Vanessa Cable Cardi

I completed this sweater in December using the Vanessa Cable Cardigan pattern from MillaMia Sweden.

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I’m a tad disappointed because I had dreams I would look like this woman…

Milla Mia Vanessa Cable Cardi

…complete with cool neon yellow trim. But I would’ve had to buy neon yellow yarn and knit with it, as opposed to choosing burgundy yarn. I guess I didn’t really think that part of it through. 😉

It was a pretty long project as the front panels were comprised of endless amounts of cabling. On one of the panels are a few rows of tight, kinda messed up knitting, which will be my everlasting reminder of that time I was knitting while watching the Season 5 premiere of the Walking Dead.

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I’m also a bit bummed because I thought the neck might be more like a funnel neck, but the collar just lies flat. Note to self! — don’t be fooled by models holding up collars in the pattern photo! I have been fooled by this more than once (see my asymmetrical moto jacket).

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It’s a lovely warm sweater, and the cabled fronts are extra warm as the texture makes the fabric thicker and seems to trap body heat.  I used one of my favourite yarns: Sandnes Garn Mini Alpakka for the taupe sections (colour #2650). It is soft and a bit fuzzy and lightweight yet warm. I love it. The burgundy contrast is Garnstudio Drops Alpaca in colour #3969. This is a very similar yarn but not nearly as soft and fuzzy.

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This is the third pattern by MillaMia Sweden I have knit (see my Annika cardigan and Erika cardigan), probably because I can’t seem to get enough of their use of colourblocking and contrast trim on their designs.

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This might be next on my MillaMia hit list (but how many cabled cardigans does one compulsive knitter need?). It’s a free download…click the image to get it.

MillaMia Livia Adult Cardigan

MillaMia Livia Adult Cardigan – free download

Or perhaps this:

MillaMia Bella Jacket

MillaMia Bella Jacket

Finished Knitted Cardi & Work-in-Progress T-Shirt Dress

Black Knitted Cardigan with Lace Collar

I just finished this cardigan…started it in December — whew! It was an on-again, off-again kind of affair. It’s a bit of a milestone for me because it is the first garment I’ve knitted for which I didn’t follow someone else’s pattern! When I first started knitting a few years ago I remember browsing through projects on Ravelry and seeing knitters who had made modifications to a pattern to suit their liking or, even more shockingly, had knit something out of their own head! It seemed as easy to do as traveling to the moon as far as I was concerned. But now having knitted dozens of sweaters (not all of them wearable, of course), and then having added sewing to my pastimes, I’ve gained a pretty good sense of garment shape and construction, so now it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Experience is everything, I guess.

Black Knitted Cardigan with Lace Collar

Black Knitted Cardigan with Lace Collar

It’s a basic top-down raglan cardigan, and I added a collar band knitted in a lace pattern I found in a book called 400 Knitting Stitches: A Complete Dictionary of Essential Stitch Patterns by Potter Craft. (Ok, so I didn’t make up the whole pattern; making up a lace pattern still seems like landing on the moon to me.) Looking at these pictures now I think this style would have been better just a few inches longer, but whatever. Still also debating whether to rip back the sleeves a few inches and add a sideways lace panel to each sleeve to finish them off. I also notice I look pretty puzzled in the pics where you can see my face — that’s me still figuring out whether my remote control shutter release is going to work or not. 🙂

Black knitted cardigan with lace collar

Sewing-wise, here’s what I’m working on at the moment, and I need some advice from you experienced sewists! This is Burda’s Cap Sleeve V-Neck Dress from the June 2014 issue.

