Hibou Express

owls1Like many knitters, I remember seeing Kate Davies’ Owls pattern for the first time on Ravelry a few years ago and thinking it was both beautiful and fun, but also way out of my league. So I promptly forgot about it, and when I came across it again at a time when I considered I was a knitter competent enough to tackle it, I didn’t see myself wearing this shape anymore.

Then my favourite yarn shop closed its doors and I went and bought about half its stock in the closing sale for fear I would end up with Phildar as my only option again (okay, I know I’m exaggerating; Phildar is not that bad – I really like these three yarns for example, and their magazines – it’s just that I prefer having more choice locally).

Owls3Among my haul was this beautiful tweed yarn I had been eyeing for months even though I don’t even usually like tweed yarn. I had always found it too expensive, especially for a tweed yarn when I was supposed not to like tweed yarn (how many times can I write “tweed yarn” in one paragraph?), but there were the last nine balls with a nice discount, so this time I yielded to the temptation, without really knowing what I would knit them into.

This yarn being a thicker one than what I’m used to, I had trouble finding a pattern I liked that would suit it, but then, as you guessed it, my Ravelry search eventually led me to the Owls pattern again, and although I still couldn’t see myself wearing that sweater as is, I suddenly had the idea of simply cropping it! Now there was a shape I was sure I’d wear a lot!

Owls4It was really easy to crop the body of the sweater (you can read my Ravelry notes if you’re interested in how exactly I did it), and it made a fast knit an even faster one: can you believe it was knit in five days?! I couldn’t believe it either, but the thick yarn coupled to the fact that it’s a close-fitting sweater and that I cropped it made it my fastest knitting project ever, by far.

It took me two more days to sew on the 32 buttons. 32 buttons is a lot of buttons to sew, and I must say I was tempted to leave them off, as I had seen some people had done, but I had already bought them (what was I to do with 32 buttons?), and also once I saw how much cuter the owls looked with their button eyes, I knew they were worth the effort!

Owls5Other than that, I really enjoyed knitting this sweater and watching those cute owls almost literally flying off my needles! The only thing I didn’t like, but that’s a detail really, was that the pattern tells you to close the armholes by grafting some stitches you have put on hold… but that this was far from sufficient to close them! I don’t know whether I did something wrong (I don’t think so because I’ve read other people have encountered the same problem), but I ended up with two large holes on each side of the grafting of each armhole. I closed them up with a few stitches and this took no time at all and looks good after all, so no real problem here; I just found it weird that the method that was recommended in the pattern actually didn’t work.

Owls6Another word of warning, if you ever knit a cropped version of this sweater: the waist ribbing might look freakishly tiny before you reach the stockinette body. Mine was small enough to fit my cat! I freaked out a little bit, but I decided to trust my gauge swatch and go on knitting, and things started to look more normal once I had hit the body, which stretched the ribbing and made it start to look human-sized, phew!

Also about the size, if you want a close-fitting sweater and fall between two sizes like I did, I’d recommend going with the smallest size: according to the schematics, the size I chose is supposed to fit a 30-32’’ bust, mine is 33’’ and I’m really happy with the fit of my finished sweater, even with a few layers under it!

Owls2Though I’ve come to realise such a thick sweater doesn’t need that many layers to keep you warm. It’s one of the warmest sweaters I’ve ever owned. As a matter of fact, I have to make sure I’m never wearing anything too ugly or revealing under it in case I have to take it off or faint form the heat when I’m teaching!

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The Black Zinnia

BlackZinnia5I’m not one to read those magazine articles that assume that every woman needs certain items of clothing in her wardrobe, such as a little black dress and other nonsense (I’m not one to read any of those magazines, period. Not anymore. You wouldn’t believe how much my self-esteem has improved since I’ve restricted my magazine buying to Burda and other craft related periodicals). It’s kind of ironic that I’m saying that when my last blog post featured what could obviously be described as a [shudder] LBD, but seriously, I lived without a LBD for most of my life and I didn’t feel the need for one like, ever!

BlackZinnia1Anyway, rant over I guess. What I wanted to tell you was that a black cardigan was one of the rare garments I felt I needed. I used to own a store-bought one that you can see here (I don’t know why I’m bothering linking to that picture: everybody knows what a black cardigan looks like, don’t they?), but it died and I’d been missing it sorely ever since.

BlackZinnia3There were a few pieces in my wardrobe, such as the dress you see in the picture I absurdly linked to a few rows above, that I always wanted to wear with a black cardigan. But it’s also so much more appealing to knit colourful yarn that boring black yarn, isn’t it? So each time I started a new knitting project, it didn’t even cross my mind that I could make that black cardigan.

