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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Sunday, March 14, 2010

I realized I didn't get as far as ambitions

Last night I sat up and watched three episodes of Mad Men, given to me by my son who doesn't need his silver polished, and worked on sock number two. Oh and BTW that son also emailed me and asked me to make curtains (I detected the hand of his sister in this and sure enough she had said to him "let mom do something for you" but then again they are the next generation of a big family of do gooders/interferers) and I am pretty pleased about it anyway.

Also got a call this morning from the wife of one of my middle son's friends to say that yes they had been in an earthquake in Indonesia but were fine. With only one in the group who is married, this girl got a call to say we're fine, can you call all the mothers? No internet where they are. My nerves.

Back to my socks. I have looked at enough socks online to realize that they are generally smooth and beautiful and mine are not. I used 3.5 mm. needles as per pattern but like Bee Bee realize this is too big. I did ribbing all the way down for this first pair because I know DH isn't going to wear anything that falls down and that does pull it in a bit but the foot is still a bit loose. Put the all finished but the toe one on my own foot, in between admiring the clothes on Mad Men and being pleased to see women who actually had hips more than 40" dressed to be beautiful, and realized it is on the border line of being too baggy.

I have a pair of 2 mm. needles and can try them next but really they seem like pins, but I think if the stitches were tighter it would all look neater.

Of course I have been reading as much as knitting and am interested in the magic loop and toe up that Claire has posted on her blog. I have tried the small circular, which I saw someone use at a party, but a lot of the sock shaping, heels, gusset and toes have to be done on dpns and I am getting pretty comfortable with those. As I said in a comment I had a brief experiment with knitting small on large circulars but really felt like I had the loops of a garden hose spring around me. Also interested in the toe up but have to decide if I like decreasing more than increasing (I think I do).

All lot of thinking of variations of course for someone who has yet to actually make a real pair of wearable socks.

The interesting thing is why this interest in knitting after a whole life of sewing (oh and Bee Bee I have a couple of Jelly Rolls I don't know what to do with too). I figure there are several reasons:

1. It's good tired work. I am finishing what I intend to be the last big overtime phase of my career and at 9:30 at night when I stop I don't have the energy to start doing some careful sewing. You can actually get something productive done slumped in the husband's Laziboy, or propped up in bed with two dogs lying on top of you.
2. It is a good space filler. You can knit while you are on the phone, in the car when you arrive early at an appointment, in the doctor's office and in my case even when you are online with a headset on in a conference call or teaching an online class.
3. It's a new thing to learn (see previous post) and there is a possibility that I can watch myself get better at it. I have made 8,000 skirts in my life I am sure and they pretty much turn out reliably the same way. This is my first pair of socks and surely the next pair will be better.
4. Yarn stores are now the way fabric stores used to be. Full of cool stuff and beautiful materials. Compare the quality of the environment of your average Joann's or Fabricville in Canada to the local IYS. Cities that don't have one real fabric store left often have 2-3 really cool yarn stores.
5. Young women knit. I like being around cool young people (why I left corporate/public life for teaching) doing neat things and not age-segregated into a group where everyone looks just like me - although there are younger sewers coming up and I am so happy to see that.
6. Small easy projects, hats, scarves, mitts and yes even dishcloths can be made out of wonderful materials and look beautiful.

Which brings me to a major sewing revelation.

At the beginning of April I am heading out. Rascal, DH and I are driving down to St. Augustine Florida for two weeks, one of which will be with my 82 year old mother, my deaf sister and her 10 year old daughter. They have never had a Florida type holiday and I am looking forward to this. After they go back to Winnipeg DH and I are going to have a week to ourselves and then are driving to Tennessee where he will go back to work and I will hang out a bit. I haven't had unscheduled time in my life alone in the days since forever.

Obviously I am going to take projects to sew and since I am driving we can take at least one machine.

So I sat down in my sewing room yesterday morning and started to go through my patterns. One idea I had was that I could take a bunch of patterns that need tracing and a few things I have planned on making. This whole exercise got pretty upsetting fast when I saw how very many patterns (each in their own way representing a lost ambition) I had bought and had intended to make in the last year and hadn't. It made me feel so far behind before I had even started.

I even went on Patternreview and if other people didn't love a pattern, I just threw it out. So I thought about it and thought about it and realized I love to sew but not all of it. I decided there are pattern sewers, wardrobe sewers, and fabric sewers. I am a fabric sewer.

A pattern sewer is someone who sews for style and does it very well. The wonderful Erica Bunker is a great example of a sewer like this. These sewers wait for terrific new patterns and produce their own meticulous versions. The technical Chanel jacket sew-along sewers are probably closely aligned to this group too.  I think that at various stages of my sewing life I was one of these sewers too, and glad I was for a while because that's where I picked up some of my skills.

Then there are the wardrobe sewers. These are the SWAP power houses, the ones who think a lot about clothing, are deep into reading about style, core wardrobes, and must have lists. This group are also good shoppers, make sure they coordinate have jobs that require them to look good on a regular basis. I was definitely a wardrobe sewer when I had an intense job where I was often in public and often traveled for work. That's when I discovered the importance of building a wardrobe around a small palette, that's when all my bottom garments were in black. I don't think I could have afforded to dress well for work any other way. Stitchers' Guild is a good place to find these sewers.

