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Spring Travel Knitting

April 18, 2015

I can’t help but over-pack knitting projects when I travel. What if there’s a problem with the project I packed? What if it isn’t suitable for the activity I’m taking part in on a given day? What if I want to keep knitting, but my hands need to work with a different size needles?

For my recent trip to Minnesota, I decided that I didn’t want to pack one of the two sweaters I have on the needles because they would have taken up too much space in my suitcase. Since I didn’t have any small projects going, I hit my ravelry queue for a project that I already had stash yarn earmarked for. And ended up with three.
Beret WIPThe first is La Parisienne Beret [rav link] in Noro Silk Garden Sock, which I’m working from both ends of the skein. I cast on the ribbing during my first flight of the trip, and the beret would be finished by now if I had been paying attention–I managed to knit an extra inch before beginning the crown decreases, so it’ll be a little slouchier. I’ve been recovering from comprehensive exams by spending a fair amount of time lounging on the couch, and this has been a nice, easy knit to accompany me.

I chose this project back when I was working at the yarn shop and Missoni was a big deal because of the Target collaboration. I had originally thought this hat was for me, but once I began knitting I realized it was actually meant for someone else. I have a few friends in mind–we’ll see who ultimately gets it.
Kernel WIPThe second project, which I cast on while watching TV with my parents, is a lace scarf called Kernel [rav link] from an old issue of Knitty. I’m knitting mine out of a Three Irish Girls fingering weight yarn, but I’ll have to report back on the exact yarn and colorway in another post. This scarf is supposed to have beads in the garter band between the edging and main lace pattern, but I omitted them to make this project more travel friendly (and because I was leaving the next morning). I had a great time knitting on this project while chatting with my grandma and aunt after Easter dinner.

The third project needs some sorting out, perhaps due to pattern errata, thereby definitively proving that it is, in fact, necessary to bring three knitting projects with you on a week-long, jam-packed trip.

Birthday Sewing Plans 2015

April 13, 2015

The week before last, I was really confused when I received several retailer emails with special offers for my birthday. “It isn’t anywhere near my birthday,” I thought. Until I realized it had snuck up on me, hidden behind the excitement of exams and a trip home.

I doubt we’ll do much this year, although we may spend some time with Pittsburgh friends to celebrate both my birthday and becoming ABD since I ran off to MN the day after my oral. One thing I do think I’ll do to celebrate both my birthday and the arrival of warmer weather is sew up these fabrics:
Birthday fabricsI saw them during one of those massive JoAnn sales a while back. They were a great price, and I thought they would make the perfect addition to my warm weather wardrobe.


The bicycle fabric will become a button down shirt, likely Sewaholic Granville and likely with short sleeves. I say likely because I haven’t yet mocked up the Granville, and I want to make sure the fit will work without extensive alterations. If it needs more tweaking than I’d like, I may go back to Vogue 8772, which fit me nicely right out of the envelope. I have a few more versions of that one planned, though, so I hope trying a new pattern will work out.

S1202The blue and white fabric is a jacquard, and I wanted a very simple skirt pattern to show off the bold print and take advantage of its full body. I chose the skirt pattern from Simplicity 1202, which I think will work well. I also like the top in this pattern, and I’ll have to make up a few of them for work.

Last year, it was really important to me that I finish my birthday dress in time to wear it on my birthday. This year, I’m not so concerned about dates but just want to give myself the time to enjoy the process. I have some larger, more challenging projects going on, and I think these separates will be a nice break. As long as I finish the pieces while it’s still bare-leg season, I’ll be happy.

Minnesota Fabric Haul

April 11, 2015

I have had a very busy and exciting month or so since my last post! Our graduate organization put on an academic conference and a graduate writing retreat. I sprained my ankle and was a terrible patient. And, best of all, I passed my final comprehensive exams, advancing to candidacy in my Ph.D. program! Exam year has been a beast, and I am so happy to have it behind me.

