Some Progress

The back of the ‘bella is done! Being mostly stockinette it goes at a decent pace, provided one actually works on it. Right now it looks like a squashed bat, but I can see the potential!

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As you can see, the faint traces of pink have flashed across the large bottom section in the most determined way. Which tells me I shall have to alternate skeins from now on.

I’m really not looking forward to making two full length sleeves after the gigantic back and front, but am not sure of how much yarn I’ll have left. Perhaps I can weigh the back and do some complicated calculations? After all I do know how much yarn the sleeves will take, since I’m making them from the same Custom Fit pattern as my Thermal Kitten. Ok then…

Weighed and calculated. Nope, cannot take the risk. Will have to finish the front and neck ribbing, then work sleeves to maximise yarn usage. Grrr.

Initiating Arabella

After moaning and complaining about knitting fingering weight sweaters, here we are again, with a fingering weight tunic.

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Another Brooklyn Tweed pattern, Arabella. It’s a simple, vented tunic, made special by the gores which push the fabric out into a playful, swingy shape. I’m planning to use CustomFit for the top of the body and sleeves, and am knitting the bottom with stitch counts from the original pattern which match up most closely to the numbers needed for the CustomFit yoke. This means I’ll end up with a front which is slightly larger than the back (as generated by CustomFit), but that’s what I need for good fit. I’ll also get a bit of negative ease in the bust, which is also something I prefer to the intended positive ease of the pattern. Finally, I’ll make full length sleeves (if I have enough yarn) and also add short rows to the front of the body, to ensure it doesn’t ride high as I’ve seen in many projects on Ravelry.

The yarn is Madelinetosh Merino Light (again!) in “Pecan Pie”. Let the moaning begin!

Wren in Navy

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Colette Wren — DONE!

I haven’t made any Colette pattern since the Dahlia a couple of years ago, because the rather simple stuff they put out since then didn’t inspire me. But Wren, yeah!

Of course I decided upon the version with the panelled skirt. I did have to make some important changes to get the kind of fit I like. That said, there are some issues with the drafting of this pattern, so take note!

Size
Looking at the sizing guide, my bust size put me in XS. But the finished garment measurement on that would give me negative ease of 4 inches! Eep! I know a little bit of negative ease on knits is good, but 4 inches?? I became thoughtful.

Because of my thick waist, I decided to grade up to S in that area. But the finished measurement on that would still give me some negative ease. I became really, really, thoughtful.

Finally, my hips put me back in XS. But the finished garment would still give negative ease of 4 inches! Never! Negative ease in a clingy garment which extends below the hips means butt cupping and pelvic cling and all sorts of other maladies out of the fitting dictionary. I wasn’t going to let myself in for any of that.

Fortunately, I’d sewn my Muse Natalie a few weeks ago, and the ease on that was perfect. Mildly negative in the bust and mildly positive in the waist and hips. So I knew I was on the right track and felt very confident in choosing to go up to M at the hip notch. I did, however, go down to XS again by the hem, to get that shapely look the garment was trying to achieve.

I’m not sure why the pattern has so much negative ease throughout. Perhaps it’s a way of getting the garment to ‘fit’, but to me that seems like lazy drafting. Knits can be shaped, albeit not with darts, and should be, instead of just relying on the stretchiness of the fabric.

Pattern Changes
Back: XS at shoulders and underarm, graded to S at waist. So many reviewers complained that the armscyes were too loose that I simply drew in a smaller one from my Muse Natalie pattern.

Front: XS at shoulders and underarm, graded to S at waist. I also did an FBA of one inch, so that I gained 2 inches across the whole front and so kept the negative ease of the finished garment to 2 inches (original 4 minus 2 added via FBA). I didn’t remove the extra width added to the waist by the FBA, since I need ease for my tummy. Now, to do the FBA, I had to open a side dart. This I rotated close and moved the excess fabric to the front edge. In the picture below, the green area is the extra width added through my FBA, and the red wedge is the extra fabric in the neckline.

