Tuesday, 28 December 2010

New Sweater!

I had the pleasure of test-knitting a sweater pattern for Becky, a very talented knitter and designer whose blog I've followed for the last couple years.  A couple months ago she said she was looking for test knitters for a new design and I thought, hey, I've been wanting to knit another full-sized sweater!  So I volunteered.
This is the fastest, easiest sweater pattern I've ever made!  It took less than 5 days knitting to make up - I never thought I'd make an adult sweater in under a week.  The pattern knit up with no difficulty; it was very easy to follow.

I used KnitPicks' natural, undyed Wool of the Andes worsted weight yarn, dyed to two different shades of blue using Rit dyes, with the contrast left undyed.  It was my first foray into dyes other than Kool-Aid, and went pretty well!  The yarn is slightly thinner than the heavy worsted suggested in the pattern; I went up a size to #10 needles, which produced a slightly looser, more drapey fabric than the heavy worsted would, but keeps its structure well.  I would say if you like a firmer, stiffer fabric, stick with the heavy worsted, but this worked well for my preferences.  It knit to the correct gauge on the size 10 needles, and blocked out to the right size.  (It's also budget-friendly!  The whole sweater took only 5 hanks for the main colour and one each for the two contrast colours.  I dyed 6 of the light blue and had nearly two whole ones left over, plus plenty of the dark blue and the white - so my dad's getting a scarf out of the remainder.)
This sweater is designed for men so there's no shaping to speak of.  I made the 40" chest size; it has enough ease that had I wanted a snugger fit I should've done the 36" size for my brother (whose chest measures 37") - but I like this loose, relaxed fit so this was perfect.
And oh, btw - it fits me, too :)  In fact I liked it so much I don't think I'm going to let David have it, after all!  The fit is flattering on a woman, too - relaxed and oversized without being hugely bulky.
My only note on the pattern would be the sleeve length: I knit the sleeves to the measurements given and they still ended up quite long on both me and my brother - and we both have longer than usual arms.  So those with shorter arms might want to take off an inch or so.  I happen to love really long sleeves, so the fact that these come down over my knuckles delights me, but they ARE long.
(This is just documenting the models switching off!  I wore David's boots because they look nicer than my monster boots, and we had to swap sweaters, but neither of us bothered stepping inside to do it!)
Oh, and we had a snowball fight, too.  Normal.

To sum up: this is a really nice pattern!  QUICK to knit, very simple, but just enough colour work that it's not mind-numbingly boring; I enjoyed making this.  And there are only two short seams, which suits me just fine; I hate sewing in a knitting project!  The fit is nice, and both of my picky brothers approved of the design :D  Two thumbs up from me!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas

Advent wreath with the Christ candle lighted!
Happy Christmas, everyone!  May you all have a blessed day with family and friends, full of peace and joy!  I'll post about our Christmas later, but for today, here is the text of one of my favourite hymns of the season.

Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendour

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love's sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love's sake becamest poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love's sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heav'nward by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love's sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
Make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.
(Frank Houghton)

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Sunset on the Lake


Sometimes I'm convinced I live in the most beautiful spot on earth.