Burda Cap Sleeve V-Neck Dress 06/2014 #102

I was intrigued by the subversive little design detail on this otherwise very simple dress: the front and back are cut a little skee-wiff (how do you spell that word, anyway?) so that you need to straighten out the side seams once it’s on, creating a twist across the midriff.  But I screwed up sewing the neckline, as you can see in these pictures. I sewed it with a twin-needle, didn’t use any stay-tape/binding at the neckline as instructed (cause I’m a rebel that way; a stupid, regret-filled rebel), and I clearly stretched the fabric out a bit as I sewed it. So you can see the neckline doesn’t lie flat because it’s stretched out of shape. My question for you is: can I rip out the neckline seam and resew it, and will the fabric survive and the neckline become a shining example of my sewing whoop-assiness? Or do you think this basic T-shirt fabric would be shot by the time I’ve sewn and ripped and sewn it again? Should I sew with a twin needle or regular straight stitch? Is the bias tape really necessary if I don’t stretch the fabric while stitching? Ok, that’s several questions for you.

Burda Cap Sleeve V-neck Dress 06/2014 #102

I think it would be a gorgeous little dress if I got the neckline right…and if I can hold in my breath the entire time I’m wearing it to ensure full gut in-suckage. This pattern is definitely drafted with negative ease, so bear that in mind if you intend to sew it — go up a size if you want a little wiggle room.

Truth be told, I’ve thrown myself into gardening, sewing, and knitting lately because all this refusal to acknowledge all the misogynist fuckery going on in online editorials & comments lately is actually, truly making me feel despair. Anyone else feeling the same?

Anyway, let’s get our heads back in the sand(box) of sewing and please let me know what you think I should do: rip and re-do, or start again? Thanks for your help!

Right on Target?

Your advice needed! I picked up this cardigan and these pants at Target a few days ago, and I’m pretty sure I did a fist pump while I was trying them on in the change room. Tuxedo-style ankle pants in colour-blocked black and white! [Fist Pump!] Colour-blocked cardigan in black and white and bright blue with groovy mesh on the back and sleeves! [Fist Pump!] Cardigan by London-based designer Peter Pilotto for cheap! [Fist Pump! — even though I’d never heard of Peter Pilotto before, if he wants to do a line of cool clothes with fun and colourful prints and colour-blocking for us plebes, please! — feel free!] Cool outfit for less than $70! [Fist Pump!]

Peter Pilotto for Target cardigan, Massimo ankle pants

Peter Pilotto for Target cardigan, Mossimo ankle pants

I was visiting my folks in Florida so when I got it back to their place, I modeled it for my mom, who was very impressed and liked it a lot. A little later my dad came back from a walk and said — and I quote: “Oh…my…god….That’s…”  And that’s all he said. 😐

Peter Pilotto for Target Cardigan and Mossimo Pants - back view

I swear I just spent 5 minutes with a lint roller on these pants and they’re STILL. COVERED. IN. CAT. HAIR.

So then I get back to Toronto and model it for my husband. “Whoa,” he said.
“Is it a bit much?” I asked.
“It’s just that it looks like you’re about to go race-car driving or something,” he replied.

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The cat-hair culprit, skulking back from just having eaten a tray-full of bread pieces my neighbour put out for the birds.

So I turn to you, dear readers and friends. Is this outfit a winner or no? Please vote in my poll.

By the way, when I asked my husband to take photos, he said, “but you didn’t sew any of that” and I said “I’m doing a poll to ask if I should wear this”. He, still in his pyjies and robe, donning boots so he can come outside to take the pics, said, “I’m gonna take a poll to find out if *I* can wear *this*!” What do you think? Is his outfit a winner? 😀

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My fashion-forward photographer. He’s covered in cat hair, too. Ha.

I’ve got a crush on an 81-year-old woman

I’ve managed to turn out a couple of new garments in the past couple of weeks, and I’ve also developed a school-girl crush on an 81-year-old woman in Britain.

First, here’s my new Annika cardigan, based on the pattern by Milla Mia Sweden.

Annika Cardigan

I modified it a fair bit from the pattern directions, mainly making the bottom half far narrower than called for. I’ve detailed the mods on my project page in Ravelry. I used Sandnes Garn Mini Alpakka yarn, a sport-weight alpaca which made this cardigan lightweight but warm, wonderfully soft, and with a great drape. This may be my new favourite yarn, and lucky for me my Local Yarn Shop, Romni Wools, carries lots of it at a very reasonable price.

