Gato Morado Cardigan

The last time Monsieur and I were in Madrid, we came upon the cutest yarn shop, El Gato Negro, during an evening walk. It was closed at the time, but it looked very promising from the outside, so I noted down the address in order to come back the next day while Monsieur spent the day at the Prado.

Man was I right! The shop was chock full from floor to ceiling of a rainbow of yarns! There were mostly synthetic blends in there, but there was also a nice selection of natural fibres, at very affordable prices! There were little samples on display, and the yarn was sold by weight. I spent a shameful amount of time browsing the samples and in the end I chose a 100% wool in this gorgeous purple. There was no label on the skeins and not a lot of information available in the shop, only a small tag with the name of the yarn (“Especial”), its composition (100% wool) and its price (€60/kg – I bought 600g and I used a little under 300g for this cardigan).

EDIT (06/06/2017): Here is the yarn in question (colour #61 I’d say)! Hmmm, and apparently it’s supposed to be used for tapestry weaving or embroidery, not knitting… I would totally use it to knit a sweater/cardigan again though!

I knew I wanted to knit a cardigan, but I had no idea which one. Back in Brussels, we went to a yard sale where I found a series of old buttons (I’ve already used some of the black ones on my starry Cardamome), among which were these purple ones I hoped I would be able to use on the same project as my Spanish yarn.

Not long after, Andi Satterlund published the Blaster cardigan. I immediately thought of my purple yarn (and buttons!), but I was not sure it had the correct gauge. I was actually not sure what its gauge/weight was at all, nor which needle size it called for. It looked either sport or DK weight, but I had to knit a gauge to check. I tried 3,5 mm needles first, but the fabric seemed too tight, so I changed to 4 mm ones. These gave a much nicer result… and actually got gauge for the Blaster cardigan! Now if that wasn’t fate…

The only modification I made to the pattern was lengthening the sleeves. I’ve come to realise wool cardigans with 3/4 sleeves are not the most practical for me, so that’s an adjustment I often make. I simply went on knitting and decreasing until I got to the length I wanted. I seem to remember that the number of stitches I got at the very end of my sleeves, pre-eyelets and ribbing, didn’t suit the eyelet pattern and that I decreased two at a time on the last row to adjust for this.

Other than that, I followed the pattern as written. It was my tenth time knitting an Andi Satterlund sweater, so it was smooth sailing.

The yarn was very nice to work with, too. It’s a little bit drier than what I’m used to, but that’s not something negative. I’d say it’s very similar to the touch to Drops Fabel, to give you an idea. And it’s already proven to be quite hard-wearing, judging from the impressive number of times the cardigan has been worn since mid-November. Not to sound like a broken record again, but I do love the finished cardigan! It goes with a lot of my dresses, but it seems like it was made to match my purple Emery, doesn’t it?

PS In case you were wondering, the foxy brooch I am wearing in the pictures was made by Mimolette, using a Mollie Makes freebie from a few years ago!

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Little House on the Emery

Emery1What better way to (re)start catching up with my backlog of unblogged garments than with one of my favourite ones?

This is a Christine Haynes Emery dress (size 4), made with lovely quilting cotton I bought (heavily discounted!) from Fabric Rehab. I lined the bodice with some lilac cotton I had lying in my stash.

Emery6I substituted a simple gathered skirt for the skirt of the pattern. I finished the dress fourteen weeks ago (thanks, Instagram!), so I don’t exactly remember why. Probably good old laziness… I remember thinking “yay, I’ll be able to tear the fabric for the skirt!” and then being disillusioned when realising that the fabric was printed a tiny bit off grain, just enough that it was impossible to keep the rows of houses of the print in line with the torn edges. So I had to cut along said rows of houses instead of perfectly on grain to make sure that the houses wouldn’t hang askew on the finished skirt.

Emery3Other than that, this was a pretty straightforward dress to make. However, as with absolutely every single sewing project of mine, there was a moment right near the end when I persuaded myself that it was going to be a dud (it’s a sickness, really!): this time I focused on the imperfect print matching at the back. I didn’t even try keeping whole houses on the skirt for lack of fabric, and weirdly this didn’t bother me at all, but I did try it on the back bodice and the almost but not quite entire houses running along the (hand-picked) zipper annoyed me so much that I couldn’t see anything else anymore. But as usual, after letting things settle for a while and especially after wearing the dress, I can barely see what was upsetting me so much at the time!

