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May WIPs

May 7, 2016

April was such an exciting month for me. I did a lot of wrap-up work for what has been a challenging academic year. But I also did some major UFO wrangling! I am so proud to report that I’m now down to two knitting UFOs and four sewing UFOs. This is a major accomplishment for me after many years of being up to my ears in UFOs leftover from my LYS work days, and I feel like this might be the summer that I finally bring myself down to only WIPs and Queue! Here’s what’s on the craft table at the moment:

Knitting WIPs

Akantus WIPI’ve knit several Dale of Norway sweaters in recent years, but this one is the first I ever cast on, and it is for me. From what I can tell in looking at my blog archives, I probably cast on this sweater in February of 2008. It went in and out of hibernation for a little while, but I’m not sure why it was ultimately set aside for the long haul. I pulled this one out of the UFO pile a couple years ago when I was finishing Steve’s ski sweater and gave it an assessment, determining that I would need to rip out the bottom of the torso, eliminate the hip shaping, and add some length. It took several hours to rip out the bottom (if you can’t see the line in my knitting, I ripped to that locking stitch marker) and get this project back on the needles, but now it’s back in action. Once I’ve finished the re-knitting, then there will be plenty of finishing to keep me occupied for a while.
Traveling Stitch Legwarmers WIPThese legwarmers are another long-languishing UFO that got pulled out of the drawer in April. Presumably, I got sick of the intricate twisted stitches and tiny circular needles, so I set these aside years ago. I’m still not a big fan of the 9″ circs, but I definitely want to get these finished off because they’ve been so much work. And speaking of tiny circs, I was so excited to get a shoutout on the latest episode of Prairie Girls Knit & Spin, my absolute favorite podcast!

I actually have one more knitting project, but it’s my latest big project, so I’m going to introduce it in another post.

Sewing WIPs
Blue Sewing WIPsThere’s been a whole lot of blue on my sewing table as I continue to work on my Marbella dress and M6842 skirt. Both are a little further than they look in this photo–the skirt is now hanging in my closet to let the bias sections settle before hemming, and I’m hoping to finish up the dress very soon. Pardon the wrinkles–I’m just keeping things real over here!

Once again, Lady Grey has gotten very little attention. I tried to do some tailoring one weekend but had to order some different twill tape. It’s here now, so I’m hoping to make some progress this month.

PhD Sweater #4: Georgetown

April 10, 2016

Red Knits_Georgetown CardiganI’m so pleased to share Georgetown, my cozy and versatile fourth year PhD sweater. If you’re new around here, I’m knitting a sweater in each year of my PhD to commemorate the process and maintain my sanity. And if you’ve been around for a while, you may be wondering where sweater #3 is…it’s finished, photographed, and has been well worn, but it hasn’t quite made it over to the blog. Soon.
Red Knits_Georgetown CardiganI had some criteria in mind when I went to choose a pattern for this fourth year sweater. I knew that I wanted a cozy sweater for the dissertating year ahead of me. I wanted it to be very versatile so that I could throw it on with a variety of tops in my wardrobe and look presentable enough for a run to the library or an afternoon writing at a coffee shop. I didn’t want it to be too warm, but I also wanted it to be warm enough to get me through the winter months, even if we move back to Minnesota. Ultimately, I settled on the Georgetown cardigan in heathered gray Cascade 220.
Red Knits_Georgetown CardiganEven though this is meant to be a cozy sweater, I wanted it to fit me well so that I could wear it to meetings on campus or even to teach (though I won’t be doing any of that next year while I write). In order to get a fit I was happy with, I compared the pattern’s schematic to both my own measurements and a RTW cardigan I love. If you head over to my project page on ravelry, you can see where I’ve jotted down my measurements.
Red Knits_Georgetown CardiganThe math came into play when I calculated the waist shaping using Ysolda’s book. This is one part of sweater fit that I’m still figuring out. I like to have some waist shaping because I’m a classic hourglass and don’t want excess fabric floating around my waist, but knitted fabric stretches, and it’s hard to account for that. In this sweater without any closures, I may have overdone the waist shaping a bit, but that won’t stop me from wearing it all the time.

