Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ah Spring! When a Young Knitter's Fancy Turns to Fall (2011)

Last year I wrote an identically titled post about a fall-ish sweater and hat that I made for Little C. I called it his Fall Stripes Sweater. This spring I realized that I did the same exact thing and made another fall-like sweater for the little guy. I guess this is in keeping with my natural tendency to think around 6-12 months ahead: you know, the usual wool blankets/ Christmas knitting in July, fall colors during springtime, etc. I may think contrary to the season but at least I'm consistent.

Whenever I have a creative flurry of inspiration in my brain I usually don't act on it right away. I sort of let the ideas sit and percolate, marinate (or some other "-ate"). I feel like if an idea is worth doing, then it will stay in your mind. I either forget the lesser ones, or dismiss them if I'm not feeling it. Sometimes an idea is over a year old by the time I wind up getting around to implementing it.

Other times an idea is sort of a sleeper. That is the case with this sweater. Last September or October I received a Janie and Jack postcard in the mail with a 20% off coupon attached. I noticed a cute little boy on the front of it wearing a brown sweater with pumpkin-esque colors in a raised garter stitch. Then I threw the postcard out with the rest of junk mail and went on with my life.

The image must have been lying dormant in my mind, however, because a couple months ago I became obsessed with this sweater when I realized that I had these colors in my stash yarn. I searched for images of the original online but could not find it ANYWHERE. Oh, Internet, how you have failed me!

I tried to remember what I had liked so much about the sweater. What were the features that jumped out at me and made me pause? I had to go on just a quick glance I had taken at the postcard.
  • The sweater was brown--Check
  • It had a raised garter stitch in varying colors--Check
  • It had pumpkin colors of orange and green--Check
That was it.  And I'm not certain about orange and green being the only colors of the garter ridge either. I was initially going to add tan, but changed my mind. I don't think the original had a zipper, or a collar like the one I made, but I truly can't remember. I'm pretty sure that what struck me the most about the original sweater was its pumpkin-y feeling. Being the pumpkin lover that I am, I know that's what made this image stick in my head.

I used the beginning of the Toddler Raglan Hoodie pattern, just as a starting point to know how many stitches to cast on and to follow the beginning of the raglan pattern. And one final thing: the zipper was a royal pain! I could not find the right length, so I bought a long one hoping to shorten it. I'm pretty sure that this is totally possible, but I don't know how to do it and I didn't bother to look up a tutorial online (b/c I'm lazy). Hence, the zipper is totally jerry-rigged. Ugh.

Is it silly to make a sweater 6 months in advance for a growing little boy? Yes, of course. But I just had to make this idea come to fruition. Hello, it's spring time, people! Time to get out the fall fashion.... Anyway, it's out of my system now and I do have some fun spring/summer ideas floating around in my head. Can't wait to get them started.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fixed Knits

As you can see by the sweater's tag, I did not make this. But I noticed recently that I have been looking at sweater patterns to knit for myself that are very very similar to this design. I bookmarked this pattern in particular a month or so ago and fantasized about making it. (Yes, embarrassingly, I have fantasies about knitting). It really has become a sickness.

Anyway, it finally struck me that I had this purple sweater upstairs in my closet. I love these easy, drapey cardigans because you can mindlessly throw them on with a casual outfit, they allow you to stop sucking in your stomach 24/7, and they're as comfortable as wearing a robe. This purple sweater rarely got worn, however, because it didn't just feel like a robe; it looked like a robe, mainly because of these wing-like, kimono-style sleeves:

I have held on to this sweater--every so often taking it out and putting it on, somehow thinking it would look different--because I really wanted to wear it. It would be perfect if it weren't for those sleeves. As much as I like the knitting pattern I've bookmarked, I feel it's too ambitious for me right now. Again, I'm having a hard time concentrating on reality TV; there's no way I can concentrate on a lace chart. So, I thought I'd give it a shot at altering this existing sweater. If I destroyed it, no big deal (I never wore it anyway b/c of the elephant-like arms). And if it turned out then I could stop thinking about knitting one.

It should be noted that the only reason why I even thought to do this was because of an extremely creative and talented sewing/designing blogger, Kathleen Frances of Grosgrain. She devoted an entire month to sweater alterations/ embellishments recently. I saw her cut up and sew a ton of sweaters (something I never thought to do before) during her Embellish Knit Month tutorials.

What I did was super easy. I put the sweater on inside out, pinned along my arm and side (to get rid of the elephantitis), took the sweater off, sewed alongside the pins, then cut the piece away.

I worried that there would be a lot of fraying (I don't have a serger or anyway to enclose the seam), but it has not been an issue after all. I know there is also some glue-like thing you can buy to prevent fraying, but I don't know the name of it.

This was so easy and vastly improved the sweater. It's wearable now!

Because this project went so well and I had the sewing machine out, I thought I'd finally hem the new work out pants (yes, I'm still in my sweatpants rut) I just got. One leg went fine. The next leg I had to rip out and sew three times because I kept hemming them backwards. I'm not exaggerating either. Three times. I'm still shaking my head about that one.

Other knits that were fixed this past week:

I sewed in Little C.'s zipper--a navy blue one. I sewed it in by hand this time and that worked out better than the machine.

