A Winter Hat

Just before Christmas I lost one of my two knitted hats, leaving me with the one I never wore because it was itchy on my skin. Since it was cold, I made a fleece hat this January, but I still missed having a knitted hat. I was worried about what yarn to use, since a continuous use of my wool socks caused some temporary itches on some parts of my feet.

One day rummaging through my stash I found that I still had around a skin and a half left from Artesano Aran, the yarn used at my last owls sweater. I made it a bit more than a year ago, and I wore it non-stop during the coldest months of the year (okay, it’s March and I’m still wearing it). It’s warm, cozy and quite soft. I should seriously consider making one in each color so that it doesn’t look like I’m wearing a uniform all the time.

I rubbed repeatedly this sweater and the new skin against my forehead, and it seemed okay. I just needed a pattern that would allow me to use this yarn.

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I like my hats warm. I am mostly a practical person, and despite I like beautiful clothes, the main thing I need for them to be is functional. An issue I have with knitted clothes is the wind. Unless I have several layers of them or an extra wind-stopping element, I will get cold anyway on windy days. So using a thick yarn was not enough. I needed a pattern that would allow me to fold the rim to protect my forehead and ears from the very cold winds. Colorwork would have worked too, but usually it doesn’t include the ribbing, and my ears get cold.

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I found this Hat Most Likely to Succeed and it was all I needed from a hat. A simple design, with a folded rim and suitable for my yarn.

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I had to reknit this one, due to my lose gauge and my very small head. The pattern instructs you to cast on 100 stitches and then increase to 120, making 8 repeats (15 stitches each). I thought that 7 repeats would be just enough for my tiny head, so I cast on 84 stitches, to increase to 105. I also omitted one of the vertical repeats, but in hindsight I think it could have worked with the pattern as it originally was. I did it like this for fear the hat would stretch after being washed (which I still didn’t).

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The hat is warm and cozy, and I have worn it for a couple of weeks during the coldest days. It doesn’t feel as soft as the one made of fleece but it’s good enough for my very sensitive skin. Now my biggest fear is losing it.

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My Ravelry project page.

 

Never underestimate the gauge

The Easter break is a bit longer here in Spain than in other countries, with Thursday and Friday off. I spent those two days and Saturday morning with a light migraine, but I was still able to do some useful things, and one of them was swatching. I am not sure if you remember, but I failed at knitting Penelope some time ago. I knitted the smallest size and just before the waistband ribbing I tried it out and it was like a sack of potatoes. I was horrified that my gauge had transformed so much in the last months that I could no longer knit successful sweaters after being able to test knit for Andi Satterlund several times in the past. What was happening to me? Was my current relaxed lifestyle affecting my knitting?

I saw that the pattern called for 4.5 mm knitting needles, and as usual, I used Cascade 220 wool since, this yarn goes well with this needle size, and in making many of Andi’s designs it has worked very well. Since I often knit with this wool I didn’t swatch, and this was one of the causes of the problem.

After the disaster I decided to swatch and see what I got, just for reference, to check how my gauge had transformed over the years. With 4.5 mm needles I got 18 st x 24 rows (4in x 4 in) before blocking, much different from the required 21 st x 26 rows. Wow, my gauge has definitely gone to hell, I thought, while I almost through a crying fit.

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I reswatched with 4 mm needles and my horizontal gauge was 19.5 st / 4 inch. Still not good enough. I tried then with 3.75 mm and got 20 st / 4 inch. Since the smallest size is 76 inches and my bust is 83, I could live with this, since the desired ease is a negative 0 – 3 inches.

It felt kind of lame to knit this yarn with this needle size, so I decided to check exactly how much my gauge had changed, and rescued an old swatch that I made for Émilien.

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This swatch is blocked, and the gauge is 19 st x 28 rows. Interesting. This means that my tension has indeed relaxed but not as much as I had thought. I went and saw then the required gauges for Émilien and some of Andi’s designs and I would have been fine with my gauge. Why not with Penelope? Now I saw that the required 21 st / 4 inches was not a typical gauge for a worsted yarn. And you know what? The recommended yarn for Penelope is Sincere Sheep Luminous DK. Yes, DK! Checking the Ravelry page for this yarn I see that the recommended needle size for this yarn is 2.75 – 3.75mm, and not 4.5 mm like Andi used. I wonder how she got gauge with this needle size. A tight knitter perhaps?

The conclusion of this is that my gauge has slightly changed, and I blame my efforts to live a more relaxed life, but not as much as I thought, and there is still hope for me to knit more sweaters. The other very important conclusion is that we have to be careful when substituting yarns, and never trust the recommended needle size if the recommended yarn is unknown to us. Swatching before would have saved me some months of frustration.