A nice feature of this pattern is that it gives both seamed and mostly seamless options for construction. I like the structure of a seamed sweater as well as the ease of working with smaller pieces as I knit, so I went for the seamed option and was happy with my choice.
Red Knits_Georgetown CardiganThat collar is eight inches of 1×1 ribbing over who-knows-how-many stitches, so it’s not for the faint of heart. It took me a good while to finish that portion of the knitting, but luckily I’m not someone who minds ribbing too much, and the big, huge collar is worth it. This sweater is exactly what I’d been hoping for, and I’m almost happy that spring hasn’t quite arrived so I can get a few wears out of it before things warm up.
Red Knits_Georgetown CardiganPattern: Georgetown by Hannah Fettig in Home & Away
Yarn: 6 skeins Cascade 220 in #8400 Charcoal Gray
Needles: US 4 & 6 bamboo circulars
Made for: Me
Timeline: 16 January – 27 March 2016
Modifications: shaping and fitting
Worst Part: can’t think of one
Best Part: the versatility of this sweater. I look forward to wearing it all the time!

April WIPs

April 4, 2016

It’s been a quiet month here on the blog, but a very busy one in real life. I just turned in my approved dissertation proposal last week, and I am so excited to have that step finished and to be able to get to work on the real thing! I’ve also done plenty of stress knitting and sewing, with nearly all of my March WIPs now finished. Here’s what I’m working on at the moment:

Knitting WIPs
UntitledAfter finishing my Georgetown sweater, Lilli Pilli shawl, and some other small projects, I looked around to find that I had only one active project on the needles: these plain vanilla socks for my husband. This is not a normal situation for me, and my friend K asked if she should send for help. These are part of my little sock knitting experiment, and they are my first pair of afterthought heel socks. I’m knitting them from the toe up, a method that I typically despise but am trying to come around to so that I can maximize yardage when knitting for DH’s big feet. The yarn is a JoAnn in-house brand of self-patterning yarn that was given to me a long time ago and should make for some sturdy socks.
Starshower WIPI was in a bit of a panic with only one project, and I didn’t know what I wanted to work on next. I cruised through my ravelry queue, and the combination of seeing Starshower there along with hearing that K was working on one for a class she’s teaching led me to cast one on using a Stellina yarn I had purchased at a yarn festival in Pittsburgh. This is the Periwinkle Sheep’s “Wink,” and my photos are not at all doing it justice. I’m completely in love with this project and can’t stop admiring it.

Sewing WIPs
Marbella WIPTo celebrate handing in my dissertation proposal, I cut out a blue stretch wool Marbella dress that I hope to wear to accept a teaching award later in the week. I’ve already sewn this pattern once before, and it went pretty quickly then, so I’m hopeful that I can complete this one on a quick timeline. I was so pleased with the first iteration that I’m not making many changes. I just pulled a bit of extra fabric out of the waist and will skip the scalloped hem.
UntitledI’ve also cut out Vogue 8750, View D in a gray suiting. Sharp eyes may recognize this fabric as one I was going to use for trousers last summer. I haven’t yet given up on that sewing goal, but I have set it aside until I can find fabric that will truly be suitable. I think that this particular fabric will be much better off as a skirt, and it will be a great addition to my work wardrobe for spring.

Finally, Lady Grey is right where I left her at the beginning of last month. I haven’t put her away yet and don’t intend to, but I’m more interested in sewing up some work wear for the moment.


Knocking Off J. Crew Again: Simplicity 1499

March 9, 2016

Red Knits_S1499My sewing tends to fall somewhere between process and product: I sew garments both because I want to make them and because I want them in my wardrobe. But sometimes there’s a project that, if I didn’t want the product so badly, I would have lit the thing on fire. This vest is one of those projects.

