The Joy of New Tools!

Three New Tools!

I had a little windfall of time this week when I needed to take a sick day, but by evening felt I had a little energy. I decided it was finally time to get out my new tools and take them for a spin. Here you see them: Swedish tracing “paper,” a 24”x36” self-healing cutting mat, and a rotary cutter. I was so excited to use the rotary cutter!

Pivot and Lengthen

I decided to trace my tried ‘n’ true Burdastyle kimono-sleeve t-shirt, and stop trying to use the crazy taped together thing I’d printed out. I also wanted to lengthen the pattern and widen it at the hip. I’ve been reading about pivot adjustments for months, and I finally tried one! I also got to use another new tool for drawing the longer bodice, a French curve.

I had enough of the same blue fabric from my mishap-riddled long-sleeved (turned 3/4 sleeved) top to test the longer, wider t-shirt pattern. I decided to go for it because A. I still wanted a blue top to wear with my brown skirt and print sash, and B. the fabric was thin enough that I couldn’t imagine doing anything but a t-shirt with it (possibly part of why I didn’t wind up liking the first blue top).

Fabric Weight

So it was time to cut fabric, not just tracing paper, with the rotary cutter! If only someone would let me . . . .

The Whole Outfit

I have to say now that I LOVE the cutter. Cutting’s always been my least favorite part of the sewing process, with aching hands and endless crawling around on the floor to deal with. The rotary cutter didn’t take too long to get used to at all, and I even managed to cut some very small inside curves with it. Though I can imagine why one might want a smaller one in addition to this large one.

Feeling somewhat cavalier about this experiment, I went for a rolled hem on the sleeves and bodice, but did insert a self-collar at the neck. I’m not in love with the rolled hem, but to be honest, I think the poor Viking needs a tune-up, and tensions will act more reasonable when that’s been done.


All in all, I was happy with the results, and can imagine making this pattern in a more robust fabric with an even longer line, to wear as a tunic over leggings. It was super fun to dip a first toe into altering patterns in such a low-stakes project, and also verrrrry satisfying to knock out a garment in one evening.

And as a bonus, I started tracing out the Lion’s chocolate chip cookie shirt. A great evening!

PS: I recently realized that I’ve been having a devil of a time sewing thin knits because I forgot that I can adjust the tension of my presser foot! Can you imagine? I need to create a pre-flight checklist for sewing, I’m thinking.

Durrow Sweater, Reimagined

My dear partner Lion has spent two Christmases with me (since we met shortly after Christmas 2009), and both times I’ve given him skeins of yarn and a pattern picture. Because, well, how am I to surprise him with a knitted gift when my knitting time is almost exclusively when we’re watching movies and TV together? To give myself a little credit, though, he’s gotten two surprise hats for two birthdays–I can manage some knitting out of his sight!

For Christmas 2010 I gave him beautiful 100% Alpaca wool from Misti Alpaca, Tonos Worsted in a color called impossiblue.

Look at the beauty!

I’ve been slowly introducing new colors into my love’s wardrobe, and find it works well if they are mixed with black, his very favorite! With the yarn I gave the Lion a picture of the Durrow pattern from Knotions online magazine.

The body knitted up like a dream, in a simple 2×4 rib. I did decide early on to knit the sweater in the round, as I dislike seaming, and I like the evenness one gets from a pullover knitted in the round. The calculation for the body was easy, just lopping off 2 stiches on either side for a total of 4 fewer stitches cast on. I believe I had to choose to cast on 6 fewer, though, owing to the pattern being a 6-stitch repeat. I did the same calculation with the sleeves.

