November 2004 Archives

This page is an archive of entries from November 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

To see all archives, visit the Archive Index.

December 2004 is the next archive.

Have yarn, will travel

P10100031Back to some light subway knitting, I'm beavering away at the pocket linings.  A thought occurred to me, however, that I should ditch the pattern at this point, and simply knit two large rectangles to attach to the inside of the coat.  The triangle-shaped pocket will not be difficult to create, but the jacket's row gauge was off from the pattern just oh-so-slightly, and I wonder if the pocket lining might not fit right with the pocket opening if I shape it as the pattern suggests.  Since I won't be able to put much in these pockets (a set of keys, my T pass, etc.) the shaping won't matter all that much anyway.

I'm planning to line the entire pocket with fabric, and a colleague has given me a fabulous idea of using rust-colored corduroy.

That's enough about me.  Have you seen the latest Magknits newsletter?  Cruise on over to Kerrie's blog to have a look.  There are three great patterns available, just in case you need more to do at this time of year.

One down, one to go

P1010031 One of the two remaining steps to my Madison Coat is finished.P1010033   The cords and toggles are attached, so the coat can stay closed.  I'm happy with the look.  I do wonder if the cords are too long.  If they are, I've left myself the ability to shorten them by not clipping the yarns after I tied them into the coat.  If the toggles stay closed during the first few wearings, then I can safely make those cuts.

There was an article about Webs in the Springfield, Mass. Sunday Republican yesterday.  Apparently, the expansion is complete.  I might just have to make a trip up there soon to see the results.

Bag Lady

Bag_on_the_fence_2 What is it with bags and me lately?  I present my finished Rural Messenger Bag.  I intended to sew the main body together as a start, but once I finished that the remaining steps were too easy not to finish in one go.  If I had started and stopped I would have had to clean up the sewing area (for "sewing area" read "dining-room table") only to have to pull everything out again this morning.

Of course, when it comes to sewing, "one go" for me is more like this:

Sew. Rip. Resew, rip a little bit, finish seam.  Sew, sew, rip, sew, rip, sew.  I'll admit that I tend to read directions, interpret them, follow said directions, finish, and then say "Ooop. I'll bet that actually meant...."  My seam ripper and I have become good friends.

Even when I follow the instructions correctly, I can still manage a mistake.  Last night, after finishing the bag, I modeled it in front of the mirror.  Whoops!  I'd put the strap on incorrectly, so the lining fabric was on the top, with the main fabric underneath.  Not the look I had in mind.  For about two minutes I pretended that I could actually live with this.  Then I asked myself the same questions that I always ask myself when I make a mistake like this.  Will I constantly notice the error?  Yes.  Will the mistake keep me from using/wearing said item?  Yes.  Something Cropped_bag had to be done.

I noticed that if I undid the stitching around the strap ends, I could slip out the strap, flip it around, and sew it back in with minimal disruption.  Success!  The top stitching looks a bit distorted where I did this, but since the area is on the back of the bag, no one will notice.  Shhh.  It's our secret, OK?

I lined all the pattern pieces with iron-in interfacing before sewing.  Kind of a pain, and an extra step that the instructions make no mention of anywhere.  I'm glad, however, that I took the effort.  The extra stiffness from the interfacing gives the bag a nice, polished appearance.  The interfacing made the sewing easier too.  If you make one of these bags, and you use one of Amy's fabrics, then expect that you will need a rather stiff type of interfacing.

I am not the World's Greatest Seamstress. (I first typed "sewer" as in "one who sews" and then noticed that it could be mistaken for a different noun. Tee hee.)  As I feared, some of the instructions were less than clear.  I'm sure Amy knew exactly what she meant when writing them.  I wonder if she had anyone else read the pattern for clarity.  For example, in step 3 of the bag assembly, "Place the Right side of the Side/Bottom Panel and the Front Main Panel together.  Starting on the right side, line up the top raw edges.  Stitch down the first side...."  Does she mean the "right side" as in the side that's not the left, or "right side" as in the side of the fabric that's got the print?  Turns out that she means both.  And what's the "first side"?  Clearer wording might be something like "With the printed sides of the Side/Bottom Panel and the Front Main Panel facing each other, line up the top raw edges of both pieces and begin sewing on the right-hand edge, using a 1/2-inch seam allowance."