I think that Instagram and Pinterest are to blame for this vest. I saw cute outfits with the ubiquitous J.Crew vest all over the place, and you know how I love a versatile garment! I considered buying my own from a J.Crew outlet or on end-of-season clearance, but I just couldn’t get behind paying that much for polyester. If I was going to have this vest, it would be warm. It would be wool. I picked up Simplicity 1499 (a perfect dupe), ordered some herringbone wool from Mood, and got to work.
Red Knits_S1499Really, the fabric was where my troubles began. Not the fabric itself–that was lovely–but my decision to deviate from the pattern’s recommendation of pre-quilted fabric. I wanted something more substantial and close to the inspiration vest, so I chose to quilt together the outer wool, a flannel lining, and a warm batting. I wanted my quilting lines to match across the princess seams on the front and back pieces as well as they could, so I assembled each of the three layers individually and then basted them together around all edges and through all seams before quilting. This alone took some time, but didn’t cause any trouble.

Then I tried to machine quilt, and it was a disaster. I tried a few techniques to keep my lines straight and prevent my lining (the underneath layer) from puckering, but it just wouldn’t work on my machine. I called my mom in frustration, and she found a walking foot that she had never used in with her sewing machine accessories. I brought my vest to Minnesota when we visited this summer, consulted with Mom about the best course of action, and had great success using the walking foot! Hooray! If only those darn things weren’t so expensive, I’d get one for my own machine.
Red Knits_S1499After the quilting had been sorted out, there were miles and miles of binding to contend with. I wanted a more substantial bias binding, so I chose to make my own using a medium weight twill from JoAnn’s instead of the prepackaged stuff. It took an awfully long time to apply it on all edges. I don’t pretend that my work is perfect–I don’t have the mitered corners of a quilter–but it’s good enough for me.
Red Knits_S1499The vest is topped off with a gold separating zipper. I remember feeling so close to being finished when working on the zipper…and then having to try three times for proper insertion. The zipper is attached to the bias tape, and that bias tape really wanted to shift while sewing, meaning that the bottom corners didn’t align properly. I honestly don’t remember how I dealt with this (maybe I blacked out from a bit of sewing rage), but I think that I did some very thorough hand basting.
Red Knits_S1499I don’t think I’ll be making a closet full of these vests as I had originally hoped, but I really am glad that I saw this project through to the finish. I’ve gotten a ton of wear out of it since finishing in December, and I know I’ll get lots more use out of it in the future. And besides, the wool wouldn’t have sustained a flame anyway.

Dale of Norway Whistler for Mom

March 6, 2016

Dale of Norway WhistlerI’m not sure that I can do this project justice in a blog post, but I’ll try.

Years ago, when I was knitting on Steve’s Le Massif sweater and working at an LYS, my mom asked me to knit her a Dale of Norway ski sweater. She’s done quite a bit of cross country skiing and liked the iconic look of the Norwegian ski sweater. Of course I said yes, both because she’s my mom and I’ll knit her whatever she wants, and also because I enjoy knitting ski sweaters but have little interest in wearing one myself.

Mom knows her way around ravelry, so she dug through the Dale of Norway archives and settled on Whistler, the 2005 Olympic design. She wanted a versatile color combination that would work well with jeans, so she chose shades of blue. As Steve said as I was finishing the sweater, it just looks like my mom!
Dale of Norway WhistlerJust as I’ve told anyone who’s ever been impressed by me knitting these designs, a sweater like this one is more a test of endurance than anything else. It’s not especially difficult knitting (though you do have to juggle some large charts), but there’s a whole lot of it! And once you finish the knitting, it’s on to the finishing.

Despite having steeked and finished a few sweaters in the past, I still underestimated how long the finishing work would take on this sweater. One reason for this was that this design isn’t nearly as knitter friendly as Le Massif. There were more rows that required me to carry three colors of yarn, and I had to do a lot of duplicate stitch–I think it amounted to around five solid hours–before I could get to the actual assembly of this sweater.
Dale of Norway WhistlerI do believe that all of that hard work pays off in the end. Dale of Norway sweaters are really beautiful, and my mom was pleased with the finished piece. She loves the way it fits and tells me that it’s much more comfortable than she expected. Steve finds his ski sweater to be too hot, but Mom is able to wear hers without overheating.

