Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Knitting Review

2014 is just about over, and I like to take this time to review how the year has gone and how things have changed relative to previous years.  Being me, I then make plots if I can.  

I started knitting in March 2012, and found Ravelry a couple months later.  That marks the beginning of me tracking this sort of data, so while I crocheted before that point, I don't have information on those projects.  Hence the comparison is between part of 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Above is a bar chart showing the total number of projects I completed in the past three years.  Both knitting and crocheting projects are included, though most of those were knits.  As you can see, 2014 was my most productive year, though not by much.  The total number was increased by participating in a few swaps, since those had hard deadlines that forced me to finish.  It was decreased by making scarves for my family, since those scarves took a while.  I had hoped to make it an even twelve projects for this, but that didn't quite happen.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Finished: Lace and Cable Socks

My last completed project of 2014, sneaking in less than two days before the year ends, was the Lace and Cable Socks.

The pattern is Wendy Johnson's Lace and Cable socks, found in Socks from the Toe Up.  I made the size medium pretty much as written, using two 2mm circular needles.  I did add a bit of calf shaping at the top of the socks, so that it would fit comfortably around my legs at that height.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  Did you get your knitting done?  After last year, I didn't really plan on knitting any gifts for this Christmas, but did finally box up the scarves promised last year.  Here they are tagged and ready.

 If they don't get delayed by customs for long, they should arrive by early January.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Knits of the hand-knit variety

Amidst all the sewing angst around here, there has been knitting, too.  These, for example, have been quietly falling off my needles in the background.

These are Wendy's Lace and Cable Socks, and they are one of my favorite patterns from her first sock book.  This is my fifth pair of socks from patterns in this book, and since they all follow a similar structure, I can now do much of the knitting without referring to more than the pattern chart.  These socks are my transit knitting, and my lack of reliance on the book means they have been making steady progress regardless of what insanity is afflicting me at work or what projects are driving me nuts at home.  I average four trips via public transit on the average weekday and two more per weekend day, which adds up to a minimum of ten rows knit per day, 7 days a week.  I can accomplish more if the bus is late and it is warm enough for me to knit while waiting, or if I have a train trip in there.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tiers and Tears: Jade Anna Skirts

With bodice assembled, the first, finicky par of the dress is finished.  I then move on to making the skirts.  This step is mostly difficult because of the volume--ballgown skirts are huge.  The amount of hugeness varies according to current trends, but bigger almost always has a place.  This means that making one requires cutting several meters of organza into half-circles and sewing some very long seams.

My dress's skirt has two major components, which I call the underskirt and the overskirt.  The underskirt is primarily responsible for all the volume here, and I built mine in a set of three tiers.  The first tier is a stretch mesh yoke (not the technical term, but that's what I call it) that attaches directly to the leotard at the high hip.

 The second tier is one full circle of organza, sewn to the mesh yoke.

The third tier is two more layers of organza.  The inner one is 1.5 circles, while the outer one is 2 full circles.  This was a little experiment of mine in producing more volume.  The pink grapefruit dress also has a tiered underskirt with two layers at the bottom, each 2 full circles.  I found that since both layers were the same size, they tended to nest into each other and weren't as big as I had wanted.  I hope that making these two layers different sizes, they will stand out away from each other more.

Organza is a fairly stiff fabric, so it does a decent job of holding up a skirt on its own.  More volume normally comes from stiffening the hemline some more, and I use 77 mm crinoline for that purpose in this dress.

So I spend hours with a giant puff-ball next to my serger as I attach the crinoline and finish the edge of the organza, and then a couple hours more with a bigger puff-ball next to my sewing machine as I sew the other edge of the crinoline in place.  I spent the entire time murmuring endearments to my serger, because my serger is fast.  Doing this without a serger would take three times as long.

Then I had an underskirt, and so I moved onto making the godets to insert in the dress itself.