Of course, all of this could be explained with no words, using clear, large P1010029_1 P1010030_1 illustrations.  Amy's are too small to get anything but a general sense of what you need to do.  The illustration on the far right, one that is supposed to tell you how to handle two details in the lower corner of the bag, is less than an inch square.  The entire illustration for this instruction is 3 1/2 by 1 inches.  At that size, it is impossible to determine where exactly you need to clip those corners.  It would have been very easy to double the size of the illustrations and draw only that part of the bag covered by the instruction.   More stylized illustrations, or at least ones that look less like notebook doodles, would be helpful.

Also, Amy needs an editor.  Step 5: "With Right side together, place of the Side/Bottom Panel...onto the Back Main Panel."  Place of?  "Place BOTH of?" Perhaps.  A little grammatical detective work ("Side/Bottom Panel" was in the singular), and I guessed that the "of" was extraneous, and I shouldn't use both the Side/Bottom Panels.  I was right.  I won't point out that she should have written "sides" instead of "side."  Whoops, just did.

Did I alter the pattern any?  Slightly.  Amy goes to great lengths to explain where and how to attach several pieces of Velcro.  To me, Velcro is to be avoided at all costs.  Based on a tip from one of Leigh's posts, I didn't use the Velcro, and I don't see a need for it.

All that said, I think Amy Butler's designs are lovely.  The sewing wasn't very difficult to figure out: it was the principle of the whole thing.  The reason I made this bag is that I wanted something unusual to sling over my shoulder.  If I needed an evening bag of some sort, I'd probably look through her designs to find something suitable, but I'd also look through some Vogue patterns as well.

Alison asks "Had you heard anything specific about the Amy Butler patterns before - is this typical?"

That is a good question, Alison.  I didn't think to do any searching for opinions before starting this project.  What a great idea! has a sewing-pattern review forum.  According to this thread, I'm on crack.  Everybody loves her patterns.  Maybe I'm too demanding in my sewing-pattern needs.

Light Reading

Last Sunday, I spotted a new knitting magazine at the Barnes and Noble in Coolidge Corner.  Vogue Knitting has apparently launched a new publication in conjuntion with Lion Brand Yarn.  Knit.1 is small, about the size of a Reader's Digest, and contains little tidbits of knitting information, along with some basic patterns.  There's a website, but it's not yet functioning (although it does have a funky knitting animation). Let's just call it "Vogue Knitting Lite." The patterns looked so-so to me; nothing really stood out as a must-knit.  It seemed less like a magazine and more like a puff-piece for Lion Brand Yarn.  I didn't buy it, because it seemed like more of an advertisement than a knitting magazine.

I'm keeping an eye out, however, for future issues.  Maybe Vogue will dig up a different yarn company to sponsor each new issue.  It could be an opportunity for designers to apply yarns more creatively than a company's normal pattern leaflets.  That might be interesting.

Fabric Friday

Look what arrived for me in the mail: my Amy Butler fabric for the Rural Messenger Bag.  Much to my relief, the prints do coordinate, in a wild sort of way.Bigflower Umbrellas  The fabric is lighter than I'd hoped it would be, but if it were much heavier, my machine probably couldn't handle it.  I might try some interfacing, to see if that might give the bag more stiffness.

Washer_3 So, into the washer they go (note that you can actually see the fabric swishing around in this photo).

Now for the ironing and cutting:

I'll spare you photos of me wielding scissors.  Use your imagination.

After cutting out the pieces, I have one critique of this pattern.  It's not a complete pattern!  For $12.95 I received only three out of five required pieces, and the assembly instructions.  Additionally, the assembly instructions lacked the usual cutting schematic so that you know how to lay out the pieces on the fabric.  I created the two missing pattern pieces on paper according to dimensions provided by Amy.  These were intentionally omitted, because there were instructions about the best way to create the pieces.  Why did she leave out these items?  They were rectangles, just like the others.  The pieces that were included were obviously photocopied Magic Marker drawings with computer labels.  Not very difficult to do, yet there I was with my ruler and pencil making a pattern.  Am I crazy for thinking that I paid someone else to do that?  Nope.  Especially when the back cover of the envelope says "Instructions, measurements, and PATTERN PIECES for making a Rural Messenger Bag."  Was I wrong to expect ALL the pieces to be in there?

Pieces_cut_2 You've been warned, and Amy will hear about this too.

Anyway, that's all done.  Let's hope the sewing instructions don't suffer from any obvious omissions.

Gobble Gobble!