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Instead of hemming the neck as suggested, I cut a long strip, reduced it by 10%, and used that as a continuous facing all around the neck once the shoulders were sewn.

Also changed the armscyes to Muse Natalie.

Sleeves: Used from the Natalie pattern, with an added cuff.

Back Skirt: S at waist, graded to M at hip and back to XS at hem.

Front Skirt: Ditto above. However, I also filled in the shaping at the top of the skirt panels to make them fit the extra width on the front added via the FBA. In the picture, these extra filled in bits are in red and maroon, and match the green FBA width above them.

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Sewing
After all that, the sewing was fairly simple. I did all seams with a zig-zag stitch and didn’t need to finish any edge since the fabric was so stable. I also twin-needle top-stitched almost every seam, and love the crisp look!

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Fabric
Quite a thick, luxurious navy with thin metallic accents. One way stretch only.

Verdict
I really like this garment, especially with my changes. I can’t imagine how clingy it would have been without grading up through the body! However, there are a few things I would definitely change the next time

  • Remove a one-inch-tapered-to nothing wedge from the CB
  • Bring in shoulders for a narrower neck on the back
  • Ditto on the front, continuing the extra fabric all the way to the waist for more coverage.
  • Full bicep adjustment on the Muse Natalie sleeve

If you intend buying this pattern, do be aware that most reviewers have noted problems. The sleeves are very wide and low and practically everybody has had to modify or substitute. The waist is pretty high; I like that, but it’s something to note if you want the dress to hit at your natural waist. The neck finishing is a bit amateurish, and many others have added a facing instead of simply turning it down. And the (in my opinion) excessive negative ease throughout the body is a bit disconcerting.

Finally, there are two great eyesores about this dress. First, the wonky hem — this is my inexperience with sewing knits. I’m hoping washing and pressing will sort that out. Second, the hideous, undulating waistline. This is very, very obvious since it’s on the front, and seems to be  a problem in every Wren I’ve seen, caused by the neckbands being kept short to prevent gaping. You can see how the waist rises along the sections where the neckbands are attached.

This means that the Wren pretty much always has to be worn with a belt. I’m thinking of drafting a self belt and incorporating that into the side seam the next time I make it.

Now I don’t mind making adjustments for fit, and certainly don’t expect pattern companies to draft to my specific body shape. Some narrowing and widening to fit my unique body is certainly expected. But I do expect companies charging premium price to ensure that the basic draft is good.

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Score
7/10. Three points deducted for the undulating waistline, which should have been fixed as a design drafting error! And also for the gigantic original sleeves. But apart from that… I like the pattern and already planning other versions; perhaps one in a thin, copper coloured knit with flutter sleeves? How tantalizing!

Natsumi

Or, fitting straight lines on non-straight figures.

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So pretty!! There’s something so light and refined about this colour, which perfectly complements the restrained cable, delicate lace and elegant lines of Natsumi. I won’t spend too much time describing how perfect this pattern is, over 200 people have done so already. However, let’s talk about my mods.

First, I knew I had to change it to a scoop neck. The boat neck, although elegant, would have been really unflattering on me. So I calculated the BO, CO and decrease rates (since this is worked side to side), and threw in a 1×1 ribbed trim to match the cuffs and hem.

I also lowered the pattern strip so that the bottom lies a little above the underbust, which I thought would be the most flattering position. This means that the sleeves come only halfway through the pattern strip …

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… but structurally, this makes no difference.

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Then I did some thing clever, which I’m quite proud of. I added a line of shaping along the top of the pattern strip on the front only. This gave me more fabric to accommodate my scoop neck, and, crucially, pushed the strip down in a very gentle U shape. On a flat garment it looks distorted, but on the body…

 

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… straight!! I had nine extra stitches in the centre of the garment thanks to the shaping, without which the strip would have curved upwards and made me an unwitting model for that elegantly named phenomenon, waist boobz. 

Apart from that: reduced overall ease to 7inches at upper bust (= 4 inches at full bust), made full length sleeves, and threw in 1×1 ribbing everywhere, finishing those with tubular bind-offs. Oh and added about an inch of short rows to each side bottom, to create a more swingy, a-line shape.

