I made a dress!

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In my efforts to “level up” my sewing skills, I decided that I wanted to try to make a simple dress. I picked Anna Allen’s “Demeter Dress” pattern because it seemed like a nice, simple dress; it’s intended to fit loose and the skirt part was basically identical in construction to the Cleo skirts I’ve been making. The top does have darts, though, which are something I’ve never sewn before. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos and I think I did an ok job?

I made a dress!

I intended this dress to be a kind of “wearable muslin”; I didn’t have any other ideas about what to do with this giant piece of undyed linen-cotton blend (I *think* it’s Essex?) that’s been hanging out in my closets for a really long time, so I figured I’d use it to see whether I like this sort of loose-fitting dress before I try to make any more of them in different fabrics.

I made a dress!

And the answer to whether I like this style of dress is…maybe? It’s definitely oversized (and that’s even AFTER going down at least one pattern size from what my measurements would suggest) but that makes it easy to get on and off even without any zippers or buttons. And it’s cozy, even if it’s somewhat like wearing a big linen tent. I like that it doesn’t pinch or rub anywhere and I can move really freely in it.

I made a dress!

What I’m definitely less sure about is whether I can pull off this undyed linen color. I’m so pale, and I feel like this color kind of washes me out?

I made a dress!

I do like it paired with the teal cardigan, though, so maybe it’s a good neutral color to keep for pairing with colorful cardis? Or should I think about dyeing it? I’d have to decide on a color, if I did that, and given the colors I wear most often, I think a light turquoise blue or a purple would slot nicely into my wardrobe. But I know pretty much nothing about dyeing fabric, so that’s something I would want to learn more about first anyway.

I made a dress!

Pretty stoked that I was able to make a dress, even if it is a dead simple one. I’ve got a couple other big fabric pieces that I’m considering dressifying, one in a stripey turquoise color and the other in a kind of wild geometric print in bright blues, pinks, purples, and reds. So we’ll see if I end up making a couple more Demeter Dresses! And from the leftovers of this undyed linen-cotton (it was a huge, wide piece), I also cut out the pieces to make a pair of Papercut Patterns’ Palisade Shorts. I’m super intimidated by how many pieces there are with those snazzy-looking pockets, but I want to improve my sewing skills and I want to make stretchy-waisted bottoms for myself, so I’ll be brave and give them a try!

Almost done with sleeve number one!

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In my last post I mentioned that I was having gauge issues with the sleeve for my Bressay sweater. I decided to try going up to a size 2.5 (instead of a 2) and that seemed to do the trick – my gauge now matches what I was getting on the body!

Bressay progress.

I also added an extra round to the increase repeats; instead of doing the increases every, say, 6 rounds, I did them every 7, and so on, and this seems to have done the trick for adding length! I’m almost to the end of the colorwork for the sleeve, and then it’ll be time for sleeve number two! Which will hopefully be a breeze, now that I’ve figure out how to make my gauge, etc work and have made these notes here on my blog to remind myself what I did.

I’m glad I never stopped writing in my knitting blog; having these sorts of notes to myself about my projects is so helpful! I never fully shifted away from blogging when it came to tracking my projects on Ravelry, and that has turned out to be a real blessing now that I can no longer use Ravelry. It’s not that I haven’t lost important information, etc…I have, but I feel terrible for the affected folks who used Ravelry as their ONLY place for documenting their projects! What I miss the most is the ability to see how different yarns knit up, or to see what particular patterns look like on bodies that are most like mine, or to see the kinds of modifications that other people had made to various patterns. What have other people knit with this Hyrrokkin yarn that came in my Ysolda care package? I don’t have a great way to find out anymore.

Hyrrokkin, wound into a ball.

I also need to figure out what to do about my OWN patterns that are still listed for sale via Ravelry. It’s not like I sell very many copies of them…I make zero efforts to market them these days, so I don’t even really expect to. But I do occasionally sell a pattern or two, which means I end up having an invoice through Ravelry that I have to pay, and the only way to pay it is to log in via the new site, which hurts me. I did it once already, and I don’t want to have to do it again. Does anyone have advice about how I could remove my patterns with the least amount of time spent on the site itself? And if I did want to keep them available for purchase, what would be a good alternative site? I see a lot of people using Payhip, but I know nothing about it. I do have most of them listed on Lovecrafts, so maybe that’s enough; perhaps I could get some help removing my patterns from Ravelry but linking to them on Lovecrafts (and/or Payhip, if I ever set that up) for those who still want to purchase them? (That feels slightly subversive, using Ravelry’s database to link out to external sites for purchasing, but why exactly should I care about that when they don’t care to make their website usable by people like me?)