Astronaut T-shirt

After my first Maria Denmark’s Kristen Kimono Tee I knew this pattern was perfect to showcase this fabric I purchased during Christmas 2014. I made this top last May, but shortly afterwards we lost Gerry and I didn’t have the heart to look at the pictures and publish them on the blog. I hope you understand, it was so painful that this top stayed in my closet for almost a year. I think I am ready to share it now, even though I still miss Gerry very much and I hope he’s fine and happy wherever he is.

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Here Colin, Billy and Daisy wanted to be in the picture. Marvin was also in the room but observed us from afar.

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And then he decided to join and see why I was obsessed with smelling Daisy. I love their smell. I could sniff at them for hours!

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There is not much to say about this top that I haven’t said before. It’s easy, fast, it fits well and it’s free.

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I fell in love with this knit the moment I saw it. It was around 1.5m by the kilo and it was ultra cheap. It seems a digital printed fabric, and even I loved the moment I saw it, I didn’t know what to make and avoid disturbing the print. This pattern was perfect for that.

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These birds drive me crazy but here we’re having a blast!

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SBCC Tonic 2

I wanted to try this pattern for a while since the fit is quite similar to the long sleeved t-shirts I wear in winter, and I didn’t want the Renfrew top cuff and waist bands (yes, I could remove them but I felt lazy and the Tonic tee is a free pattern). I saw it mentioned again on Diario de Naii the other day and that gave me the final push.

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I used a 100% merino that I bought from NZ Merino Fabrics at the end of last year. It’s quite thin and soft, and the top feels very comfortable to wear. At first I though of making a Lady Skater with it, but since I don’t wear dresses in winter, this is a much better use of the fabric. This year I want to make things that I wear.

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The only issue I see with it are some wrinkles in the underarm, not sure if it’s due to my fabric (it has no lycra) or if I may need to alter the amscye.

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As you can see I’m surrounded by birds. It’s true that some times they are by themselves breaking things exploring but most of the time I can’t shake them off.

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Here you can see how it looks untucked. At first I thought it was too long, in fact longer than my usual tops, but now seeing this pictures, I don’t think it’s so much. I will wear it tucked in my pants all the time anyway.

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These are the first pictures taken at the new apartment. They were taken in my sewing room and I’m quite pleased with them. As soon as I have everything set and tidy I’ll show you the rest of the room. The top was finished a couple of weeks ago, but after the move I had issues finding back my tripod, so this top was waiting unworn.

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Hey, Colin, what are we going to break today?

 

Warm Feet

There’s nothing I appreciate more in winter than having warm and dry feet. It’s the time of the year that I go back to thinking about hand knitted socks and regret having just a few pairs. After knitting a pair of Van Dyke socks for my mother, I new I needed a pair for my myself, and the Malabrigo Rios I had in my stash was very tempting.

I knitted them exactly like the ones for my mother, but adding an extra repeat on the leg portion, making a total of eleven, four of them just before the gusset.

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They took a little longer than my mother’s pair just because we were moving and there was a lot to be done around the house.

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I wore them a couple of times and they are very comfortable and extra soft, but the wool looks like it’s going to wear out quite quick and easily. It’s a pity because I usually have problems with itchy yarns on my feet, and this one felt wonderful.

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Despite making the smallest size the socks have grown a little and there’s not much negative ease anymore, it could be that even after fixing my gauge issues, I still knit too loose.

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I’m always careful, but somehow I screwed up the cuffs binding off, since they are tighter than usual and it takes me some effort to take these socks on and off, but at least I can do it 😉

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And you, are you knitting socks this winter?

Vintage Pledge

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After the last year disaster due to my sewing break during summer, I’m convinced to do it better in 2016.

During 2016, I, Elena, pledge to tackle some vintage and reproduction patterns, trying to use fabrics from my stash.

There were two that I wanted to make last year, and I already have the fabric for them.

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Last year I made the one on the left, now I will try to make at least one of the other two.

I have some pink merino that I wanted to use for a Lady Skater, but let’s be honest, I never wear dresses in winter, so this B6285 will be a much better use of the fabric:

 

I’m planning a shirtwaist dress too. I love Maria Denmark’s Edith Blouse so I’ll modify it attaching the Hawthorn skirt to it (the Edith Dress skirt doesn’t convince me). I also have the fabric.

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Gerry, each time I see you it breaks my heart :'(

And one or two vintage blouses would also fit in my plans and would get a lot of wear.

