Monday, June 30, 2014

Adventures in sewing with knits!

I've been trying to learn how to sew with knits for a while now. I've had quite a few complete disasters which is totally disheartening, especially since that type of thing never really happened when I learned to sew with wovens.

I've bought and cut up and subsequently thrown away quite a few yards of knit fabric. Always hoping  that 'this time' it will work!!! Sadly the only thing I've successfully created was this:

This fun reversible double knit was supposed to become a T for me, but all that was salvageable after I messed it up was enough to make these tiny leggings. 

The one good thing to come out of this mess up was that I had time to learn how to use the serger I have been holding on to for a friend and also the best settings on my machine for the double needle. The tiny hems on these pants were pretty easy and aren't puckering at all. 

And so when Crafterhours announced her Friday Fiver was the Union St Tee by Hey June, I pounced. I bought the pattern thinking the bits of knit I had leftover from my latest disaster would be enough to try a first one.

I immediately printed the pattern and tiled it up only to find I was missing a vital page in the PDF. SO instead of sewing that first day I went in search of cheap knits to cut up. I found a $3 men's XXL T-shirt at target and when I received the corrected pattern the next day, I proceeded to cut it up. Based on the measurements in the pattern I cut out a small. I decided to start with the scoop neck with the wide neck band and got to work. About an hour and a little swearing later I had this:

It's a totally wearable T-shirt. Granted I cheated a bit and kept the original sleeve and bottom hem when I cut up the shirt, it made it a little easier and less daunting for a first try. Being cut from the stripe, the neckband looks a little weird since the white is right at the edge, but hey for $3 I'll call it a win. I almost even got the stripes to line up on the sides. 

Try two, although wearable was less successful in my mind. But mostly that is my fault for choosing this fabric and for my finishing. 

This is a cotton knit from Joann's. It's soft and I made another pair of those tiny leggings with it a while back, but for a T-shirt for me it's a bit heavy. No drape at all. Plus I was lazy or not thinking or whatever the reason, but I used white thread in my double needle for the hems and it doesn't look great. not only does it scream 'handmade' but it makes it painfully obvious that I am still learning  how to sew a straight line on knit fabric. Oh well, I have worn and washed it a couple of times and I don't think anyone else really sees the mistakes. 

And so I feel excited to continue on my journey to sew the perfect T-shirt. This pattern comes with many other options for sleeve length and also a v-neck opening that I am excited to try. I have learned also that I should probably cut out an XS  next time as on both of the above T's I re-serged the side seams to take it in a touch and they are still looser than my usual T's. I'd love to be able to make all my own T's from now on. With my long torso I always find store bought T's to be a little bit on the short side and I'd love to not have to tug at my hems every day! 

This set up worked well for sewing with knits, I only wish I had some real understanding of how this serger works so I could utilize it to it's potential. So far it's all been trial by error. Maybe that's the universe's way to nudging me to buy my own serger… 

Hold on a second… first things first… a new sewing machine gets first priority!! Happy Sewing!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Adventures in sock knitting!

At Stitches I bought a skein of self striping sock yarn from Canon Hand Dyes. It's one of the nicest skeins of sock yarn I have ever purchased and so I wanted to be sure I did it justice. I want the stripes to remain perfect on the front of the socks and I want them to fit really really well.

In order to make sure those two things could happen I tested out techniques. First I did toe up socks with some splicing to keep the stripes consistent.

I just did a simple toe up sock starting with 10 stitches, increasing to 60 stitches. They are super soft and fun (Knit Picks why oh why are you discontinuing Felici, please tell us all that you are simply going to reintroduce it in some fantastic new form!), BUT they are a little too long. I just can't seem to get the knack of when to start the heel on a toe up sock. 

So enter the Shamrock Felici:

I did my usual 64 stitch sock on 2.75 mm needles and knit about an inch of gray 1x1 ribbing, then I found the start of that blue green color so I could make sure to get a full strip and started knitting. I only knit about 5 inches before putting in the waste yarn for the heel and then I continued on. SOOOOO EASY and mindless! The first sock I knit across 32 stitches and then turned and knit back so I had two rows of stitches to pull out. On the second sock I realized I didn't have to knit back, all I had to do was transfer the stitches back to the left needle and then start knitting with the green yarn again. Much easier to pull out the single row of stitches to open up the heel!

I had a lot of concern about how to  know when to start the toe decreases, but doing a little surfing I found a formula:

Total length of foot - two sets of normal toe decreases =  length of foot from waste yarn to start of decreases. For me this was  9"- 2(1.75)= 5.5" 

I wish I could remember where I found this so I could give this lovely lady credit for her formula, but I can't seem to find it. 

I just picked up the right leg of 32 stitches above the waste yarn and 32 below and then…ZIP… pulled out the waste yarn and voila!!!

