Cincinnati-Bound

In March, I was offered a position as an Assistant Professor at a 2-year college just north of Cincinnati. When I started my job search in October (because academic job searches take forever), my goal was to get a tenure-track job at a small, teaching-focused college in or very near a Midwestern city, and that’s exactly what I ended up with. It’s a great job, and I’m excited for the all of the professor perks like finally having my own office.

I was actually born in southwestern Ohio and lived there until my family moved to Wisconsin when I was ten. Graduate school took me back to southwestern Ohio for two years before we moved to New York, and now we’re headed back to southwestern Ohio once again. It’s starting to feel like the universe is sending me a very pointed message about where I’m supposed to be.

Aidan managed to get a job in Cincinnati pretty quickly, which is great but also means he’s going to be moving down there in less than two weeks. Meanwhile, I’ll be staying behind to finish up the semester and pack our stuff up. Oh, and I have to actually finish my dissertation so that I can graduate. NBD.

So my life right now revolves around writing and moving logistics. It is all equal parts exciting and terrifying. There have been good parts about being in New York, but I am so done with living in Syracuse and even more done with grad school. I think there are good things on the horizon for us in Ohio, but I can’t think too long about all the work I have to do over the next two months in order to get there or I start to feel a little ill.

Anyway, I had been keeping my sewing machine on my desk and would just push it to the side when I needed to work. But I decided to pack all of my sewing stuff away a few weeks ago to clear my workspace and my head. (No regrets–it worked.) I’ve even asked Aidan to take my sewing machine down to Ohio with him when he goes rather than risk it to the not-so-gentle hands of movers. That means that I probably won’t be doing any sewing until July. In my non-writing time, I’ve reverted back to my early grad school knitting habits and have been exclusively knitting socks for the last five weeks. I’ve finished one full pair, have two pairs in progress, and just got another three skeins of sock yarn in the mail today.

At this point in my knitting life, socks require next to no mental exertion on my part, so I’ve basically cut out as many crafty distractions as possible without totally giving it up. I just keep reminding myself that this state of affairs is temporary. Plus, Aidan promised to buy me a serger once I defend my diss. I think that should be enough motivation to keep me limping along. Back to work!

In Progress: Little Wave

I cast on for a new sweater over the weekend–Gudrun Johnston’s Little Wave. I actually had the yarn for this sweater earmarked for a different pattern for almost a year, but never worked up the motivation to actually get started on it. Then, a few weeks ago, I was feeling overwhelmed trying to pick a new knitting project, and I made Aidan sit down and give me his thoughts on the patterns I had in my Ravelry queue. Since the beginning of our relationship, Aidan’s been responsible for picking out things that have become my favorite clothes, so I trust his judgment. Well, he nixed the cardigan pattern I had planned to make with this yarn because he didn’t like the stand up collar. I agreed that a stand up collar isn’t a look I’m a huge fan of and figured that if it had been a year, and I still hadn’t committed to that sweater project, then it wasn’t worth keeping on the docket. Aidan suggested I make something with a shawl collar instead, which brought me to Little Wave.

The yarn I’m using is Valley Yarns Northampton in Ocean Heather, which I’ve actually salvaged from a previous sweater project that I never wore. I’d used it previously to make Ravine. That sweater has a great cable pattern that was a lot of fun to knit, but in the end I just didn’t like the fit, the neckline, or the style of the sweater. This was one of my earlier attempts in trying to nail down a good sweater fit and while I learned a lot from this project, I think I only ended up wearing it once or twice.

 Anyway, I took an evening to take the sweater apart, unravel the pieces, and wind the yarn into hanks. I let the yarn soak in a tub of water for a good while, and now that all the kinks are gone, it’s ready to be reborn as a new sweater project.

Working out the fitting for this pattern has been the biggest challenge so far. The combination of the textured stitch pattern, the garter stitch panels at the sides of the sweater, and the bottom-up saddle-shoulder construction doesn’t give a lot of room for improvising and makes it a bit harder to move between sizes. Plus, there’s about a 5″ difference between each pattern size, which also makes it a bit trickier to pick the right size to work with. The pattern is actually written with separate instructions for men and women, so that there’s one set of finished chest measurements, but two sets of instructions for shaping the cardigan so that it fits more conventional feminine or masculine styling. (Basically, the women’s version includes some waist shaping, a higher armscye, and the length through the body and sleeves is also a bit shorter.) The trade off for a unisex pattern seems to be fewer overall size options, but so it goes.

