Thursday, September 29, 2011


This last weekend I attended Vogue's knitting LIVE which is a convention for knitters.  I always thought my first convention or workshop or other gathering would be a sewing one, but when my Mom mentioned that she was going to this knitting convention in LA, and I could join her if I liked, I decided to give it a try.  To be honest, I would have probably paid money to attend a slug eating convention if it meant a day or two's break from the kiddos, so the knitting thing was a plus.

I had so much more fun than I thought I would have-- I immediately enjoyed the camaraderie with my fellow knitters, and I gave over to complete knitting geekdom.  Is it true that there were a lot of women who were wearing knitted things that I most likely wouldn't be caught dead in?  Yes, but I have to admit, they were very skillfully knitted, and I appreciate talent in any form.

I signed myself up for two classes and a lecture-- Fair Isle knitting, Continental knitting, and whatever lecture my mom was attending which turned out to be Nicky Epstein talking about her career as a knit work designer.

Fair Isle Knitting was taught by the cutest and most adorable woman-- Mary Jane Mucklestone, who, from what I gathered, travels extensively to the Shetland islands to learn/do/teach fair isle knitting.  What's this?  I've always loved Scandinavian fair isle knitting, and anything Scottish, and now I realize that the two are basically merged together in the Shetland islands?  What a coincidence.  If it weren't for my raging American personality, I'd swear that I was born in the wrong country.  Maybe I should have been born sewing kilts and knitting fair isle and celtic knots?  Or maybe my Scandinavian/Scottish ancestry is more powerful than I thought?  I digress, but it is interesting isn't it?  That I would come to love these things separately and then realize they are all connected? I mean it's not as if I fell in love with African color weaving or Mongolian clothing, I'm just saying.

Anyway, back to the class--  I loved it, and fell into a rhythm right away.  I've always wanted to try fair isle, but I was always so intimidated by all of those colors and intricate patterns.  I'm excited to say that I am no longer intimidated and can't wait to give it a try-- in 100% Shetland wool of course.  Want to see what I made?

 Just a few of the motifs designed by Mary Jane and featured in her new book*

 The back side of fair isle

My fair isle sampler/ wrist warmer

I went for a very Scandinavian red/white color combo, and it turned out so well, I think I'll make another to match it.  I started at the hand end with a very simple diced pattern, and worked my way up to the flower pattern.  It was a little more challenging toward the end, and there were times I lost my way, but I figured it out.  One piece of advice was to mark every so often at the end of a pattern repeat so that you can keep yourself on track. Another thing I need to work on is holding the yarn looser on the back so that the work doesn't pucker.

Continental knitting-- this is knitting while holding the yarn in your left hand as opposed to holding it in your right hand and "throwing" the yarn over the needles.  I have always wanted to learn this because I have heard that it is faster, and I am a hopelessly slow knitter.  Also, it turns out, because you make less movements, your fingers and arms strain less-- total bonus.  I loved it, I still need some practice though, and my gauge is much looser, but that's fixable.  I've discovered because it is so much looser, I can use it to bind off without getting a tight end.  All in all, very helpful.  Also, with the fair isle, it's helpful to be able to hold the yarns in various combinations of hands.

Nicky Epstein-- Honestly, I had no idea who she was.  In fact, all of the knitters that people were ooh-ing and aah-ing over were people I had never heard of.  But, I did enjoy her presentation, she's created some beautiful designs.  The main thing I got from her lecture was that designers get their yarn for free, and that is why they can use millions of skeins per project without being aware of what that will cost you the home knitter.  And now you know.

There was also a marketplace where you could view and buy the latest in yarn and knitting accessories, this was fun.  One interesting idea I'd like to pursue is knitting with silver wire.  Must remember that one.

Overall, it was a lovely weekend, and it was over way too soon.  I'd like to do the bigger one in NYC someday, anyone want to come with me?

*Mary Jane's new book is called 200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory, and will be released for sale on Nov. 29th (I was lucky enough to score a copy at the convention thanks to my mother and her keen sense of early-bird-gets-the-worm buying.  Also, she had it signed for me since I couldn't be there, and Mary Jane may or may not have called me her best student in the inscription...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

ice cream dress (finished)

I started this adorable little dress last summer, cut it all out and did the pockets on the front panel, and then started statistics.  Yeah-- statistics pretty much took over my life, and then the holidays and then my other classes that required I sew lots of other things, and then the move....  you get the picture.  It's so nice to finally have this dress done!  I can't tell you how distressing it is to have a halfway finished project hanging around getting pushed aside for months on end.  Not to mention the pressure of finishing it before my only girl grows out of it.  And it was especially laughable after I finished it and realized how easy and fast it went.  I could have finished it in an afternoon at any time.  

She's getting good with the poses, this one in particular reminds me a little of the Dior New Look pose (and she did it all on her own):

 Apparently this dress also works with skateboarding

The front yoke detail 

 The back-- covered button looks like one of the polka dots.

This shows the boxy shape of the dress, and I love how the sleeves are partly made from the skirt.

Normally, when I do my seam finishing, I opt for serging it because it is durable and fast, but I was too lazy to thread my serger, and I wasn't sure how long this dress would fit anyway so I decided to use pinking shears.  I've never done pinked seam finishing, so I'm very curious to see how it holds up in the wash and wear and tear (hm.. I really should have taken a picture of that.  Sorry.).  The gathering isn't perfect-- gathering and I butt heads a little bit, but all in all, I'm very happy with this dress.  So adorable!


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Striped Knit Skirt (finished)

Wow-- my hair is getting loooong!  And check out those palm trees!  Ah, California.

