanting, which is important to make sure the dye catches. I used alum, put it in water that had to be kept at 88 degrees.

I put in the still wet, scoured yarn and had to keep it at a steady temperature for an hour, all the while singing and cackling in my best impression of a Shakespearian witch over her boiling cauldron. A lot of people also add chalk at this point, because that also affects how well the dye catches. For me, this wasn't a necessity, because where I live we get very 'hard' water, i.e. water that has a lot of chalk in it. Seriously, you wouldn't believe how often I have to clean my tea kettle! The mordanted skeins can be left to dry or used immediately.

Next, I had to make the actual dye bath. For the chamomile I added chamomile to the water and let it simmer for about an hour. I strained the water and used it for my first skein. It had to be in the dye bath for another hour at just below boiling point. The whole house smelt of chamomile tea by then. I had wanted to make only one skein in this colour, as chamomile is said to produce a quite light but bright colour. However, as the first skein came out much darker and more deeply coloured than I expected, I added another skein to the same dye bath.

A week later I started on the madder. I let the madder soak in cold water overnight, and proceeded to let it simmer again, this time following a recipe with a strict instruction not to let the water go over 65 degrees. After straining, I added the third and last skein, which I had pre-wetted because it had been drying for a week. An hour later it could come out.



The Result
Now I had three skeins of handdyed yarn! They were a bit ruffled, but after a bit of re-skeining it looked sleek again. I'm really happy with the looks of the chamomile-dyed yarn. It's so much deeper and fuller than I expected. In retrospect, the difference in colour between the first dye bath and the second dye bath is much smaller than I thought, and both skeins are very rich in colour.




Initially I had the idea to put the lighter of the two yellow skeins into the madder bath to create an orange skein, so I would have a gradient running yellow, orange and red. What took me away from this path however was not only my satisfaction with the yellow, but in all honesty, also disappointment with the madder. Instead of a deep, bright red it turned out a sort of reddish-pink coral colour. I'm not sure where it went 'wrong', it is still a pretty colour, and coral tones are my favourite kinds of pink but it's not the colour I had hoped for. I have plenty of madder left so I'll just have to give it another try and experiment with different quantities of dyestuff and/or yarn.

I liked trying my hand on a bit of yarn dying. It was fun to potter around with flowers, roots, wool and such. Natural dying is  a very hands-on approach to working with wool and natural earthly materials. It added to my (already considerable) appreciation of natural yarn dyers, and indie-dyers in general! In the meantime I've been reading about different kinds of natural dye materials and am especially intrigued by dying with indigo (which is a totally different process from dying with other natural materials). I can see myself trying my hand at that in the future. I don't suspect it will become as an obsession as my other crafts, mainly because what with uni, knitting, sewing and life in general I already have quite a bit going on. But I'm having fun, and that's what counts, right?