Monday, 20 December 2010

The Perfect Tree

Most winters my family travels at Christmas, so we rarely have the chance to decorate a "real" tree.  Our artificial one is nice but certainly nothing like a living, scented pine tree!  This year though we're only going out of town for a few days, after Christmas itself, so we were able to have a live tree.
I haven't hunted Christmas trees since I was, oh, about twelve?  This was so much fun.  Snow covered the tree farm, probably six inches deep on the ground, and more drifted down as we hunted.  This being our family, of course, we had to look at every kind of pine and fir they had - very nearly at every tree.  All five of us had a mental image of the "perfect" tree, and while we agree on some things - it must be as tall as possible, straight, and fairly symmetrical - there were differences of opinion on colour, needle length, fat vs. skinny, and endless other things.  We wandered for at least an hour, while my poor dad got more and more frozen (poor circulation) and the owners of the farm probably thought we were crazy.
But we found it at last!  The tree is about 7.5 feet tall in its stand, a beautiful shape, fat and full and luxurious, but still with that distinctive cone shape that a Christmas tree ought to have.  I've rarely seen such a beauty!
The cats think it's fascinating.  They love to sit under it, and they were in the way the whole time we were setting it up.
David, Katie and I carried it up to the van, singing Chopin's "Funeral March" at the top of our lungs because for some reason the scene suggested to us a funeral procession.  Our minds work in strange ways sometimes.  (Oh, and yes.  I did in fact wear a long dress to go tramp around in six inches of snow and acres of Christmas trees.  It's one of my Regency gowns from the S&S pattern, layered with a petticoat, and it was perfectly practical!)
Now our beautiful tree is standing in the middle of the living room, sparkling with lights, festooned with strings of "cranberry" beads, and hung with all our old beloved ornaments.  It is so lovely, I sometimes wish we could keep it up always - but it would probably lose its wonder and delight and become commonplace, so perhaps it is better this way.  I keep having the words of a song I sang with my choir at school this year running through my head... "There is a flower sprung of a tree; the root thereof is called Jesse...."  And of course this - that flower sprung of the tree of Jesse - is the real reason for our lovely tree.  Somehow that makes it even more lovely.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Winter

I know it's not technically winter yet - not by the calender anyway - but the weather certainly has been wintery in the last week or so!  Even in Tennessee at school we've had wind chills in the single digits, and on Sunday even snow flurries.  This was perfect - my church had our Christmas cantata this week and it was so delightful to be singing the Christmas message as snow swirled outside the windows.

But it was COLD, so my roommate and I went home and made a fire.  It wasn't terribly successful and it didn't last long, but it was beautiful while it lasted.
I am endlessly fascinated by fire.  The colours in it - not only orange and yellow, but the blues and reds, even purple, which appear in the hottest parts of the fire.  The way the flames jump and flicker.  The incredible heat which just a few logs put out.
Finals ended this past Wednesday for me, but I didn't get a break; I had a ball gown to make!  A friend of mine from college is dating a boy who does Civil War reenacting, and this year she was to go with him to their Christmas Ball.  She asked me to make her a dress for the event and of course I said yes.  I've not had much experience at all with this time period but it's one that fascinates me.  She wasn't looking for complete period accuracy, just a general impression, and she didn't want to fuss with a corset and all the underpinnings.  So we went with Simplicity 2881, and a forest-green taffeta with cream-coloured cotton lace for trim.  We bought the pattern and fabric several months ago and I did a preliminary fitting of the bodice last month, but I didn't have a chance to finish the gown until this past week.  Which ended up meaning that I pulled an all-nighter to finish it.  But finish it I did!
I didn't manage to get a good photo of her in the dress before she had to leave, but I hope to get some better eventually.  In the mean time, here is the dress reclining in my armchair on its hanger.  (The pink ribbons are the ties of the hoop petticoat I borrowed from the theatre's costume shop for her to wear with her gown!)  We left off the skirt decorations from the pattern.  I also learned how to gauge a skirt!  It's so exciting to see a 60" width of fabric magically pull up into a 4" piece of waistband :)  But oh, it takes a long time to stitch down!
I thought at first that the sleeves would be too fussy, but I ended up really liking them.  This wide lace trimmed the sleeves and the neckline, and the narrow lace edged the bodice trim.
This is probably my favourite part of the dress - I love that deep point in the front of the bodice, the way the lace comes together in the front, and the double piping at the edge.  The buttons are shell; I had them in my stash and put them on at the last minute, but I think they really pulled it all together.

On the whole I really liked this pattern, although I am still bemused by the cover image.  Those of you who know more about this era, correct me if I'm wrong, but would not these short, puffed sleeves and the trim given in this pattern be acceptable only for an evening or dress gown?  Why then would they show it in what looks like a cotton fabric?  The print just seems so everyday to me, and combined with the skirt decorations and all the lace and beaded trim, it just seems wrong.  But I liked the pattern made up as a ball gown!

This week I'm home again for a little while for Christmas break.  I've got lots of knitting and sewing projects planned - I'm hoping to make a 19-teens corset, for one thing! - and I'm test-knitting a sweater pattern, so I'll be busy.  But there's snow outside, warm cuddly cats inside, and the prospect of cookie baking and an expedition to find our Christmas tree this weekend!  It's going to be a good break.