Monday, July 27, 2015

OAL 2015 Fail

Sometimes, a knitting project is just not meant to be. That was apparently the case with Vianne. All my knitting lately tends to be done during my commute (which involves me being a passenger in a car, then getting on a subway, and then a shuttle bus - with waiting in between) so it has to be very portable. This one, because it is knit seamlessly, was very awkward to knit standing up because of the weight of the back dangling from the tiny, 15-stitch wide front. Also, I kept having to pull the pattern out and check the lace pattern, and keeping the lace row # to row # mapping straight was an added thing to think about. . . Basically, I kept making mistakes and having to rip back.

Additionally, I had a million changes to make to this pattern, some for preference, some for fit. My body is very different from this designer's, so I knew there would be a lot of tweaking. And, I hated the mesh back, because I thought the sagginess it causes looks like a mistake, and it would drive me crazy. So, I drafted my own back panel, and what I should have done is just drafted the rest of it myself too, but I liked the look of the lace pattern at the front, so I went with it. As I was working the fronts, I was thinking it seemed like a lot of armhole room was being built. And then when you join the fronts and backs under the arm, you add a ton more stitches. I should have trusted my instinct at that point and ommitted the extra stitches, because I think it would have been perfect, but instead. . .

Monster armhole fail on Vianne cardigan

Monster armholes. If I ever become a body builder, these are the armholes for me, ha ha ha! But since I'm not, and since I wasn't interested in making big, baggy sleeves. . . I knew I'd have to rip back the work I'd done since adding those underarm stitches, and probably most of both fronts at all.

At this point, I felt frustrated with how many times I'd ripped things back, and having to take out two days worth of work was going to cause me to miss the OAL deadline anyway, so I decided to call it quits. Vianne and I just aren't meant to be! Took one final picture before ripping it all to bits. . .

Final picture of Vianne cardigan before giving up on it

However, even when a project fails, there's usually always something that you get out of it. In this case, there were two things. . . First, I really like this yarn! It's "Longmeadow" by Valley Yarns, and it's making me re-think my feelings on knitting cotton. This one is a blend, and it obviously makes all the difference. I'll definitely be using this yarn for something else in the future!

The other thing I got out of this project, I already mentioned in my last post, but as it's a huge deal to me, I'll say it again: The realization that I can totally draft my own knitting patterns from scratch! I'm still all excited about this! I think my next move in the knitting department will be to finish some UFO's, and then to try patterning one of my own designs. Very exiting!

So there were good things to come out of it, but I was still so sad to give up on this project because it meant I don't get to participate in OAL 2015. This is disappointing because I've already spent so much time working on the dress (not to mention on this fiasco of a cardigan!) and it's disappointing to then not get to enjoy being a part of it. . . But hey, at least I'll end up with a cute dress!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Weaving Adventures

I don't think I've mentioned this here, but I am a serious Craftsy fan! I'm a very visual learner, but live in an area where I can't always get access to a teacher for the things I want to learn, so Craftsy has been a dream come true. If you haven't heard of it, it's basically a web site that offers classes in a wide variety of crafty pursuits. Each class consists of a series of videos that you have lifetime access to once you've purchased, and can watch any time, as many times as you need to. Additionally, you can ask questions and interact with the teacher of the class, as well as fellow students. There's also a gallery feature, where you can share pictures of your finished work, and share comments on other students' projects. Basically, it's an awesome resource! I've taken quite a few classes there, and I've been at least satisfied, if not completely impressed, with all of them. Go check it out!

Anyhow. . . Craftsy's classes on weaving are what gave me the courage to purchase a rigid heddle loom, even though I didn't know of any local weaving teachers. I started with the Rigid Heddle Weaving class, and made the scarf I posted about a while back, and just recently, I did the second half the of the class, and made these tea/dish towels:

rigid heddle woven tea or dish towels in red and white lily sugar 'n cream cotton from Angela Tong Craftsy class pattern

If you're curious about the process, here are some progress shot of my first towels. . .

First, I wound the warp. The Kromski Harp loom has this awesome feature where you just flip the loom over, insert pegs into the holes, and boom! You have a warping board! Such a cool feature! winding the warp

Next, all that yarn goes through the slots in the heddle and over the back rod. I like to call this part "wrangling the yarn spaghetti."

wrangling yarn spaghetti, or, dressing the loom

Then comes this process of rolling the yarn onto the back beam, all the while creating a nice tension. Finally, you tie the ends onto the front rod, and you are ready to begin weaving!

kromski harp rigid heddle loom all dressed and ready to weave

When I knit the scarf, I finished the ends by doing a knotted fridge after the weaving was done. This time, I got to try a new technique for finishing the ends. This is hemstitching, and it's similar to the buttonhole stitch in sewing/embroidering. When you've used this method, after the weaving is done, you pull out your header (that's the black yarn you see in the picture; it's temporary rows of weaving you do at the start to even out the warp, which gets drawn into bunches when it is knotted to the front rod) and just cut your fringe to the desired length, and that's it! It makes a very clean finish, and I think it's something I'll be using frequently!

hemstitched edge on my rigid heddle woven dish towels

From then on, it's just about going back and forth, and moving the heddle up and down as you go. Easy as pie, and very rhythmic/relaxing!

rigid heddle woven tea towels being worked on the kromski harp loom

The instructions had you warp the loom with enough yarn to make two towels, so when I got to the end of the first one, I did the hemstitch, left enough space for the fringe on each towel, and started right in on the next towel.

one woven tea towel finished, and the next one started

I was so happy with the way these towels turned out that I decided to make another pair! This pair will be for my Granny. She just recently changed her kitchen to a white and blue color palette, so I'm using some blue & white "twist" yarn (Sugar 'n Cream, by Lily) as the accent color. (The black yarn is just temporarily holding all the yarn in place, until I'm ready to dress the loom with it).