Right now, my plan is to basically make up the 46” size through the body. However, I’ll be casting on for the number of stitches called for in the 51” size, and dividing the extra stitches between the garter panels at the sides and the cardigan fronts. I’ll get rid of the extra stitches in the garter panels by working additional waist decreases and then get rid of the extra stitches on the cardigan fronts by starting the v-shaping for the neckline sooner than called for in the pattern. This will give me more room at the hips, waist, and bust, while allowing me to work the shoulder and armscye shaping for a smaller size. The shoulders for the 46″ will be too wide for me, so I’m going to try to work some extra decreases in the yoke shaping in hopes that I can decrease down to the appropriate number of stitches for the 41.25″ size. Here’s hoping the plan works out!

McCall’s 6844, The Second

Aidan and I have been watching The Good Wife, which I think we can all agree is an amazing show. At one point in Season 4, the firm hires a new investigator—Robyn. Robyn finds out about the interview at the last minute and shows up in jeans, a stained t-shirt, and a hoodie. She starts the interview off by saying something like, “I usually dress much nicer than this . . . Like a college student.”

There’s a part of me that wants to be like Alicia with her million designer suits. There’s a much bigger part of me that wants to be like Kalinda with her boots and her killer collection of jackets. But, basically, I’m Robyn. I’m not really bothered by this. I like being comfortable, and I like my jeans. I hate having to dress up—it makes me feel like a fool. Still, I’m pretty low on clothes at the moment so I’m trying to make some stuff that is ever so slightly nicer than “college student.” Nicer item the first is this black sweater knit version of McCall’s 6844. This is my second time making this pattern. Like my first version, this is View A again (shorter length, no peplum), but unlike my first version, I went ahead and interfaced the collar per the pattern instructions.

McCall's 6844

I honestly wasn’t thrilled with this one at first. I wasn’t thrilled with the fit and started to question whether I wanted to be wearing this kind of style in the first place. But after wearing it to campus (and finding a couple of different shirts I like layering with it), I’m pleased and I think I’ll get a lot of wear out of it.

McCall's 6844

Interfacing the collar makes a big difference. I rarely wear my first version anymore because the collar always wants to wrinkle and twist. I didn’t interface the first version because I was totally green and didn’t know there were fusibles specifically made for knits. Based on some crappy ready-to-wear I’ve encountered in the past, I thought interfacing a knit fabric would make it feel stiff or papery. But, of course, using the right stuff makes all the difference (more specifically, I used Pellon Easy Knit Fusible Tricot in black). The interfaced collar on this sweater behaves, stays in place and stays smooth, which makes it more comfortable to wear because I don’t feel like I need to keep screwing with it.

McCall's 6844

But, I am a little disappointed with myself because there are some small alterations that I should have made but was feeling lazy about. The first time I made this, I made a straight XL and only shaved a little width off of the shoulder. Since then, I’ve made enough McCalls patterns to figure out a couple of simple fitting strategies that work out well for me. Specifically, I’ve been making a 1/2” forward shoulder adjustment and start with an 18 or a Large at the shoulder and then blending out to a 20 or XL at the armscye. I knew the retracing the pieces for this cardigan and making those easy adjustments wouldn’t take long, but I still fell victim to my own laziness and just used the same, unaltered pieces I used last time.

McCall's 6844

It doesn’t make or break the cardigan. It’s not like it’s unwearable or looks like it fits really poorly. But I can tell that the shoulder is still too wide and not sitting as nicely as it should be. Mostly, I’m just kicking myself for not doing the minimal amount of work it would have taken to get a slightly better fit, especially on such a basic, workhorse piece. Oh well. Life lessons and such.

I ended up wearing this to two dinners I had before interviews, and it did a nice job of keeping me from looking a mess. Good show, cardigan.

Assorted Finished Things

Silver Socks

When I was working on my MA, sock knitting was kind of THE thing in knitting at the time. (Then it seems like shawls/shawlettes were the big thing and now it’s . . .  Cowls? I’m not sure. Maybe the online presence of knitters has become big enough that there isn’t really a single thing anymore.) Of course, sock knitting is still a thing, and people knit and design lots of sock patterns. But at the time, the knitting world was kind of in the throes of sock mania. At the height of this, I tried a lot of complex, interesting sock patterns. And then, a few years into my PhD, I realized that I most enjoyed knitting and wearing very plain, very boring socks. I make all of Aidan’s socks in 2×2 rib, and all of my socks in stockinette with a simple ribbed cuff. It makes it very easy to start and finish a pair of socks since I don’t need to refer to any patterns or instructions while I’m knitting.