Here is where my tale takes a dark turn.  The godets are made of satin chiffon, a lovely, slippery, easily frayed fabric that gave me fits.  It took me forever to cut out eight godets, edge them, insert them into the appropriate slits, sew the edges together, and hem the bottom.  This was happening in the two days before I left for my last and biggest competition of 2014.  At 2 p.m. the day before I was to leave, on a day I had taken off from work so I could finish this, I finished that hem and hung the dress in my bathroom to evaluate it.

I had this.

I sat down on my bathroom floor and cried.  Both the bodice and the overskirt had ended up taking much longer to put together than I had planned for, and the overskirt looked like crap.  I couldn't wear this dress like this, and there was no time to fix it.  I wore my trusty pink grapefruit dress for my last competition of the year, and banished the jade anna dress to the closet to think about its problems.

I am thinking of solutions for those problems already.  This dress and I and my seam ripper have a date after Christmas.  I believe this dress can be awesome, but I have to do it justice to the best of my abilities, and perhaps create a few new abilities in the process.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fears of the Self-Taught

In case it isn't obvious from my approach to sewing, I am almost entirely self-taught in the ways of the seamstress.  My mother is quite capable of sewing garments and taught me the basics of using a sewing machine, but beyond that I sorted things out on my own.  The techniques I use are picked up from several places: my mother, a most useful book from Kwik-Sew on making swimsuits, the few blogs that mention sewing costumes, a few fashion sewing youtube channels or other sewing tutorials, whatever I can reverse-engineer by studying other people's costumes, and whatever procedures make sense after I think things through.  I am very aware of my ignorance, and it means that there is always a bit of trepidation when I pull out the expensive fabric and start slicing it to ribbons to make the bodice.

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Sewing Project

The pink grapefruit dress has served me well since May, but the time has come to switch to a new dress.  My body shape has changed over the past year as I continue to exercise and dance, and the pink grapefruit dress is now a bit loose through the bodice and too long.  So an order was made to Chrisanne, and this lovely box arrived on my doorstep.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Now with time-dependence!

Like any good physicst, having dabbled in the time-independent case, I then thought I'd tried to add time-dependence and see what happens.  So after looking at the usage of knitting books, I turned to study knitting magazines.

This thread popped up on Ravelry at the beginning of November, after a user received a copy of the Holiday 2014 Vogue Knitting magazine and started a discussion about how useful people found the magazine.  Several commenters said that they felt that knit magazines contained fewer useful patterns or had changed focus.  So I thought I would adapt the code I developed to study book use to see if magazine use had decreased through time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I'm Back! And I have plots!

Whew!  In the last month, I have competed in 7 events in 4 competitions in three countries, while at work I've been wrapping up one half of one project, trying to launch the other half into its next phase, maintaining another effort, and getting started with a completely new one.  I am ready for my skin to return to its normal color and the bobby-pin-shaped bruises on my scalp to fade, hopefully while running between fewer meetings during my work day.  I have still been crafting, though, and I have so much to share, starting with a little project that took over my crafting time for a couple of weeks.

I love books, and am quite fond of my little collection of knitting and crocheting books and magazines.  While printed and electronic patterns are nice, I cannot plunk them on the table to browse through while I eat dinner.  However, pattern books are expensive, and as an American living in Belgium I would need to import English-versions to get something I could use, and would then need to port heavy books with me whenever I move again.  Every debate as to what book I would like to buy involves me trying to estimate how useful I would find the book and asking if it is worth the money.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Guys, I have so many things to talk about, but the to-do list is ten miles long and looks unlikely to change for at least another two weeks.  Here are a few hints of what's to come, when things are a bit more under control.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Vanishing Pumpkins

The pun'kin socks were almost done.  I still needed to graft the first toe, but the second one was just about ready for the toe decreases.

These have been my transit knitting.  I spend about an hour per weekday waiting for or aboard public transit, which for this pattern corresponded to getting 5-10 rows done in a given day, particularly once I memorized the pattern and stopped referring to the chart.  I had already picked out my next pattern and was looking for a time slot to wind the yarn.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Deadline Whooshed By

I am clearly terrible at deadline knitting.  I have been working on my grandmother's shawl for 26 days and have just finished chart 3.  This means that I am 26.4% done with the body of the shawl.  At this rate, I can expect to finish to the body of the shawl in approximately 73 days, or December 21.  At that point I would still have the border and bind-off to do.

