Kaboom! Circles Stars Bombs & Flowers shirt is finished!

Just ask me how goddamned pleased I am with myself! Go on, ask me!

I’m pretty goddamned pleased, thanks for asking.

This shirt turned out pretty great and you can tell how I feel by that cat-who-swallowed-the-canary grin on my face. (Or maybe that’s just the look I get when I’m waiting for the camera’s self-timer to go off. Must get a remote shutter release.)

Ta-DA! The completed Circles, Stars, Bombs and Flowers shirt.

Ta-DA! The completed Circles, Stars, Bombs and Flowers shirt.

As you might know from my earlier posts here and here, I made this entirely from scratch: I bought the cream coloured stretch fabric and screenprinted it with 5 layers of motifs. I cut the basic tee shape based on the outline of a favourite-fitting tee I already owned.

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I added a pin-tuck down the centre front, two short pin-tucks on either side of the front neck opening, and two long ones down the back. I drafted a couple of sleeve extensions and sewed them on with decorative zig-zag top-stitching with pink thread, leaving the raw edges exposed. I sewed them closed part-way down but left the bottom half free to swing open, giving a bit of a bell-sleeve effect. (Yes, I know I will regret that the very second I have to wash my hands in a public bathroom and my sleeves drag through the soapy puddles by the sink. But flowy sleeves always seem like such a good idea if you deliberately ignore all the practical information in your brain that tells you they are a pain in the ass.)

That last picture reminds me I’m due for some highlights…those roots are getting pretty nasty. Just booked for next week. 🙂

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I left all of the edges raw, except for the neck opening. As a lazy sewist I love working with fabric that doesn’t ravel at the edges!

I think this is a fitting tribute to my creative and poetic friend Jen who died many years ago at far too young an age, but left me with the words Circles, Stars, Bombs, and Flowers to remember her by. Here’s lookin at you, Jen Hiron!

Scared Stitchless

I am scared stitchless.

I purchased the pattern for the Burda 10/2011 Chiffon blouse with tie band #128B almost a month ago, and bought fabric for it soon after, but I can’t seem to bring myself to sew it.

Burda's chiffon blouse with tie band

Burda’s chiffon blouse with tie band

Trouble is, I’m pretty sure that sewing that fabric is gonna be the death of me. It’s a thin, sheer, ravel-y, drooling monster that keeps me awake at night. Even cutting it was a nightmare.

The five-headed hydra fabric. (Or does a hydra have seven heads? Can't remember.)

The five-headed hydra fabric. (Or does a hydra have seven heads? Can’t remember.)

I do have weaponry to fight the beast: I think I have the right type of needle for my sewing machine; I’m gonna swap out my stitch plate with the wide opening for the stitch plate with the tiny circular opening (apparently a smaller opening for the needle to poke through helps avoid pulling the fabric down into the hole and making the stitches all wonky); and I have read and understood the French Seam tutorial (although it appears to involve actually having to measure…sigh).

But I’m still intimidated. I think I need a Fortify Magicka potion or something…I’ll ask my nephew who plays Skyrim to help me out on that one.

It’s like getting into the cold lake at the cottage. I need someone to just push me in.

In happier news, my Circles, Stars, Bombs and Flowers shirt is coming along nicely. The basic shape has been cut and sewn, and it now awaits some pintuck embellishment and probably longer sleeves.

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Circles, Stars, Bombs and Flowers – for Jen

Is it weird to create a fabric in honour of a friend who passed away? Fuck it, I’m doing it.

Jen was a friend of mine at university — many years ago — who died when she was only about 22 years old. She was a poet who wrote a compendium of poetry called Circles, Stars, Bombs, and Flowers. I think that’s such a lyrical title and it has stuck in my head over all those years.

So I screenprinted some fabric using that title as inspiration. You can also read a bit more about what inspired this in my previous post.  I intend to make a fitted t-shirt out of it that will remind me of Jen when I wear it.  Here’s how it came together:

Silk screen layer #1: circles and stars in lilac

Silk screen layer #1: circles and stars in lilac.

Silk screen layer #2: peach circles.

Silk screen layer #2: peach circles.

Silk screen layer #3: light pink flowers

Silk screen layer #3: light pink flowers.

