Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gaucho Vest

Just in time for Fall 2012 I finally finished and am wearing my new Gaucho Vest knit in La Lana Wools plant dyed yarn.  This despite some major set backs delaying me by years.

I don't even want to tell you how long this project has been on the needles.  But I'll give you a few hints simply by way of reference to changes that have taken place since I first cast on. In America we have a new president in office who has served his term and is running for re-election; the shop where I bought the wool for this project has since closed it's doors (sniff sniff); and Simcha, our German Shepherd dog, wasn't even born yet, just to name a few things.  Any project that languishes that long on the needles tells you something very important and that is this was a nightmare knit.  It wasn't so much that the pattern was complicated to follow.  No, instead it was because I needed to modify the pattern to a more fitted style while maintaining the integrity of a complicated textured design.

I've found that most patterns are not designed to be fitted and you need to be prepared to make the effort to adjust the pattern to your fit.  If you don't do that you most likely will not enjoy wearing the finished project, as most women don't look good wearing a box shaped garment.  I think this is one reason knitting shawls is so popular with knitters because a shawl can be knit simply following the pattern with hardly any attention to gauge or sizing and you will still have a spectacular and wearable result.  But knitting a garment is more fraught with sizing risk and if you follow a pattern exactly as written you might end up with something fit only to wear in the private confines of your own home.

So rather than explain at length how I adjusted this vest pattern to my size (as it is highly unlikely anyone will ever knit this vest now that the yarn shop has closed and this unique yarn is no longer available), I'll instead share with you a knitting tip applicable to any fitted garment.

Knitting Tip to Achieving a Fitted Garment ~  With a long soak and a firm block most wool can be coaxed into a larger size (within reason) but no amount of water (tears) can make it smaller.  My point being that it is best to err on the side of knitting something a bit smaller than you think it should be and then use the finishing stage to achieve the exact fit you want.  Once you have cast off all pieces of knitting give them a long warm water soak (wash according to manufacture's instructions) and then wet block using pins to the exact finished measurement you want before sewing your garment together.  It's best to write out the finished measurements you want and have a tape measure and tons of straight pins handy for the wet block.  Do not remove pins until pieces are completely dry.

Particulars:  Gaucho Vest designed by Linda Romens; 3 skeins La Lana's Streakers and 4 yards La Lana's Lincoln thickspun; US 9 needles.  I had to modify the top half significantly to achieve a more fitted and shaped vest and blocked firmly to specific measurements.  It's a really lovely finished piece and I'm glad I made the effort to complete it. I added some ties inside so I can wear it closed in front if I wish to, but I actually prefer it open.  I really like this designer and have previously knit her Sea Foam Shawl and her "A very Nice Scarf" 

Thank you for the Memories Mr. Puffy ~

You might recognize the trim from this vest being modeled here by Mr. Puffy, who has since passed away.  I was going to write something funny that I'm sure would have made you laugh.  But instead I find myself sitting here staring at his picture and I just can't bring myself to write anything humorous.

Until next time be well and love well ~ and think of those things in your life where you might relish a sense of accomplishment by finishing what you have started.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Embroidered Locket Tutorial ~

Lockets have always appealed to me, ever since I received my first locket as a gift when I was a young child.  It was a tiny locket on a pretty gold chain and I knew exactly whose picture I wanted to be in that locket.  It was our family dog, Cha Cha.  With the help (and approval) of my mother I found the perfect picture of Cha Cha and cut out her face and glued it into my locket.  I can still remember how much I loved seeing her furry face peering out at me whenever I opened that locket.  To this day when I think about Cha Cha it's that image of her face that I have captured forever in my heart.  And that's why I think lockets are special.  They are a tangible way to always carry with you the memory of a special someone.

And since peak of Summer is a perfect time to take a break from knitting, I'm going to share with you a favorite quick project of mine which is  making an embroidered locket.  The lockets I like to use have two sides (one side for a picture and one side to decorate with embroidery).

How to make a free-style embroidered locket ~

This is a very easy project but a basic understanding of embroidery is necessary (and assumed) such as how to use an embroidery hoop, etc.

Step 1:  Gather your materials (linen fabric, embroidery floss, empty locket, etc.).  I have listed below the links and/or sources to all the materials I used to make the lockets shown in this post.

Step 2:  Find a coin or other small object to measure the area you want to cover in your locket to use as a template.  Whatever design you want to embroider it will have to fit within this area.  Using a pencil or marker trace lightly around the coin onto your linen fabric to give yourself a visual guide to the area your embroidery design can not exceed.

Step 3.  These lockets are made using free style embroidery, which simply means that I didn't use a pre-printed design.  Instead I visualized a picture of what I wanted to embroider and made a few rough sketches on the linen fabric and then began filling in the picture with embroidery stitches.  For example, the top locket is a cluster of foxglove flowers.  I used a combination of straight stitches and french knots in this design.  I used the straight stitch to make the grasses and flower stems and french knots to create the flowers.  You can be as inventive or elaborate as you wish in your design, but the small size of a lockets probably works best with a simple design and stitches.

Step 4.  This is important!  After you finish with your embroidery you will cut out the circle of fabric you drew INCREASED by an additional 1/4 inch edge.  You will then apply a small amount of basting glue to this additional 1/4 inch of fabric and fold it over over to make a "hem."  This "hem" is to prevent fraying of the fabric edge which could happen if you simply cut out the circle of fabric in the size you need.

Step 5.  Apply a small amount of basting glue to the entire back surface of your fabric circle and quickly place it into the locket holding it firm until the glue sets.  I use a blunt knitting needle to press and ease the fabric into place being careful not to crush the embroidery stitches as much as possible.

Step 6.  Attach a piece of linen string for a necklace and begin the hunt for the perfect picture to add to your locket!  These are nice to have on hand when you want to include a little something handmade into a gift.

Supplies/Materials: a small piece of linen fabric (I purchase my linen squares from Lorna Bateman's etsy shop); an embroidery hoop; several colors of embroidery floss (I like to use DMC floss (available at most craft stores) and chameleon hand-dyed threads from South Africa (I purchase mine from Loran Bateman's etsy shop) both types of embroidery floss are used in these lockets; an embroidery needle; an empty locket (the lockets used in this post are a combination of brass and copper; 1.5" diameter; and were purchased in bulk on Etsy under "supplies"); basting glue (I like both Jillily Studio Appli-Glue and Glue-Baste-It); a coin or similar object that can be used to trace the inner circle of your locket; a small piece of linen string to use as a necklace cord (mine is 26 inches long and hangs 13 inches down); and ~ inspiration ~ you can see from my lockets I am inspired by flowers and nature.  Embroidery is very easy to learn with lots of free resources online.  If you are new to embroidery I think the following link is a helpful resource to explain the stitches along with helpful diagrams: embroidery stitch dictionary.

The MisAdventures of Simcha

Simcha has been remarkably well behaved these past few months.  Well, except for those dress shoes of Steve's he destroyed and the rolls of toilet paper he chewed up and the ear of corn he stole and the ceaseless barking at coyotes.  But all in all we are seeing improvements!

Until next time, be well and love well and may you always hold in your heart the memory of those you love.  In closing here's a picture of me holding Cha Cha, our family dog, who was a gift to me and my sister as well as my parents.  We all loved her very much.