I give you crocheted toggle cords:


So much for a "weekend" project.  These things took an eveningCord_closeup  while I was sitting in front of the TV, with the three coat yarns and a "I" hook.  I probably could have used a larger hook, if I had one, but the result is a very dense, stiff cord.  They're perfect for what I need.  Note how the strands on each end can be used to attach the cords to the coat, easy-peasy.

I'd like to say "thanks" to everyone who has looked at and commented on my new blog over the past 10 days.  I'm grateful that I've found a community of knitters (both on-line and in "real time") who share my interest in the fiber arts.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Attack of the Giant Toggle

When I say that Windsor Button has buttons, I mean that it has buttons.P1010017_1Just about every type of button imaginable can be found among those pull-out cubbies against the wall.  There were a few times when I thought "Design a cardigan around that button."  Almost like that stupid faucet commercial (for Kohler?), where the woman plunks down a faucet and saysP1010018 something like "design a house around this."  As if.  I think Claudia mentioned this same commercial in her blog a few months ago, and Julia blogged about her 1954 Kohler sink on Tuesday.  I have nothing against Kohler.  Any kitchen sink that can last 50 years and still look presentable must be one heck of a good sink. 

I digress.  If the store hadn't been so busy I would have photographed a few of the more unusual ones.  Since I didn't do that, go in there for a browse and decided for yourself which buttons are "unusual."  The selection can overwhelm the casual button seeker, but yesterday I needed something very specific.Toggles_1

I was not disappointed....

I also purchased a skein of Lion Brand Wool-Ease Chunky for the pocket linings.  I decided that I should buy a basic yarn for the linings, which will probably see a lot of wear and tear.

The cord to loop around the toggle remains a challenge.  I didn't see any cords that were the right color, except drapery ties.   Nope, those wouldn't look right.

Later in the day, it hit me: crochet those cords.  A ha!  Why didn't I think of that before?  Well,P1010011_1 probably because I don't know how to crochet.  It's another project on my to-do list.  Last summer, my grandmother gave me this Bernat how-to booklet, copyright 1970.  I'm all set to be a hooker, thanks to my grandma.

Incidentally, in 1970, Bernat listed an office in Uxbridge, Massachusetts--just like Berroco.  These days the company is solely based in Listowel, Ontario.  The booklet which I have carries on as a website

Perfect.  Now I have a little project to prevent me from loafin' around the house all week.  Stay tuned for results.

Now Arriving!

Madison_2Just in time for the cold weather, I present my Madison Coat.  The only items missing are pocket linings and fasteners (so I'm only pretending to put my hands in my pockets so that the coat stays closed.)  The photograph on the pattern shows an elaborate kind of knitted button, but not clearly enough so that I can figure out how to make one.  [Ignore the background of this photo.  I snagged a colleague for a furtive photo shoot while no one was looking.  We couldn't be too picky about the setting.]

What I'd love to find are smaller-gauge versions of these three yarns (again, I'm using Tahki’s Soho Tweed, Jamieson’s Soft Shetland, and  Manos del Uruguay)  so that I could make attach matching i-cord loops and use giant toggle buttons.  Since that's not about to happen, I'll have to improvise a cord.  Triple stranded i-cord will be too bulky, and might not be very durable in the long term.  I still like the giant-toggle idea, and I know exactly where to find them: Windsor Button.

WinbutGood thing that my office is mere steps from the region's button emporium.  I can also buy yarn there for the pocket linings.  [Don't let the name fool you.  Windsor Button is not just buttons.]  The pattern suggests a knitted lining, which will be fine for the pocket's form.  I think, however, that I'd better line that with fabric, so that keys and whatnot are less likely to slip through a hole, and the entire pocket will last longer.

Stay tuned for the shopping results.

Look What I Got Knitsmiths last night!  I couldn't resist such a bright spot of color for a Monday morning.  Dava had these canvas bags printed with fabulously bright vintage  advertisements from India. P1010007 I'm sorry, I wish I knew precisely in which language the advertisement is written.  The resident expert around these parts tells me that it's probably Hindi, even though the bag mentions Chennai--formerly Madras--where the principal language is Tamil.

Wow, so much information for a Monday morning.   Now I have a medium canvas bag to go with my extra-large canvas bag and my small canvas bag.  Except that I think my new one is much cooler than the other ones.

Before you continue any further, have you looked at the Knitsmithy today?  Head on over, if you haven't done so already.  My fellow Knitsmiths are one amazing lot of knitters.  I find the creativity inspiring, and I always leave there thinking "must knit."