Cutting the flower motif out of mac-tac...in my 'outdoor studio'

Cutting the flower motif out of mac-tac…in my ‘outdoor studio’

Blending the ink

God I love mixing ink! Watching the colours blend is happiness-inducing.

The finished fabric, after layers 4 & 5 (gold bombs and purplish-grey circles).

The finished fabric, after layers 4 & 5 (gold bombs and purplish-grey circles).

My cat was kind enough to photobomb the picture to give a better sense of the scale of the pattern. Now it's covered in black cat hair. :|

My cat was kind enough to photobomb the picture to give a better sense of the scale of the pattern. Now it’s covered in black cat hair. :/

FYI, in case you’re thinking of trying silk screening yourself, I used a screen printing kit by Speedball that I got from a local art supply shop. It was a very reasonable price and did the trick well. It’s a very easy process, but I am glad that I took a short course on screen printing before I tried this…the kit came with instructions but I think I might have screwed up a bit if I had just gone by those, especially the part about setting up the silk screen frame, where you have to block out the edges with tape or by some other method. Glad I was shown what to do by a pro at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). If you’re in Toronto, the Make Den has screenprinting classes (in addition to their sewing classes) and as of today, July 24, 2013, there’s a Groupon available for their sewing & screenprinting classes for more than half off. Wish I’d seen that before I signed up for the AGO classes!

The Scarlett O’Hara Apron

The movie Gone With the Wind made a big impression on me when I was a kid. It seemed to be on TV an awful lot on Sunday afternoons, right up there with The Sound of Music, so I saw it a lot. But Carol Burnett’s spoof of GWTW might have made a bigger impression. I’ll never forget how she spoofed the scene where Scarlett, having no money but needing to look like she does, takes a set of green velvet curtains and makes a gown out of them to go impress Rhett. Carol, as Scarlett, comes down the stairs in a gown still with the curtain rod in it across her shoulders. God, she was funny. (And she was a successful comedian long before society had really come to accept women as comedians…you could argue it still hasn’t if you listen to any internet comedy stream — so few women to be heard. But that’s a topic for another post.) You can see part of the Carol Burnett skit here.

So I pulled a Scarlett O’Hara and used an old roman blind that I had sewn from Ikea fabric, and turned it into an apron. I’m taking a screen printing course at the Art Gallery of Ontario and we had to bring our own smock. Having too much time on my hands at the moment, I thought I’d make my own. And this seemed like a good way to re-purpose those roman blinds that have been sitting rolled up in the basement since I replaced them a couple of years ago.

I simply cut out a basic apron shape from the fabric, without measuring (of course). Well, ok, I admit I measured how wide it needed to be. But I actually did that thing where I held my hands apart about the distance I needed and walked over to the fabric with my hands still held in the air and measured that way! I’m absolutely incorrigible. Then I folded over the edges and topstitched all around. One strap across the top, and two ties at each edge, and viola.  The top strap is long so that it easily slips over the head; just make a knot at the top once it’s on for a better fit.

The basic shape of the apron. Authentically smeared with screen printing ink!

The basic shape of the apron. Authentically smeared with screen printing ink!

The other true-to-form thing I did was cut it too short, cause I was just kinda eyeballing it. So I attached an extra piece across the bottom (you can see the seam). Measure once, cut twice, kids! But who cares? It’s a smock for painting! Having used it a couple of times already, I realize it could use a pocket for holding a tool or whatever while working. Eventually I’ll attach a patch pocket to the front.

Scarlett O'Hara, eat your heart out.

Scarlett O’Hara, eat your heart out.

Here’s a picture of the fabric I’m screen-printing, in progress. My inspiration comes from I Heart Fink on Etsy, who makes gorgeous tops & dresses from screen-printed jersey fabric. I’ve got two Fink shirts in my wardrobe and they’re super-flattering. I’m going to use one of them as a template to sew my own copy with my own screenprint on it. I have a new appreciation for the detail in the Fink pieces — I’m not likely to get nearly as beautiful a screen print myself.

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My screen printed fabric in progress

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Second pass of screen printing: peach coloured circles have been added.

This is my first time in a very long time I’ve attempted to mix actual paint colours (most of my colour selections have been digital over the last decade or so). I was kinda hoping for a more light-magenta colour but instead I got mauve. Oh well, not a tragedy. I just got some metallic gold ink so we’ll see how that adds to the mix.