Next up is the dissertation proposal, but before I jump into that I’m taking a break to catch up with some important housekeeping and quality of life stuff that’s lapsed over these months. I was so incredibly lucky to celebrate passing my oral exam by seeing a Decemberists concert with Steve that night and heading to Minnesota for a week with family and friends the next morning. This trip was exactly what I needed. It was full of lots of time with the people I love, and some of that time was spent acquiring so much fabric that it barely fit into my suitcase for the return trip.
Fabric haulIt’s a good thing that I plan to purge and spring clean the entire apartment, because there definitely isn’t room for all of this in my overstuffed sewing area!
Fabric shoppingThere wasn’t much I wanted to do in Minnesota, just people I wanted to spend time with, but a trip S.R. Harris was a necessity. I’ve been to the NY Garment District, but this Minnesota fabric warehouse is still my favorite place to shop. Their prices are just so low!

This time, my mom and I shopped with my aunt and my cousin, who were in town from Chicago and hadn’t been to this massive store before. My cousin is such a talented knitter and seamstress, and she picked up just about everything she needs to make a beautiful military style coat in time for 4-H judging next month (hopefully…get cracking, M!).
Steve fabric haulI find that I do my best shopping here if I go in with a flexible plan, so I brought along the yardages for a bunch of garments I’m thinking about making in the next few months. As it turned out, most of what I bought is to sew for my husband rather than myself. He needs a new red buffalo plaid shirt so I can pry his beyond-worn one out of his hands, and I’m hoping he’ll come around to this plaid even though it’s an acrylic. On the right is a wool to make him a vest. He loves wearing vests when he needs to be a little dressier, but the ones in stores aren’t long enough for him.
Lingerie fabric haulI did find a few things for myself, though. This fabric is a Nike lycra that will become a Watson bra after I make up the kit I have. All of these elastics were so incredibly cheap–we’re talking 40c/yd–that I grabbed a bunch of yardage of everything I liked. I am still in the planning and accumulation stages of my lingerie journey (need to get a few other projects out of the way first), but it’s small and I’ll find a way to use it eventually. Now that I’m back in Pittsburgh, I wish I had picked up some more lycra to make workout clothes because Steve and I are looking for more ways to be active together after a fairly lumpy year.
Wool fabric haulNot to worry though, I still brought home plenty of fabric for myself. My mom has a massive wool stash from her many years in Make It With Wool contest, which often gives out yardages of Pendleton to its participants and winners. I pulled these two mid-weight pieces out of the closet because I’d like to make some sheath dresses for an upcoming conference. I hear Montreal is a very European city, so hopefully black and gray won’t be too dark for a summer conference.
Mom fabric haulFinally, Mom had some mystery fabrics waiting for me. She had told me about the navy polka dot, and I was prepared to take it by force if necessary. She was smart to give it up peacefully. The stripe is an odd fabric that I’m not sure what to do with. It’s a knit, but it has very little stretch, and it’s fairly thin. I may end up using a pattern designed for wovens so I don’t have to count on the minimal stretch.

My stash is now thoroughly enhanced, just in time to catch up with sewing after those exams.

Secret Blanket: M6996

March 19, 2015

Red Knits_M6996When a new generation of seamstresses discovered sewing with knits, the sewing blogosphere was filled with thrilled bloggers wearing knit dresses as “secret pajamas.”

Secret pajamas are just fine, but I was more interested in finding a secret blanket that I could wear in public. I do a fair amount of my work from home, and I’m always walking around the apartment with a blanket wrapped around me. Since we’ve had a fairly cold winter and I sometimes have to leave my house, I wanted to take a little bit of cozy with me while still looking like I got dressed. McCall’s M6996 in an anti-pill fleece was my answer.
Red Knits_M6996 backMy inspiration was this fleece wrap on the fashion blog Extra Petite. I actually looked at the wrap when it was on sale at Nordstrom, but I didn’t like the quality or the color in person enough to buy it. I went with this pattern based on some online reviews, and I picked up the fleece from JoAnn during one of their huge sales.
Red Knits_M6996The fit isn’t quite perfect, but it will serve its purpose of keeping me cozy while I write and study. Really, it seems like anyone with any sort of hips is going to need the belted version of this cardigan if they don’t want the back waist to look oversized.

