Noro Mitts

Heaven. Soft, fluffy heaven.

Noro Silk Garden Yarn in color 359
Noro Silk Garden Yarn in color 359

That’s the only way I can describe the Silk Garden Yarn from Noro. It really is a shame you can’t reach through the computer screen & touch these lovelies.

It was so hard narrowing down the gratuitous yarn photos to just these two.
It was so hard narrowing down the gratuitous yarn photos to just these two.

The colors are gorgeous. Whitish gray, light charcoal gray, a touch of brown, green & a hint of gold.
Noro Mitts

I made the pattern myself & will hopefully get around one day to translating my notes into a free pattern.

See the thumb shaping?
See the thumb shaping?

My hands have been uncommonly cold this winter & I felt it was about time for a new pair of fingerless mitts to wear at work- my last having been nice, but not nearly as warm as these. So I dove into using my one skein of luscious Noro & was pleasantly surprised to find I had a little left over.

They turned out to be just a little too thick & long for fast typing, but they're sooooo soft & luxurious feeling. It would be impossible to not wear them anyway.

They turned out to be just a tad too thick & long for fast typing, but they feel sooooo soft & luxurious. It would be impossible to not wear them anyway.At Foster Beach

I hear tell there’s some Noro Silk Garden sock yarn too. One of these days it will be mine! MINE!!!


Stitches, a sewing podcast- Steam episode 1.2

Now for the latest installment of Stitches, episode 1.2, the final episode in our little series on steam. If you missed the first episode, catch it hereStitches- Steam episode 1.2

I promise I’ll be on itunes soon. For now, give your browser a moment to load the podcast widget & if it’s still having trouble reload the page. You can also check out the Stitches podcast on podomatic.

Here are the show notes:

  • A common way to steam shrink wool is by hand with an iron, a steam brush, or a steamer. But, this takes a long time & can produce uneven results.
  • I searched the Internet for a quicker way to steam shrink wool & found a great tip from Pam of Off The Cuff, a tailoring blog with a store attached that sells high quality interfacing. She said to toss the fabric in the dryer with a slightly damp towel or two & let it spin! The steam that’s released from the towels as the dryer heats up will be just enough to shrink the wool. It might seem sacrilegious to put wool in the dryer, but since you’re putting the fabric in dry & not using soap it won’t shrink down to a tiny piece of felt.
  • Next was a review for the Smartek st-80n 3-in-1 steam brush. It’s small, has three different attachments & is available in Joann & Hancock Fabric stores in the US. Unfortunately, it spurted out white puffs of powder onto what I was trying to steam. They eventually went away, but came back when I tried to steam again.
  • Another way to steam garments is to put them in your shower. Hang up the wrinkly (or stinky) garment in the bathroom as you bathe & the wrinkles will smooth out. If the garment is especially wrinkly or stinky it may take a few showers to clear things up, but some only need as few as one or two sessions.
  • Clothing steam presses have two large irons that clap down on your fabric & emit a bunch of steam. This makes pressing quick work. Some are even electronically programmed & automatically turn off so you don’t burn your fabric.
  • The Reliable company builds vacuums right into their ironing boards & calls the product the ‘vacuum + blowing table‘. They claim that getting the steam out of the fabric is just as important as getting it in & that in ye olden days people would beat their fabric with sticks to get the steam out. Not only do these ironing boards suck the steam out, they also blow air through the garment, inflating parts of it so you can iron right on top of a pocket of air.
  • Pam also provided us with a little sewing trivia: “Did you know that in the “garment industry”, they apply interfacing with a dry-press rolling machine, that applies the interfacing to the fabric with much more consistent pressure and generally higher temperatures than can be achieved at home?  That is why most interfacing on the market today for those who sew at home is instructed to be applied with steam….steam is hotter that than the temperature of the sole-plate of an average iron, and as it shoots out of the holes in the iron it actually increases the pressure needed to create and hold the bond between the fusible interfacing and the fabric!”
  • Rachel from the blog House of Pinheiro said:  “Pressing is the most important process step to create a garment that looks well made, so my tip for pressing is you should avoid resting the weight of the iron on the fabric and let steam do the job, however sometimes that’s not enough to avoid impression marks, so what I do is get a strip of paper (better if doesn’t have anything printed on it) and position that between the seam and the garment. In most cases it will avoid leaving a mark on the right side.” This prevents exactly the problem I talked about in the first episode of Steam.