Emery4Now that I have been wearing the dress for a while, the only thing I might change for a future version would be to maybe shorten the bodice (or just the back bodice?) by a centimetre or two for an even better fit. The waist is also a little bit wider than I would have chosen, but this makes for a more comfortable dress, so I don’t think I would change that after all. I like my high-waisted skirts to have zero ease at the waist because otherwise they don’t stay put and among other things don’t look as nice with cropped tops as a result, but with a dress there’s no risk of the skirt part moving around since it is held in place by the bodice.

Emery2I’ll be back very soon to try and show you the rest of what I made… before the end of the year! Yes, I am so hopelessly rigid that, save for ones I would complete at the very end of the year, I just can’t start 2016 without having blogged all of my 2015 makes! Or maybe I am just looking for an incentive to start blogging regularly again? 😉

Emery5

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!

Aubergine Aubépine

Aubépine1I had been wanting to sew the Aubépine dress in this fabric for a little over a year. I got the fabric at a swap last year and even though I didn’t like its colour, a very pale yellow, I thought it would be perfect for the dress once I had dyed it a beautiful purple.

BeforeAfterI was sure it was either all viscose or a viscose and cotton blend, but judging from the result of the dyeing, it must be a viscose and synthetic blend: the weft came out a perfect purple while the warp stayed the exact same pale yellow as before. Ah well I thought, it’s still a nice colour!

What I didn’t like (and still don’t) is that once dyed, the fabric got sort of a shiny quality. Not only do I not like that per se, but it also has the unwanted effect of emphasising each and every crease. And unfortunately, there are a lot of creases on this dress!

Aubépine2I knew the fabric was prone to distortion, so I had planned on using fusible bias tape to stabilise the neckline and armholes. But I didn’t have any in stock and I didn’t think to staystitch instead, so between the pressing and sewing of the tucks and darts and other manipulations, when I sewed the shell and lining together, the shell bodice had grown bigger than the lining bodice.

So while the lining is a perfect fit, the exterior fabric is kind of a mess. There are creases everywhere on the front bodice even after the most careful pressing. The back bodice is a little better except for a few centimetres at the sleeve seams.

Aubépine3Another bad choice I made was forgetting that the waist seam was going to be enclosed in the waist casing and using French seams there that were not only not needed, but that added bulk in the casing.

All of that is not bad enough that I don’t want to wear the dress, but it does make me a bit self-conscious at times, and then I have to remind myself that people who don’t sew won’t notice there’s anything wrong with my dress.

Aubépine4And the dress is so comfortable that it would be a shame not to wear it! I even replaced the drawstring with a piece of elastic for maximum comfort. For that I didn’t make two buttonholes at the front of the dress but only one buttonhole at the back of the lining, to be able to thread the elastic through the casing.

Aubépine5Except for the replacement of the drawstring with elastic, I followed the instructions to the letter. The step I dreaded most was making the tucks and this was actually a piece of cake. The part I found most tedious was basting the shell and lining waist seams together before sewing the casing: this took way too much time. Other than that, I really enjoyed the process of sewing this dress.

And I love the lining I used: it’s a beautiful silk that was a delight to sew and that is a delight to wear. I wasn’t keen on using the recommended cotton voile as a lining because of static cling with tights (it is a fall dress after all), and this silk is a perfect substitute.

Aubépine6As a matter of fact, the beauty of the lining, the fact that everything is French seamed and my issues with the outside bodice mean that the dress is almost prettier inside than outside!

A Week Of Hats: Que reste-t-il de nos amours?

QueResteTIl1And here’s the last hat of the collection! There’s something of a déjà vu, no? It’s pretty much the same pattern… in that there’s no pattern: I didn’t take any notes the first time I made this hat, and of course I didn’t think to take any notes the second time around! This was more of a try on as you knit thing.