Lily Sugar 'n Cream in denim twist and white, all ready to dress the loom

As much fun as I've been having with the rigid heddle loom, I'd also been itching to see what using a floor loom would be like. Floor looms are very expensive, and take up more space than I have available in my sewing room right now, so it seemed like it wouldn't be a possibility in the near future. However, a few weeks back, my good friend took me with her on an adventure to Strawberry Banke, in Portsmouth, NH. If you haven't been to Strawberry Banke, I highly recommend it! It's a museum made up of some really amazing historic houses from the 17th through early 20th century. Some of the houses are furnished true to the period, and others have themed exhibits or craft demonstrations going on.

Without a doubt, my favorite house was the Cotton Tenant House. This is because I came through the door and discovered a room that was full of floor looms! On one of them, a beautiful, compliated pattern was being worked in shades of blue. This was the demo loom, and I got to see it being worked. But, the rest of the looms in the room? They were set up for anyone to sit down and try out! So of course, I had a go!

trying out weaving on a floor loom at the Strawberry Banke museum Cotton Tenant house

I loved working with the floor loom! Everything about it appealed to me: the feel of it, the sounds, the beautiful fabric it was creating. . . I just plain loved it! Weaving on a rigid heddle loom is a blast, but I could see that it would be much easier to get into a rhythm with a floor loom, and of course, the variety of designs you can create is pretty much infinite! Also, boat shuttles are amazing, and I definitely want one now!

Here is my friend, Sarah, trying out another loom. . .

Sarah weaving at the Cotton Tenant House at Strawberry Banke
At the gift shop, you can purchase things made with the demonstration fabrics woven by the expert weavers at Strawberry Banke. I purchased a case for my sunglasses, as well as this little bag, which has turned out to be the perfect bag to use for knitting while commuting around on the train and shuttle bus!

small bag made my expert weavers at Strawberry Banke

A few weeks later, I was back in Portsmouth again for a costumed tea in one of their historic buildings. My husband tagged along for this trip, and this time, even he tried the weaving!

Glenn trying out the floor loom at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth NH

I don't think trying the loom caused Glenn to become as obsessed as me, but I am always appreciative when he takes an interest in any of my textile-related obsessions! ;)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

OAL2015 Progress, and Knitting Revelations

I'm definitely a bit behind on my OAL2015 ensemble, but I'm still fairly certain I can pull it off! I'm definitely using the official pattern, McCall's 6887, because the first draft was already closer on the first try than pretty much any other Big 4 pattern I've ever used! I think I'm in love with these multiple-cup-sizes patterns! Here is the first draft:

First fitting of McCall's 6887 for OAL2015

Obviously I still have a bit more fitting to do in the bust area, and I'll lengthen it just a bit, but other than that, the only thing I had to do was shorten the bodice (which you can see pinned in this pic)! That's amazing, because usually I'm having to pretty much re-draft everything. I got so excited that I all but ran to my pattern stash and pulled out McCall's 6696 because as soon as the OAL2015 dress is done, I think that will be my next project!

With the fittings almost done for the dress, and the fabric pre-washed and ready to go, I know I'll have no problem getting this dress done by the end of the month! The cardigan, on the other hand. . .

I procrastinated starting this! The thing is, I love Vianne from the front, but not so much from the back. I thought, I'll just knit a stockinette back instead, but I had no confidance in my ability to make that alteration, so I kept putting it off. . .

Last weekend, my husband and I had an antiquing & relaxation weekend away in Maine, and I used the car ride to finally bite the bullet and start the cardigan. . .

Beginning the cardigan for OAL2015, Andi Satterlund Vianne with alterations

In the process of doing this, I had a complete revelation: I think I'm able to draft my own knitting patterns! I had no idea my knitting had reached this point, but it turns out, I was able to make all kinds of changes, and in fact, there is nothing that I've knitted on this so far that matches the pattern! Now I'm not sure if I'll go ahead and knit the fronts following the Vianne pattern, or if I'll just make up my own thing for that, too! And in the meantime, my sketch book is filling up with ideas for knitted garments. So exciting!

Also, I'm finding that my knitting is picking up speed and the tension becoming a bit more even, now that I've been doing more knitting in the still-fairly-new-to-me continental method. I love the additional speed the continental style allows for, as well as the greater ease of switching between knit and purl stitches, but I think my favorite feature has been the ability to knit standing up! I'm often standing around waiting for the T or the shuttle bus, or not able to get a seat on the train, and with the throwing style of knitting, I couldn't really knit because I felt like I was dropping needles and such. Now I can knit everywhere I go!

knitting while waiting for the red line T

And in other exciting knitting-related news. . .

My not-such-a-kitten-any-more, Woody, has finally decided to let me knit! It used to be that if I even so much as gently touched one needle against each other, he'd hear it from anywhere in the house and come flying into the room, and begin relentlessly pursuing my yarn, rendering it virtually impossible to knit in the same building as him. But the other night, I decided to give it another shot, and as usual, he came racing into the room. . . But then he just hopped up on the couch and watched me, and never once tried to snag or bite the yarn! Hooray!!!

Woody the cat has decided to let me knit at home, at last!