In terms of construction, everything was pretty straightforward. The pattern called for some seam binding to use at the center back collar gathers, but it’s totally unnecessary–you can use whatever is lying around. I put this together in an afternoon, so it was a nice, instant gratification project when I was sick of being cold.

Casting On for Sundottir

March 16, 2015

I’m running a little late on PhD sweater #3, likely because I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to knit next. Last month, I narrowed it down to a few possibilities, all of them pullovers because I realized how heavily skewed my closet is towards cardigans: a basic marled gray, a classic cable, or a wildcard:
SundottirI ended up with the one sweater on my list that wasn’t like the others. This will be Sundottir from Wool People No. 6 out of Imperial Yarn Erin, and it was just too lovely not to knit. The main color of yarn reads a little more gray in real life than in the photo on my monitor, so I think it should be a nice, versatile pullover.

I went back on my “no more worsted weight sweaters” plan for this one, and I’m trying to compensate for that by making every effort to ensure the finished fit is just what I want. I’m using Ysolda’s Little Red in the City as my guide to add some additional shaping that will blend sizes just as I would if I were sewing a top. I’m a little nervous about this since it’s my first time making these alterations, so I really hope it turns out as I’m envisioning.

So far, I’m one skein in and well into the bust increases. Before long, I’ll be ready to cast on for a sleeve.


PhD Sweater #2: Emelie

March 9, 2015

Red Knits_EmelieMeet Emelie, my second year PhD sweater. If you’re new around these parts, I’m knitting a sweater in each year of my PhD to commemorate the process and maintain my sanity. Never mind that I’m 3/4 of the way through the third year of the program and just swatching for my third year sweater…
Red Knits_Emelie lace detailEmelie’s nicest feature is the center front lace panels. They add a bit of interest to both the knitting and the finished sweater without making the knitting too difficult for on-the-go or the finished sweater too busy. If you looked closely, you can see where I was knitting while distracted by a talk and messed up the pattern!
Red Knits_Emelie backThe rest of the cardigan is nice, easy stockinette stitch. I bought three skeins of Madelinetosh Tosh Sock for this sweater, and one of the skeins was visibly much brighter than the others. Not wanting the colors to pool, I knit four rows of a dull skein followed by two of the bright one throughout the project. This made it a little less portable, but I’m so happy with the fabric in the finished cardigan.
Red Knits_Emelie buttonbandI wanted to do the finishing right, and it took me months to get around to attaching grosgrain ribbon to the buttonbands. I think the resulting stability of the buttonband is well worth it, and I’ll be finishing my cardigans this way from now on. I may even go back and stabilize some of my older handknits this way.

I had the hardest time choosing buttons for this sweater. None of the colors seemed right! I hope these gray ones work and don’t look overly casual.
Red Knits_EmelieA great cardigan for a great second year in the program. Later this week, I’ll share my plans for PhD Sweater #3.

PatternEmelie by Elin Berglund
Yarn: 2 3/4 skeins Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in Plaid Blanket
Needles: US 2 & 3 bamboo circulars
Made for: Me
Timeline: 24 January 2014 – 3 March 2015
Modifications: only the finishing techniques
Worst Part: my stitch count for picking up the sleeves must have been off, so I had to do some fudging. I don’t love how they look.
Best Part: the close fit of the finished sweater. I’m getting better at this the more sweaters I knit!

Knit Dresses, This Time with Patterned Fabrics!