And then there are the fabric sewers. Now all sewers are somewhat in this category of course but these are the sewers who stash big time but most of all just love to work with the fabric. In educational terms I suppose you would categorize the pattern sewers as visual learners, the wardrobe sewers as text based learners (they plan and intellectualize) and the fabric sewers as the tactile learners.

This is why I think I am a fabric sewer:

1. When I think of my all time favourite garments it is the fabric I remember not the style.
2. The number one reason I hate to shop for clothes is that even the things I think are nice when I get up close and most particularly when I look inside and read those little labels I am just so disappointed to read 100% polyester or even 30%. I can't bring myself to part with my hard earned dollars for a harsh hand or something that I can see a little sheen on when I hold it up to the light.
3. Nothing makes me happier than something that presses really well.
4. Nothing hurts me more than wasting a really nice fabric on something that is out of style too soon or on a pattern that really didn't deliver. I mourn fabric I have sacrificed this way for years.
5. I hate messing around with pattern fitting, that is the doing the dishes part of sewing as far as I am concerned. That's why when I get a pattern that works I immediately make up multiples.
6. You can change your mind a 100 times about a pattern, and what you thought would look good last year can be so dated this year, but good fabric is good fabric forever.
7. Good fabric makes you happy when you sew it and happy when you wear it. 

I think every sewer at some juncture has to come to terms with the gap between the sewer she thinks she should or wants to be and the sewer she really is.

So this is me:

What I really need is a good set of TNT and for those to be updated/replaced as necessary about every 2-3 years. (Skirts can stay but say pants profiles or collar styles need updating).

If I have to have a goal, apart from fabric acquisition, this would be it:

1. Straight skirt for work (have this)
2. A line skirt (last weekend's skirt was very good however the navel level waistline makes me feel unsteady - I am making a linen version this week with a good old solid waistband)
3. Blouse for work - with sleeve variations. Made a nice one last summer but feel it is too tight across the bust which I have already altered, think I will retrace this Ottobre pattern one size bigger.
4. Camp blouse - casual warm weather blouse (have a Palmer and Pletsch to do that comes highty recommended)
5. Cardigans- long one from this fall's Ottobre and Jalie's sweater set for something more fitted.
6. T shirt - to make up a sweater set think I am going to trace one size larger as per #3
7. Updated pants- am going to try Jalie's classic trousers, well-reviewed and see if I should narrow the legs
 Dresses I can alter as I go, they are so easy if I do a waistless style and I have a good basic sheath to work from for reference.

If I had this in place I think I would be pretty happy.


Claire S. said...

Hi Barbara, I'm just catching up your last couple of posts this morning and saw your question to me about working with circulars. Sorry you had to wait a week.

I could go on and on now - but you did ask ! LOL

I just started sock knitting myself about a year ago. I haven't yet figured out how my gauge works exactly so each pair so far fits differently. Pairs 2 and 3, which were my first attempts at the magic loop, have tightened up considerably and are technically too short - I pull 'em on anyway.

My very first pair was the Briggs & Little Fine Socks pattern on dpns - they fit about perfectly. I believe it was a fluke LOL

The recommended needle size - I've seen everything from 2mm to 3.75mm. I knit somewhat tightly and
sock yarn is pretty fine - so I've found 2.5mm and 2.75mm to be better for me. By the time, you're about halfway through your second pait, they won't feel as tiny !

Mom taught me straight, dpns and circs when I was young, so I was very comfortale with them already.

A big note - if you do magic loop, a 40" circ should be your absolute minimum length. Anything smaller and you have to be really careful to not pull too hard and pull the loop into the knitting.

Yes, when you're working with magic loop you DO have loops of the circular needles at each end, getting in the way - I'll give you that. It's just a matter of figuring out for your own comfort how to keep them out of the way. It's a bit fiddly.

And just for the record, if you're working magic loop, you work the whole sock on the circular needle. You don't have to switch at any point for shaping.

Toe-up ? I LOVE toe-up ! Now that I can do the cast on relatively easily (for me, the Turkish cast on is the easiest, but it took quite a few tries at it) I like the fact that you can knit til you run out of yarn. No mis-matched toes because of running out of yarn.

Increasing/decreasing ? They're the same to me. I have learned 2 new ways though. For decreasing, the SSK is new to me and for increasing the Kf&b (knit front & back). This increase gives you an additional stitch with no holes.

Overall, it just boils down to practice and enjoying yourself. There are lots of tutorials on the Net and YouTube has some good videos.

I have no idea if any of this helps you, but I hope so, if only to encourage you to keep going. The socks in last picture you posted may not fit well, but they look fine. Anyway, you can do socks in any number of ways on either type (dpn or circ) of needle. You're bound to find a way that you're comfortable with.

Just looked at how long this is - sorry - I should have made a blog post and pointed you to it.

Claire S. said...

PLEASE ignore the spelling mistakes !

'pait' just jumped out at me - should be 'pair' of course.