It’s Halloween Again And I’ve Been Sewing

This year I was on it early. I believe it was still September when I got the kids to pick out patterns and I headed to the fabric store for supplies. I was so excited and eager to start!

And then I got to the fabric store. Two hours later and much poorer I finally left the store exasperated and a lot less eager. But I was feeling very grateful that I had started so soon.

The boy had decided he wanted to be Dracula since he’s been loving Hotel Transylvania lately. The girl needed to be a “fairy princess”, a pink and purple one to be exact. I have tried to steer her away from the princess stuff but the pink force runs deep in this one.

I found these patterns by McCall’s. They didn’t seem all that intimidating at the time, in fact they looked rather cute. After finally deciphering the information hidden on the back and inside the pattern I managed to track down (almost) all of the stuff I needed.

Atticus's costume stuff

Pippa's costume stuff Now, over a month later, I’ve finally finished them. The hardest parts were, in order: making a multi-layered tulle skirt, sewing in a zipper, making and applying cuffs and collars. I already knew I disliked zippers, cuffs and collars, but working with tulle was an entirely new form of torture for me. I will be strongly suggesting non-tulle-based costumes in the future.

But the end results are costumes and dress-up clothes that my kids love and will be able to wear for a long time and maybe even pass down to their kids someday. And I guess that made it all worth it. Maybe.

Atticus's Costume

Pippa's costume

Happy Halloween

After two solid weeks of sewing at every free moment I had, I finally finished the kids’ cowboy shirts. What a pain! This was my first time following a pattern as all previous sewing projects had been from tutorials. Let me tell ya, “Simplicity” it wasn’t. Talk about false advertising. I swear that pattern was written in a foreign language that just resembled English. I had to call my sister on a number of occassions, and looked things up on the inetrnet a lot. But I persevered and ended up with a half-decent finished product. The second shirt went much smoother since I had already done it once, though I still found myself scratching my head in some of the same directions. I’m really glad I did it though as I have plans to make the kids’ Christmas outfits, outfits which will hopefully now turn out better for the experience I’ve gained. Still, I have a feeling there will be a lot more hair-pulling and frantic calls to my sister to come.

What the costumes looked like.
What they looked like to everyone else.

What a Mis-Steek!

Okay, this happened a few weeks ago but I’ve been unable to talk about it until now. The sweater in question has been sitting in a basket in a corner since I threw it there and stormed off. I think I have cooled down enough and my head is fully level again so it is time to revisit the disaster that was my first foray into steeking.

Steeking is a technique used when knitting stranded colour-work in the round. Since it can be difficult to purl while knitting with two colours, many knitters prefer to work in the round when doing stranded colour work. But, working in the round means you are making a tube when sometimes you’d rather have a flat piece. In the case of my sweater, I wanted to make a cardigan so I needed it to be flat. In order to turn this tube into a flat piece you do something very scary… you cut your knitting right down the middle! Oh the horrors!

Before you cut your work you reinforce the column of stitches on either side of where you are about to cut. This is where the people are a little divided, and where I guess I didn’t do enough research. In theory, if you use a true Shetland wool (which is traditional for this style of knitting) then the catchy wool can grab onto itself and not unravel when cut, even if you don’t reinforce it. Other kinds of grabby wool will be fine with a crocheted reinforcement, the crochet chain running down either side of the steek “hugs” the yarn and holds everything in place after it is cut. Other wools that are more slippery, like merinos and superwash, really need to be reinforced by a couple of lines of sewing machine stitching running down either side of the steek.

I went wrong was in thinking that my project would be okay with a crochet reinforcement. It was not okay. I also should have taken the time to test it out on my swatch before taking the scissors to my sweater, but I did not. This disaster was avoidable, which makes it all that much more horrific. I’m going to chalk these mistakes up to lessons learned and move on.

Since this was for a pattern I was designing, and I had planned on adding a little picture tutorial on steeking (yes, I appreciate the ridiculousness of that), I have thorough photo documentation of the disaster as it unfolded. Warning: the following pictures portray unwanted unraveling, viewer discretion is advised.

