Saturday, March 21, 2009

Blocking a Baby Sweater - a few things to avoid

My latest project, and the most timeliest, is a knitted baby layette for my friend Sarah. The child has arrived, so time is of the essence. I've put a lot of work into it, and need to get it in the mail before Liam outgrows it! I just blocked it the other day and thought I would share a couple of mistakes I made in the blocking process, and suggest ways you might avoid making these same mistakes! Here is the set all blocked:

It includes pants, a cardi and a little vest. All patterns are from a Debbie Bliss book - Essential Baby. The yarn is a Lanett Superwash. Anywho, I blocked the sleeves without measuring each side of the underarm seams to make sure they were the same length. Here is a little sketch to show you what I mean by underarm seam and a picture of what happens if both seams aren't the same length when blocked:

When I folded the sleeve so that the two underarm seams met, the cuff didn't line up. So...the lesson here is to measure everything carefully when you block. This isn't new information - all the knitting books say to do this, but I got lazy and had to reblock the whole sleeve!

My other mistake was also a function of not measuring to make sure the back of the cardigan and the front of the cardigan were the same length from collar to waist. I'm lazy, I admit it! Finishing is the "not fun part" of knitting, and most knitters just want to get it over with as soon as possible. Here's what happened...

This photo shows how the front of the neck, or collar, didn't line up with the back of the neck. Excessively fussy for me to worry about it? Perhaps, but after all the time invested in knitting it I want the finished product to be beautiful!

...and here is how I fixed it:

T-pins are our friends...

While I was pinning the front of the collar to the back of the collar and then reblocking the whole thing (I use a Sunbeam Steam Valet for most of my blocking) it occured to me that with a project as thin as this it would make sense to block identical pieces, such as the two sleeves or the two cardi fronts, together. It saves a step - you pin them one on top of the other and they will come out the same size everytime. Here's an example:

First one cardi front...

...followed by the other one!

I thought this was a bit of a revelation - if it's old news, why didn't you tell me about it :)?

Here is my reward for getting this set blocked. This is from Jamie Oliver's latest cookbook, Jamie at Home. Yum!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fascinating Hats

My sister belongs to a wonderful fiber guild in Arizona. There are several small study groups in the guild, and Carolyn is part of a group of women who study and make hats! They are currently studying, and creating, fascinators, a little hat that sits slightly off-center on the front of the head. I was inspired to make one to wear to Carolyn's guild fashion show this coming Saturday. It's a little out there, I'm not sure I'll have the nerve to wear it. But it was fun to make! Here it is:

"Lulu's Garden"
Many ribbon flowers were made to cover the hat. Two tiny dolls (my sister and me) are sitting and walking around the garden, and Lulu looks over us and the garden from the center of an orange daisy-like flower. Our mother always had wonderful flower gardens, rectangular beds in front of the house, a large bed beside the house with lilies, peonies, and many annuals.

The colors of the hat were inspired by a jacket Carolyn found at a Goodwill store when we were up in Massachusetts in December. She generously gave the jacket to me as I wasn't sure I could live without it. The colors in the jacket are warm -- red, orange, yellow, maroon, magenta, green. Here it is hanging from the mailboxes in my studio which hold my art and craft supplies:

I was further inspired when we visited my daughter in New York City. Kathy patiently waited while Carolyn and I went a little crazy in our favorite NYC store, Tinsel Trading. I chose a selection of ribbons and trims in the same color palette as the jacket:

To which I added more hot colors from my own stash:

More later with some tips on making a wild and wacky fascinator!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Creative Women in Our Lives

My sister, daughter and I dedicate our crafting/living blog to the creative women who have influenced us the most in our lives -- our grandmother, Emma Vania, and our mother and Kathy's grandmother, Louise (Lulu) Vania Webb.

Although we did not meet Emma, we are fortunate to have a few of her embroidered and sewn pieces. Lulu told me that Emma was an excellent seamstress and, as a mother of six children, could take apart clothing from an older child to fashion a new garment for one of the younger siblings. She also made lovely embroideries in a variety of techniques.

Lulu was also a creative stitcher and an excellent knitter. Most importantly, Lulu encouraged all of her children and grandchildren to follow their creative paths through life, and she supported us in that endeavor in so many ways. She was our biggest fan! When the muse was away, I could always count on Lulu for a great idea to get the juices flowing again.

We will be posting photos of Emma's and Lulu's work here, and will share what we have created as well, with patterns and instructions when the design originated with us. We hope our "sketchbook" will inspire us as well as visitors to take a little time every day for the artist within.