This shawl is not going to make it to my grandmother in time for her birthday.  It will be a Christmas present.  I would still like to pick up the pace a bit, but it is coming along nicely, if slower than I wanted. 

It doesn't look particularly nice at this stage, because right now it is a crumpled wad.  Its ugly duckling stage will end, though.

Meanwhile, the punkin socks are moving along nicely.  At some point soon, I should convince myself that I can use some home-knitting time to graft the first toe shut instead of knitting on Elizabeth, and then the first sock will be completely finished.  At my current pace, I should reach of the toe of the second within a week.  I should have pumpkin socks in time for Halloween!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shawl Status

September is devoted to finishing project both at work and on the needles, and right now the total volume is bearing down hard.  Scientific research and mental stimulation is all well and good, but sometimes the only logical response to difficult students and difficult projects and difficult deadlines is to eat ice cream for dinner.

Peanut butter cup ice cream with additional peanut butter and chocolate chunks.  It was worth it.  Luckily I also have knitting to relax.  Let's check on the knitting projects, shall we?

This rather snarled-looking mess is my grandmother's shawl.  It looks much better stretched a bit.

This shawl is a sampler with several bands featuring different Shetland lace patterns.  I have finished the first band, which means I've completed the first 66 rows.  As the entire shawl is about 220 rows, I estimate that I have knit about 9% of the total shawl. 

I also estimate that I am probably not knitting fast enough for my intended deadline.  I'll work on that.

The punkin socks are progressing better than the shawl; I am working on the toe of the first sock.  Their progress is actually helped by the mess of traffic and construction around the city, as I knit while the bus creeps from stop to stop.  I should be casting on the second half of the pair in a day or two.

For now, though, back to the shawl.  Grandma deserves her present!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Shawl for Grandma

My maternal grandmother was the original crochet person of the family.  She made several afghans for my family, most of which are still in our possession.  She also taught me to crochet when I was about eight.  She lived in another state at the time and taught me during a visit, so my mother supplemented my knowledge with a teach-yourself-crochet book, and I played with the craft off and on into my twenties.  I got more serious about yarn crafts in graduate school, eventually learning to knit, discovering Ravelry, and turning into someone who blogs about these things on the internet.

My grandmother does not crochet any more, due to pain in her hands and a shortened attention span.  She still enjoys talking about it, though, and has told me numerous times about a friend of hers who made crocheted lace.  My grandmother thought it was the most beautiful thing, and it motivated her to learn to crochet herself.

My grandmother turns 80 next month.  I am going to make her a lace shawl.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Finished: Rose Crowns

This is the second handmade I included in my fairy tale swap package.  I have found that I like to come up with three or four handmade ideas for these swaps, because something invariably goes wrong in making one or more or them.  After the tammy, I knew I wanted to do something with roses, because roses are a feature of two of my partner's selected fairy tales.  I knew my partner had a small daughter, that she read fairy tales with . . . and fairy tale costume items then seemed like a good idea.

So I went to ravelry and did a pattern search.  I didn't like anything that I liked in the first couple pages.  Instead, I made up my own pattern for a rose crown.  The roses were made following these instructions, but using shorter starting chains to make rose buds.  I knit the headbands so that they would be stretchy, and simply cast on three stitches and knit until the bands were long enough, where long enough was fourteen inches because that seemed reasonable for a toddler girl. 

Then, the morning when I needed to ship this package, I sat down with some additional green yarn and sewed on all the roses.  It is important to crowd the flowers together at this point; otherwise they stick out funny when the crown is worn. 

Aren't they fun, though?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Finished: Sleigh Ride Tammy

When I received my swap partner assignment for the August Geek and Nerd Swap, I was a bit intimidated.  My partner learned to knit about the same time I did, and she likes to make the same things I make (hats, socks, the occasional shawl), but she is far more prolific.  I think she turns out three times as many finished objects as I do, and her items show the skill that comes from that sort of practice.  I wanted to make something a little bit special, even if I couldn't pull off giving her something that she wouldn't necessarily make herself.

