Matched…and Moving On

I didn’t really think I would be a shawl person. I would constantly see new knitting patterns pop up on Ravelry and I would think to myself “Really, how many shawls does one person need?” Current answer is at least two because I’m ready to knit another. The scarf is nice, but a shawl? Man, those things are quite versatile. Besides, the drama of tossing one long end over your shoulder in a dramatic fashion is just fabulous!

This Match and Move started out as a knit-a-long with a friend and ended up in frustrations on just wanting to finish the darn thing. After the first few sections I was really worried that my shawl was coming up on the side of being too small so I added a few more sections. Knitting across on 200 something stitches takes F.O.R.E.V.E.R. Sometimes I live for a mindless knit to which I can binge watch some Netflix, but I got a little bored with garter stitch once I got to the second section. Too many times I entered mindless knit mode dropped a few stitches, missed a decrease, or forgot what row I was on and had to rip back to fix the mistakes. I’m going to be truthful and say that I had to leave a few in there or I would still be knitting this thing.

I started in early September and planned to finish at the end of that month. The added sections pushed the finish date to end of October then to the end of November when I at last started to weave in all of those color changing tails. The finished shawl is at least 10 inches longer than the original pattern. I used workhorse Knitpicks Stroll yarn in Ash and Pickle Juice.

This project made me aware of how often I rush through projects just to finish. Isn’t the point of doing all of this creative work to enjoy the process? I need to keep reminding myself that creative work isn’t only about the finished project. Along the way, I did take some time out to admire the color changes and the line formed by decreases to create the asymmetrical triangle shape. It’s a basic shawl, but with a little “wow”.

World of Swatches

“Anyone who wishes to create beautiful clothes- or wear them- owes it to him or herself to learn as much as he or she can about the world of fabric.”

— Tim Gunn in The Mood Guide to Fabric and Fashion

My favorite fabric guide in my creative library is the “All about Wool/Cotton/Silk” series. Way back in the late 1990s I saw the offer for these books in the back of a sewing magazine. That’s how far back my interest in sewing goes. I didn’t much have the time, money, or space to really dig into the craft, but I collected a few educational books on the subject. Each book not only contains a wealth of information on what to expect of a particular fabric but a swatch of each type. That was the major selling point. When trying to find the right fabric for your projects, it helps to able to feel weight and texture of what you will be working with. Will it drape to your liking? Does it have a shine to it? How sheer? Is it practical for your specific event or activity?

These guides are helpful when I’m trying to take a step beyond what’s on a pattern envelope or if I’m trying to design something of my own. I wish I could say these resources help me get it right on the first try all the time.

I also attended a college course a few years which required the students to gather fabrics to create a swatchbook of our own. While I didn’t get all that was expected from the class, I managed to learn something. Great garments start with a great knowledge of great fabrics. Does great always mean expensive? No. It’s more or less having an understanding of how a particular fabric will suit your needs. Even with the abundance of available books and websites on textiles, the best way to learn is to experiment. I’m telling myself to no longer be afraid to cut into fabrics no matter how exquisite.

Cape in Fall Landscape…Because Poncho Doesn’t Rhyme

Fall is here whether you like it or not. I only dread the season because it reminds me that winter is coming. Otherwise, it contains a lot of my favorite things: being able to wear my handmade sweaters and scarves, beautiful earthy colors, eggnog, and of course, Carbsgiving. Cornbread stuffing is life!

Fall also means the challenge of finding appropriate outdoor wear. Temperature fluctuations in my area make it feel warm one day and almost too cold the very next day so I would like to build into my wardrobe something that can cover me for these seasonal changes.

I’m thinking I could wear this solo when the temperatures rise or layer this over another non-outerwear jacket and still be comfortably warm on a cooler day. I chose a blizzard fleece and pre-made bias tape from Joann fabrics. For the belt, I used faux suede. Fleece was too bulky for the holes and it didn’t hang well.

In my experience, working with plaids can be super wasteful due to print matching. I found myself in this weird space between wanting to be a perfectionist and wanting to be economical. I cut out a size 16-18 which was a little too large to utilize the suggested cutting layout. Instead of buying another yard of fleece to get it just right on all points and leave me with more fabric waste, I took a risk and was able to match up the horizontal lines on everything except one shoulder. Lesson learned on using a walking foot for edge binding for next time.