This is one of the skirts that I made in protest to moving at the beginning of August.  I really like it, but I'm going to need to fix it a bit.  You see, I had this idea to make a skirt that was self-lined by folding over the fabric at the hemline, which is lovely except that I wasn't sure how to make it curvier so I cut a straight rectangle instead-- telling myself that it would forgive a bit since it is knit.  Somewhere in Provo, my sewing professor is dying a tiny bit inside and most likely shaking her head at my sewing obstinacy.  I can hear her saying Ali, you are not a brick, you have curves!

Ok, ok, I hear you.  I promise to make it better and to resist the urge to do it again.  The waist is a little bit too big too because I didn't allow for enough negative ease, something I'm still learning with knits-- it's funsies because each knit stretches a unique amount so there isn't really one amount of negative ease to employ-- you kind of have to guess and experiment (if I am wrong, please feel free to correct me).

But-- I love the folded over effect, and I have plans to do it again real soon (I'm aware that I'm blatantly ignoring the rules of grammar-- and my awareness makes it ok, right?).  And then when I'm done fixing this one, I'll post it again with details.  Wow-- two sentences beginning with prepositions! I'm definitely developing some problem solving skills in my sewing that's for sure.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Alright-- so the movers come on Monday to start packing us up for our move to California (did you know we are moving?) and I am still sewing.

I think this is the hardest part about moving for me-- the huge gap of time that I am unable to sew between packing it up and unpacking it and finding the time to start again. I'm really upset about it, and I think that's why I'm still sewing. Call it my little protest. Jon will not be happy when he comes home to an unclean unorganized sewing room, as that was my only job this morning, but I had to finish the skirt I had started a couple of weeks ago (and of course start another one really quickbecauseit'sknitandsewsupreallyfast). I mean what does he expect me to do, put it on hold?? Crazy talk.

Unfortunately I have plenty of things to show you all (the three of you who read my blog), but alas it will have to wait until I am settled in California. Also, I have plenty of good news about my design degree quest-- all forthcoming.

So stick with me, and wish me loads of luck for finishing this second skirt and cleaning my sewing room before Monday, and then I will see you all on the other side of this hideous move wherein all of my stuff gets handled by a perfect stranger in whom we put all of our faith to then deliver it to another state where I have to then find a new spot for it. It's all very invasive. I hate moving.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Father's Day Ties (finished)

Happy Father's Day!

........20 days ago. I always feel a bit sad that I am unable to post these time sensitive projects before the event so that someone can possibly get an idea of what to give (I myself struggle with this), but I'm also so worried that that'll be the day the recipient of the gift will choose to check my blog. So consider this an advance on an idea for next year, and maybe if you start now you'll have them finished the night before. Haha-- that's a little joke at the expense of hand sewing. Those of you who know me should know that I'm a bit of a procrastinator, and I spent many a wee early morning hour finishing these up.

The fabric I chose is L: Dupioni Silk and R: Silk twill weave. It occurred to me, as I was beginning these ties, that ties are completely non-functional. Essentially, ties are showing off good fabric. That's all that's going on here, and in light of that, one must pick the very best fabric available. Yes, that brings the price up, but when you consider that you are making a tie that would otherwise sell for 100 dollars or more retail, 30$ doesn't seem too terrible for the 7/8 of a yard required for one tie. Yes you read that right-- good fabric is expensive!

I have to say, these were fun to make, but very time consuming. I think the hardest part was my thread on the gray striped tie kept knotting and twisting. I think I spent more time dealing with the thread then actually sewing with it. Part of that was the fabric, it was stiff and grippy and liked to tug at the thread. Part of that was my stubborn need to have it all done with one long piece of thread. Bad habit though-- I really must quit that and use smaller more manageable lengths.

Well, I dare say (sorry, I've been watching a lot of BBC period dramas lately, so you'll have to put up with the odd British phrase like "dare say") that my father and the father of my children liked their ties very much, and one guy at church even came up to me and told me that my husband's tie is so nice he would even buy it if he saw it in a store. I think that's a compliment... I should have asked him which store.

Loads of fun though-- I think that with just about everything I make, I tell myself that I should make a whole lot of them and sell them, but afterward I'm just so anxious to get on to something new that I never come back to the idea. Maybe some day I'll work that out and become a tie maker.

Pattern: McCall's 2447 (also the same pattern used for men's dress shirt)
Fabric: 100% Silk Dupioni (gray striped) and 100% Silk Twill (pattern)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Knit Hopscotch Dress (finished)

This dress is another project from my swimwear & knits course. I love how it turned out! I made it from this interlock knit that is so very soft, you could use it for pajamas. This was very fun and fast to make, I definitely want to make this again.

Happily, the pattern offers different variations in length of sleeve and also a shirt variation. I could seriously make Greta a ton of different pieces using this pattern.

The one thing I struggle with is the twin needle hemming situation. The bobbin thread pulls too tight and it creates a bit of a ridge. I decided to try it with a looser bobbin tension (on my grey knit shirt), and I was able to eliminate the ridge for the most part, but at the expense of even stitch tension. Oh well.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Knit Shirt (finished)

This is one of the projects for my swimwear & knits course, I think it turned out well. Knits are both tricky and easy: easy because you just whip them through the serger, but tricky because you need to use a few secret tips to get it to look halfway decent (so it doesn't look homemade).

All in all I'm fairly happy with it, aside from a few fitting issues. I was being a bit lazy about fitting because I figured knits are forgiving (they are), and I was on a bit of a deadline and anxious to start my Father's Day gifts (forthcoming).

I do love sewing with knits though, I plan to do much more!