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And yes, I also have the fabric for them 🙂

Stashbusting

I’m not good for making New Year resolutions, but after seeing during the move all the unused fabric I have, it was urgent that I take action, or fabric will completely swallow us one night, birds included. I’m not going to set any strict goal but I will try to use fabric from my stash whenever it’s possible, and I will avoid purchasing new fabric unless it’s completely necessary. Since a lot of the fabric is in large pieces due to many projects dying just after fabric purchase I don’t think it will be hard, and I believe it will be liberating. I have good excuses for having so much untouched fabric, since the last two summers my sewing froze due to several circumstances.

The first stashbusting project was my helmet bag, and here I present you a very quick fleece hat. I just had two knitted hats, and I lost one of them at the beginning of December. The other I don’t like it so much because it’s a bit itchy. I have atopic skin so I’m very picky about yarns for hats. Because of that and how busy we were with the move, I couldn’t knit a new hat, even though I really needed one, since January was so cold that I used to get headaches just by walking five minutes outisde.

So I took the easy way and made a very quick fleece hat using this pattern.

I used some skull fleece from almost two years ago and a pink one from… like six years ago, when we were still living in Brussels and I was starting to crochet.

Funny fact: the day I finished this hat the weather started to warm up considerably, so much that I could never wear it apart from when I took these pictures. Oh, well, I have a new hat for next winter.

Total cost: €0.

The boy who cried wolf and a helmet bag

These last weeks have been hard on us due to the move and everything around it. In our previous apartment we had ADSL, but since we had the option to get fiber in the new one, and at a reasonable price, we went for it. That meant changing companies to save some money but I had everything set up to get it installed on December 31st. That was just before we moved in, and it was the day the painters were doing their job. So I went to the new apartment and sat on a bucket of paint and waited. Two hours passed and there were no news from the technician who should have come to perform the installation. I called the company and the appointment appeared cancelled. Nobody could give me an explanation to why it was cancelled and why I was not notified about it. We made a new appointment for some days later. And then we entered an infinite loop which I decided to break. Four appointments were made and four were cancelled without notice, and two weeks passed during which we didn’t have internet access… and didn’t know for sure when we would get it. I decided then to cancel the contract and go for the company we already had in the past. It was a bit more expensive but at least we could get internet one day. I’ve been using my mobile internet for work and this whole situation was getting on my nerves.

We finally have internet, since the second company set up an appointment two days after we phoned them and they kept their part of the deal. After all these days I began to doubt from the technicians existence.

And I bring you here a quick project.

We had a 125 c.c. motorbike for a short while when we were living in Belgium. It’s the kind of bike that you’re allowed to ride with a car driving license. Koen used it often to go to work, and it took us to the Rockabilly Day on a couple of editions. That small motorbike was heavily loaded with our weight and all our stuff, including a tent.

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I never rode a bike by myself, and I remember practicing a couple of times on a parking lot without much success. I felt too small and clumsy. After some time we sold the motorbike and moved to Spain, and the motorbike bug bit Koen again. He convinced me to attend classes with him and get the motorbike license. My first practical class was a complete failure and I promised myself to never do it again, but I went back and even though I’m not great at it I’m making quite some progress. As soon as I decided that I was going to persist on learning I wanted to make a helmet bag to avoid losing a glove (again) and to keep it tidy at home. I took the idea from here, but as I did not have a bag to make a pattern I used a big plate to trace it.

Then I cut a wide stripe making sure that the total width was enough to accommodate my helmet with certain ease.

The fabric is some left overs from a dress I made almost three years ago. It’s a quite stiff cotton or cotton blend that will be enough to hold my helmet’s weight.

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I did French seams to keep it tidy and strong and finished it as a drawstring bag. I used eyelets or grommets and I installed them using this tutorial.

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I used this bag already some times and I’m quite happy with. It serves its purpose and doesn’t look home made at all.

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And now the birds will want helmet bags for them!

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Total cost of the project: €9.50 (for the notions).

If you also want a helmet bag but you feel that you need a pattern, there’s this one on Etsy. And this is a lovely bag, maybe if I have more time in the future.

PJ’s for Paula, the last project of 2015

My niece Paula has her birthday in mid December, so I always make something and give it to her during my Christmas visit. Sweaters and hoodies have been a real success, but this year I was in a rush due to our forthcoming move. I was about to pack my machines and had no time to struggle with my rebel sewing machine, so I went for the Peekaboo Alex & Anna Winter Pajamas, and I used some organic cotton that I had in my stash for any possible baby/kid present.

img_20151222_121851.jpgThe pictures are quite bad, but I had to use my phone since I had already packed my SLR. I took them in our bedroom, since our living room looked like a war camp zone.

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The upper part had to be hemmed with a twin needle or a zig-zag stitch but my machine refused to cooperate. The technician who gave it back to me when it went for repair already told me that the pressure on the presser feet was too much (even on the lowest setting) and this caused the fabric to cram underneath. I substituted then this for a band, similar to the cuffs. I love my serger!