So I made a tammy.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Box for Me!

My fourth or fifth birthday party was themed around Little Red Riding Hood.  I remember few of the details beyond the lovely little red cape my mother made me and that my dad wore a plastic wolf mask to play the villain.  It was awesome.  While I don't find it my favorite fairy tale to read now, I still have a fondness for that story.

So when I got home from work and found this . . .

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Back to pumpkins

Belgium's poor attempt at summer seems to be giving up on being anything but fall, and the back-to-school season is in full swing.  Things have been hectic.  I have participated in congresses for the two dance federations I mostly work with, one of which included a competition.  I currently am balancing three projects at work, which is mostly okay except for days when I spend 5.5 hours in meetings to present 35 of my own slides and provide back-up to a student's presentation.  That was Friday.  I sent out my swap package for the August edition of the 2014 Geek and Nerd Swap Saturday morning, and I look forward to sharing the details of those projects once my swap partner has received them.

In the meantime, though, I am returning to my small stash of works-in-progress to see what I can make progress on.  The latin dress is stalled somewhat, mostly because I don't particularly enjoy the pattern alterations I am trying to sort out.  Standard dress patterns don't fit well enough or look right for dancing, so alterations must be made.  But I don't feel that I am skilled at it, so I end up making a mock bodice, and then *tweaking the pattern and making another mock bodice, repeat from * until satisfied.

To keep me busy during my commute, now made longer as students in school means buses tend to run late, the pun'kin socks have been restarted.  I ripped them out to start with 72 stitches around and did one less repeat of the cuff pattern.

I wouldn't particularly care for this sort of cuff, since I prefer 1x1 ribbing, but I must admit that it makes sense--the cuff looks like a pumpkin stem.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Finished: Brotherly Binary

 The binary scarf, she is finished.
I have knit the last bytes, have woven in the blue ends, and have knotted the grey ends.  As this is a tube scarf made of non-superwash wool, I am confident that time and a bit of felting will ensure that the ends stay put out of sight with that minimalistic approach.  I then finally turned the scarf right side out and added the fringe.

The pattern is Christine Dumoulin's Binary scarf, knit up with Cascade 220 sport yarn.  When finished, this project had consumed about 740 meters of yarn, which Ravelry helpfully tells me is the largest knitting project I have ever made.  It certainly felt like it as its bulk increased; the final unblocked length was 76 in/ 1.9m.  This scarf is longer than I am tall.  Luckily, it is for my younger brother, who is markedly taller than me.

I am proud of how this scarf turned out, and thrilled I didn't get bored with it.  The initial cast-on was followed by a long hiatus, but the entire scarf was knit in just over a month after restarting.

This completes my long stint of knitting scarves for my immediate family, a project which has taken most of the last year.  After I block the tilting ribs cowl and this guy, I will label and send the last of these projects to new homes.  Meanwhile, I am feeling the strong urge to go cast on a sweater for myself.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Still Knitting

Work on the Binary scarf progresses.

It has reached a mass great enough that it can be uncomfortable to hold the scarf on my lap on a hot day.  This scarf only works as commuter knitting because I typically commute with a mostly-empty backpack.

Surprisingly, I am not bored with the pattern, perhaps because it does not have a true repeat.  I must check my selected sequence of ones and zeros for each row of characters, but only for one set-up row.  The color sequence for other rows follows logically from there.  As I mentioned previously, the stretches of color are short enough that I don't have to worry about weaving floats or anything like that, and at this point I've done enough stranded knitting in this project and the Midna Mitts that I have picked up speed.  I try to finish at least two rows of numbers a day, but for most of the past two weeks my average has been closer to three.  I anticipate binding off this scarf in the next few days.