But lately, I’ve been feeling like the cuffs and insteps of my socks are just a bit too tight. So on this pair, I made the heel flap a bit longer to address the tightness around the instep and used a provisional cast-on for the cuff, which I finished with a more stretchy sewn bind off. The fit is definitely better and keeps me from having to cast on extra stitches at the cuff and decrease through the leg, which I don’t want to have to do. But the tubular bind off I used doesn’t look the greatest after it’s worked on the provisional stitches. I used the exact same bind off on my Grandpa Cardigan and it looks great there. I’m wondering if this is because, having used a provisional cast-on, the stitches for the cuff and the bind off are oriented in the opposite direction? I think next time I might try using an Italian Cast On. Actually, next time I might give this basic toe-up pattern a try. We’ll see. These socks are made with Regia 4-Ply Terra in the Silver colorway.

Dog Sweater

Back in November, my sister was having trouble finding a sweater to fit her dog, Mini, and asked me to try making something that might fit better. She sent me a few basic measurements and I used two different tutorials from Sew It Love It to make this–this tutorial helps you draft the pattern for the sweater and this one guides you through actually sewing the sweater up. It took me awhile to find the time to sit down and do the drafting and sewing (or really, it took me awhile to summon up the courage to try drafting something to fit a dog that lives hundreds of miles from me), but once I started working on it, I was able to finish it all up quickly. Sewing the sweater requires a single seam down the center front of the body, and then you attach bands to the neck, legs, and around the torso. I sewed all the seams with a medium zig-zag stitch, and then top stitched around the bands with a wider zigzag to keep them from flipping up. The fabric is just anti-pill fleece from JoAnn’s. I’m pleased with how it turned out and my sister said it fits well. She also said Mini found it unnerving to be photographed from the side, so that’s why she looks a bit unhappy in the first photo.

Bread!

I’ve been making a lot of bread the past two months, and this week I tried Julia Child’s White Sandwich Loaf recipe (found here, via Dinner With Julie) for the first time. This recipe produced the most beautiful loaves of bread I’ve ever made before. It’s a pretty simple recipe—no crazy ingredients and I was able to start it at around 11 am and have the bread finished before dinner. It’s especially simple in comparison to the white sandwich bread recipe that I’ve used previously from The Bread Bible. It rose up nicely and the texture is great—very soft and perfect for sandwiches. It isn’t as flavorful as the recipe from The Bread Bible, which is as delicious as it is involved, but Julia Child’s recipe contains less dairy and less sugar, which in addition to being very straight-foward, makes it a nice everyday bread recipe. I’m definitely going to make this again, but I might try using honey rather than white sugar to see if that makes any difference.

A couple of weeks ago, I also tried this Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread recipe from the King Arthur Flour website. (This is a cell phone picture taken at night in my tiny kitchen, so sorry for the poor quality.) This is a sweet bread, with a hint of cinnamon, and the oatmeal gives it a soft but chewy texture. It’s wonderfully fragrant when you bake and toast it. I ate this bread, toasted and smeared with butter, every morning for breakfast until it was gone. The next time I make it, I want to try using some of it for French Toast. This is sweet enough that it’s not the kind of bread I’d use for a sandwich at lunch, but it is very, very good. Plus, it’s a nice way to use up the bag of White Whole Wheat flour that I have in the cupboard but never know what to do with!

In other news, I’ve started reading Willa Cather’s My Antonia, and last night I got to the part where Jim kills a massive rattle snake with a spade and then drags the thing home to show off to everyone. Just in case you wondering what was keeping me awake at night lately, there you go. It is a truly beautiful book with 1000% too many snakes.

Portrait of a Crafter in the Gray Days of February

I’ve been sewing steadily through my stack of cut  and prepped projects. This past weekend, I finished up another version of McCalls 6844. Since then, I’ve been slowly working on a version of the Jalie Scarf Top and am nearly finished—I just need to figure out how I want to hem the sleeves and the bottom. The next few weeks are exceptionally busy for me, so I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to take pictures, but I’ll post about both eventually.