Hyrrokkin, wound into a ball

Back to the Hyrrokkin yarn – at 600 meters, the ball took quite a while to wind by hand, but it has a very pleasing heft to it. And while I can’t easily see what others have knit from this yarn, my plan is to knit an Ishbel shawl. I think a nice light grey shawl will be a very good addition to my wardrobe!

Speaking of my wardrobe, I’m hoping to do some more sewing this summer, too. I’m already getting a LOT of wear from my Cleo skirts; a skirt + tank top is a great combo when the weather is hot like it’s been recently! My next sewing project is going to be a Demeter Dress (the sleeveless view). I’m basically trying to gradually “level up” my sewing skills; now that I can make skirts, I’m going to try this fairly basic dress (which will involve the new skill of sewing darts, plus most of the skills from the Cleo pattern and the bias-binding skills from the York Pinafore). Then I’m going to try shorts, on my way to pants and overalls. We’ll see how I do!

Bressay progress, and other thoughts

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I’ve made it through the pre-yoke colorwork on the body of Bressay, and it’s GORGEOUS! This is probably the most challenging colorwork I’ve ever done, because of how similar so many of the colors are, but the end result is just so beautiful. I’m excited to get to the colorwork at the top of the first sleeve!

Bressay Progress

I took these photos this weekend, so am actually quite a bit further along on the sleeve, except…I’m noticing that my gauge on the sleeve is quite a bit tighter, both in terms of stitch gauge and row gauge, than it is on the body. And this is a problem, because I’ve now reached the point where I’m supposed to start the colorwork, but the sleeve is significantly shorter than it needs to be. I’ve measured the colorwork band and added it to the length of my sleeve, and it’s coming up at least an inch shorter than the pattern calls for, which is itself a bit shorter than I need because I have disproportionately long arms. Should’ve been paying more attention, and definitely need to think about increasing the number of rounds between increases when I try again on the sleeve so that I can get the length right!

One part of the problem though, I think, is that I’m using a size 2 Chiaogoo stainless steel circular (I got myself a couple more sub-size 3 needles from them; my Tulip bamboo interchangeables only go down to size 3). It seems I knit tighter on the steel needles than on bamboo ones. So I’m debating whether it makes sense to try the size 2.5 stainless steel circular, or go back to the wooden size 2 circular I used for the body (which might be a little too short for comfortable magic looping; I’m also nervous about breaking that needle like I broke the size 1 needle). Or should I just jump all the way up to the Tulip size 3, on the basis of small-circumference knitting generally being tighter than large-circumference knitting? The beginning of a sleeve is small enough to serve as a “swatch”, so I’m going to pick one of these options and start the second sleeve and see if it works; if not, I’ll rip back early and try again, and I just won’t touch the first sleeve for reknitting until I’ve figured out what works on the second one.

The "care package" bag from Ysolda's shop

On a completely different note, I mentioned in an earlier post that I had ordered one of the small, personalized “care packages” that Ysolda made available in her shop as a way to say goodbye before the shop closed. It arrived at the end of last week, and I thought I’d share what came in it. The bag is really pretty, and a nice size, too! Inside it were 4 skeins of yarn, a sweet personalized postcard, and a needle size gauge.

Lichen yarn from the Ysolda care package

Three of the skeins were Lichen, an Ysolda exclusive yarn spun by Hillesvåg; I’ve written before about how much I love the yarns from this Norwegian company! The colors are very “me”, too: bright acid green and a nice neutral light grey. Ysolda sent along a code for a free copy of Stac Shoaigh as a suggestion for what to knit with the bright green Lichen; another pattern I’m considering making with it is Estimar. I’m just not sure which I’d get more wear out of, honestly; I already have a Willow cowl in a bright green (though it’s much more of a yellow-leaning green) and an Icarus shawl in a slightly darker and slightly yellower-leaning green, so I’m not sure which would get more wear. I typically wear cowls more, mostly due to ease and not needing to fuss with them throughout the day, but I do think that Stac Shoaigh is really lovely, so that’s probably what I’m going to do. And then with whatever leftovers there are (because with Stac Shoaigh at least, there would be some), I could do some sort of colorwork with the grey + green, perhaps!

