Monday, February 29, 2016

Don't forget about the sleeves

In both sewing and knitting I have learned that sleeves take up more yardage than I think. Years ago I made some flannel pajamas and thought I'd have plenty of fabric but, oops, not enough for the sleeves. Fortunately I had a yard of flannel in a coordinating color in my stash.

Kwik Sew pajamas from years ago - I still wear them and love them!

I'm planning on making some new pajamas and discovered that yet again, I don't have enough of the flannel print, but by some miracle (or compulsion of buying fabric), I had a single yard of the same flannel in my stash.

When I go to buy fabric without a specific pattern in mind, I tend to buy about 2 yards if I'm envisioning making a top from it. That's plenty for a short sleeve top and usually works for a t-shirt type top, but I'm learning that it isn't always enough for a long sleeve top if that top is tunic length or bulky or has full sleeves, and it's certainly not enough for a long sleeve dress. Sleeves are not just an extra little design feature - they can take up a sizable bit of fabric!

I'm learning that my denial of sleeve size exists in knitting as well. I'm currently knitting a sweater for my husband and using the yarn identified by the pattern instructions. The pattern called for 5 balls of the yarn, which was sold in 150 gram balls, so that's what I bought. Actually that is all the store had in stock. I later found out the yarn was discontinued and even the factory store (Schachenmayr) didn't have any more. I forged ahead with knitting the sweater anyway. The back took more than one ball to knit and the fronts each took almost one ball each, so that left about 1 ball each for the sleeves. I figured I had plenty of yarn for the sleeves until I studied the pattern instructions - actually I translated them because they're in German. That's when I realized how big the sleeves really would be. Knitting panic set in. I might run out of yarn.

Knitting sleeves always seems to be the boring part of a sweater, at least for me. Maybe it's because the back is usually knit first, when the project is new and exciting, so that goes quickly. The front is knit next and often has the interesting design detail on it, so that keeps me going. But by the time I get to the sleeves, I'm getting a bit tired of the yarn and the stitch pattern and anxious to just finish it so I can wear it or give it to the recipient and start a new project. And there are TWO sleeves. I don't know who was the first knitter to coin the phrase "sleeve island" - knitter's either view it as being on a deserted island (these sleeves are taking too darn long!) or maybe a tropical island (the hard part is over and now I can relax). Obviously I'm on the deserted island.

I started knitting the sleeve and simultaneously began searching online for more yarn. I could not find it for sale in the color I needed in any online stores or on eBay or Etsy. I found there are a couple of skeins listed in knitters' stashes on, though the owners don't list them as up for sale or trade. One knitter has one lone skein, so in the event I ran out of yarn, I hoped I could persuade her to sell or trade it to me. She's in Germany so I thought maybe if need be I could sweeten the deal with an offer of a sought after yarn from the U.S., which perhaps I could get more easily than she.

Knitting should be relaxing and usually it is. I use knitting as a way to pass the time and keep me from fidgeting on airplanes and trains and long car rides. However knitting this sweater had unfortunately become stressful. I had about two balls of yarn left for the sleeves, so if the first took no more than half that amount, then I'd wouldn't have to beg the German knitter for her skein...or make the sweater into a vest instead. As I knit, I eyed the remaining yarn and my thoughts bounced back in forth. I'll have enough. I'm going to run out. I'll just make it. I'll run out.

Finally, I finished the first sleeve. I got out my scale and...

Sleeve #1 = 141 grams

Remaining yarn + the gauge swatch and two pockets that I knit incorrectly = 159 grams

I have enough yarn! Just. I may have to use the yarn from the gauge swatch and the first pockets I knit with the wrong needle size, but I should have enough. Whew. Perhaps knitting the second sleeve won't be as stressful. But now I have that final nagging sweater-knitting problem...will the sweater fit?

So am I the only one with this sleeve-size denial problem in sewing and knitting? In your head do you give sleeves the yardage they need, or are you like me and think of them as secondary features of the garment?

Friday, February 26, 2016

A very warm sweater

I finally finished this sweater a few months ago and wore it in January when we went skiing (not while I was skiing, but afterward). It is very warm, to say the least.