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I think that’s all; I love the design, the colour and the yarn.

Details
Pattern: Natsumi by Yoko Hatta
Needles: 4.0mm for all (lever style); 3.5mm for ribbing.
Yarn: TML “Dusk”; 2.5 skeins
Ravelled: here

The Accessories

The final post in this series of sorting and discarding handknits! And when I say ‘discarding’, of course I mean ‘find loving homes for’, or ‘give to charity’.

Here’s the whole lot (kinda scanty, right?):

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From left to right, top row:

Braided Scarf, Seed Stitch Cloche, Endpaper Mitts, Aerang, Epistrophied, Sideways Garter mitts, Sweet Copper Beret, Chestnut Cabled Knee-Highs, Honey Cowl, Annis, Undergrowth, Brambles Beret, Leyburn.

And left to right, bottom row:

Forest Flower, 14-Cable Band, Candleflame beret, Mermaid gloves, Soap bubble, Zigzag gloves, Snails!, Slouchy Sleeves, Grey Leaves, Bacchus, Brioche Collar.

My criteria for selection were simple: had I worn them at all? If not, was it because they were ugly or unsuitable? Could the ugliness or suitability be fixed?

So I decided to keep most of my hats, gloves, mittens and cowls. And now I know I need to knit more hats, cowls and fingerless mitts in adaptable colours. Even a highly variegated one like the Honey cowl has been soooo useful because it goes with (or contrasts well against) so many things I own.

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I decided to discard some hats and scarves. Lesson learnt: more structured hats, no skinny or dangly shawls and scarves.

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I also made the shocking discovery that all but one of my handknits socks are beyond the stage of resuscitation by darning! I had to discard everything below, and seem to have lost a couple of pairs over the years. More socks, now!!

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Well that’s it! I have a knits collection that breathes easier now, and I love everything in it. I’ve also identified gaps, and am choosing projects keeping those garment and colour missing links in mind. Here’s to a more organised and pretty future!

Endless Summer

What on earth made me do two fingering weight sweaters in a row?! Nearly a month and only the body is done; who’s going to do the sleeves and hem ribbing ? What was I thinking? Why could possibly have driven me to do this?!

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Ah yes.

The unbelievably pretty colour…

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… and the exquisite pattern.

Oh well. Carry on.

The Heavyweights

Let’s continue today with the heavyweights – worsted and bulky. As usual, all pictures are read from top to bottom and garments are sorted into Keep, Reconsider or Fix, and Discard.

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Purples and Violets
Beatnik – If the last one was a list of Don’ts, this one is full of Do‘s. It’s tweedy, flecky, warm, light and most importantly, has ease for layers underneath. I modified this one to knit it mostly in the round and seamlessly, and did many complicated calculations to steek in a hood. It’s proved its worth over and over again. Keep.
Braided Pullover – This one is so gorgeous and flattering. I love the rich, deep, purple. And the yarn is a yummy, squishy, soft Zara Plus. But a worsted weight tight sweater doesn’t work in my life. Maybe in the lives of those with central heating, but not those of us who have to rely on layers and our mammalian ancestry. Luckily I’ve already found a good home for this beauty. If I ever find this colour again, though, I’m definitely making myself a cabled squish. Discard.
Lotushima – Great sweater. Not yet field tested, but I dare anyone to pry it from my cold dead hands. Keep!
Koukla – Very few patterns inspire me so much that I actually knit them in the same colour. This one did, and I’m glad of it even though light violet isn’t a colour I usually wear. I totally customised this one adding more bust shaping, a deeper scoop, longer sleeves and changing the waist ruffles into sleek shaping. Love. Keep!