Asymmetrical Hoodie from Ottobre Woman 5/2014

Asymmetrical Hoodie from Ottobre Woman 5/2014

The other projects I’ve got cut and ready to go are pretty simple and, actually, most of what remains in the pile is gift sewing. I’m already looking ahead and planning what I’ll work on when I get through those projects, and I’ve got two particular patterns on the brain. First, I’m planning to make up the asymmetrical hoodie pattern from the 2014 Fall/Winter issue of Ottobre Woman. I’m going to keep it pretty basic and use some black sweatshirt fleece I bought from Girl Charlee recently. Then I’m going to try the Camas Blouse from Thread Theory in a lightweight gray cotton blend jersey. I tried making McCall’s 7018 last fall, but I ended up not liking the style or the fit of that pattern so I didn’t bother finishing it. I think the style of the Camas Blouse (especially the v-neck) will suit me better.

Thread Theory Camas Blouse

While sewing has been going pretty well for me, my knitting has felt like a bit of a drag lately. I have a gift in progress that was actually quite fun to knit, but I’m now in the throes of some tedious finishing work that I just don’t have the energy to push through at the moment. But the biggest thing that has me feeling stalled on my knitting is an unfortunate sleeve problem with the basic gray pullover I’ve been working on for a few months. I knit the first sleeve, which felt like it took forever, only to discover that it was way too long and that I didn’t have enough yarn to knit a second full sleeve, even if the sleeves were shortened to a reasonable length.

Jet Pullover in Progress

I came up with a plan to do some sweater surgery on the first sleeve so I could turn it into a 3/4 sleeve without re-knitting the whole thing. And then I did nothing. And since then, I’ve just felt kind of haunted by that crappy sleeve. I recently realized that while my sweater surgery plan is workable, it won’t yield the result I really want and the only way to get satisfying sleeves with the yarn I have left is to redo the first sleeve completely. I actually feel better about the sweater since realizing this, but I’m also not currently up to ripping out a sleeve that took a million years to knit. In short, knitting and I are on the outs because it keeps demanding more focus and emotional energy than I have to give right now. It’s okay. I am sure we will make up later.

On a more upbeat note, I’m really excited that the Great British Sewing Bee is back. You have to do a bit of digging to find a way to watch it if you’re in the U.S., but there are a couple of different extensions/programs that will allow you to stream it on the BBC iPlayer. (I use this one. There’s a small monthly fee after you stream a certain amount of data, but I think it’s worth it.) I love this show—it’s fun to watch and I find it very inspiring. Plus, the show challenges are helping me keep my own current stressors in perspective. Watching a group of people struggle to transform a denim shirt into an entirely different garment in 90 minutes while being filmed and then publicly judged on their work? I figure, if they can make it out of the sewing room alive and in tact, I’ll be okay too.

How is February going for you so far?

McCalls 6992

I finally have a finished sewing project to show off. I think the last time I posted about a finished garment was sometime in October? I’ve been sewing since then and have finished several things, but nothing that feels worth posting about—just super simple things like pajama pants and t-shirts.

M6992

I can’t say that this project is terribly exciting either, but it’s at least a new (to me) pattern. This is McCalls 6992, which is just a basic raglan sweatshirt pattern, not unlike the basic sweatshirt patterns that just about every pattern company seems to have released in the past year. I’m pleased with this McCalls version and would definitely make it again.

There’s not much to say about it given that it’s such a simple silhouette that’s easy to put together. I made View D, which has a shaped hem with a slight hi-low effect, rather than a traditional sweatshirt band at the bottom. This pattern uses a shoulder dart to help shape the sleeves and neckline, and I like the fit through the shoulders that you get with the darts. They not only keep the neckline lying flat at the shoulder, but I feel like they also help to define the shape of my shoulders and thus mitigate some of the shoulder-rounding effect of the raglan sleeve that usually makes a raglan sweater look kind of crappy on my body. (Of course, I might just be imagining this shoulder-defining effect, but I do feel like this shirt looks better on me than many raglan shirts I’ve had in the past.)

M6992

I made a lot of my usual changes—I started with the size 18, blended to the 22 at the underarm, and then blended to the 24 at the hip. I also made a 1″ FBA (by which I mean I added 1″ to the pattern piece and thus 2″ overall to the front–do you call this a 1″ FBA or a 2″ FBA? I have no idea.) I pinned a dart out at the side when I did a basted fitting. I also lowered the neckline by about 1.5″ just because I don’t like the way a high neckline feels. If/when I make this again, I’ll probably only blend out to the 20 at the underarm and then add in a bit more waist shaping at the sides. But as it is, I’m pleased with the fit on this as a first version.