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Changing the subject, today is a sad day. This morning the world learned that David Bowie has left us, even though his music will stay with us forever. You will be missed, David, there’s now a starman waiting in the sky.

And my favorite of all times:

Do you know the English TV series inspired in this song? It’s brilliant.

New Year, new apartment, new life

Happy New Year peeps! The truth is I don’t care much for Christmas but my new Year wishes come more naturally. I know this new year mark is something arbitrary but even like that I’ve learn to acknowledge it, even if I didn’t stay up until midnight (also arbitrary). I guess I’m an oddball but I have made peace with it long time ago, so I’m happy with it 🙂

2015 has been a mix of things, and I look back at it with some mixed feelings. I started sewing a lot but then we lost Gerry and I was paralyzed for several months. I couldn’t bear sewing or knitting without my crafting buddy. Wherever he is I hope he’s fine and happy.

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We had the hottest summer of the last 10 years, and we decided to adopt two baby lovebirds. It was good to put my insomnia hours to the task of feeding them. Very soon the house was not silent any more, but I hadn’t given up on Gerry. As I never really stopped looking for him, two other rescued lovebirds joined the flock, and we’re now the happy parronts of four naughty lovebirds. Sewing has become a challenge when they’re out, but I love them to bits and they really help to make this our home.

We had repeated issues with our current apartment due to its old age (the building is 150 years old) and a poor maintenance from the owners, coupled with a cheap renovation. When you spend your weekends struggling with a clogged bathroom or trying to exterminate rivers of ants and other bugs, you stop enjoying your home. Also my respiratory allergies have become worse due to mold and the humidity in our bedroom. The building is placed in a very lively area of the city that we love, but due to my health issues we stopped enjoying it almost two years ago, so paying an expensive apartment just to live in the area was not worth it. We decided to look for a new place a bit to the north, so Koen would save time when going to and from work. I keep working from home, so for me it doesn’t matter.

We found a beautiful apartment in an only 35 years old building, just on the area we wanted, and we’re moving tomorrow there. With the Christmas fuss it’s been complicated, but we have almost everything ready for the move.

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I’ve been complaining about my machine for months, and avoiding quite some tasks with it, so the moment of purchasing a new one was close. I didn’t expect to accomplish this at such a difficult time but a haberdashery close to our current apartment was running a 25% sale on all machines, so I decided to take the plunge and finally upgrade.

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As you can imagine, the machine is still packed and I’m almost biting my nails with expectation.

On the knitting front several things happened. I joined the Penelope kal a bit late but hopeful to finish in time. One of my goals lately has been to take things easy (the paleo way) but I took it too seriously and that was transferred to my knitting to. I had the bodice almost done, but when I tried it, it felt like a sack. It was too large. It was just my lose gauge, since I’ve knit other sweaters from Andi and I’ve learned to recognize my size without problems. I was too fed up with it and Christmas was approaching, so I left it parked inside a bag for after the move. At that time I had purchased two books from Wendy Knits: socks from the toe up, and toe up socks for everybody. I found them second hand through Amazon at a very affordable price. I always preferred to knit my socks from the toe up because it allows you to use most of your yarn by knitting a longer or shorter leg, and these two books had very good reviews. Since I couldn’t make my mind about which one to buy I went for both but second hand. Most of the designs are for 2mm needles, something I don’t quite enjoy, but there are some also for 2.5 mm, and I knit the Van Dyke socks to gift my mother for Christmas. I remember that I fell out of love with knitting socks some time ago for various reasons but I think these books will mean a come back.

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I enjoyed so much knitting these that I’m already finishing another pair, this time for myself and dug out my sock yarns to keep my feet warm. I had issues with my gauge again and frogged half a sock and went a size down and focused on knitting a bit tighter. I found the solution at not holding the just knitted stitches with my index finger, something I’ve been doing by accident.

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I recently started to enjoy listening to audiobooks while knitting. It all started because I had to do a challenge test in October and had to spend a whole morning at the doctor’s office. My first audiobook was the Martian (haven’t watched the movie yet), and oh boy, I loved it. The story is amazing and R. C. Bray is an extraordinary narrator. It makes you feel you’re in Mars with Mark Watney growing potatoes.

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2015 was also the year that I adopted the paleo approach and regained some of my health while I was able to reintroduce quite some foods. The last blood work showed that my antibodies are now within normal levels, so I look forward to continuing with AIP which feels just right.

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I don’t have a lot of concrete goals for 2016. It will be in many aspects a clean slate, and I’m looking forward to finding my rhythm and my ways in our new apartment, with my new machine and lots, lots of joy.

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