P1010005_2This bag will be great for hauling around my pattern books, or a large project, such as the all-but-finished Madison Coat.  Yes, the body is done.  No, I'm not photogenic enough this early on a Monday morning to model it.  Patience, my readers, the photo will come.

Sunday Knitting

P1010003All that remains to knit for my Madison Coat are the collar and pocket linings.  I'm about a third of the way done with the collar.  One begins it by picking up stitches then working six rows with number 10s.   I used bamboo 10s for this, and wow, did that yarn slide!  Note to self: for the next big, bulky project use bamboo, not plastic.

Notice how the Manos almost matches the futon cover (actually, they match better in person.)  I think this means that instead of hanging the coat in the closet, I can use it as a living room accessory.  Ever heard of a car coat?  This one's a couch coat!

Anyway, the good news is that there is a noticeable improvement in my wrist this week.  The tightness and soreness are gone.  In most circumstances it feels normal, with a slight twinge if I lift a heavy plate, or something like that.

Still, why push it?  Knitsmiths knitting will be the only knitting I do this weekend.  This week I'll be busy with Thanksgiving preparations and traveling, and that will cut into knitting time, too.  That's okay.  That's what books are for :-).

Project Planning

So, what's next for Subway Knitter, when the Madison Coat is done?  You all know about my Rural Messenger Bag. I'm still waiting for the fabric to arrive from Pennsylvania.  Once that's "in the bag"--sorry, couldn't resist, what can my needles anticipate?

This morning I took a browse through my stash cabinet.  Truth be told I keep a very small stash.  I don't buy yarn "on spec" simply because all that yarn sitting around, begging to be worked would become overwhelming.  Suddenly knitting would become a lot less enjoyable.

SoftwistI do have two bags of Berroco's Softwist Bulky.  Do you know Berroco? (Heh, that rhymed.)  Great yarn and great pattern support, too.  A good blue-state yarn company that deserves more credit than it gets.  (More about my blue-state shopping idea in a later post.)  The company is based in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, in a part of the state which I've always referred to as "nowhere Central Massachusetts."  But, hey, if it's got Berroco, it can't be all bad, right?  Right.  What was I thinking?

What I'd forgotten about in the six months since I bought these yarns was their colorways.  Both are a lot deeper and richer than I'd remembered--especially the drabby, khaki one.  For some completely unknown reason I'd remembered it as a mint green.

Does that change my project planning?  Probably.  I notice that I seldom decide upon a project, let the yarn age for a while, and then return to it with the same project in mind.  Originally, I had a cardigan planned for the khaki, and this for the turquoise stuff.

But just last week I saw BPT from Knitty, Fall 2003.  "Hmm," I thought.  "It's a hoodie, like the other pattern, but it's got CABLES, unlike the other pattern. I like cables."  Any knitters out there think cables are the big scam of the knitting world?  They're so gosh-darn easy, and they look so difficult.  On top of it all, there fun to do, breaking up what might be miles and miles of stockinette.

No more calls, please, we have a winner!  I might need to adjust the gauge, and see if the Softwist will look okay with a cable.  Details, details.  More later on the khaki package.

Knitting Grandma

My grandmother is a champion knitter. She could knit circles around the rest of us, and still have time for a cabled sweater or two. I don’t mean to imply that she is only a fast knitter (which she is) she is also a very creative woman with a great color sense.

Take this scarf, for example.Lloyd  It’s made from one skein of Plymouth Eros, and one skein of Berroco’s FX yarns (I can’t remember which, exactly, but it looks like Jewel FX.) When she bought the yarns I remember thinking that the colors didn’t match very well. My grandmother knows what she’s doing in the color department, so I kept quiet. Of course, I was completely wrong (pretty good for me that I said nothing, eh?) The colors match perfectly, and the scarf looks wonderful with a blue blouse that I have. Lucky granddaughter that I am, she decided to give it to me.

Thanks Grandma!

Sweater Saga

About the middle of last May, my grandmother and I went to the big tent sale at Webs. Among other things, we each purchased ten skeins of Adriafil Pineapple yarn, a small gauge white cotton ribbon with a viscose netting wrapped around it. The yarn came with patterns, and we both selected the cropped cardigan. My grandmother’s would be in turquoise, and mine would be in gray.

Grandma’s cardi was done in, like, two weeks; it was gorgeous. Mine, however, was another story. I started it in August and I soon realized that I just didn’t like working with this yarn. The netting caught constantly on the needles and broke. Frogging resulted in a massive tangle of the netting. This was definitely a one-off yarn. August turned into September, and September to October. No FO. I began to call this my Hallelujah Cardigan, as in “Hallelujah! I’ve finished it.”

