Tuesday, January 18, 2011

pi shawl - my first lace knitting project!

Amazingly, I decided to do this at Thanksgiving and had it done a week before Christmas. Yes! This is Elizabeth Zimmermann's Pi Shawl from the Knitter's Almanac. I have wanted to try this for years now, and I was prompted to finally do it when I found a cone of 100% virgin wool at a local thrift store - for fifty cents!!!

With lace I don't know how much the needle size matters. I did not use her recommendation (which is always loose anyway), I just used what I had on hand - number 5 (?) circular needles. The following picture was taken just after a great deal of cursing and perhaps a couple of tears.
I dropped a stitch and kept going without knowing it (curse you lace!!) only to discover the error when the diamonds were not lining up. Yes. I had to examine every stitch in a 200+ stitch area to discover this issue. I really really thought about trying to cover it up. But taking the high and painful road I decided the frogging was the best course. And Pipsqueak was there to comfort me. And to try and play with my fragile frogged lace.
This is when I finally started on the lace edging - that was exciting! Incidentally the rest of the project was error free. Wowzers.
And juuuuust as soon as it was off the needles...
Boy does he love wool. My next big project has got to be a Pipsqueak blanket. Here is the unblocked shawl sans Pipsqueak:
I really liked it all ruffly and unblocked. I was almost tempted to leave it like that :( I am glad I blocked it though since it was a super special gift for my mum-in-law. And holy schmanoly did I have to use a bunch of pins. I literally had to use every pin I owned - even had to take some out of projects I was working on.
See how preeeetty? I was so pleased with how this came out. The wool was a bit rough and scratchy, plus I'm sure it had a germ or two from the thrift store (the store WAS called the litter box). I googled how to soften wool and found a neat tip - right after washing it with woolite, soak it in hair conditioner dissolved in water! I would not have thought this up on my own, but it actually does make sense - and it works! I used a lot of conditioner though - I could definitely tell a difference, but it doesn't turn it into merino wool or anything.
I would totally do this project again...with a tad bit more caution knowing how invisible dropped stitches are in lace. And here is the happy recipient modeling it at Christmas!

We were at the Bilmore House and it was freezing. This certainly came in handy, and someone even commented how nice it was! Next I need to show you the other last minute knitted gift I made for Craig - I whipped up a hat that I had wanted to knit for a long time...turns out it was just the right gift because he had forgotten his normal hat and was panicking. It really was freezing! That is a beautiful house though - if you have a chance to see it I do recommend it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

reverse applique purse

Ok - knuckle pop - I have been wanting to show this for a long time now! I made this back in, um, August I think? Sometime a while ago anyway. As I have said before, I love Alabama Chanin. This project came about after seeing the Alabama Chanin tote bag over at the purl bee. I had been scheming a way to make my own while at the same time scheming a new purse. The two ideas collided in a burst of inspiration and so this purse was born. I love it. I use it every day.

This is made from freebie T-shirts from Craig's law conferences and scraps leftover from other projects. I posted some progress shots to show the start of the technique. Basically I decided how big I wanted the bag to be, then drafted out the dimensions on graph paper. It's really a bunch of rectangles, so it's quite simple.

I used gray fabric paint over my homemade stencil with Alabama Chanin's flower design. Then I put the same size rectangle of white fabric underneath and embroidered around the edges of each design motif. Once all the embroidery was in place, I cut the shapes out of the flowers (the reverse applique). Then I followed the instructions from the purl bee to put the bag together using scraps from my dress as the piping. Oh how I love the piping. It really makes the whole thing pop.

I fiddled with the strap some before finally making it gradually narrow at the shoulder and widen near the zipper. I used a herringbone stitch to finish the strap so it would have plenty of stretch.

I harvested a zipper from an old make-up bag, which fortunately had two zipper pulls so I can open it from either side :)

My favorite part of this project was hand sewing everything. You really gain a great deal of control when you sew by hand - no machine running away with you tears flowing and ripping out seams. All was peaceful and quiet with this project. With this technique, you also get the wonderful raw edges of the knit fabric.

As you can see, I used the instructions from the purl bee to make some pockets - I made a really big one and sewed a couple of seams to split it into three pockets.

This was a very satisfying process from start to finish. It has already gone through the wash, and only got better for the wear. The edges are fluffier and the whole thing got a more settled look. I was a bit concerned about using white for a purse. I am not the world's most careful person, especially with purses, but I decided to risk it. So far I have only gotten one big spot on it which came out in the wash. Otherwise it is doing brilliantly :)

Here are a couple of progress shots when I was putting together the zipper:
That is back before the strap was sewn together. For that I just gauged the distance I wanted it from my shoulder, factoring in the stretch. I am so pleased with how it came out. The neutral colors go with everything, and it is pleasant to reach into a soft bag instead of stiff leather. Perhaps one day I can try something like this with some soft leather? I wonder if the same technique would work....hey why not?!?

By the way, Happy New Year!