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Blues
Nanook – I find waterfall drape fronts (unless they’re really long) very unflattering on me. This cardigan’s been adopted already. Discard.
Farmers’ Market – Love at first sight! Squishy Zara Plus again! But my young and inexperienced self did not realise that I need thick cardigans to close in front, otherwise they’re pointless. Good home already found. Discard.
Rosamund’s Cardigan – Wait, why don’t I wear this one more often? Because I can only wear thick cardigans when I travel to cold places, and when I do, I’m saving precious suitcase spaces for pieces I love. And this one, I don’t. But I still want to wear it, so for now… Keep.

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Greens and Yellows
Dusseldorf Pullover – absolutely adore this one. The colour, my modification to a wrapped V neck, the sleeker cuffs. It’s striking, it’s beautiful, it’s warm and a perfect fit. You will pry this from my cold dead fingers (YWPTFMCDF) category. Keep.
Sideways Spencer – I invented an entirely new stitch pattern for this one, but have never worn it. Probably because a spencer needs to be worn with a dress, and I don’t have any that goes with it. I should probably discard, but don’t wish to yet. Keep.
Cusp –  YWPTFMCDF. Keep.
Ondawa – not yet field tested, but a very stylish garment. Keep.
Kimono Style – Man, how much I modified this one, and what a perfect, flattering, garment I created! I loved and wore this one, but again: worsted weight – tight fit – need layers – look like sausage. Discard.

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Reds and Pinks
Carnaby Street Skirt – Alas for my beautiful pockets and shaping that I don’t live in a climate where I need warm skirts! Discard.
Aidez – It’s warm, it stylish and it’s striking. The arms have almost no ease, though, so it’s only good for long-distance flights when you’re wearing a very light layer inside, and just need to snuggle. Keep.
Burrard – I love it for the same reasons as my Dusseldorf. Keep, keep, keep.
Silk Cocoon – Not yet field tested, but I like. Keep.

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Neutrals
Ribbed Bolero – Ah memories! One of the first things I ever made for myself, before I discovered the explosion of knitting on the internet. Sadly it’s acrylic and has suffered some time damage. Discard.
Opposite Pole – I love this one, it is as striking, unusual and beautiful as Cusp. YWPTFMCDF. Keep.
Drops 103 – In the early days of Ravelry, everyone knit this pattern. I changed mine to a seamless raglan and a funnel collar. This has proved to be an astoundingly useful garment, with a colour that goes with so much in my wardrobe, a style which adapts to every occasion and  a fit which flatters each time. Keep, keep, keep.

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And Finally…
Huh, I seem to have very strong feelings about my heavyweights – there’s nothing for fixing or reconsidering!

I’ve decided to Keep:

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And to Discard:

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Next, Accessories!

Dusk in Summer

I started Natsumi (Jp = “beautiful summer”, one of many meanings) in Madelinetosh Merino Light “Dusk”. The colour is gorgeous! A very delicate salmon pink, more dawn than dusk in my opinion!

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As usual, I tweaked the pattern heavily.

I Kept
– The lovely cable and lace strip
– Dropped shoulders
– Curved hem
– Sideways construction
– Positive ease

I Changed
– Amount of ease; I’m aiming for 6″ upper torso ease (equivalent to 3″ full bust ease)
– Circularity of hem; recalculated to make a gentler slope
– Ease at hip; added short rows to make a swingier shape
– Position of pattern strip; lowered it so the bottom edge covers the bust
– Bust shaping; added another line of shaping above the strip only on the front
– Neck; changed to scooped shape with bind offs and decreases
– Neck finish; will probably apply an i-cord
– Sleeve cuffs; will probably add ribbing to match the hem

Essentially, I charted the shape I wanted, and recalculated everything according to my gauge. I’m dealing with millions of markers: 2 for the hem shaping, 4 to define edges of pattern strips, 3 for the shoulder and bust shaping.

Have split the neck, now working my way slowly across the back.

The Lightweights

So — culling knitwear! Following on from the introductory post, today we tackle the lace, fingering, sport and dk weights. All pictures are read top to bottom, and I’m categorising garments into Keep, Reconsider or Fix, or Discard.