Back to Basics

I’m quick to admit that I’m bored with my wardrobe. I head out shopping to find new pieces that excite me, but a lot of what is on the racks within my budget bores me to tears. So I get nothing. Instead I turn to the craft stores and magazines to stock up on sewing patterns. There is no shortage of trendy, bold looks that catch my eye. I look for the challenge of sewing something complicated to spice up my closet, but on the real I just don’t always have time to sew, Rather I should say, MAKE time to sew, but that’s a topic for another time.

I took a step back from my closet and asked myself: What do you really want to wear? What do you really like? And most importantly, What do you NEED? What is missing?

The answer this time was Work Basics or plain, neutral colored tops to wear under jackets or with trousers for work. I find them a bit boring, but they are sometimes a necessity to let other pieces take the stage. It’s the perfect backdrop that won’t compete with a statement necklace or pattern you want to shine.

I chose Simplicity 2892 in crepe back satin. I cut a size 14 then did a full bust adjustment (FBA) which added darts that I did not go through the trouble of removing. I added width to the back piece, lowered the armholes and scooped out an additional 1/4″ on the front. I pinched out a bit of back length at the shoulders and used only the outer sleeve piece. Hem treatment was a one fold narrow hem, which I see will have to be modified to enclose the fraying edges.  I think I will change it to a rolled hem.

Put the FUN in FUNctionality

I so struggle with decorating. I look longingly at those perfectly staged Pier One rooms and wish I could fix up a room with such style and class on the fly. Truth is I have no clue about decorating a space beyond what’s practical while at the same time wrestling with trying to keep it clean and clutter free. Since I have no plans to hire an interior decorator any time soon so I will have to find some happy medium between full on magazine glossy and disaster zone. Time to really dig into what makes a house a home.

Is it the all about a carefully curated collection of fine furniture or about the flow and functionality to allow you to create great memories in your space? Does that piece of decor serve a purpose, set a mood? Is it a family heirloom, a gift? In whatever case I think it helps to have a connection to whatever you are trying to use otherwise it should be removed from the space if it does nothing for you.

New widows on my house should be adorned in the finest that I can offer: handmade curtains. One hand knitted in white lace so the sunlight still peeks through while still offering some privacy on a high window.

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The other hand sewn in color blocked linen to allow for easy opening and closing and minimal disturbance on my solar friends hanging out in the window.

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My solar friends need to click and tick and dance to the rays of the sun and blinds just get in the way.

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My Solar Buddies!

In either area the blinds were becoming more impractical to use or would be damaging to the window in order to hang. There is risk on curtains experiencing discoloration from the sun, but I prefer to let the sun light up the room and besides, these are much easier to clean. As a bonus, it was much more fun to make/design these than scour stores or the web for the perfect panels just to turn around and cut and hem them anyway.

I’m excited to add more handmade touches to my spaces although I’m making sure there is no pressure to crank ’em out factory style. Now, if I can just get the hubbs on board to wood craft a few small furniture pieces I’ll be set. 😉

Matching Earrings, or nah?

Aside from dealing with a creative block, the other thing that I’ve been struggling with lately in my jewelry art/design is whether each necklace should have a pair of matching earrings, or vice versa.

In choosing what jewelry to wear for myself, I tend to coordinate earrings, but not necessarily have them match. This is where I distinguish between match and coordinate. I’ll coordinate with shape or color, but I don’t necessarily want to wear a set with the same elements on both my ears and neckline. What does the consumer prefer? Do they want individual pieces giving them the freedom to focus on colors and elements of their choice or is it smart to always provide pieces that incorporate the same design elements throughout.

With these two necklaces I opted to let the wearer go for their own combination. Focus on the red, yellow, or orange, or similarly the black, silver, and nickel if color moves you . If you are drawn to the circular elements, pair with simple gold or silver hoops. Perhaps the triangle calls your attention and you have a pair of earrings already in your stash that work perfectly.

I don’t want any added pieces to feel contrived or overly simplistic because I forced the design. Intention is key.

5th Times a Charm

I am very happy to call these socks complete. Finally! I started them 5 times! Even after knitting a swatch, I had so many issues with the sizing.