QueResteTIl2And it’s not exactly the same hat either: the turban part of the first one I knit was detachable whereas the turban part of this one is attached to the hat. I actually always wore the first hat with the detachable band on and I lost it and haven’t used the hat since, so I thought it would be better for that version to be in one piece.

QueResteTIl3It was not made in one piece though: I knit a hat (with ribbing at the bottom for it to fit comfortably) on the one side and a turban band on the other side and I joined them afterwards by sewing their bases together.

QueResteTIl4This was an easy hat to knit, and I held the yarn double so it was a pretty fast knit, too, but what was most difficult was unravelling the original sweater to make it into usable balls. The yarn has a mohair quality to it and the sweater had been worn and washed a lot since it was knit at the end of the 1980s, so this was not an easy feat!

QueResteTIl5Turbans were a very popular style during the 1940s so I wanted to include one in my collection, and I also knew I wanted a sewn hat and a knitted hat for my two techniques free of choice, so I thought a knitted turban would be fitting. The result also has a 1920s look to it, I think it will depend how I style it in the future.

QueResteTIl6I named this last hat after this song, another one of my favourites and the epitome of a cold weather song.

And that’s it for the collection, thank you so much for reading!

New York Hoodie

Hoodie1Proudest sewing moment ever: I not only finished a gift on time (which reminds me, a friend of mine is still waiting for the skirt I promised to sew for her birthday in May… 2013!) but I also drafted the pattern myself!

Hoodie2I had planned on simply tracing my boyfriend’s old hoodie (without taking it apart), but this proved to be such a hassle on a stretchy fabric that I quickly gave up on that idea and found myself drafting my own pattern. I just used the old hoodie and this pattern I own to check whether the length and width of my pattern were correct, then I drew everything myself with a certain amount of guesswork.

Hoodie3By the way, you read it right: I own a hoodie pattern, yet I found it more appealing to draft my own instead of using that one. I really must hate tracing patterns even more than I thought!

Anyway, the result not only looks like what I had in mind, but it also fits the recipient! Luck of the beginner I guess. There’s only one thing I would change in future occurrences of this pattern, and two more the recipient would have me change.Hoodie4What I would change is I would make the hood longer and deeper so that it fits more comfortably over his head. What he would have me change in addition to that is making the whole body and sleeves wider so that he could wear it over several layers (even more than what he’s wearing in the pictures apparently, which is a tank top, a long-sleeved tee and a sweater – and you can see the hoodie doesn’t even look tight over all those layers!) and above all widening the sleeve bands a bit: I swear they aren’t tight at all, you can sort of see it in the pictures, but feeling something touching his wrists is a pet peeve of his so he usually wears clothes that have much more ease than what I personally think he would need (that’s why such a thin – yet very tall – guy wears size XL clothing!). He also feels suffocated when something touches his neck, which is why he didn’t close the zipper all the way up – never will! Ah, Mr Picky, you’re lucky I love you! 😉

Hoodie5Despite his (constructive) criticism, he still said he was happy with the hoodie and he took it with him to New York and I know he’ll be wearing it a lot, so this is actually at least as rewarding a sewing project as those destined for myself.

Hoodie8As regards the technical details, I lined the hood and made the cuff and body bands with self fabric: I initially wanted to use some ribbing for the bands, but I didn’t want to bother with finding (or dyeing) the right colour, and mostly I knew Mr Picky would HATE the snug fit of ribbing! I was a little bit afraid the result wouldn’t look as professional as with ribbing, but I was pleasantly surprised!

I used an assorted purple separating metal zipper which I bought in a great local shop where they specialise in zippers of all colours, types and sizes. They even cut this one to the exact length I needed and it looks like it has always been this length: you can’t see where they cut it or moved a tooth even if you try! Unfortunately, this great shop that has been there for as long as I can remember is moving outside of Brussels in June. 😦

Hoodie7I realised on Sunday that I needed some metal eyelets for the hood lace before I could tackle the next step. Since I didn’t want to wait until the next day for the shop to be open, I delved into my stash in search for a replacement… and found out that I not only had an eyelet plier, but also two whole bags of eyelets in two colours: gold and silver. I had completely forgotten that my mother had bought me those some time ago!