One skein from the Ysolda care package

The fourth skein was another Ysolda exclusive yarn (it made me very happy that my care package was all yarns that I would have no other way of getting than through Ysolda!): Hyrrokkin, a fingering weight yarn from Polwarth, BFL, and Zwartbles fiber. It’s an undyed natural grey (I *love* these greys!) and 150g, a little over 600yards. I’m debating what the best use for this would be. I’m tempted to stick with the Ysolda-theme and knit another Ishbel (I’ve knit one for my grandma, years ago, but never one for me); I have enough to knit the second-largest size, I think? Another possibility that my mind jumps to is Frida, which is a pattern I already own; I bought it back when it came out because I was just fascinated with the loop stitch and wanted to know how it was done. But I do wonder if Frida’s better-suited for a woolen-spun yarn (like the BT Loft yarn it was designed for); the Hyrrokkin is clearly worsted-spun. This is the sort of question I would have tried to answer for myself by looking through finished projects on Ravelry, but I still haven’t gone back to the site since the end of March. But no matter what, I’m pretty sure this yarn is going to become a nice neutral grey shawl. It’d be really interesting if I ended up with two new shawls from this package after not knitting shawls for such a long time!

Fox needle gauge

The final item in the bag was a needle gauge in the shape of a fox. I love foxes, so I was delighted! I do already have a couple needle gauges (one plastic one that came with the Tulip interchangeable set, and a wooden one from Katrinkles that dates back to my earliest days of using Etsy), so I may end up giving this one to my daughter. We’ll see.

So anyway, that’s what I’m up to at the moment: plotting future shawls and trying to figure out next steps on Bressay.

Things *WE* knit together: an alpaca!

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The alpaca is finished! It turned out so adorable! It’s going to be a gift for my daughter’s amazing 3rd grade teacher (who loves alpacas).

Project Details:
Pattern: Alpaca, from Susan B. Anderson
Yarn: Blue Sky Organic Cotton in “Bone” (for Alpaca) and Cascade Tangier in “Geometric” (for blanket), both left over from this babyStripes!
Needles: size 6 dpns for Alpaca, and size 7 dpns for blanket

Alpaca face!
Alpaca-face! This was my first time using safety eyes, and also my first time attempting to embroider facial features on a handknit toy; I think it looks sufficiently alpaca-like, right?

This was an incredibly fun project to make with my daughter. I won’t say that knitting cotton at a tight gauge was especially fun, but the pattern itself was very well-written and the details are just so perfect. I *love* the “curls” at the top of the head!

Proud little knitter!

My daughter knit the blanket for the alpaca, and to do so, she learned how to do i-cord, kfb, ssk, and k2tog – so much learned from one little blanket! And she also started to learn how to read knitting patterns, putting herself on a path to being a more independent knitter.

Alpaca!

I think I might have enough of these leftovers remaining to knit a second one for my daughter. And this definitely won’t be my last Susan B. Anderson toy – I’ve got a kit to knit some sleepy kittens, too!

Scatterbrained summer (so far)

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My mind is all over the place now that the semester is done. I’m still doing some work (trying to coordinate workshop and panel submissions for the two standing groups I’m part of at 4Cs, the big conference in writing professor world, and prepping a couple of workshops that I’m going to be running over the summer, including one on Monday) but it’s not all-consuming the way I was before the semester ended. The end result of a bit of “time off” after more than a year of teaching online during a pandemic without any childcare is that my creative brain feels like a squirrel on speed – just bouncing around from project idea to project idea, feeling very scatterbrained.

Some of this, too, is a kind of disorientation borne of the loss of a major piece of my knitting world. I have not used Ravelry since the end of March. That is, except to log in once, a few days ago, to pay the miniscule fee I owed on patterns I’d sold in the last month; perhaps one of these days I should pull my patterns from Ravelry, and figure out another way to host them – Payhip, maybe? I’m not sure whether I will ever dip my toes back into the “being a designer” waters again, and I’m hesitant to set anything up if all it’s going to do is host patterns I wrote nearly a decade ago. I dunno.