Pattern: Dale of Norway Whistler
Yarn: Dale of Norway Falk 11 skeins #5744, .5 skein #2642, 3.5 skeins #1293, 2.5 skeins #3743
Needles: Addi Turbo US 1, 2, 3
Made for: Mom
Timeline: 25 December 2013 – 4 January 2016
Modifications: added length to sleeves, omitted rip cord at hem
Worst Part: hours of duplicate stitch
Best Part: the surprise on Mom’s face when she began opening her gift and realized the sweater was finally finished

Special thanks to my mom for her patience while I knit this sweater and for modeling for photos.

March WIPs

March 3, 2016

As this blog has evolved and I’ve been making more of an effort to work on something each day and see projects through to the end, I’ve increasingly posted about finished projects. With limited time for blogging and taking photographs, it makes sense to focus on what’s done. But I do miss talking about works in progress, so I thought I’d try popping in around the turn of each month to share what’s on my crafting table.

Knitting WIPs

Red Knits_Georgetown WIPMy sweater project is Georgetown, and it’s nearing the finish line! So far, I’ve knit the back, both fronts, and one sleeve, which means I have a sleeve and a big shawl collar to go. To be honest, I was hoping for something a bit more luxurious, but I kept coming back to this workhorse yarn in a heathered gray at the LYS. Don’t mind the rolling in this photo–all of the pieces are stockinette and haven’t been blocked or seamed, so they really want to roll in on themselves. I’m so excited for this sweater to be finished! It’s been a nice, fairly mindless project to knit, and it’s going to be so snuggly to wear. I’m using Cascade 220 for this project.
Red Knits_Lilli Pilli WIPLilli Pilli, a beautiful shawl that combines garter stripes and lace, is my other big project at the moment. I’m knitting this one as part of a KAL, and I’ve fallen a bit behind on it. I joined my husband to eat enormous amounts of melted cheese watch the superbowl, and I guess I was a bit overzealous in my knitting, because I had some lasting wrist problems from working on Lilli Pilli. I had to step away from the knitting for a while, and I’ve transferred all of my projects over to bamboo needles that are easier on my hands. I think that this one will be easier on me when I’m back to garter stitch, though I have no idea why this particular lace pattern is bothering me since there aren’t any stitches in it that have bothered me before. It’s a real shame because I just love the Three Irish Girls colorway I’m using for the lace portion, and I spent the entire garter section thinking about how neat it would be once I added the pop of color.
Red Knits_Arne and Carlos yarnWhen I took this picture the other day, this project wasn’t even a WIP, but it is now! I’m on a bit of a sock knitting adventure that I’ll explain another time, and this Arne & Carlos yarn in a cheery orange is for my latest pair. I’ve heard that some colorways of Arne and Carlos can be difficult to find, but my LYSs in both Duluth and Pittsburgh had a decent stock. These will be pretty plain vanilla socks with my first try at a Spacious OMG heel. I’m just past the heel turn, so they are cruising along.

Sewing WIPs

Red Knits_Shirt WIPsI am once again attempting a Pattern Review Wardrobe Contest, which requires ten items sewn in two months. I dug around in my stash, and luckily enough, most of the fabric I had set aside for work garments can go together (at least well enough) for a capsule wardrobe. I’m also behind on this challenge, so there’s a good chance I won’t finish, but at least I’ll get some of these projects sewn up and in my closet.

On the right is my TNT shirt pattern in a blue gingham, and on the left is a new-to-me shirt pattern in a Robert Kaufman lawn. I have to say, sewing fitted buttondowns for myself really makes me appreciate how quickly I can make a shirt for my husband when I don’t have to deal with all of this shaping. The floral shirt has princess seams in front and back, and the gingham shirt has a total of eight darts, so it takes much longer to assemble the body of the shirt, especially when using french seams.
Red Knits_Lady Grey WIPI haven’t forgotten about my coat just yet! Lady Grey is puttering along at its own pace. It doesn’t look like much, but I’ve done a bit of the tailoring so far, and I’m ready to get to work pad stitching the collar. I find working on this project really enjoyable when I’m doing it, but it often gets passed up for projects that will be finished and worn more quickly. I have a feeling that this one won’t be done until it’s too late in the season to get any wear out of it, but as long as it’s out of my sewing room, I’m happy.