Now that I (know that I) have all those eyelets, it shouldn’t be too long before I replace my own ratty hoodies! Though I don’t think I’ll bother drafting the pattern myself this time, seeing as one of them is so ratty I’ll have no qualms just taking it apart and using the pieces as a pattern!

Hoodie6

Marcianita Dress

Viviane1Oooh, shiny! Maybe too much? And also too puffy? That’s what I thought when I sewed the yoke on and saw it on the dress for the first time, especially after my boyfriend saw it too and started singing this (warning: that link makes noise!) and joking about how funny it was that I was going to a 1920s party with a futuristic costume.

Viviane2But as I said yesterday, even though it’s a bit kitschy, I actually like the end result and I’ve worn it a few times already on days when I wanted to be comfortable yet put together, so I call it a success! It’s not perfectly comfortable, the armholes are a touch too tight (and they have a tendency to wrinkle after I wear the dress for some time), but it’s subtle enough that I don’t really think about it while wearing the dress.

Also, the fabric I used (a silk voile I bought for a song!) is so lightweight that the slightest gust of wind makes the skirt portion fly out and reveal, well, everything under it, oops! Let’s just say there have been a few instances when I was grateful I was wearing opaque tights.

Viviane3

I don’t really know what is happening there. Is that my Marcianita pose?

The pattern (Viviane by République du Chiffon) is a pdf you have to assemble and trace, which doesn’t bother me too much as I trace all my patterns, and at least this means you don’t have to print and assemble too many sheets of paper, but it was a MAJOR pain assembling those sheets as none of them did match! I had to “gather” the paper in many places so that all the lines would remotely correspond to each other, not a pleasant experience. Other than that the pattern was ok and the instructions were clear, though if you ever make it I would advise drafting a facing for the lower part of the yoke to get a rounder and more even edge: if you follow the instructions for that part like I did and just turn the edge under, it’s pretty much near impossible to get a smooth result, especially with a lamé like I used.

Viviane4Oh yes, and I know I’m really slow, but I was surprised at the time it took me to sew the dress compared to how easy it looks, but this may have to do with me using French seams and adding side-seam pockets, or just being even slower than I thought I was… About the pockets, I added them in the skirt part and I was afraid they would be too low, but I don’t need to perform contortions to put my tissues in there or take them out and my hands are in my pockets in most of the pictures I took, so I guess they must be in the right place.

So all in all, this was not the perfect project I hoped it would be, but it’s still a nice dress and I would not rule out making it again with a few modifications now that it’s already been traced.

PS My blog is one year old today!!! Thank you so much for reading! 🙂

Viviane6

Winter Heather

Bruyère1Phew, I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time on a knitting project… According to my ravelry notes, I started this one at the beginning of November, which means it took me close to four months to finish it, yikes!

Bruyère3It’s not even a very intricate project, but as I said before, the lace made me lose my sanity. Well, the lace at the bottom of the body did: the lace of the sleeves went without a hitch (yay stitch markers!).

And just when I was done with the scary lace, I realised I still had to knit more than sixty centimetres of ribbing for the sleeves… I HATE knitting ribbing! Oh, and after completing the sleeves, I realised I still had to knit the equivalent of a sleeve for the collar, gaaah! The collar went really fast, though, especially since I knew I would be done after that.

Bruyère4

Resting bitch face!

And I love the end result, so I don’t even regret spending so much time on this one. After all, if after spending four month and a few stressful moments looking at the same yarn (Drops Alpaca Silk – colour #08/Heather), you still love its colour, it means you made the right choice. I also love the style of the sweater, so light and flowy! It looks great with the Sureau dress you see on the pictures as well as with a few other pieces from my wardrobe. I’ve already  worn it a few times since I finished it, which bodes well for the future.

There were two things I particularly liked about the construction of this sweater: grafting the shoulders and the way you knit the collar. Grafting was one of those techniques I had never tried and was pretty scared of until I actually tried it and realised how easy it was and how good it looked (I used this video). As for the collar, they have you knit double its height, then fold it to the inside and sew it down. That way the collar holds its shape perfectly.