So far, I’m finding that what I miss most about Ravelry is the way I used it to self-soothe; that is, I would often open up my Ravelry friends activity list or my list of favorites and click around when I was feeling overwhelmed and just wanted to look at pretty things. The other thing I miss is the ability to easily see what other people’s versions of projects looked like. Some of that, I can do on Instagram instead; I’m learning how to follow hashtags and things like that. It’s just…weird, to still be knitting, still be connected to all of these knitters on the internet, but to be cut off from the site that was, for a very long time, and still is for many people, the heart of that online community.

One other thing I’ve noticed is that not having Ravelry has made me a bit more thoughtful about how to make best use of my yarn stash. I had a tendency to queue any pattern I saw there if it seemed remotely interesting to me, whether or not I owned the pattern or any appropriate yarn, and this sometimes pushed me to want to buy yarn for new projects even though I have a pretty significant stash already. But now that I don’t have access to that, I’m looking through my actual stash, as well as my knitting books and the PDFs of patterns that I have, and making lists for what I can do with what I have. It’s not that I couldn’t have done this when I was using Ravelry; I absolutely could’ve been more diligent. And Instagram can certainly push in the same direction, in terms of shiny new projects. But I am feeling less tied into that “shiny new project” thing, and I do think that’s from being cut off from Ravelry (and also from the designers who only publish things via Ravelry).

Anyway, those are my scattered thoughts on what a couple months without Ravelry have been like for me. How about some knitting? In the photo at the top of this post, you can see that I finished my newest Musselburgh hat. And also, that my hair has gotten quite long, though thank goodness, I finally have a haircut scheduled a week from today – no more COVID hair!

Musselburgh hat!

The Musselburgh hat reminds me of something else I’m feeling a bit wistful about: Ysolda’s closing her online shop. I’ve been a customer for quite a long time, as it was my favorite place to get yarns that were not easily available to me as an American knitter, and I have knit quite a few of her designs. I even had my post about my Joy mitts shared on her blog. I’m excited for whatever is next for Ysolda and her family, but I am going to miss that shop. (And I did, in fact, order one of the “care packages” that were offered to newsletter subscribers when the shop-closure was announced, so will have a mystery package arriving at some point in the nearish future. I know I just said I’m trying to use what I have, but I also wanted to “say goodbye” to the shop that opened my world to smaller European brands like Hillesvåg, Rauma, Einrúm, and De Rerum Natura.)

Alpaca-in-progress

Another project I’ve cast on for recently is an alpaca! My daughter wanted to make her 3rd grade teacher a “thank you” present for the incredible job she’s done as a remote teacher this year, and her teacher LOVES alpacas. I remembered having seen an alpaca pattern from Susan B. Anderson, so I bought that pattern, and am knitting the alpaca from leftover cotton yarn, and am teaching my daughter how to do i-cord and increases and decreases so that she can follow the pattern and make the blanket that goes with the alpaca out of leftover silk yarn (both yarns are leftovers from the non-wool babyStripes! that I knit for my dear wool-allergic friend’s baby):

She’s learning how to knit i-cord!

So far, I’m really enjoying knitting this alpaca! My daughter is incredibly fond of Susan B. Anderson’s patterns, having seen them in the Making magazine issues we’ve read together, and I actually have a couple of kits from her Barrett Wool Company yarn – a Sven and Solveig kit and a “Sleepy Kittens” kit, the latter of which I got with the intention of making them for my cat-obsessed daughter and then just…haven’t yet. But perhaps toys will become a new type of project for me; I’ve recently fallen in love with the Frog & Cast “Frog & Toad” pattern (and actually have sock yarn from way back when in colors that are reasonably appropriate!) and with FROM CINTHIA’s suite of animals (pretty sure I could also cobble together colors for some of these with existing sock yarn leftovers), and I’m less put-off than I expected to be by the fiddliness.

The last project I’ll share here is the Bressay sweater, which has reached a very exciting milestone: I’m now to the colorwork portion of the body!

Bressay colorwork

Bressay has colorwork that starts on the body (and on the sleeves) before the yoke is joined, which is different from any other yoked sweater I’ve made. It’s really fun to see the pattern starting to emerge! And I’m marveling at how Marie Wallin can create such gorgeous patterns using colors that are so similar to each other – you’d almost expect it to look like mud but instead it’s just subtle and beautiful.