To make matters worse, I RAN OUT OF YARN. My grandmother told me that she’d used a lot more yarn than the pattern called for (pattern called for 7, GM said she went into the 10th.) I had an idea that I’d be close. With the button bands and collar left to do I scrounged around eBay looking for a ball.

Mission accomplished, thanks to a nice knitter from Kansas. The extra ball was even the same dye lot! No stopping me now: button bands, collar, seaming, and hallelujah! I finished it. All that remained was the button selection.


P1010002Circles to the rescue, where I found these extremely cute lady-bug pewter buttons.

Although I disliked working with the yarn (and it’s been discontinued, so I was not  the only one.) I’m happy with the result, and look forward to wearing this in the spring.

A New Coat

“Sew what, indeed! Isn’t this supposed to be a knitting blog?” you ask. “It most certainly is,” I reply. Here’s the latest off my needles: P1010020

It’s the Madison Coat from Chris Bylsma Designs. I’m doing it as part of a Circles knit-along, but I haven’t been to any of the knitting circles to actually do the “along” part. I like to think that I’m doing it in spirit with others.

P1010022Looking for a quick and satifying knit? Then this pattern is for you! It took me two weeks, and a pair of size 13 circulars. Many of Chris’s designs just aren’t me, but I liked this coat. The pattern’s gauge is 1.87 stitches per inch (!) but I adjusted the gauge to 2.25 stitches per inch.


I triple stranded Tahki’s Soho Tweed, in colorway 333, some Jamieson’s Soft Shetland, in Granny Smith and some Manos del Uruguay in colorway U. It wasn’t exactly the combination I originally planned, but I’m very happy with the result. The pictures make the fabric more “Christmas-y” than it really is, and the yarn pictures make the purple/blue in the Soho Tweed pop more than it really does.

I like projects in which I tried or perfected a new technique, learned something, or just did something differently. In this project, because I was using three (100 percent wool) yarns with different yardages, I decided to felt my ends together. This avoided lots of weaving in, and resulted in a very neat looking piece.

Felting the ends is easy. It works like felting in the washer. You can do it with your own saliva—it’s called spit felting—but ewwww. I used hot water. Put the kettle on, and grab the end of the old skein and the beginning of the new one (the yarn should be an animal fiber, or this won’t work.) Undo the ply of the yarn (a little bit difficult with the Manos, because it’s not plyed, but just pull apart the fibers in the strand.) When the water boils, pour some in a mug. Then, dip about two to three inches of the ends in the mug. Leave them in the mug until they are saturated. To create the continuous strand, place the ends so that they overlap and face each other, and roll them together in your palms. Once you start to bind the fibers together, you may have to repeat the dipping and rolling until you feel that the strands are well combined.

Sew ready for a break

I know how to sew, but don't do it often.  Sewing is not as convenient an activity as knitting for the obvious reason that the activity requires a dedicated workspace.  As you know, one can knit almost anywhere, at anytime (subway, anyone?)  Sewing takes a bit more planning because one needs to haul out the machine, lay out the fabric, iron those seams. Well, you get the picture.

Sew what? I ask.  A few months ago, Leigh of Woolflowers posted a picture of the  Rural Messenger BagClmessenger_2  from Amy Butler.  I loved it!  And I decided then and there that I, too, would have one.  But I had three knitting projects in the pipeline.  I tucked the project into my "To Do" folder, and kept on trucking.

When it became obvious to me that my wrist needed a break from the knit/purl routine, an opportunity opened up. So, a few clicks of the mouse later, I had the pattern from Reprodepot Fabrics, in nearby Easthampton, MA.  A few more clicks at the Glorious Color site and I had my fabrics: Sundahlias Marketumbrellas Completebag_1

Hmmm. The picture from Amy's site shows that these fabrics coordinate (look to the right.)

I'll be sew relieved when the pieces arrive and I can see them for myself.

A new blog!

Good day, and welcome to my blog.  I was at Knitsmiths  tonight listening to all the talk about blogs.  "That's it!" I said to myself, time to get into the action.   I've said this to myself for about eight months, so I don't know what was so different about tonight.  Ironically, I had decided last week that I actually have to take a break from knitting for a week or so.  My latest project, the Madison Coat from Chris Bylsma Designs has been a killer on my right wrist.....

Pictures soon.

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