What would you like the next episode of the Stitches podcast to be on? Cutting things? Semi-synthetic fibers like rayon? Different kinds of pins? What other ideas do you have? Leave me a comment below. Hope you enjoyed this episode & see you next time!

Stitches, a Sewing Podcast – Steam episode 1.1

I’m as excited as if I had received free vintage fabric! But I haven’t.

The thing that’s got me dancing around the house is a podcast. I’m starting one!
Stitches, a sewing podcast - Steam episode 1.1
Stitches in a podcast for people who love to sew, with a tiny bit of knitting thrown in. It’s for people who have an interest in fashion & an addiction to fibers- as in fabric, yarn, wool, cotton, linen.  And yes, I too am surprised that a few searches turned up no other programs named ‘Stitches’.

Stitches isn’t like your usual crafting podcast. I won’t be talking about the projects on my sewing table or knitting needles. Instead, we’ll have conversations about sewing related themes.  And episodes won’t be a half an hour long or more. We don’t always have time to listen to such long podcasts- especially not when there are new episodes of Downton Abbey to watch! Instead, monthly topics will be broken into a few 5-10 minute long episodes.

Our first theme is steam & I really hope you enjoy it. Down below you’ll find some podcast notes for an easy reference to the tips I talked about- or for if you’re at work & can’t listen.

*update- I just realized that some people might have problems loading the podcast widget thingie. If so, just refresh your page or click here to listen to my podcast on PodOmatic.

  • Steam is made up of excited water molecules that relax your fabric & make it more pliable.
  • It can help smooth out you fabric or warp it out of shape.
  • Torquing happens when fabric is warped out of shape during manufacturing, but you can also do it at home.
  • Pants pockets can warp out of shape with use. To help reinforce them make stay tape by cutting a strip of muslin the width of your seam allowance & steam it a lot as you pull it out from under your iron at an angle. This will torque the fabric into a curve that should match the curve of your pants pockets.
  • Steam especially relaxes & shrinks wool.
  • To unkink yarn after it’s been knit or crocheted with, steam it. Don’t iron it. It will relax before your eyes like magic. Watch this video from the awesome TECHknitting blog to see how quickly it happens.  
  • To keep wool fabric from stretching as it hung off my ironing board I tried ironing on top of a wooden table with a mattress pad covering the table to protect it from the iron. I didn’t realize the bottom of the mattress pad was made with interfacing & not fabric. After I was done bits of interfacing were stuck in the wood grain of the table, but only in blotches where I had steamed. Water wouldn’t get it off so I scratched it off with my finger nails. I scratched little butterflies into the interfacing marks.
  • Next time I will make my ironing board the same height as my table so that as I’m ironing I can move the finished parts to the table so they don’t stretch out of shape.
The little butterfly I scratched out of the interfacing that got steamed into my sewing desk.
The little butterfly I scratched out of the interfacing that got steamed into my sewing desk.

Episode two of Stitches will talk more about interfacing, steam shrinking wool, steam related sewing gadgets & listener tips.

A HUGE humongous thanks to my boyfriend Quincy. He spent tons of time sampling the introduction music (while I lounged in bed knitting) & editing the final podcast. And re-editing as I kept re-recording. Thanks Q!

And thanks to everyone who took the time to listen. I’d love to hear any feedback, good or bad. Do you like the topic & format? What themes would you like to hear about next month?

The blobs of interfacing that were steamed into my desk.
The blobs of interfacing that were steamed into my desk.

A Wooly Wintery Circle Skirt

Last winter I dressed like a slob. Jeans, t-shirts, baggy baggy sweaters. It wasn't pretty people.

Not wanting to repeat the boring horror of fashion victims past I decided to make some winter skirts. This was the first one I completed & I have one more awaiting finishing touches.

Ah circle skirts! I remember why I stopped making you for so long. All that hemming! I used to belly dance (I really miss it) & would make my own costumes. Circle skirts are practically required if you're going to belly dance, so I've made my fair share. Long ago I learned that the easiest & fastest way for me to do this (I'd love to hear if you use a different method) is to stitch along the folding line- what will be the bottom of the hem- then to iron the hem in, sew, iron again. Or, if you're super lazy like I often am, skip the first round of ironing- results may vary. For whatever magical reason this bit of stitching allows the fabric to fold up on that large curve with minimal puckering & buckling. But again, I didn't iron before sewing the hem into place so I still got a fair amount of buckling. Hemming a circle skirt no matter what method you use is going to be a slow process, which is why I like to speed it up as much as possible. Pinning your circle skirt hem is Three Toed Sloth speed (.003 mph). Sewing a fold line & ironing your hem sans pins is Greenland Shark speed (1 mph). Big difference.