It is a timely finish for this project, as I am signed up for the August edition of the Geek and Nerd swap and am still waiting delivery of a few materials before diving into the handmade for that.  As the month is more than a third gone, I likely have a crafting marathon in store for me.  We shall see!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Dress Starts with Paper

I have successfully unearthed my sewing table, and therefore been able to start my next sewing project.  It will be a latin dress using the pile of pink lycra I discussed previously.  To me, a dress project begins when I start one of these:

This pile of paper will be the project notebook for this particular dress.  The front page is where I sketch out and make notes about the different parts of the dress: what the front and back look like, a rough idea of how the underskirts and leotard will be put together, what fabrics will be used where, and some idea of what decorations or stoning patterns I plan to use.  I'm not a great artist, but the sketches capture my ideas and give me a sense of what pattern alterations I will need to do.  The plans for this dress are fairly basic, since it will have two only parts, dress and leotard, and I have made no plans for stoning patterns.  Below you can see some of the sketches I've made for other ballgown projects, which were more involved.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Me and Stash: It's Complicated

At the beginning of June, after receiving my partner assignment for the fantasy theme of Geek and Nerd Swap 2014, I decided to make the Midna Mitts, based on Eunny Jang's Endpaper Mitts with my own charts.  I dutifully trotted off to the best yarn store in town to pick out yarns in appropriate colors.  There two lovelies came home with me:

There was, of course, the possibility that this would not be enough yarn to complete the mitts, but it was three days into June and I had turned out fingerless mitts in under a week.  I was certain that I would have enough time to pick up more yarn if I ran out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Binary Progress

The binary scarf has been my companion knitting for the past couple weeks, and progress has been made.  The scarf now measures about 25 inches or 63 centimeters, and I estimate that it is about 40% completed.  I should soon finish up the first half and start working ones and zeros in the other direction, repeating the same sequence of characters.

This is my second project with real, feltable sheep's wool, and I understand even better why wool is recommended for this type of project.  While not as buttery soft as superwash merino, this wool isn't all that harsh either, and I expect it to soften with proper washing.  The two colors cling together in a good way, and stitches are extremely loathe to drop or run (as I found out the two times I accidentally tugged the wrong needle and needed to recollect a couple dozen stitches).  Despite that, I don't have difficulties ripping out stitches either.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ones and Zeros

I have run into a small problem with the pumpkin socks and gauge.  The pattern doesn't actually include gauge information, saying instead that a sock 64 stitches around knit on size 2 needles fits a size 6 and that this is a half size larger needle than the designer typically uses.  Now, I know what kind of gauge I get with the yarn I am using when I use my favorite pair of sock needles, and I know the finished size I like my socks to have.  If I had the gauge or some information on the finished circumference of the sock, I could calculate how many stitches I need to make a sock that fits and go from there.  Unfortunately, without knowing that information and without any experience on how much cables restrict a sock's stretch, I will need to do a bit of experimenting to figure out how many stitches I need to get a sock that fits well on my calves and then alter the pattern charts to match that number.  While I don't mind the calculations, the inevitable ripping out does not appeal. 

I spent several hours on the train over the weekend for a short trip, and felt like knitting rather than knitting and ripping.  The pumpkin socks were bumped out of active status in favor of the last remaining Christmas scarf, a restarted Binary.  Train travel is a great venue for complicated knitting in my mind; there is none of the hassle of security or baggage checks like those of airports and more space to spread out than on a plane.  The result:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pumpkin Orange

I love pumpkins.  I have fond memories of coming home from school on Halloween, excited to go trick-or-treating, and smelling my mom baking pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  Most of my attachment is to growing or eating pumpkins, but they are still the sight and smell of fall for me, from September throughout the winter.  While western Europe has some very nice squash, I maintain that they aren't the same as the pumpkin varieties from the US, and are not the same thing.

This explains why my reaction to seeing Sabine Ruppert's pattern for Little Pumpkins socks was to squeal "Pun'kin socks!"  I had to make them.  Finishing the Midna Mitts and other swap goodies meant that I was in need of a commuting project, and I cast them on last Saturday.

This is a particularly timely project for two reasons.  One, it has historically taken me two months to knit socks, which means these should come off the needles in September or so when it is fall. Two, this is the local weather:

Since fall weather is being delivered in such large, blustery, and wet amounts, I will go mix up a pot of soup and knit pumpkin orange socks.  Happy knitting!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Finished: Triforce Project Bag

My swap partner also expressed an interest in a project bag, so I decided to sew a small one.  Sewing a bag or pouch takes a lot less time for me than just about every other project I take on, and since I had already decided go with a Legend of Zelda-themed box, I knew how I could make the bag go with it.