The pattern is Fibonacci Socks in the Op-Art Socks Book. The Fibonacci sequence (or any math concept in general) is one of my favorite inspirations in crafting. It is a perfect start to this wonderful book of socks!

These socks were pretty tight with the stranding inside so I went up two needle sizes only to come back down one size. For the first two attempts I was just me not satisfied with the puckering because of the tight strands. Now, when I put them on you barely notice, but I was hard at work trying to keep my strands loose. The only thing that saved these socks time and time again was the color, because I was really pining for a pair of neon socks.

As for the pattern, it was pretty easy to memorize the cuff pattern and after several rows be able to figure out where you are in the sole pattern. The sole is my favorite part of this sock.

Aside from the gauge issues, I had fun knitting these once I got the flow. The pattern uses a pretty basic heel flap, but on all future socks I plan to incorporate the reinforced heel flap I learned long ago, probably from another sock book. That’s going to be my go-to heel if the pattern allows for it. On to project planning for my next sock project!

The In-Betweens

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These days I don’t seem to find myself with as much crafting time as I would like.  Studies, work, sleep, cooking healthy meals, exercise, chore, maintaining relationships, and supporting family and friends are all equally as important to me as indulging in my favorite pastimes, and there are quite a few of those.  I’ve learned that I need not complain about available time.   Life is full of things to do and I make time to do the things that I want/need to do.

On top of that, I have a gift of finding and wanting to try the most complex and time-consuming projects I can create such as  knitting socks and sweaters, designing clothes from scratch, and elaborate jewelry pieces.  All of those things take a lot of time and get squeezed in between everything else which makes finished projects seem so few and so far in the future on completion.

To feel accomplished, in between those big projects I throw in a couple of smaller ones just so I can get that instant gratification of a quick project.  Making earrings or a necklace of strung beads are usually my go to.  I know that offering myself a diversion from those long-term projects doesn’t help me get them done any faster, but the satisfaction of a simple, small completed project goes a long way for motivation and even offers a diversion when I’m frustrated or stuck on a bigger project.

So You Think You’re An Artist…

If you want to consider yourself an artist or designer, you have to start thinking like one.  In that, you have to do more than just haphazardly slapping some things together and call it your art however, there are times even that is acceptable and achieves some pretty decent results. Although this “thinking like an artist” is potententially a pitfall for me to over think, over analyze, and get stuck on any one concept (which is naturally me), there’s still the opportunity to create more meaning and intention within my jewelry making by formally or informally exploring art concepts and techniques in detail.  

I much prefer the weight and non-uniformity of B and C grade fresh water pearls.  I like the texture they add to a piece.  For this experiment I chose to use some gifted, uniform faux pearls and stringing materials to keep it basic.  The lesson was to try to make them more visually interesting to me, breaking out of uniformity, yet maintaining a sense of unity within the necklace design. 

I wouldn’t know whether to say if this experiment was successful or not, but I enjoyed the experience of varying color, size, and texture to explore this concept in depth.

It’s Always About The Process, But FOs Are Nice, Too!

Diving back into sewing with a simple knit top that’s been in the UFO bin since the end of winter.

Ahhh, Sewing.  I really long for the opportunity to really dig my heels into my pattern collection, getting the practice with certain techniques and fabrics, tackling those designs that have been floating around in my head for forever, and creating that carefully curated wardrobe of which I’ve always dreamed.

However, most times I just want a finished project.  I need a dress to wear to a wedding, dressier slacks for the day, and I always feel like I never have enough jeans! Those finished objects don’t arrive without putting in the work to make (or buy) them.

New Look ???? (OOP) had an inch of gathers at the bust on the underarm seam which created a look of pulling across the chest that wasn’t attractive to me.

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A redesign of the pattern was necessary, but since the pieces were already cut I made a larger armhole and as a result lost some of the extra width across the bust that I actually needed.  Also, I wasn’t crazy about the slight flare to the sleeve, but did not bother to redesign.  I like the keyhole and drawstring waist so I wouldn’t mind making the modification to the bust, selecting a different sleeve option, and cutting in a printed knit next time.  Pretty basic. Pretty comfortable.

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