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Dark Neutrals
Icarus Dress – Totally, uselessly, unworn as a dress because too tight, too lacy. But I really like the lace skirt, so I think I’ll tweak it into a Coachella. Reconsider or Fix.
Tiger Whisperer – unworn because I need more coverage if I want to wear a cardigan. Discard.
Tangled Vines – Unworn because boring colour which goes with nothing. Discard.
Lacy Vesper – Unworn because I keep forgetting about it! Move into heavier visibility and see if it gets used or not. Reconsider or Fix.
Milk Maiden – Worn and loved! Perfect for layering in winter. Keep.

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Reds and Pinks
Zick-Zack Cardigan – Worn and loved! Goes wonderfully with dark bases like navy and black. Keep!
Cranberry Nectar – I love it and it looks great, but never seem to wear it because I never see it! Store for better visibility. Keep.
Manu – Sadly unworn. It felted slightly because of my dying experiments and has been just a little too tight ever since. I probably should knit another one, this is such a great pattern. Discard.
Delysia – Loved, but never worn because I don’t see it (seems to be a common theme with my cotton and other warm weather knits!). Store for better visibility. Reconsider or Fix.
Boticelli Tunic – Not yet field tested since I haven’t been in very cold weather since making this, but I totally love it. Keep.
Red Arrowhead – Sleeves were always too short, hitting at just the point where they enlarge my bust. Discard. Actually, I quite love the fabric… maybe cut and make a cushion cover or bag?

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Oranges through Greens
Ginger Lizette – Store for visibility, wear more. Keep.
Chainlink – Just finished, so not field tested. Keep.
Citrus Chevrons – Not field tested. Keep.
Shifting Sands – I love this one but never wear it because the short sleeves are uncomfortable! I’ve already bought the yarn to make longer sleeves. Reconsider or Fix.
Katharine Hepburn – The most useful cardigan ever! I’ve worn it with practically everything for five years, and the fabric is still strong and beautiful. Keep, keep, keep!
Climbing Vines – Well worn in chilly weather. Fabric still good. Keep.

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Blues through Purples
Blue Bamboo – Loved and still being worn. Keep.
Eyelet Top – Never worn because the armscyes are too tight. I learnt sooo much while making this one, probably because it was the first garment at the beginning of my knitting fever (fuelled by the internet) way back in the winter of 2008-09. I figured out lace pattern placement, positioning shaping in knitwear, modifying patterns and crochet finishing a neckline, only to stumble at correctly calculating armhole depth. However, this has been worn several times, and has served its purpose in teaching me to knit fitting garments. Discard.
Adriatic – Pretty, useful and wearable. Keep.
Nightblooms and Seedpods – Absolutely adore this one, but it leaves my arms very cold. Maybe order a skein to lengthen sleeves? Knit and attach contrast undersleeves? Keep.
Deep V Vest – So many memories! Reading Eunny Jang’s wonderful blog and finding the pattern. Ordering a pattern online for the first time (so speedy!), buying my still-favourite 3.5mm circulars, and falling in love with the heathered Zara Chine yarn line. I even remember I was at a training course and went to the big department store nearby, where the perfect combination of colours leapt out at me.  But most importantly, I value the experience of measuring my own body and discovering its quirks for the first time – and creating a measurement set that allowed me to make well fitting garments for years. I still use those figures from 2009 when I’m not using CustomFit to generate a pattern. Unfortunately, this vest never got worn because I could never find a suitable inner layer. Goodbye beloved garment! I’m glad I’ve already found you a loving home. Discard.

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Greys
Victoria Yoke -meh. This one feels as though it should be useful although I’ve never worn it. Probably because when I travel to a cold place, I save luggage space for gorgeous handknits and not a drab little thing? Must get over this thinking. Reconsider or Fix.
Thermal Kitten – Love! Keep!
George Street – Utterly, totally, useful as an inner layer in winter!! Keep!
Charcoal Dahlia – Very pretty, very useful. Keep.

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And Finally…

Discard (by which I mean ‘Find Loving Homes For’):

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Reconsider or Fix:

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Keep:

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Next, tackle the heavyweights!