Annika Cardigan Sleeve Detail

Annika cardigan back view

While I was finishing up this cardigan, I binge-watched The Great British Sewing Bee. Ok, there’s only 4 episodes altogether so it’s not like I stayed on the couch for 5 days straight. 😉  What a nerdy, amazing concept for a show! A bunch of competitors are given sewing challenges (e.g. sew an A-line skirt in 5 hours, modify the neckline of a store-bought shirt, etc.) and a couple of professional judges decide which competitors have to leave at the end of each show. If you’re a sewing enthusiast, I highly recommend it. You can watch all the episodes on YouTube starting with episode 1 here. During the course of watching I developed quite a crush on Ann Rowley, the competitor who had been sewing for about 70 years. I defy you to watch this program and not develop a crush on her, too!

One of the projects Ann sewed for the show was a Chanel-style jacket in a pinkish tweed fabric which I just loved. So I Googled a bit to find out if the pattern was available (it’s Vogue 8804 and Ann has posted a picture tutorial for sewing it here), I discovered that Ann is also a knitter, AND — and you’ll only understand why this makes me happy if you’ve ever had a school-girl crush on a fellow knitter — in lurking on her Ravelry projects page I found that she had also knitted the exact same Milla Mia Erika cardigan I had. Squee! (Weird, right? I know, can’t help myself.) This is my version of the cardigan below, and you can see Ann’s version on Ravelry if you want to, but you probably don’t because you don’t have a crush on her like I do. 😛

Milla Mia Erika cardigan

Since there were only 4 episodes of the show, I was left wishing there was more…when along came word that they had just put out a Great British Sewing Bee Christmas Special. Yikes. I’m really not much for Christmas specials, but wanting a fix, I checked it out. But BBC, I’m afraid you took this just a little too far. The 4 finalists from the series were brought back to sew some twee Christmas decorations while the audience was given updates on what they’d been up to since the show (which, I take it, was only maybe a year or so before). Even I, who had proudly watched the whole series without one whiff of shame, felt a little dirty just half-way into watching this one. Ick.

But I still love Ann! 🙂

Have you seen the show? What did you think?

 

TaDaaa: Erika Colour Block Cardigan

Finally finished! The Erika colour block cardigan.

Erika colour block cardigan

Yarn: Cascade 220 Sport in 7803 magenta, 8892 azure, and 8914 granny smith.Pattern: Erika cardigan by Milla Mia Sweden
My modifications: knit it a couple of inches shorter than the pattern called for, and left off the front patch pockets.
My project is detailed on Ravelry here: http://www.ravelry.com/projects/lbeckste/erika-cardigan

Erika colour block cardigan

My husband thinks the colour combo is too much. What do you think? Do I look like a clown?

Erika colour block cardigan

Evil clown, maybe:

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The frustration of not being able to smile naturally in photos overcomes me.

Iceland: Knit Inspiration

Around this time last year I was on vacation in Iceland. It’s one of the few places I’ve been where I decided I had to come back, and soon, as soon as I returned home. What an amazing country! It’s remote, sparsely populated, has incredible landscapes and seascapes, good food, and it’s easy to get around. Everywhere you go, there is yet another unusual vista, or a steaming volcanic vent, or a glacier, or fjord, or black lava field, or rolling field, or waterfall, or geothermal pool, or geyser…

The bay at Djupavik

The bay at Djupavik, Iceland

A black lava beach in Iceland

A black lava beach in Iceland, not far from Grindavik

Fields full of purple lupines in Iceland

Fields full of purple lupines in Iceland

There’s a huge knitting culture in Iceland (however I’m told that the ‘traditional’ Icelandic sweater was really only popularized around the 1950’s). I think there are probably more knitting & yarn shops per capita in the capital city Reykjavik than anywhere else in the world. You can buy lovely wool cardigans, sweaters, shawls and dresses just about anywhere you go, mostly made from the traditional Icelandic yarn Lopi. As Knitting Iceland, which is “a place to knit” and runs knitting-themed tours of Iceland, puts it on their website, “On every corner you’ll find people wearing Lopi sweaters and sheep are never too far away and you’ll even get yarn and knitting needles in most grocery stores around the island.” True dat. I even saw yarn-bombed objects such as telephone poles in tiny little hamlets just about everywhere I went. I’m pretty sure that on the third day of being in Iceland I declared to my husband that I had found my spiritual homeland!