BlackZinnia4

Smiling is for the weak.

Enter Zinnia. I don’t know why, but when I was perusing my favourite yarn shop (no link because it recently closed doors and I’ll be sad about it forever 😦 ) to choose some yarn for that project, for once I was drawn to grey and black. The various greys that were available in the shop didn’t really appeal to me, so I chose black.

BlackZinnia6And I am so happy I did! Not only was the black yarn not boring at all to knit (annoying maybe; it was a cat hair magnet! – not so much since I completed it, weirdly!), but I finished this knit two weeks ago and I’ve already worn it so often: it seems like a black cardigan does go with everything. I also like the way the textured stitch looks in black. I was afraid the dark colour would hide it, but it doesn’t and I think it looks great. The yarn is Drops Karisma, a superwash yarn which I’ll definitely use again in the future.

BlackZinnia7I really enjoyed knitting this pattern: the textured stitch kept things interesting yet it was very straightforward to follow. The lace diamonds, too, were a pleasure to knit: I placed markers between each repeat, which I always do when I’m knitting lace, and it made things easy as pie. You can find my Ravelry notes here.

BlackZinnia8When in-between sizes as is often the case with Andi’s patterns, I usually choose knitting a size smaller, which is best with all those close-fitting cropped sweaters I love knitting/wearing, but for this one I preferred going a size bigger since it was supposed to be looser-fitting. And I’m glad with the result: I can comfortably layer one or two long-sleeved tees under it, yet it doesn’t look too loose-fitting either when I’m only wearing one layer of short or 3/4 sleeves.

BlackZinnia9I should be back in not too long with another knit, and then with that skirt I started two months ago. Both are finished and just need to be photographed, alas we all know “just” photographing our sewing projects is even less of a small feat in winter than during the rest of the year!BlackZinnia2

Christmas Eve Outfit

Réveillon4It’s been a long time since I posted a finished garment, and here I am with some of the crappiest pictures I’ve ever posted on this blog, but they will have to do or I’ll never show you any of the last pieces I made, what with winter and its crazy lack of daylight…

I took these coming back from work yesterday around 3 p.m. (lucky me finishing so early! 🙂 ) and I barely had enough light long enough to take them.

Réveillon1So, this is the outfit I made to wear on Christmas Eve. Last year I made the dumbest choice by wearing this skirt which, although very comfortable for daily wear, became an instrument of torture after I had ingurgitated Christmas dinner. Which is why this year I decided I needed the most ample dress possible in order to eat as much as I wanted and not feel like my clothing was trying to kill me.

Réveillon2Enter my beloved modified babydoll Renfrew dress that could hold triplets and a whole turkey! I sewed the waist gathers the same way as for this one (this gathering method makes for a very loose-fitting waist), the sleeves are 3/4 like on this one, but I used a different method for the neckline: for once I didn’t use a band but simply turned under the neckline edge twice. I felt it was dressier.

Réveillon3The sleeves are wide enough for me to layer a 3/4-sleeved T-shirt under the dress for maximum Christmas (and cold weather in general) cosiness. I did not add pockets for lack of time, but I’ll probably add some in the near future because I keep reaching for them when I wear the dress, and of course I don’t know where to put my tissues.

Réveillon5The cropped sweater started its life as a whole nother project. I wanted a cosy sweater dress made from this glittery sweater knit I had recently bought, but when I tried it on I realised it looked positively awful on me! I have no problem wearing things that don’t make me look as thin as possible, or that make me look pregnant for that matter (I guess the outfit I’m showing you today kind of proves my point! 😀 ), but I do wearing things that make me appear deformed! I put the dress aside, feeling there might still be a way to rescue it, and when I started thinking about my Christmas outfit, I immediately thought simply cropping it might make it the perfect companion to the little black babydoll dress I had in mind. And indeed it did!

Réveillon6

I must have been Captain Harlock in a previous life!

I also cropped the sleeves, which were about as unflattering as the rest of the dress when they were full-length. Since my fabric has mediocre stretch recovery, I put some wide elastic in the cuffs to prevent them from getting distorted over time. It does feel pretty stiff, which was weird at first, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.

The original collar of the dress also stood very weirdly and/or didn’t suit me at all, so I simply turned it under and topstitched it in place. I was surprised by how good it looked after this simple transformation!

Réveillon7I have been wearing this exact same outfit a lot since Christmas, but I haven’t worn the two pieces separately yet, which is weird since a black dress and a neutral sweater (gold and silver are neutrals to me – I’m not even kidding!) shouldn’t be too hard to combine with the rest of my wardrobe. I guess I just like them so much together!