Thursday, April 29, 2010

We Have the Technology - Part 2

I have success to report!!! I have completed the neckline redo on my Coraline Tunic Top, and I think it turned out perfectly. It's a good thing that I actually enjoy doing finishing work, because I had to pull out all the tricks for this little project.

When we left off at the last post, I had chosen the stitch pattern that I was going to modify to use for the new neck band. On the right, you can see the bands after a little steam blocking - they look so good! After having quite a long conversation with them trying to decide how to attractively attach them to the front of the sweater, I decided to add a row of single crochet along the sweater edge of each neckband. This gave me a sturdy and cleaner looking edge to work with, as you can see in the photo below.

My next task was to pin the borders to the sweater, and I used my awesome bamboo pins. I have to say, if you ever do work that requires pinning piecework together, you should really own a set of these pins. They are long and thin, so they can grip lots of sweater and still allow it to lie flat. Since they are bamboo, they don't slip out, and the tips are rounded so that they go in easily, but can't snag or split the work. I guess you can tell they are one of my favorite tools! You may notice that I haven't cut the old neckline out yet. That's mostly because having it there gave the piece more stability while I worked on it, but also partly because I was still too chicken to do the cutting!

I sewed the bands to the front of the sweater using regular thread and needle, backstitching right along the clean crocheted edge so that the stitches are completely invisible. The back of the neck is a different story. When I frogged the old neckband, I found that I had left the back neck stitches live at the top. This shouldn't have suprised me - I'm prone to do this whenever I can to avoid having seems when I assemble sweaters. I always choose grafting over seaming when I get a choice. So, in the back, I grafted the neckband to the sweater, and also grafted the left and right sides of the neckband together in the center of the back so that it looks smooth all the way around.

Once I had the band on, I cut! It was a little scary at first, but I could tell immediately that the stitching I had put in was very secure. Steeking success!

The last step was to clean up the inside of the garment. As you can imagine, the raw cut edge of the front neckline was not very pretty looking on the inside, and I'm the kind of person who likes to fix that sort of thing. I decided that hem tape of some sort would be the best thing to use, so I wear-tested my new neckline to the fabric store (had to have the sweater with me to match the color - ha!) and perused the different styles of hem tape available. It's easily been 25 years since I purchased hem tape, but it doesn't seem to have changed a bit! I chose the lace variety since it wouldn't add any bulk to the neckline, and they just happened to have the right shade of pink for me. To install it, I just hand stitched it over the raw seam area, and I think it did a pretty good job of covering up the ugly, and it's virtually unnoticeable from the right side.

So here's the finished neckline - my apologies for the mirror assisted self-photo! I am very pleased with the results and already like this sweater 1000% better.

Since I still have about 40g of yarn, I'm going to revise the sleeves a bit, too, as I still think they are a bit short. I showed this project to my knitting buddies the other night, and one of them suggested that I could carry the
drawstring theme up into the sleeves to help reign in the poofiness. She reads my blogs, so let me just say, "Shelly, you are brilliant!" Stay tuned for Part 3, where we will see how the sleeves turn out!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

We Have the Technology... We Can Rebuild It!

Raise your hand if you've ever made a sweater that didn't turn out as perfectly as you had hoped. OK everyone, you can put your hands down.

I've made several sweaters that fit into this category. Fortunately, the more experience I gain with my knitting, the better my sweater results are. Gone are the too low armholes, and ill-fitting shoulders that have to be tugged at every 2 minutes. Gone are the awkward lengths that make me look short (ok, shorter) and stumpy. And gone are the poor yarn choices that don't fit the design being made.

But then there's Coraline. You may remember Coraline because I reported her as a FO just last October. Here she is on the right. I'm smiling because she is done, but not because I'm enamored with the look of her on me.

What I Like:
1. I'm happy with the DK weight alpaca/tencel yarn choice. It drapes to suit the pattern well.
2. I'm happy with the color - I'm noticing lately that I really seem to be into pink more than I would have guessed.
3. I LOVE the flairy lace peplum. When I wear this, I spin around like a little girl in front of the mirror and say "wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" but not when my hubby is home, of course
4. The overall fit is great.

What Could Be Better:
1. The reverse stockinette edging around the neck just doesn't fit the style of the rest of the sweater. It's sorta chunky looking, and I think a lacy edging would suit the pattern much better.
2. The neckline. It just doesn't seem proportional to the rest of the garment to me, to have a short neckine and a long peplum. Also, the way it's cut, it makes my upper body look stocky. I believe it needs to be a lower V to solve both of those problems.
3. The poofy cap sleeves. Perhaps these would be OK if the neck were improved, so I'm going to put these on the back burner for now.