It looks like such a mistake doesn't it and I was a bit worried. But then I realized even if I had messed it up completely since I didn't cut the green yarn I could have just started over!

I started knitting with the grey yarn again and after 3 rows plain, I began to knit a second toe on the heel. It looked super strange on the sock but I kept going, sewed up the two little holes that appeared on the top of the opening and the put it on! I was amazed at how perfectly this sock fits my foot! 

The major bonus is that in barely 8 days I went  from two skeins of sock yarn to one pair of awesome, perfectly fitted stripey socks! I love them. Since I knit them with a short cuff (which will be much more fitting for our warm winters here in CA) I was able to only use one skein of Knit Picks Felici and a party of the skein of grey yarn. YAY! 

Now that I know this technique works I can cast on this lovely yarn!!!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Project bags galore!

I don't think I've ever posted about my project bag sewing. This is surprising, since I love to have little bags to carry around my knitting in. Years and years ago when I very first started sewing seriously, by that I mean things other than square baby blankets, I saw a Yarn Pop knitting bag somewhere.  I thought they were awesome and talked endlessly about them, but was not willing to spend the $20 to buy one of my own. At that point in time I still stored all my in progress knitting in clear plastic zipper bags! I even emailed my step mother a link to them,  secretly hoping she'd just make me one! Instead, she lent me a copy of  Sew What! Bags and assured me I would be able to insert a zipper in a small tote bag. This was the "teach a man to fish" approach, but I was not convinced and it took me a while to actually try because I was afraid to completely mess it up.
Originally I was going to make a bag with a buttonhole where the yarn pop bags have the grommet but in the months between coveting it and making my own, I realized I just wanted a simple zipper pouch that the project could be completely tucked into when not knitting on it. I guess I still don't get why you would want the working yarn to come through that grommet, and what do you do with the project when you aren't working on it? Do you have to tuck the whole thing into ANOTHER bag? Not for me.
One afternoon while my son watched Diego on the bed next to my sewing table I gave it a real try. I had collected my supplies, which were fat quarters from Joann's and a cheap zipper. I was amazed when it actually worked and I had this perfect project bag in about an hour.

The bag still gets a lot of use and is perfect for toting around an in progress sock or hat project. It really only fits one skein of yarn and the pattern, which is perfect for me. I love that it's lined and love that I found a zipper the exact shade of blue to match the flowers on the inside! 


I became a bag making machine, and made many more soon after that, a number of which I have given as gifts to fellow knitters.

As my sewing abilities improved I went in search of more interesting patterns. I began seeing Noodle-head's open wide zipper pouches EVERYWHERE in blog land. I made a bunch in different sizes. I like that they stand up on their own so you can sit a yarn cake squarely in the bottom and the yarn just flows right out! The smallest size one has become my tool kit and holds everything I need and then some. 

Soon after making those zipper pouches I started seeing the drawstring project bags all over the place. I made this gravity defying one first. OOPS I guess I'm still no expert if I can sew bunting completely upside down and not notice until the ENTIRE pouch is complete. I was so embarrassed to have this with me at Stitches this year that after seeing an entire booth of self "locking" drawstring pouches there I was inspired to try my hand at some new ones. 

Using ribbon to make the drawstring channel and then two drawstrings is the magic to the self "locking" part. This one is my favorite! I love the bicycles and that it's lined with denim for more structure. It is a perfect size for a slightly larger project like a child's sweater. And once I'd made one larger enough for a child's sweater I knew I needed one to hold my Burrard Cardigan and ALL the yarn and pattern stuff for it. So I made this one!

It is pretty big. I used 4 fat quarters to make it and didn't trim them at all. Since I don't usually take sweater projects on the go I wanted something to store the whole shebang in the house. This currently has ALL the yarn, the finished back and sleeves, the in progress fronts and the clipboard with pattern attached. It sits by my knitting chair and looks all neat and tidy! I love this fabric and really wish Joann's had it on a bolt, I've only seen it in fat quarters. 

The next logical step for my sewing skills seemed to be the ever prevalent in blog land, box tote. I mashed together a few different tutorials to make this one and it has become my go-to sock tote! I love the structure of it and the fact that it is compact and easy to carry.  It is perfect to hold a yarn cake and the pattern needed for any socks. It currently has two skeins of yarn in it since I'm doing a contrasting heal/toe on these self striping socks. 

Who knew I could blab on about project bags for so very long. I guess I'm a bit obsessed. Anyhow if you have a sewing machine and can sew even a vaguely straight line, don't purchase a project bag! Go make your own. Then you can choose fabric to match your unique personality! I think I have to go to my local fabric store now, and buy some Echino before they run out of it AGAIN! I think I need to make a few more box totes!!!