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.

Some Home Sewing (and a New Machine!)

I decided it was time to be done with my old, crappy sewing machine and so I went ahead and bought a new one: a Janome DC 2013. There are lots of things that I like about my new machine. It has a speed control function that makes it easy to moderate how fast the machine sews. It has a nice wide workspace and an up/down needle function. The machine has some different stitch options that will be especially helpful for working with knits, and it came with a walking foot. And it’s so much quieter than my previous clunker. Janome has been releasing a new DC model every year for the past couple of year and the DC 2013 is basically the same as the DC 2012 and the newer DC 2014—they have the same features and most vendors even sell them for the same price. So I did the only rational thing and made my decision based on which color I preferred.

Janome DC 2013

Before this, I’d only ever sewn on a $100 cheapo mechanical machine so this new machine is a revelation. It turns out that having a good machine that makes a straight stitch and doesn’t continually experience impossible tension problems makes all the difference. Suddenly, everything seems possible, and I’m excited to sew. I’ve resumed work on my January sewing project and am hoping to get it done pretty soon. In the meantime, I knocked out a couple of quick home sewing projects on Saturday to let me get acquainted with my new machine.

First up was a table runner (which, of course, is just a glorified rectangle). Aidan and I picked out this vintage-ish looking quilting cotton print from JoAnn’s, and I basically cut two very long rectangles, sewed them right-sides together, turned it inside out and then top-stitched the edges. The up/down needle function on the machine was really helpful as I turned the corners on this. The final dimensions on this are about 15”x 68”. It turned out a little long and depending on how much it bothers me, I might go back and shorten it a bit. We’ll see.

After that, I made a cat bed. And by cat bed, I mean that I made a pillow case out of fleece fabric (also from JoAnn’s), put it on an old pillow we had lying around, and threw it on the floor for our cats. To make the cover, I basically followed the procedure outlined in this MADE Everyday video for making an envelope-style pillow case. I used a heavy-weight ballpoint needle for this, but otherwise treated the fabric like a woven.

Even though it’s super simple, this project would have been a major pain on my old machine. On previous projects, my old machine would fight me if it had to sew through more than 3 layers of quilting cotton, and I’d have to wrestle just to get thick fabrics under the presser foot. This machine has an extra high foot lift feature that made it easy to get started sewing. At times, I had to sew over 4 layers of fleece and my new machine wasn’t the least bit bothered by the thickness.

We had to sprinkle some cat nip on top of the cat bed before any of our cats were willing to give it the time of day, but I think it’s officially been given the cat seal of approval.

I have to say that Aidan was the impetus behind both of these projects—he’s the one in our house with an eye for decorating and he’s the one who suggested that I make both of these projects. And now that I have a machine that doesn’t suck and that makes me excited to sew, I can make all of Aidan’s design dreams come true. Onward with the sewing!