March 7, 2015

Back when I first debuted some knit dresses, I mentioned that they were my trial versions before making up the patterns in more exciting fabrics. Here are those dresses, both of which I made from Mood fabrics and brought along on our Disney trip.
Red Knits_Floral Lady SkaterFirst up is a Lady Skater from Kitschy Coo. This is definitely my favorite of the two dress patterns. It looks great in a lot of different fabrics (though sadly not stripes) and is feminine without looking overly young.
Red Knits_Floral Lady Skater liningThis time, I switched up my construction a bit, both to suit my own preferences and also to add a lining to the bodice and skirt. I had seen another colorway of this fabric used for a dress successfully before, so I thought it would be opaque enough to work. When it arrived, it was tissue thin, and I was not about to wear a slip under a casual summer dress. Instead, I added a cheap, white knit lining, which wasn’t too difficult and seems to have done the job.
Red Knits_Floral Lady SkaterThere’s still some pooling in the center back despite grading to a size smaller at the waist and taking out a wedge for a swayback adjustment. I’m just about to cut out another version of this dress, and I think I’ll pull out another 1/2″ or so. Really, though, this is at least as good as RTW.
Red Knits_Floral Lady SkaterI was as careful as I could be with pattern placement, though those skirt pieces eat up an awful lot of fabric! I’m really happy with the way the flowers frame the front neckline. Unfortunately, this was one of my vacation garments that didn’t actually get worn on vacation. It was simply too cold, and I couldn’t wear all the warm weather outfits I had packed.
Red Knits_Striped M6886This dress definitely did get worn–I wore it on the plane to Florida, so it was worn on our first night of the trip (which we spent at Hollywood Studios watching Fantasmic–my favorite!). This is another V-neck McCall’s 6886.
Red Knits_Striped M6886 fabric pillingI was so excited to order this basic stripe fabric and ended up so disappointed with it. When I went to cut, I found that it had weird flaws and dirty spots all over the fabric, so I had to cut around them. I hadn’t checked for them before pre-shrinking, so I have no way of knowing for sure that the fabric arrived that way, but I do know I’ve never had a problem with our washer and dryer before. I managed to make it work, but then the fabric pilled terribly. This is from wearing and washing just once! It’s completely pilled in every spot that received the least bit of friction. This dress should be a classic basic that I wanted to wear for a long time, so I’m pretty disappointed. //rant over.
Red Knits_Striped M6886As for fit, I did a big swayback adjustment and shortened the length (maybe too much…). It’s still not perfect, but I imagine I’ll almost always wear this style of dress with a belt, so I’m not too concerned.

That’s it for my vacation wardrobe. After making these warm weather garments, I’m feeling much more prepared for summer once it arrives. Until then, I’ll be sporting my dresses more like this:
Red Knits_Striped M6886Except also with leggings. Probably of the fleece-lined variety because I can’t stand being cold. In upcoming posts, I’ll show you a few more ways I’m keeping myself cozy.

Frivolous Vacation Sewing

March 6, 2015

When I thought about sewing some (let’s be real–quite a few) garments for our Disney vacation, I tried to reign myself in, making sure that whatever I made would fit into my regular wardrobe. For the most part, I was successful, but I did sneak in a couple of more frivolous projects.
Red Knits_Navy SwimsuitThe first is a new swimsuit, which felt frivolous since I had just made a swimsuit last summer. Unfortunately, that one found its way into the dryer and did not survive. I replaced it with Simplicity 1374 on top and a modified version of the out-of-print pattern for boyshort bottoms on the bottom.

The top went together fairly easily, and the only issues I had were with the elastics. I couldn’t find the called for 1″ swimwear elastic in stores or on Amazon, and I wasn’t about to pay shipping to get it sent from a fabric store. In the end, I used unfolded foldover elastic, and it seems to work just fine. I also had trouble with the center front elastic, which completely blew out from me stretching it so far per the pattern instructions. I took some hand stitches to gather everything back up to where it should be.

You’re seeing the back of the bottoms in the photo (I asked Steve to snap this, and he didn’t know), so just ignore that center back seam–there isn’t one in front. Hopefully you can see the ruching on either side of the yoga band. I’m hoping that it matches the vibe of the top and reduces the sporty feel of the boyshort style.

Red Knits_Villain PJsI would have loved to make a Disney print dress to wear to the Magic Kingdom, but none of the licensed prints were of a nice enough quality to be worth the time making a dress. Instead, I compromised by making some villain print PJ capris. Hardly anyone saw them on our trip because it was cold enough most nights that I dove straight under the covers, but I liked having a little bit of evil along–I’m not always a princess.

Thanks for tolerating the unmodelled shots today. I only have a bit more to share from my vacation sewing, and then I’ll show you what I’ve been working on lately.