The fabric is a lovely wool from Fabric Mart, the softness of which reminds me of flannel, but without the cheap, synthetic feel. I decided to cut the skirt as one big circle so I wouldn't have to bother with matching up the pattern. However, for a waist high skirt this meant I had to cut into the body of the skirt just a little so I could actually fit the thing over my hips. My ridiculously late night zipper sewing job meant things didn't line up perfectly. Ah well, you readers will be the only ones to know. And I'll just have to learn to not grimace every time I see the slightly mismatched plaid.

After cutting the waistband I realized I wanted it to match up with the plaid. This is as close as I was able to get it.

Circle skirts, especially in the length & fabric I chose, are rather retro. In my mind I imagined having the skirt meet my waist with the waistband being above my waist. Then I remembered I'm short waisted. I figured it was better to have the top of the waistband meet my waist than to look more authentically vintage, but have a laughably short torso.

Detail of gray gingham skirt.
I got a new camera! So you'll start to see more lovely close ups like this.

The only problem (aside from that mismatching zipper seam) I had with this skirt was the waistband. I stabilized it with a light, fusible interfacing which made the fabric bubble. Sad face. It seems to have gotten a little less bubbly with successive wearings though.

Finally, the lining. Ever since I was a little girl & watched Gone With The Wind I've wanted a red, silk, taffeta petticoat like Mammy. It was nicely scandalous for a respectable woman & she carried it well. I, on the other hand, may not be as demure. And this lining may not be silk, but it makes me happy. How can I not be when it makes the loveliest rustling sound as I walk?


My First Weaving Project, My First Project of the New Year

Merry Fiberful X-Mas to me! One of the highlights of my Christmas was getting a rigid heddle loom. And I was so taken with my new loom I finished my first project on New Year's Day.

My first woven scarf, pre-washed & pre-trimmed. When changing colors your yarn ends just hang out until the end, when you snip them off with scissors.

I did a teensy bit of weaving in college- a rectangle big enough to be a placemat (I don't use placemats), so I'm not counting it as a project. Besides, that was a floor loom. This is a rigid heddle loom.

For those of you unfamiliar with weaving terms, a little primer. Warp threads are those that run parallel to the selvedge. Weft threads run parallel to the crosswise grain. When weaving you set up all your warp threads & weave your weft threads through them. Warp threads have to be tight enough to make the weaving process easier. Since weft threads aren't under much pressure, I believe this is why there's usually more stretch along the crosswise grain. Also, because you're not making loops & knots in your fabric, weaving is incredibly fast & uses shockingly little yarn compared to knitting or crocheting. Well, inexperienced weaver that I am feels like less yarn is used. Most everyone says weaving takes up a lot of yarn.

My new Beka rigid heddle loom, pre-warped with test strip in progress

Anyway, my loom came pre-warped, which meant I got to play with it fresh out of the box. It was really nice because I felt free to make all sorts of mistakes & not get attached to the couple inch wide strip of fabric I was making.

Gadzooks! How uneven, which is why I decided this would be my test strip.

I finished my test strip just a day or two after X-Mas, then immediately started my first real project, a scarf. To be honest I really didn't know if I was making it for myself or my boyfriend. Awhile ago I knit him a scarf & he lost it when we moved this fall. I hate knitting scarves. They go on forever. But woven scarves, my friends, are quick little beasts. Besides, I was hearing many complaints about how much he missed his old scarf. And he was the one who bought the loom for me. But wouldn't you know? I found the scarf buried in his closet soon after finishing the new scarf!

Tada! A new scarf!

Alright, it would have been a lightening quick project if I had had my warp set up properly, but for the first few feet it was much too loose & unevenly so. Finally, I got things sorted out & the weaving flew by a lot faster. But, the early uneven tension caused some ripples in the final product. The learning curve on getting your warp right is probably a lot quicker on fancier looms because they're designed to make it more even. I tell you this in case you're interested in getting a loom yourself. I highly recommend it! More on that later.