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My top from I Heart Fink

Another gorgeous I Heart Fink top I bought.

Another gorgeous I Heart Fink top I bought.

I just love those I Heart Fink designs, but they’re pretty spendy so they’re not an every-day purchase. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I can make something half as nice with my own fabric.

X-mess in July

It’s July and if you’re a knitter,  you know it’s time to start thinking about that big ol’ holiday in December, what I like to call the X-mess. Make your list — and only include people who actually appreciate the value of a hand-knit gift — and get started. Which is weird advice coming from the queen of procrastination, who gave her mom a Christmas gift on New Year’s Day last season.

Here are some things I’ve knit and would highly recommend for gifts that you can knock off pretty quickly.

Tom’s Crossed Cowl by Melissa Beach

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Crossed Cowl in madelinetosh merino colourway ‘forestry’

Availability: Free online

Why I love it: this is the perfect neckwarmer. I have knit other cowls that are simply too wide — they gape open at the neck which makes them pretty useless as neckwarmers. Fine for decoration, sucky for an actual Canadian winter. This cowl cozies up around the neck without feeling restrictive.

Bonus Benefit: it’s much more compact than a scarf, so you can easily put it in a pocket or purse when you duck inside for a moment.

My versions: I have made two from Madelinetosh Merino, which is my absolute favourite yarn I have ever knit with.

Time Commitment: of course this varies, depending on your own speed of knitting, but for me these each took about 2 – 3 evenings’ worth of knitting.

The Honeycomber Hat by Wendy Barnard

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The Honeycomber Hat in Mirasol Nuna

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Availability: downloadable for $5.25 

Why I love it: Just look at it! It’s such a great looking hat! It’s knit with DK yarn, which means it’s not that great for super-cold weather, but I found it to be the perfect hat for late fall/early winter/late winter/early spring.

Added Bonus: It looks like complicated colourwork but it’s not. No stranded knitting, no intarsia. You only ever work with one colour at a time on any given row. The colour pattern is formed using slipped stitches.

My version: knit with Mirasol Yarn Nuna (40% silk, 40% wool, 40% bamboo). I used just under one skein each of 1037 Golden and 1041 Plum.

Time Commitment: for me it was 3 – 4 evenings’ worth of knitting.

Wave Cowl by Rebecca Hatcher

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Wave Cowl in Noro Cashmere Island colourway 6

Availability: Free online

Why I love it: The wave design (created using Short Rows) really comes to life when knit with a self-striping wool. Every time I see this cowl I am delighted by the brilliant colours of emerald, purple, and sea blue.

My version: Knit with 2 skeins of Noro Cashmere Island, colourway 6. I think this yarn has been discontinued but any worsted-weight Noro should do the trick. I did make modifications to the original pattern to make it slightly conical-shaped, rather than a straight-up tube.

Caveat: this is one of those cowls that I find too wide to be all that practical. If I made this again I would probably cast on fewer stitches, enough to drop one repeat of the wave pattern, for a more snug fit around the neck.

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If you can gaze upon these colours and not feel joy, there’s something wrong with you.

 

Show-Stopper Bracelet by Karen Catlin

Availability: Free online

Why I love it: It’s a lot of fun to create a beaded bracelet by knitting with wire. The process is pretty easy: string all your beads onto non-tarnish wire, cast on a few stitches and knit every row, adding a bead to every stitch or every other stitch or every other row or however you want to do it.

My versions: I’ve knit several versions of this using crystals, stone beads, plastic beads, or a combination. On each I used a multi-strand tube clasp for a fastener.

Time Commitment: I’m pretty sure I knocked these off in one evening. Maybe two.

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Bracelet with Fluorite beads and crystals

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Here’s that Christmas-cum-New-Years-gift I made for my mum last year. It’s Voluta by Rachel Erin. (And of course it doesn’t fit me in these pics because I made it for my mom — still have to get a picture of her in it.) I started it on Nov. 25th but it was a bitch to knit. I ended up wrapping the completed body, sans sleeves, for my mom to open on Christmas, and gave her the completed cardigan on New Year’s. She loved it! But then again, she is my number one fan and has always loved the knits I’ve made for her, even when I was just getting into knitting and made her some pretty questionable-looking things. Yay, mom!