The good news is that I have an extra skein of yarn leftover from this sweater, and a daring attitude toward trying to rebuild it. I've never steeked before, so this will be a beautiful opportunity to give that a try.

My first step was to put the sweater on and mark where I would like the neckline to fall. I marked it lower than where I intend for it to be at the end, because I have a neckline border in mind that will be and inch or so wide. I then used some contrasting yarn to baste in the new neckline I'm shooting for.

Next, I blew the dust off the sewing maching and did some stitching along the basting line. I used small stitches and a light, yet contrasting, color of yarn so that I'd be able to see what I was doing. First I stitched right next to the basting line, and then I put in a second line of stitching about 1/4 inch away from the first line. That is probably sufficient to keep the neck from raveling, but then I put in a zigzag between the two lines of stitching just for insurance :-). The key here is to not stretch the garment as you sew, so that it lies flat when you are finished.

The next step was to unravel the reverse stockinette neckband. It came out without too much of a struggle, and I kept the yarn just in case I need it later. (Insurance seems to be the theme of this undertaking!)

Because I'm not quite mentally ready to cut the new neckline in, I decided the next step was to hit the books to find a new neckband. The peplum and sleeves have lace leaf motifs all over them, so that seemed like the right direction to go. As usual, Barbara Walker was there to save the day with the Twin Leaf Panel (Red Book, page 235). I'll be modifying it to separate the "twins" so that the right leaning leaves will go up one side of the neckline and the left-leaning leaves will go up the other. I'll also modify the pattern so that the motif ends at the leaf edges.

So now I'm starting to knit the new neck bands, and will post an update when they are done!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Place I Like To Be

I've been finishing some projects lately, and it feels good. Some may say that I'm just going through a phase. Others might calculate that this recent trend is merely proportional to the number of projects I've started lately. Whatever the reason - "Finishville" is a place I like to be.

Here is the Single-Skein Shawl in all it's blocked glory! As you can see, I frogged and reknit the border, and am so glad I did. This revised border lies much flatter than the previous one, and suits the overall design much better. The total yardage ended up being about 300 yards of CamelSpin, which is somewhere between fingering and DK weight. This design will be perfect for an upcoming KAL - perhaps one aimed at single-skein holiday gift knitting. I might just even have a new yarn blend soon to go with it! but more on that at another time...

I actually have 5 design projects going right now, which is more than I can usually get my head around at once. I justify this completely with the knowlege that the mental exercise I get jumping around among these mathematically puzzling projects is certainly good for prologing the effective years of my brainpower. Or, at least, it counteracts the cocktail-induced degradation. So what are they, you ask?

1. The What Happens in Vega$ sock for the KAL that is launching this Friday. The design work is long done, of course, but I am still putting the final touches on the written pattern. It's done in two sizes, charts and text, and each of them are VERY lengthy due to no two rows being alike. Can't wait to hear people's reactions when they see it on Friday!

2. The shawl shown above. The knitting is obviously done, but the pattern is just a series of rough charts and some notes on odd pieces of paper (and perhaps one cocktail napkin). Lots of writing work to do, and I need to get some good photos.

3. The Fancy Fishnet Socks. You haven't seen these yet - hee! I was inspired by fishnet stockings to create this design which features a fairly simple pattern and some cute as ever knitted appliques. The socks are finished and the pattern is completely finished, and I plan to take them with us on our vacation to get some good photos. I was thinking this would be a good summer KAL, but the next design may be cutting in line.

4. The Pink Ribbon Socks. These are work in progress as you can see in the photo. I was asked by a customer to dye some "Breast Cancer Ribbon Pink" yarn a little while back, and she was so happy with it that she then encouraged me to make the yarn a regular stock item, and to design something to go with it. Because the subject matter surrounding this color is so important, I really wanted to do something special - pretty and feminine, unique but not too difficult. Consequently I started playing with the ribbon motif, and then tied them together in a lace design featuring hearts and flowing ribbons. I'm very proud of the way this design is coming along, and plan to use it for an upcoming fundraising KAL. Status? I'm on the leg of sock number 1, and have also been writing the pattern as I go. This project is likely to be vacation knitting :-)

5. Something completely different! A Scottish-themed non-sock which (if it works) will rely on a new dying technique I recently learned to create cool patterning. I say "if it works" because so far, I've done lots of calculations and have dyed the test skein, but haven't put it on the needles yet. I'll be starting soon - probably more vacation knitting!

On another finishing front, the Social Butterfly KAL is winding down this week and we'll be having our prize drawing on Friday! There have been so many great socks created - including this pair made by Ravelry group member goldisocks. She found the perfect shoes for these socks!

So as you can see, I'll have plenty of things to report as being finished in the near future. Heck, I even finished my taxes last weekend!