I have a friend who used to knit a lot with Lopi because it has good water-repellent properties. Secretly I thought she was nuts because Lopi is — let’s face it — the scratchiest wool in the universe. But I was inspired to try knitting with it during my visit in Iceland. So I went to the Alafoss outlet just outside of Reykjavik in Mosfellsbaer and bought some balls of Lopi for a very good price, that I would knit into this cardigan. It’s from the Brynja pattern by Helene Magnusson.

Brynja cardigan in Lopi

The Brynja Cardigan in Lopi

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To my surprise, this is one of my most-wearable, favourite garments I’ve knit! Despite being fairly itchy, the Lopi yarn has great structure and has retained its shape without sagging or pilling over numerous wears. This is my number one issue with most of the sweaters I knit — they look like a hobo’s been living in them after only a few wears. Not so this cardigan. And the itch-factor isn’t really an issue, since I’m always wearing it over something else. Some knitters who use Lopi swear by soaking the sweater in water and hair conditioner to soften the fibers; I haven’t tried this myself.

The four-petal rose is a traditional Icelandic motif found in the 'sjonabok', a collection of charted patterns from the 17th, 18th, & 19th centuries.

The four-petal rose is a traditional Icelandic motif found in the ‘sjonabok’, a collection of charted patterns from the 17th, 18th, & 19th centuries, according to pattern designer Magnusson.

Brynja sweater - ribbon detail

Close-up of the ribbon detail. The ribbon helps to stabilize the button band so the snaps don’t pull the yarn out of shape when opened.

That pink ring in the last picture, BTW, is also from Iceland. I bought it at a jewellery shop called Gullkunst Helgu on the main shopping street in Reykjavik. Their designs are absolutely stunning, and, I’m told, are inspired by the landscape and geography of Iceland itself. The uneven, ‘extruded’ look of the silver on this ring is meant to be reminiscent of the rugged lava field landscape. I just love it. But I had a hard time settling on one piece to buy as I thought all their designs were amazing. Here’s a closer look at this ring design from a photograph on Gullkunst Helgu’s website:

Ring designs by Gullkunst Helgu

Ring designs by Gullkunst Helgu. Photo from their website at http://www.gullkunst.is

Iceland inspired a few knitting projects which I hope to share with you, along with more pics of this amazing country, in future posts. Here are a couple more pics in the meantime.

Below is Freyja, the happiest dog in the world. She lives at the Hotel Djupavik, and spends her days chasing birds, eating sheep shit, and taking visitors on walking tours of the area. I have never met a more energetic and all around groovy dog. I adore the name Freyja, which is the name of an Old Norse goddess.

The happiest dog in the world

The happiest dog in the world at what they call “the loneliest hotel in the world”

A view up one of Reykjavik's downtown streets, looking at the Hallgrimskirkja reflected in the near-midnight sun.

A view up one of Reykjavik’s downtown streets, looking at the Hallgrimskirkja (Church of Hallgrimur) reflected in the near-midnight sun.

Have you been to Iceland? Have you tried knitting with Lopi?

On my Needles: Batik Dress & Colour Block Cardigan

There are a couple of things on my needles these days.

I’m making a sleeveless dress from this beautiful batik fabric I bought in Ghana, using Burda’s “Fatina” pattern #6051.

batik fabric from Ghana

Beautiful Batik Fabric from Ghana

Batik dress in progress

Batik dress in progress

And on my knitting needles, I’m working on the Erika Cardigan by MillaMia, using Cascade 220 sport yarn.

Work in Progress: the Erika Cardigan by MillaMia

Work in Progress: the Erika Cardigan by MillaMia

I chose a brighter blue than the model from the MillaMia website, as well as chartreuse for the sleeves instead of grass green.

The Erika Cardigan model

The Erika Cardigan model