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voluta

voluta

voluta

Do you have a go-to pattern you like to make for Christmas gifts? Or have you ever tried knitting a gift for Christmas and miserably missed the deadline by a mile? I’d love to hear your stories.

Iceland: Knit Inspiration #2

I love Iceland! As I was saying in Iceland: Knit Inspiration Part 1, it’s an amazing country full of amazing vistas, creative people, and of course, lots of knitting. While I was there last summer I was thumbing through a tourist guide our lovely hosts Angela & Starki left in our room, and had a little gasp of squee when I saw an ad for “Icelandic Design” that featured this image:

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Lopi 30 pattern book picturing the ‘Reatur’ sweater on the cover.

So I went on a mission to find the pattern book (Lopi 30) that contained this design called Reatur. Turns out the mission wasn’t too hard as there’s a knitting shop every 50 yards or so in Reykjavik and they carry books in both Icelandic and English. I must admit I cheated a bit on the Icelandic factor for my version; I didn’t use Icelandic Lopi yarn but instead bought some heavily discounted 100% cashmere yarn during the annual July sale at Romni Wools in Toronto. I used Romni’s own brand of cashmere — Romni Wools Cashmere Aran — which I got for $12 per 50g ball, and used just over 9 balls. That still adds up to an expensive sweater but I prefer to look at it as a ‘relatively inexpensive luxury’. The yarn doesn’t seem so lovely in the ball — it’s 4 plies very loosely twisted together, and it appears that it would give a textured or almost slubby look to the finished piece. Which may explain why it was in the bargain basement (and there’s still lots of it there, one year later — I just checked). But when knitted up it produces a perfectly smooth and very soft fabric.

Here’s my completed Reatur:

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My Reatur sweater

I was really pleased as punch about this one, although there were a few pitfalls and a couple of things I would do differently in retrospect. Firstly, the pattern sizing starts at a 37″ bust, which is really freaking big (I usually knit a 32″). But I was getting 21 stitches instead of 18 stitches on my gauge swatch so I figured if I followed the directions for the smallest size, it would come out smaller than 37″. It seemed to work, although I do find this sweater overall too big.

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I made the mistake of using a knitted cast-on instead of a long-tail cast on. I normally use a long-tail cast on but I figured since I had to cast on a LOT of stitches, it would be easier to use a knitted cast-on…no underestimating how much yarn you’ll need and then having to start over again with more yarn and all that. I had no idea that a knitted cast-on comes out really unstructured! You can see what I mean in the picture above. It’s very loose and little messy looking, and I really wish I had used the more stable long-tail cast-on. I suppose I could tighten the hem up with a crocheted chain stitch edging, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet, and not sure if I will bother.

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I was terrified of steeking this. Steeking, if you’re not familiar with the term, is when you knit the whole thing in the round, doing a couple of purl stitches along the middle of the front, and cutting it open along that purl line to create a cardigan. Before you cut, you have to either machine-stitch or do a crochet edge along either side of the purl stitches so that you don’t wind up with a huge pile of useless scraps of yarn at your feet. The idea of cutting your knitting is truly terrifying, but it worked out ok.

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Obligatory cat picture

I used Noro Silk Garden for the yoke pattern, which gives the same striped effect but without having to buy one whole ball of each different colour as called for in the pattern, which adds up in price and leaves you with lots of leftover yarn from each ball. Noro really solves that problem, as well as eliminating the need to weave in a lot of ends as you change from one colour yarn to another.

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As a reward for sitting through all those pics of my Reatur sweater, here are some more pics of my trip to Iceland last year for your viewing pleasure!

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The groovy looking church in the town of Stykkishólmur, on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

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The famous Blue Lagoon, where bathing in the effluent of a geothermal power plant seems like a good idea.

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Some Icelandic horses, much smaller than ‘normal’ horses. They don’t gallop, but just trot really fast, which is kinda ridiculously cute.

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The Solfar (Sun Voyager) sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason on Reykjavik Bay.

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Waterfall in Thingvellir National Park. Like something right out of Game of Thrones.

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The amazing Gulfoss waterfall.

Harpa

The Harpa concert hall at the edge of Reykjavik bay.

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Late-night sunset in Reykjavik

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A puffin! On Reykjavik bay.

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And if you go to Iceland, don’t order the fucking whale, ok?