Bressay colorwork

That actually reminds me of another thing that has me feeling sad and wistful; I first learned of Marie Wallin and her gorgeous Fair Isle designs from the Fruity Knitting podcast, and am now grieving the loss of Fruity Knitting’s Andrew, who reminded me so much of my own spouse Andrew, especially in the geeky delight he took in the details of history and technology. It’s just heartbreaking to see such a lovely human being taken out by cancer, but I’m really grateful for all of the joy that he and Andrea brought me through their show, and I hope that Andrea and her daughter Madeleine (whose own Bressay-in-progress is what originally prompted me to get a kit) are able to find joy for themselves as they move forward without him.

Well, I said this would be a scatterbrained post and so it is, but that’s just how things are right now. How are you all doing, dear readers?

Another skirt, and more knitting

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I did end up sewing a fourth Cleo skirt in the dot chambray, without any lining, at the end of last week, and it turned out great! I’m glad to now have a fairly “neutral” Cleo that I can wear with just about any top; my others demand a bit more color-coordination, but not this one!

Finished Cleo Skirt, the fourth!

I’ve also got a few knitting projects to share. First off, I ended up replacing my broken Knitters Pride Dreamz circular needle with a Chiaogoo Red Lace circular. So far, I’m really loving it – I don’t seem to be reacting to the surgical grade stainless steel (hopefully that stays true!) and the cable is amazing; when they say it doesn’t have “memory” they really mean it! Anyway, this means I finished my Zauberball Crazy socks:

Finished socks in Zauberball Crazy

I’d forgotten how hard it is to take photos of your own feet! This is the only in-focus one I got when I tried to take photos of them last week, but at least you can see the “Padded Sweet Tomato” heel. These are just plain vanilla toe-up stockinette socks with a 1×1 rib cuff, but it was fun to get back to sock knitting with magic loop.

I cast on for another pair of socks pretty much as soon as I finished the first pair. I’m now past the heel on the first sock:

Sock in progress.

For these, I cast on 32 stitches (16 per needle) at the toe rather than 40, and I’m doing a 2×2 garter rib over the central 22 stitches just to add a little bit of interest. I’m excited to wear these with my new Duckfeet Odense boots; part of what nudged me away from sock knitting before (other than constantly breaking and/or losing my wooden dpns) was that my old boots were taller, which meant they worked better with the knee-high Smartwool socks that I had than with the mid-calf handknit socks I had been knitting (not that I couldn’t’ve knit knee-highs, I suppose!). But my old Merrell boots bit the dust this past winter after a 12 year run, so now I’m back to lower boots that are more compatible with showing off the tops of handknit socks. These duck-egg blue ones will look nice with a LOT of my outfits.

This past weekend, my in-laws visited – we hadn’t seen them since early summer of 2019! I’ve been using our guest room as my office this entire year, so I had to do a fair amount of cleaning to turn it back into a guest room temporarily, and in the process, I found the leftover yarn from my Honeydew sweater, which I had apparently shoved in the drawer where we keep spare bedding for guests, I’m guessing as a way to keep it away from the cats. Anyhow, with my newfound magic loop skills and ~350 yards of icy blue BFL and mohair-silk, I thought I’d cast on for a project that could be TRULY mindless for knitting while my in-laws were here: a Musselburgh hat!

Musselburgh hat in progress!

I ended up with a migraine for most of their visit, which meant that having a really dead-simple knitting project, one that I could even knit in the dark, was especially useful. I’m still feeling a bit “off” today; hopefully tomorrow I’ll be back to feeling ok.

Musselburgh in progress

This hat is going to be deliciously soft and WARM! It’ll be perfect for walking in from the parking lot to my office next year, something I’ve not done since pneumonia struck me in the Fall of 2019; the pandemic hit before I’d regained enough strength to actually DO that walk. But it’s a long walk (it’s about a kilometer) and when it’s cold, I’m going to LOVE having a nice soft warm hat to keep my ears from freezing.

Now that my in-laws have left, and once I get through this “postdrome” period, I’ll probably return to the “bigger” projects that I have on the needles; Bressay is just about at the point where the colorwork starts, which is very exciting, and I can also keep working on the raglan decreases on the fronts and back of M’s Elle Melle. But for now, I’m probably going to finish the Musselburgh hat next, because plain stockinette in the round is exactly what my brain can handle at the moment.

Musselburgh hat in progress

Happy June, everyone! And Happy Pride!