UFO Mondays: Lady Grey

February 10, 2015

As I mentioned in my new year’s post, I am getting really close to tackling my long-time UFO problem. I would love to have all of them finished by the end of the year, so the next big sewing project I’m pulling out is my bulkiest UFO: Lady Grey.
Lady GreyIt looks like I never blogged about this coat project, so I’m not sure exactly how long it’s been a UFO, just that it’s been a long time! I purchased the fabric at S.R. Harris in the Twin Cities and fit a muslin while spending a week with my parents. At some point, I cut out the outer fabric, lining, and flannel interlining, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

On a few occasions, I’ve pulled this coat out to get sewing, but I always stall out because the very first step is the bound buttonhole. I’ve done plenty of bound buttonholes in the past, but they are fiddly and demand perfection, so they don’t exactly build momentum as the first step of a project.

This time, though, I’m feeling pretty motivated. My Lady Grey project bag doesn’t fit into my sewing area storage, and I’m sick of looking at it. I also desperately need a professional looking winter coat for teaching so I can stop wearing my old ski jacket to class. I’m facing the next of my doctoral exams in a little over a month, and I’m hoping that the hand tailoring on this project will prove a relaxing break from all of the studying ahead.

A Minnesota Baby Gift and a Blogiversary

February 6, 2015

Red Knits_Baby GiftWhen we visited Duluth during the 2013 holiday season, we were so surprised and thrilled to find out that our dear friends, who swore when they got married that they were never going to have children, were expecting! They’re now well into their first year of parenting, and, even though I haven’t had a chance to meet their little guy yet, I sent along a package of cozy knits for the long winter.
Red Knits_ GrampsSince the new daddy is an outdoorsy literature scholar, I couldn’t resist the adorable Gramps Cardigan. I just love how this cabled smoking jacket will make baby K look wise beyond his years, and I hope I get to see him wearing it someday.
Red Knits_ GrampsThe shawl collar looks a little funny without anyone wearing it, but I’m such a sucker for this style on babies and grown-ups alike. I’m not so sure about the buttons because they seem awfully big for the design, but I was knitting to a deadline and didn’t want to fuss with changing the pattern.
Red Knits_ GrampsI was worried that this cardigan would take a long time to knit because of all that cabling, but I knew that I would be all right when I saw that the back is a very wide ribbing. It’s probably comfier for a baby spending lots of time on his back, too. Despite knitting it while I was nearing my first comprehensive exam, this sweater knit up quite quickly.
Red Knits_ MN HatSince baby K’s parents love spending time outdoors exploring northern Minnesota, we thought a warm hat was in order. I started with the Little Flap Cap from Cabin Fever, which I had used for some cute charity hats a few years ago. We chose some washable yarn from my stash of leftovers, and Steve got to work designing the colorwork pattern.
Red Knits_MN HatOf course, the state of Minnesota has the place of honor at the front. On either side are moose heads facing forward, and at the back, unfortunately straddling the jog, is a set of canoe paddles. I have yet to knit a version of this flap cap that I didn’t find adorable, but this one has got to be my favorite.

In my 2014 roundup, I neglected to mention that, as of the holidays, I’ve now been knitting for a full decade! I knit my first stitches on a lumpy, brown Wool-Ease scarf while I was home on break from my freshman year of college, and I haven’t put down my needles since.
Ravelry HeartsAfter ten years of knitting, I have 300 projects in my ravelry notebook, and I know that’s not even all of them! Knitting has been such an important part of my life, getting me through hard times, leading me to meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise met, and, when I was working at the LYS, even paying the rent! I don’t churn out the knitted projects like I used to, but I still knit a few rows just about every day.

It was just a little over two years after I learned how to knit that I started this blog. I’ve been sharing my projects here for eight years now, and even though this blog is nothing big or fancy, I’ve really enjoyed chronicling my knitting and sewing adventures here and reading as many other blogs as I can to see what all of you are up to. As a sidenote–if you follow me on WordPress or Bloglovin’ and I don’t follow back, I hope you won’t be offended. I use Feedly and hardly touch the other readers even though I have accounts to claim my own blog.

Thanks for reading. Here’s to many more decades of knitting ahead!


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