A Triforce Bag.

The Triforce is pieced loosely following a tutorial I found on Diary of a Quilter, and the fabrics are 100% cotton quilting fabrics purchased at le Marché St. Pierre.  The main exterior fabric in particular reminds me of the background in the Temple of Light of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  The bag pattern comes from this tutorial, though I made a couple of minor alterations.  The largest of those was piecing the front of the bag to include my Triforce panel.  I also left two openings for drawstrings, one on each side, and only added interfacing in the bag's base, as I felt interfacing on the sides would make the bag hard to pull shut.

I think I was right on that last point.  The bag is a bit hard to close, though I expect it will get softer with washing.  I also think I should have used sturdier ribbon ties instead of fabric ones made of the quilting cotton.  Still, the bag turned out nicely, and it is big enough to hold a sock-in-progress or other small project.

Now I just need to make myself one, so I am not hauling my projects around in ripped plastic bags in my backpack.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Finished: Midna Mitts

Now that my swap package has successfully reached my partner, I can discuss my handmade items here!  The theme of this swap was fantasy, and my swap partner revealed that she was a fan of the Legend of Zelda video games, in particular Twilight Princess and the character Midna.  She also wanted practical things.  I have sadly never played Twilight Princess and had to look up who Midna was, but a little bit of searching for game images showed that she wears (in her true form) something that looks a little like gauntlets, or fingerless mittens.  So I knit a pair of fingerless mittens.

I found this ironic when I opened my package and she had also knitted me mitts.

The Midna mitts are based on Eunny Jang's Endpaper Mitts pattern in form, though I had to redo the thumb gusset increases to accommodate my row gauge.  The charts are my own, and are based on Midna's hair jewelry and the markings on her wrists and thigh.  The yarn is Lana Grossa Cool Wool Superfein, in the blue and black colorways.

Planning this project went quite quickly.  Knitting the first mitt did not.  I have minimal experience with stranded knitting, so I knit about half of a mitt as a gauge swatch.  This let me practice holding a yarn under tension in each hand as well as measure my gauge.  I discovered that working with one yarn in each hand means that each can be fed into the knitting at its own rate, which I needed for a pattern as random as the one I had (see evidence of wonky gauge on side of gauge swatch in above picture).  That was good, so when I got comfortable with that, I started the first mitt.  I later discovered that I put much more tension on the yarn held in my left hand (I normally knit Continental) than on the one in my right, and this was making my floats of the main color far too tight.  So I ripped out that mitt and started over again.  That attempt is what I called the right-hand mitt.

It actually doesn't matter which mitt is on which hand, as the shaping is top-bottom symmetric.  Switching them just changes which pattern is on the back of the hand.

Anyway, I finished the right-handed mitt about three days before I needed to ship my package, and had a bit of a knitting marathon weekend to finish the second one on time. However, when I had both mitts finished and right-side-out in front of me, I thought they looked extremely cool.

Happy Fourth of July!  I was born and raised in the US, though I have now spent most of the last four years living in Europe for study and work reasons.  It means that I don't get today off of work to celebrate, but it is a good day to be grateful for the legacy I have from my country.  Also, two years ago today, CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, ending a search of more than sixty years and an era in my field.  It is a good day to celebrate.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Swap Package Arrived!

My swap partner was more disciplined than I, and sent my package a couple days before I sent hers.  So I got my package!

I love having fun mail waiting when I get home.  It makes me happy.  So did this box.  I have a pair of fingerless gloves and another of mitts, and my partner told me that the pattern ideas were graciously supplied by Thorin and Zelda when she had asked around for inspiration.  I have yarn, body wash with an amazing scent, herbal tea, and some adorable stitch markers from Wychwood Dreams.

I was cooing over the stitch markers.  I felt the immediate need to start a lace project or three.  Thank you, swap partner!