That’s the gist of it around here. I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my WIP pile, and I’ll check in again next month. Hopefully all of these will be FOs by then!


Two Wedding Dresses

February 6, 2016
tags: ,

In the past several months, we’ve had the pleasure of traveling back to Minnesota for the weddings of two dear friends. We’ve missed all too many weddings and life events during our time out East, so we were very happy to celebrate with our friends.

I was all the more pleased to wear handmade dresses to each wedding. I don’t get a ton of opportunities to dress up these days, and both weddings were in the same city with the potential for overlapping guest lists, so I wore two different dresses. I haven’t blogged about either one of them, and I don’t have a ton to say about either, so I thought I’d share them both at once.

UntitledPardon the overexposed photo. Our first wedding took place at a resort overlooking the lake on a beautiful fall day, and we had to sneak in a few photos between my husband’s groomsman duties.

I wore Vogue 1393, a pattern by Kay Unger. I had intended to wear this dress to a dance event but didn’t finish it in time because it was so labor intensive–there’s a lot of basting to get that lace to stay put–so this was actually its debut. As it turns out, I’m happy I didn’t wear this dress dancing because the non-stretch lace is a little limiting in the shoulder region.
UntitledThis dress was the reason I finally caved and bought an invisible zipper foot for my sewing machine. I’ve used it several times since, and I think that it makes invisible zippers so much easier that it’s a good investment. There’s not a whole lot more to say about the construction of this dress except to point out those scallops on the hem, which I attached by hand because of the A-line sweep of the skirt. Tedious, but worth it.
UntitledOur second wedding took place in northern Minnesota in January, so it posed quite the challenge. I ultimately decided to finish long-time UFO Vogue 1174 by Cynthia Steffe and wear it with tights and a pashmina. I wish I had more detailed shots to share, but to be honest, this dress doesn’t fit well. I started it long enough ago that I’m now cutting a larger size, and the bodice really flattens me out. Since I had already done a lot of work on the dress, it seemed a shame not to finish it, but I may not wear this one again.

It used to be that I loved making a new dress for a special occasion, but I’ve found that I much prefer to focus my sewing time on garments that I’ll wear every day. I doubt that will keep me from the occasional fancy garment, but I’ll certainly take a second look at my existing closet before starting another cocktail dress.

Hey There, 2016

January 16, 2016

We really got the year off to a good start with a trip to see family and friends in Minnesota immediately followed by the beginning of a new semester. I spent plenty of time during my winter break sewing and knitting, but I was having way too much fun making stuff to stop, photograph, and blog about it. Needless to say, I have a whole list of things to share around here.

2015  was pretty darn good. We traveled to DisneyWorld, Minnesota (x3), Montreal, and Indiana, and I presented my work at some more exciting conferences. I passed my comprehensive exams, advancing to candidacy, and selected a committee of dissertation readers who will really push me to do my best work. We celebrated our friends’ weddings and babies. We had visits from some of our favorite people. We went to some awesome concerts.

It was a great year for knitting and sewing, too. I was selected to be a contestant on the Super Online Sewing Match, and I’ve continued to build my handmade wardrobe. In total, I completed 65 projects including 4 adult sweaters. Those numbers are up, and they’ll likely continue to rise as I play along in the Harry Potter Knitting & Crochet House Cup for fake internet points.
GeorgetownSpeaking of the House Cup, my first OWL has been approved (a 2-3 month project for extra fake internet points), and it’s also my 4th year PhD sweater. I’ve got a whole dissertation to write, so this year I wanted to knit a cozy cardigan that would go with just about anything. It had to be easy to toss on and cuddle up in but also look presentable when writing at a coffee shop or meeting profs on campus. It had to be warm enough for a Minnesota winter (lest we move back to the homeland this year) but not so warm that it couldn’t be worn in fall or spring.

I found myself completely torn between four beautiful cardigans but ultimately went with my original choice. I’m knitting Georgetown by Hannah Fettig in heathered gray Cascade 220. I just cast on the back today after doing a bunch of simple math to determine my fit alterations, and I’m enjoying it so far.