And here's his completed striped cardigan with the buttons on. Also hand sewed by yours truly:

After sewing some buttons on my husband's clothes this week too, I'm totally over sewing; the sewing machine has been banished to its corner in the spare bedroom once again.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

I knew that once I started bragging about keeping my resolutions (of using up stash yarn) I would take a serious tumble into yarn-buying oblivion. It is not entirely my fault: It was a couple weeks ago. I was on a pleasant Saturday outing with the girls. We visited a local, genuine yarn store that I didn't know existed. It's all a blur now, but I remember getting out of the car with the sun pouring down on my unsuspecting head. The wind blew through my hair as I opened the door of the little shop, the tiny bell above me tinkling merrily. It took a second for my eyes to become accustomed to the light. When they did I saw that I had walked into heaven! The luxurious yarns sat blinking innocently at me from their shelves in an array of colors and textures that joyously overwhelmed me. Everywhere I turned were beautiful yarns that I have tried to ignore ever since I started knitting. Gorgeous, high-quality yarns that were made from diamond-encrusted alpacas that graze on Mt. Olympus, and spun into gold by Rumpelstiltskin. Yes, they were that beautiful.

I felt myself spinning around, my senses overloaded. I couldn't resist touching the soft, silky ball of mohair sitting right in front of me. I could have sworn that the yarn purred lovingly under my hand. Everywhere I looked was another wonder. There was no way I was walking out of there without something. I knew it. The yarn knew it. The store clerks knew it.

Despite losing my senses, I did manage to keep my cool enough to buy a good value yarn--220 yards of washable wool. This is very necessary and practical for a child's garment. I somehow came away with buying a pattern, however, that I didn't ever expect to make? Also, because I had to hold the yarn double-stranded for the pattern, I needed to buy double the yarn amount, which was not a good economical choice. Again, I was overwhelmed.

I have justified my resolution-breaking guilt by telling myself that this is a special gift for Little C. His birthday is coming up soon. This sweater vest is pretty versatile and the color looks so handsome on him; it's close to the color of his eyes.  All parents know that it's much easier on the conscience to splurge on your child than it is on yourself. I am still looking for an appropriate zipper. I can't find a color match, so I'm still considering my options. I'm hoping to sew one in sometime in the next week or so.

The "pattern that I did not intend to buy" turned out to be really enjoyable, fast, and a pleasure to use. I would definitely recommend it. It's called Bulky Hooded Vest for Children from Knitting Pure & Simple. It also has instructions for a variety of sizes, so I can see myself revisiting this again. The vest is also unisex, which is handy in case I ever have a little girl.

In spite of my guilt, it was a wonderful experience. I am left with some problems now, though.
1. I have almost 2 whole skeins left of this yarn and I have no idea what to do with it
2. I have become mercilessly spoiled by working with this yarn
3. I can't stop thinking about some of the luxury yarns I saw at the yarn store, like Rowan Lima (so soft and squishy!), and Aslan Trends del Sur (slubby, thick and thin) among others.

Since I don't even know what I would make with those yarns if I had them, it's back to stash-busting and some stripey sweaters for Little C.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Nemesis

When I was in second grade I stopped writing down my math assignments in my homework planner. I figured if I didn't write it down, I would not have to do it. And somehow math would sort of just disappear from my life.

After a day or two of my mother asking me why I did not have math homework at night and me responding that we "don't have any" (what a deceitful child I must have been!) my teacher scheduled a conference with my parents about why I was not doing my math homework.

The adults looked at me questioningly, accusingly, perplexedly during the conference. "S--, why aren't you writing down your math homework????"  they wondered.
The answer was simple. "Because I don't like it," I responded in my little girl's voice. Psychiatrists could have a field day with this response, especially how it relates to the rest of my life events! Ha! God forbid I should ever have to do something I don't want to do.

Anyway, sadly I had to start doing my math homework. Even though I really really really didn't want to. Also, math did not disappear from my life. Even when I got into my major (English) in college and didn't have to take any more math classes. Even after taking GREs and teacher certification tests. Math was still there. And ladies and gentlemen, even now. MATH IS STILL HERE.

Math is like a rash or a fungus that keeps coming back. I need it to halve a recipe I'm making, to know how much paint to buy for a room, and I even needed it to knit this sweater.

This sweater is not knit from a traditional pattern. It's called the Incredible Custom Fit Raglan. Basically, there's a worksheet that you use in order to calculate how many stitches you need  based on the measurements you've taken. In other words, this is really math-y. There was measuring, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division involved with some fraction work. Even just using the word "worksheet" makes me think of math. Which, in turn, makes my armpits start to sweat.

Somehow I suffered through all of this just fine. It wasn't even that complicated, and I'm really not as bad at math as I like to paint myself. (I remember even enjoying calculus in high school--even getting A's in it). I guess I tend to just shut my brain down at the thought of math because, well, I don't like it  I prefer other things.

The sweater did turn out ok in spite of my math-resistance. The v-neck has a crocheted border; I intended on adding 2x2 ribbing to the neck, but I had to pull it out because it wouldn't fit over C's gigantic head. The color is extremely vibrant in person and was picked out personally by my father for C. It makes me think of lush green grass after a rain. Or leprechauns and pots of gold. Little C. has red hair--a lot like a shiny copper penny. He will look just like a leprechaun when he wears this. He's totally wearing it on St. Patrick's Day.
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