You can see the Ravelry project info here. The link should work for everyone, even if you don't have a Ravelry account, but in case you have problems or don't want to go there, here is the basic info:

Yarn: Ella Rae Palermo - 100% wool  (now discontinued)
Pattern: Ella Rae Celeste
Needle size: US 8 (5 mm)
Amount of yarn used: 16 balls (50 g each), about 1760 yards

I started this in 2010, but worked on it intermittently because a big bulky sweater is not something you need in California. But when I found out I was moving to Germany, where it is colder in the winter, I decided to bring it along and finish it.

I ran into problems right away with my gauge - I had too few stitches per 10 cm than called for even though I was using the yarn and needle size called for by the pattern. I think I changed needle size to get the correct gauge but the resulting fabric was too dense for my liking. So I decided to knit a smaller size, which worked fine until I got to the armhole and neckline shaping. I changed the rate of decreases or bind-offs (don't remember what the pattern used) and fudged my way through it and by some miracle it actually worked out. I think the neckline is a bit bigger than the pattern design, but I kind of like it. The sleeves came out to be the perfect length (they are the same size, I think I just didn't adjust the sweater on my dress form evenly).

Now I just need some really cold weather so I can wear it again.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


The problem with having a lot of hobbies is that your time has to be divided among them or you just don't do some of them at all. Sewing (and blogging) have been pushed aside over the last few months while I've spent my time on knitting, weaving and traveling. I'll save the weaving and traveling for another post because today I give you what I call sockapalooza.

Starting with the reddish-purplish socks,

Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber "Socks that Rock"
Pattern: "Lacy Rib Socks" by Wendy Johnson
Needle size: US 1 (2.25 mm)
Cast on: 32 stitches (toe-up)
Comments: These were started years ago and languished among my knitting UFOs. I like the look of the pattern but it uses a lot of K2tog and SSK and it was hard on my hands to knit it. I probably should have gone up a needle size, which would have made knitting them easier and they'd fit better.

Moving clockwise, the next ones are the gray striped,

Yarn: Regia 4-fädig Jacquard Color
Pattern: none - just stockinette stitch
Needle size: US 1.5 (2.5 mm)
Cast on: 64 stitches (top-down)
Comments: I love, love, love these socks. This is some of my oldest yarn from my stash, probably purchased 10 years ago when I picked up knitting again (I'd knit in college, a long time ago and a little while after that but not very much). I like the self-striping pattern - and I matched the two socks! The best thing about these socks is the fit. I think I've been making my socks too small in the past; these are larger and I like the fit much more.

Continuing clockwise with the socks that look ribbed,

Yarn: Regia 4-fädig Color
Pattern: "Pennants" by Charlene Schurch
Needle size: US 1.5 (2.5 mm)
Cast on: 64 stitches (top-down)
Comments: I knit these socks mostly on the train to and from Berlin. They were easy to knit and once I found that a combination of Regia yarn, 2.5 mm needles and 64 st cast on made the perfect size sock for me, I quickly made another pair (the gray striped socks above).

The blue socks are next,

Yarn: Netto (local discount supermarket)
Pattern: none, just stockinette stitch
Needle size: don't remember!
Cast on: 64 stitches (top-down)
Comments: I took really poor notes for these socks that I made for my husband. I know I went up a needle size because the stitch density was not as great as I would have liked. These will probably wear out quickly because of that, but it was inexpensive yarn and I knit them pretty quickly, so I'll just make him another pair.

The last socks I like to call my "Butterscotch socks",

Yarn: Lana Grossa Meilenweit Men
Pattern: none, just stockinette stitch
Needle size: US 0 (2 mm)
Cast on: 64 stitches (top-down)
Comments: I definitely should have gone up a needle size or cast on more stitches because they're a bit snug. I didn't use a pattern because I liked the stripes, which I managed to match almost perfectly. Despite the fact this yarn was called "Men", I made these for myself because I didn't see my husband wearing butterscotch socks, though he does like butterscotch.

I always try to have a sock project in work because they make great travel projects. Right now I have one sock nearly finished using yarn I bought in Istanbul two years ago. However, the bigger knitting project right now is a sweater that I'm making for my husband. All I can say is that sweaters take a long time, I'm sick of garter stitch, and I'm anxious to get it finished so I can start something else. And I really hope it fits him. In comparison, socks are a lot easier!