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.