Here’s to a new year of happy hands and beautiful makes!

Damask for Dr. J

December 6, 2015

Red Knits_DamaskWhen I first met my friend J (not the J I knit a sweater for. and not the J I knit socks for, either. there are lots of “J” friends in my life), I had just moved to Pittsburgh and started orientation at my new university. J was so incredibly nice that I actually asked someone else if she was really that nice–certainly no one could really be that nice, right? Wrong. J may actually be the kindest person I have ever known, and I am so lucky to have her as a friend.

J has been completing her dissertation from a distance, so I don’t get to see her as often as I used to, though I know she’s always just a text or email away. She recently returned to defend her dissertation and is now officially a PhD! In my world, that means a celebratory knitted gift.
Red Knits_DamaskJ can pull off fancier accessories and is a knitter herself, so I thought she would be the perfect recipient for Damask, a shawl pattern I had been itching to knit but wasn’t sure I would wear. I knit the smallest size so that I wouldn’t have to break into a second skein of yarn, and I think it’s still plenty big. This shawl is one of the few that I’ve knit with a bottom-up construction, meaning that you have to cast on a whole bunch of stitches at the beginning of the project, but each row gets a little bit shorter from there.

I felt like treating myself a bit when I shopped for this yarn, so I also bought a pair of ChiaoGoo Red Lace needles that I absolutely loved working with. Hopefully you can see from the image above that there are plenty of nupps in this pattern, and the pointy tips of the ChiaoGoos made them easy.
Red Knits_DamaskPattern: Damask by Kitman Figueroa
Yarn: 1 skein Lorna’s Laces Solemate in #1213 Rippey
Needles: US 6 ChiaoGoo Red Lace
Made for: J
Timeline: 25 September – 24 October 2015
Modifications: none
Worst Part: wrangling the many pages of this pattern
Best Part: this was a really enjoyable knit, especially on a late but empty flight to MN in October

Since I know J will read this, “hello from Pittsburgh! we miss you!”

Wool Party (Winter Break Sewing, pt. 1)

December 1, 2015

My sense of how much sewing and knitting time I have over my upcoming winter break from teaching is entirely delusional, and I have a huge list of things I’d like to get through. It’s easy for me to spin my wheels when faced with a long list (even when that list is for a hobby!) and get absolutely nothing done, so I’ve split up my projects by type to give myself a sense of focus. First up: the wool.
S1499This knockoff J.Crew vest using Simplicity 1499 is a UFO that I’ve picked up and put down a few times since spring. I chose to quilt the vest myself rather than using a pre-quilted fabric like the pattern recommends. That seemed like a good idea, but my machine was just not equipped to do the quilting, and I was super frustrated. The vest went into time out until I could use my mom’s sewing machine and walking foot to do the quilting in August. Now it just needs a whole bunch of fiddly bias tape. I’m part way through this step now, and it’s one of those sewing tasks that needs to be done a little bit at a time to avoid pitching the whole project in the corner.
Lady GreyAh, Lady Grey. This coat project has traveled with me through more household moves than I would like to count. I need this project out of my sewing area and in my closet. It’s all cut out, and the bound buttonholes are done. The tailoring really doesn’t look too challenging, so my hope is that it will be smooth sailing from here on out.
UntitledThis should be the quickest and simplest of my wool projects. It’s a beautiful wool plaid in pink, red, yellow, and black that will be a nice addition to my wardrobe. I’m using Butterick 5619, a pattern I dug out of my stash and that I’m hoping will be simple enough to showcase the plaid and allow me to match them.
UntitledNot all the wool around here is for me. Steve asked for a vest he can wear to job interviews and other fancy events, and I picked out this brown wool with a crepe texture for him. We’ll match it up with Vogue 8987. I haven’t even begun the fitting project on this one, and his torso was a challenge when we fit his button-down shirt: wish us luck!

Well, that sounds like a good month’s worth of sewing in itself, and there’s still plenty more on my list! Luckily, working from home means much less time making myself look presentable, packing up my stuff, and hauling myself into campus. More time to sew:)


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