First you crochet a chain through the column of stitches to one side of the steek.
Then do the same to the column on the other side of the steek.
Then you cut down the steek column between the two reinforced columns. Remember, you spent countless hours knitting the piece up to this point.
And then, if you’re yarn is too slippery, it will pull out of its crochet “hug” and unravel when you try to pick up stitches for the button band.

So the moral of the story is, always machine reinforce your steeks or you could end up with unwanted unraveling. I think I have a solution to the problem so stay tuned for updates on the steeking saga.

Giddy’up

Since it is mid-October I’m having a bit of a crafting crisis. On one hand, we woke up to an inch of snow here yesterday so I am kicking mitten and hand production into high gear. P’s head and one hand are covered, but that other hand is still out in the cold for now. I’ve come up with new hat and mitts designs that are being tested right now. They are fairly simple and quick so I’m hoping to release them as free patterns that I’ll post on the blog as well. More on that to come.

On the other hand, it is getting awfully close to Halloween and I’m really hoping to be able to make the kids’ costumes this year. For the first 3 years of motherhood there was just no way I was going to go out of my way to make costumes when they had perfectly cute ones at Old Navy for $15. Last year we did make A a pretty cool costume out of a box – he was a construction worker…

But this year I own a sewing machine, and even kinda know how to use it. So I went out the other day and picked up this Simplicity pattern and plan to make the kids cowboy/girl costumes. I figure they can double-up as Stampede outfits next year. I’ve decided to skip making the pants and skirt, they can just wear their regular jeans, so I’m only making the shirts. As I was looking through the fabrics I realized that if I’m going to be making a shirt, why not make it something durable and nice that can be worn everyday. So I bought these beautiful fabrics and I’m going to use buttons or snaps instead of the velcro the pattern calls for. I’m hoping to get working on them this weekend, so maybe next week I’ll be able to post the finished product.

In Case You Don`t Procrastinate…

…then you may be interested in starting to make Christmas stockings now, rather than my chosen time in early December. Now, on the one hand, if you start now then you should have nice, tidy, complete stockings for Santa to stuff. BUT, if you delay like I d0, when fall comes around next year you will have a selection of stockings in various states of completion, which allows you to make an impromptu tutorial blog post. See, it`s all part of the plan.

I had someone who obviously does not procrastinate (cough… Amanda… cough, cough) ask me if I had knit Christmas stockings. Well, yes, of course, everything in my house is knit. So I decided to dig them out of storage, take a few pictures and share them here. Since I came across the aforementioned mishmash of complete and incomplete projects, here comes the tutorial!

For the pattern I used the free Cascade Yarns W104. It calls for up to 10 different colours of yarn but I used 5. Cascade 220 is a great yarn to use as it comes in a bunch of great colours, is durable and high-quality, and not unreasonably priced. It really is the workhorse of yarns if you ask me (and some people actually do). The pattern is more like a recipe, giving you the basic instructions and charts and letting you choose how it all comes together. It is knit in sections of fair isle, using two colours at a time. This is not as scary as it sounds, but does take some practice. The colour you are not knitting with at the time gets carried along in the back, which leads to `floats`of yarn. I used duplicate stitch to stitch the names on afterward (which only looks okay since the high contrast between the navy and white shows any imperfections).

Since these floats could get caught by whatever Santa chooses to put in there, I decided to line the stockings with pretty material. I traced the outline of the stocking onto the material, cut it out (leaving a seam allowance) and sewed it up with right sides together. I turned the stocking inside out and tacked the liner in place at the toe and heal.

I turned the stocking and liner right side out, flipped the top of the liner towards the gap between the liner and stocking and hand-sewed the liner to the stocking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I braided three strands of yarn together and wove them through some of the stitches at the top of the stocking to hang them from the mantle. All that`s left after that is to hang them by the chimney with care.