My goal was to entirely use up some of my stash yarn. Well, I hadn't calculated the yardage for my warp because I like winging things when I'm first learning. And the method for warping your loom I learned in the Craftsy Rigid Heddle Weaving course didn't work perfectly for this loom. So I really did have to wing it (I step on directions! I dig my heel into them & spit! Yeah I know, I'm like the stereotypical guy who won't ask for directions when he's lost. I probably should have done more than skimmed the included instructions).

Here you can see how bubbly & uneven things were pre-washing.

Big shocker! My scarf came out short. I should have known it would. My stash busting scarf left me with bits of stash instead of projects worth. Ah well. I'm sure they'll be easily used in future weaving projects. And the scarf is around 53″ long. That's just long enough to tie around your neck, but not long enough to do a nice double wrapping. When I was done weaving I soaked the scarf in warm water, kind of like you're supposed to do with a knitting project. Instead of blocking it though (drying it flat in the desired shape) I let it hang by the parts that were most uneven & bubbly. This helped straighten things out a lot, although it's not perfect.

The weft is a beautiful mix of bright burgundy wool/alpaca, variegated red & fuschia wool, and heathered dark burgundy wool. Brown wool yarn makes up the warp. Actually, the color combo would go perfectly with my favorite coat…

In fact, when my boyfriend saw me trying on the scarf with my burgundy coat he said my cheeks puffed up. Apparently that means I'm pleased with what I see. So if I weave him another scarf he'll let me keep this one. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of giving it to him? It is sooo warm though…

If you don't care about looms then stop reading, but if you're interested or would like to buy one yourself, read on.

My new toy is a Beka 10″ loom, which is actually designed for children. But all the reviews said good things about it & many of the reviewers were adults who had bought it for themselves. And people, it costs about half as much as the same size looms from other companies. Q bought it for me from the Woolery & I'd really recommend them. I think we purchased it on the Friday before X-Mas & it arrived that Monday, X-Mas eve. We picked the cheapest, normal shipping option too! So check out the Woolery. They have the lowest price on it to boot. And no, they're not paying me or plying me with free fiber to say this.

Like I said, it's a child's loom, so it's not as slick as the popular Cricket rigid heddle loom. This means that instead of winding your warp & finished weaving around a fancy roller, you manually unwrap the warp from a block of wood & slide your weaving through some wooden sticks. Not difficult, just not as smooth. Remember what i said earlier about tension problems? This block & the lack of rollers can make things uneven. But, I actually like the super simplistic design because it would be so easy to replicate if I wanted to make a loom myself (I have grand plans of one day learning more than really basic wood working so I can build myself furniture & spinning wheels, yes, multiple spinning wheels, & bookshelves, lots of bookshelves). Now go buy a loom so I'm not the only beginner lurking about this corner of the internet! I want to see your pretty projects!

Contemplative Q


Make It Monday: UFO Knit Sweater

I’m moving at the end of the month! My landlord is actually a slumlord so I’m really excited to get the hell out of here. This might mean I skip a Make It Monday towards the end of the month or beginning of September. Any takers for guest blogging?

I’m going to focus on finishing UFO’s, unfinished objects, between now and the move. Hopefully they’ll be faster since they’re already partially done. Plus, it will be very nice to clear out at least some of my projects queue.

This week I worked on finishing a sweater I started over a year ago. Hardly appropriate summer garb, but it should come in handy this winter.  I was taken over by an uncontrollable urge to knit. It happens.

The pattern is my own & it’s very basic. Garter stitch on top with a 2×2 rib for the body. The bottom consists of random stranded combinations of the two yarns I used.

The solid brown yarn is a heavier, sturdier, & coarser wool. I can’t remember what’s in the variegated yarn, but when I got it I remember oohing, ahhhing & sighing over the luxury fiber that had been spun with the merino wool. While the color of the two yarns go perfectly together- they share the almost completely exact same shade of brown- their textures contrast each other.

I’m looking forward to wearing this warmer-than-it-looks sweater this winter.  I’ve never been good at starting or finishing a seasonal clothing project ahead of time. It’s nice to have done so for once.

Also, I haven’t forgotten about my 1912 modern top post. I got caught up learning how to knit toe up socks! So much fun. Actual making should come before blogging, but I swear I’ll get that pattern modification review out soon.