M6992

The fabric I used is a double-faced cotton jersey blend from Girl Charlee. One side is solid black and the other side has black and charcoal stripes. My favorite part of this fabric is that by using the black side for the sleeves, I saved myself a lot of stripe-matching pain. This fabric is super-soft and also very warm. The only downside is that it attracts a crazy amount of hair, which is not an ideal state of affairs for someone with long hair and multiple cats.

Before sewing this, I spent a week or so just prepping and cutting out a stack of projects. I don’t really mind altering patterns or cutting out fabric, but it does require some different tools and a different organization of my small sewing space. I’m finding that it helps if I just seize the cutting momentum and get a bunch of projects ready rather then cutting and sewing one project at a time. So, barring a series of sewing disasters, I should have some more sewing projects to share in the near future—or at least before another four months has passed!

Grandpa Cardigan

Finally! Finished pics of the Grandpa cardigan. I started knitting this in August as part of a knit-along with my friend, Abby. I’m pretty worn out on lightweight, fitted cardigans, but I’m really liking heavier-weight cardigans that almost more like jackets. I made the Girl Friday cardigan a few years ago, which is pretty similar in style, and I’ve been wearing it a lot over the last year. So I think the Grandpa cardigan will fit into my closet nicely. I used Cascade 220 in Atlantic. The pattern calls for a DK weight yarn, but I like the way this knit up in a worsted weight. The fabric isn’t too dense and the cables have great definition.

Before I get into detailing all of my fit modifications, I just want to say that this is a really excellent pattern. This sweater can be a bit challenging–there are a lot of different details to manage at once–but I think the pattern in written in such a way that makes tackling everything that you need to do as clear and as manageable as possible. As long as you’re keeping track of the numbers and charts that are relevant to your size, I think it’s pretty easy to stay on top of where you need to be.

I think this pattern also has some really great design details. I like that the cable pattern is specific to each size and that the ribbing on the collar, sleeves, and hem is all finished with a tubular bind-off. I don’t think I’ve used a tubular bind-off before, and even though it’s a bit to work around the length of the collar, the result is really nice. (I found this tutorial from Interweave especially helpful when I was working the bind off.) I’ve also previously tried a pattern with a seamless, set-in sleeve like this pattern uses and ended up with a sleeve that looked really weird and baggy. I’ve seen other people get similar results with this construction method so I was a bit hesitant, but I think the sleeves on this cardigan look really good and have yet to see another project where someone had something funky going on with their sleeves.

My upper torso, full bust, and hip measurements all fall into three different sizes, which I usually manage with bust darts and a lot of waist shaping using methods that wouldn’t work with this particular pattern. To work around this, I started with the 42-44” size for the upper torso, and then added extra stitches for the bust by following the neckline instructions for the largest size. This made the sweater ~46” around the fullest part of my bust. Then I added more room at the hip by working 4 extra sets of increases at the waist shaping.

The armscye seemed a bit shallow to me, so I added 1/2” before starting the armhole shaping. I made the sleeves 2” shorter than the pattern called for and added a couple of extra buttons. After I finished the sweater at the end of the September, I realized it was looking a bit short and hitting me at kind of a weird place. So I ripped out the collar and button band and ripped out the ribbing at the bottom so that I could add another 2” of length in the body. I’m much happier with the longer length—I think it works well with the style of the sweater.

Adding the extra length used up the extra ball of “just in case” yarn I ordered for this project. If I hadn’t used it to lengthen the body, I probably would have gone back and made the button band significantly wider. The shawl collar is a bit shallow and sometimes wants to flip up, but I could also use a little bit of extra width on the body. The cables pull in enough that make this feel pretty snug even though it’s knit to the measurements I typically knit to. The pattern recommends 1-2” of ease, which I ignored because I typically knit sweaters with zero ease or just a bit of negative ease, but I wish I had added more ease through the body to counteract the behavior of the cables. If I were to knit this again, I’d also lower the back neckline by about an inch.

Making this pattern was the most fun I’ve had knitting in quite awhile. I highly recommend it, and I’m looking forward to trying more Joji Locatelli patterns in the future. There’s really a glut of knitting patterns available right now, but I Joji is one of the designers that always stands out to me (Ysolda Teague and all of the regular contributors to Brooklyn Tweed tend to be my other favorites). Not everything she designs is something I would wear, but I really appreciate the originality of her work and the fact that she’s coming up with more challenging designs that make use of a variety of construction methods and techniques. Maybe I’ll have to try Even Flow next?