Bruyère5The only part I’m not really happy about is the lace: even after blocking it doesn’t really look like a garland of flowers like the original. The sleeve lace looks closer to the original, so I’m wondering whether it’s not just the yarn that suffered too much from being unravelled and reknit so many times. In any case, at least it still looks cute, so I’m not going to fret!

Bruyère2PS: Here’s what I’m working on now.

Mulberry Turban

Mulberry2.1Wow, looks like I’ve acquired quite a taste for really intricate knitting projects! Will I be able to knit with needles smaller than 10 mm ever again? Will I even remember how to purl when the dreaded time comes to move past garter stitch?

Mulberry2.2So, I made a turban (more like, a headband that looks like a turban). And the worse part is, it wasn’t even on purpose. I still had a bit of yarn left after completing my Mulberry set, so I decided to use it to knit a big bow for the hat. I cast on ten stitches and I knit until I had almost no yarn left, thinking I’d fold the result in two and gather the center with a small band I’d knit with the very last remain of the yarn. I tried that, and even though the bow was cute, it clearly did not belong on the hat. It was way too bulky and did not look flattering at all from most angles. So I took it off the hat and threw it aside on the couch, much to the delight of my cat who immediately adopted it as a new favourite pillow.

Mulberry2.3It was only a few days (and thus a multitude of cat hair) later that I saw it lying on the couch and had the idea to take off the small piece in the center and see whether the remaining band fit my head so that I could use it as a headband. And, as you can see, it did! I gathered the seam (and made heavy use of the lint roller) and voilà! Instant turban!

Mulberry2.4And look, I can wear it on the matching hat to get extra coverage against the cold! I also really like the retro touch it gives to the otherwise plain hat. Now that looks like a turban!

Mulberry2.5So, this is clearly not the most impressive project, but I have already been wearing it a lot, which makes it a complete success. OK, the only downside may be that I had to rip her favourite pillow away from my cat. Sorry, Olivine!

Mulberry Set

Mulberry5Last Friday, for the monthly meeting of my knitting group, I was reluctant to take my current knitting project with me: it’s a very simple project, except for five rows of lace that I had to frog six or seven times (I actually lost count after a moment) because of small mistakes I could not fix without ripping the whole lace part (it’s the kind of lace you have to work even on the back rows, you don’t just purl those)! I was once again at the beginning of that tricky part, so I didn’t want to risk ruining it again by not paying enough attention while chatting away with fellow knitters.

Mulberry1So I decided to break my self-imposed no UFO rule and bring a simple project I could knit without even looking instead: enter the garter stitch scarf, knit with 10 mm needles! I hadn’t knit a scarf in years: I used to knit one scarf every winter when I didn’t know how to knit “real” garments yet, but since I learnt how to knit shawls, cardigans and sweaters, I hadn’t even thought about knitting a simple scarf, as if it was too easy or something.

Mulberry2It was sooo easy, and such a relief from the lace that had begun to challenge my sanity! I started knitting it on Friday evening and finished it on Sunday, and it’s not like I spent my whole weekend knitting either. Oh, and I made a matching hat on Monday with the leftover yarn!

Mulberry3The yarn is Avelita by Schachenmayr, in a beautiful deep purple colour. I don’t know whether you can tell from the pictures, but it’s sparkly thanks to a pink/purple metallic thread. The garter stitch showcases the glitter effect beautifully.

I cast on 15 stitches and I knit until the end of the seventh ball, which makes for a really long and squishy scarf that you can wrap around your neck up to four times (I only wrapped it up to three times in the pictures). For the hat, I cast on 46 stitches in the round. I knit ribs for a few centimetres then garter stitch.

Mulberry4I’m really happy with my scarf anf hat set and they’ve already been keeping me warm all week (nothing beats four wraps of scarf when you’re biking to work early in the morning!). I should stop thinking that very simple projects are not worth knitting, especially when I see how rewarding it was to get a finished project I’ll get a lot of use out of in four days instead of a (few) month(s). And finally, I own a scarf that is not green! No more (unintended) clashing outfits!