I don’t contribute nearly enough to Ravelry (or Pattern Review, for that matter), but I’m planning to post this there as well and start turning that trend around. Anyhow, I’ll be forever grateful to Ravelry folk for the many reviews of this pattern they’ve posted, as well as options for adapting it. Before I got to the point of knitting the second sleeve (and had stopped the first sleeve at the third repeat of the center cable chart), I had decided to go with Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Hybrid Sweater for the yoke and shoulders, given the reports that the pattern as printed led to a very wide, almost boat neck. That wouldn’t suit the Lion at all. I needed help calculating how to pull it all together at the top anyhow, since I was knitting in the round. Last, I decided to knit the second sleeve with a mirror-image cabling patternfor better symmetry.

I'm proud of that Kitchener join!
The whole shebang!

The irony of all this? It’s only the second sweater I’ve knitted, at all. The first one I did straight from the pattern, no alterations, and I wound up with something that I like to some degree, but it doesn’t fit me the way I’d like it to. I guess that’s what emboldened me to all the amendment of this pattern. Anyhow, it was an adventure, all right!

My love was abroad for 3 months this summer, and I’d finished sleeve #1 before he left, and finished #2 while he was gone. Sadly, #2 seemed to be at a larger gauge than #1, and the pattern was off . . . I can’t quite remember what I ascertained the problem was, but I opted for frogging #2 and reknitting it. Wouldn’t you know, when I finished #3, my Lion was already back home, and, well, the two STILL weren’t the same! I had to admit that the gauge of #1 was not going to be repeatable, so I frogged that one and started in on #4.

Number 3 or 4

The months crawled on, and I worked and worked to try to finish Christmas 2010 before Christmas 2011 came around. When I started the decrease for the shoulders, I got somewhat confused and it seemed I was nipping stitches from the sleeves, not the body. As I was planning to work the cable pattern up onto the shoulders, I had to frog that and start over. Then things stabilized, and I even got the Kitchener stitch join of the two horizontal back-yoke pieces looking pretty great.

As it happens, I just missed the mark, putting the finishing touches on the neck band on December 29th, I believe. And there were adjustments to make from that point too. The neck was a little tight, so I frogged it and redid it without the very small decrease I’d done to tighten it up a bit. Then, Uh OH! It turns out that the hybridization of Durrow with the Hybrid meant I should not have knitted the last of the Chart B repeats on the sleeves–they were far too long, as they connected with the sweater in a different manner than I’d expected.

Here you can see the cuffs are 1/2 stitch off.

So that was the last, somewhat terrifying act of amendment to this sweater to make it fit well: I painstakingly unraveled the sleeve cuffs, backwards, losing all of Chart A of my cabling in the process, and knitted new cuffs onto the sleeves. Because I was knitting them in the opposite direction as they’d originally been knit, the cuffs are now 1/2 a stitch off, but this is not very noticeable at all.

Since alpaca is said to be weak, I blocked the sweater by spritzing it with a spray bottle, and left it on the floor of my office (on top of a fluffy towel) over the weekend to dry. I expected to have to flip it and find another office to hide it in for another couple of days, but on Monday morning, it was all dry and looked great! Oh, and for those of you who asked themselves just now “Why the office?” it’s because there’s no place to block things at home that are safe from our little Ocelot. And I didn’t want to discover what a kitten can do to alpaca while it dries.

The Lion and I are both very happy with this sweater.

The Curse of the Big4 Pattern, Emphasis on BIG!

Good heavens, the sewing up of the blue knit top has been just awful! I’ve learned a lot in this process, and managed to keep something I could wear, even though I don’t think I like it very much. This is all quite disappointing, because I cut the pieces out so long ago, and bought the fabric as a part of a three piece outfit. I will try wearing it with the skirt and sash at some point, but, well, I just don’t know.

So, what happened? All was going well at first, and then came the neckline facing. Dun dun dun!!!

Dun dun dun!

I made a very rookie mistake, likely the result of taking over a month off of sewing. I had serged the bodice, but sewed the neckline facings on the regular machine. So when it was time to sew the facings to the bodice, yes, there was a discrepancy in the circumferences. Even worse I’d skimped on pinning, so I didn’t know how mismatched the two parts were until the end, when I’d sewn all the way around. And there you have it. There’s an irreconcilable wrinkle right front and center. I could have unpicked it, and I don’t really remember why I didn’t. This also didn’t occur to me when I started up again this weekend. Sigh.

That was last weekend, and my poor Lion and the little Ocelot had to deal with two machines on the kitchen table for a week until I could sew again today. For, you see, this is my sewing room:

Ironing and workspace

So when I got back to sewing this weekend, I was eager to get things done. I’ve had this top on my list for too long! I got to the machines.

Sewing Machines With Pineapple

I sewed the odd sleeve cuffs, which involved fudging a fix I won’t even get into, for it was so complex and they wound up in the trash anyhow. I sewed the rest of the bodice together, and tried it on. It looked a bit big, but I had hopes, based on the envelope photo, that with the shoulder pleats and all, things would work out OK.

But when I got things together, oh dear! I know I’m pear shaped, but jeez! The shoulders were too big, the sleeves covered my hands, but it was tight around my hips. Sigh.


I started in on surgery, figuring that in its current state, I would never wear the thing. And if I managed to get it in some kind of reasonable shape, but it still didn’t fit, I could at least donate it. What was there to lose? I pinned and marked and hemmed and hawed, then I cut. Slash! There went an inch off of each shoulder!

Oh noes!

Well, I think I’d been working on it for too long because after cutting down the sleeves, cutting into the shoulders and bringing up the side seams to adjust the armscyes . . . I sewed the first sleeve in inside out. I unpicked that (boy do I hate ripping serged seams!) and then on the second try matched the sleeve seam to the princess seam rather than the side seam. I decided, before any tears could ensue, that it was time for a run.

Four miles and a shower later, I set myself to the task again, while my dear Lion made us a delicious soup for dinner. We listened to a Joseph Campbell lecture while we worked, and after another hour and a half or so, things were better!


There were several mishaps even in that phase, including running out of the matching thread and having to switch to serger thread that didn’t quite match. In the end, I used Steam a Seam to hem the sleeves and bodice, and to tack down the neckline facing that for some reason wasn’t large enough to stitch down in the back.

Looking a bit better!

I may go back and get more matching thread, and I may also embroider the neckline to add interest and to help with the initial front-and-center neckline wrinkle issue. But in the end, I still don’t think I like this top enough to make it worth either effort. I’ll wash it to get the Steam a Seam stiffness out and see if I can get some use out of it. If not, at least it’s in an OK state for donating to charity.

All in all, a bit of a rescue was possible, and I’m grateful for the lessons I learned.

1. Remember to use a 5/8 seam allowance when serging seams, if I want the garment to fit as described on the envelope, and also if I’m matching to anything sewn on the regular machine.

2. Even though I can’t sew over them with the serger, and it takes time, and Gertie apparently doesn’t do it, I’m enough of a beginner yet that I need to pin things. Hear that, Tiger? YOU NEED TO PIN THINGS!

3. Using matching thread in the needle of the serger is a super cool way to make things matchy-matchy, but I will probably need more than I expect if there are any mistakes. The one spool I had would have made it through for this project, I’m pretty sure, but with . . . over 5 serged seams that needed ripping, that little thing had no chance.

4. Though I still feel confused about what to do if I try things on along the way and they don’t look right, I must do it. As I’ve mentioned, the next thing I make will get the full muslin treatment, because this Tiger MUST start conquering her fears of fitting, but even if I don’t make a muslin, there are things I can do to save a pattern that doesn’t do what it says it will, so I should go ahead and try things on as I go.

5. It seems like there should be a number five. What is it? Well, honestly, I went for a four mile run in the middle of this project yesterday, and made it to the gym this morning, and I think the pics of me with those hips and belly had a little bit to do with it. So lesson #5 can be: Tiger, you really do feel and look better when you get out and prowl the jungle on the a regular basis.

Thanks for coming along on the journey of my fiasco, and partial fix!