Tag Archives: harlequin shirt

Journal: The lesson is learned


Harlequin shirt blocking

So, I’ve finished the big knitting project I’ve been talking about recently. I am pretty unhappy with the result, unfortunately. On the other hand, I learned a *lot* from this project, and have positioned myself to make a much better attempt when I can muster the resolve to frog this thing and start over.

Ugh, curl. The back is actually worse, but harder to get photos of.

Ugh, curl. The back is actually worse, but harder to get photos of.

Lesson 1, which I should’ve known by now: knitting tends to curl, particularly at the edges. The part I learned new was that my oh-so-clever vertical-shaping technique, sections of (k1, slip 1)/(p1, slip 1) curls like nobody’s business. I was planning not to block this piece, thus I used a non-blocked swatch to get my measurements, but the relentless curling forced my hand.

Lesson 2, which I knew but didn’t think would be an issue, see above; blocking changes the size of knitted items, even if it’s not lace, even if you don’t stretch and pin it while it dries. In this particular case, it didn’t change the width (I measured while it was drying), but did change the length significantly—meaning that the arm holes gaped open to half again their desired length, and suddenly the careful waist shaping I had done was coming in around my hips, leaving the waist loose and flapping. Terribly, terribly unbecoming photos, before (curl) and after (bad fit):

Lesson 3: blocking helps with curl, but doesn’t entirely fix it, especially on drapey bits. Post-blocking, the curling up of the back neck, arm hole, and bottom edges was basically fixed, but I couldn’t get the front neck to drape nicely without curling all up (see photos above). Lesson I wouldn’t have learned without making this project, so I consider it a gain.

Lesson 4: horizontal stripes are really that bad. This comes back to the color of yarn I picked, which I was waffling about how much I liked all throughout this project. If I try a project like this again—knitting a shirt starting from the back armpit, over the shoulders, reconnecting at the front armpit, and in the round down—I will definitely use a non-variegated yarn, or one with a short enough repeat length that the effect is blotches rather than stripes. With this yarn, I think I will go back to the idea I started with, now that I have more confidence in my drafting abilities: working it diagonally.

Lesson 5, actually a positive one: drafting from sewing patterns works. I need to be a bit more careful in choosing the pattern to start from—some of the unflattering fit is because I started from a pattern eased to pull over one’s head when made from non-stretch fabric. Plus due to curl a drape-neck pattern is probably infeasible. However, on the whole the project came out exactly as I (should have) expected: the shaping scheme worked, and once I got the hang of it the translation from paper sewing pattern to written knitting pattern is not that hard to do.

Another way I came out ahead is I now have a very, very large swatch made up, in a yarn and needle size combination that I like working in, that’s blocked. The large swatch will help me get better measurements for future projects, including accounting for the effect of gravity on the length. I am lazy and impetuous enough that I never would’ve bothered making such a large swatch in advance of an actual project, so this is a fairly big win for me.

I’d love to hear any tips y’all have for better drafting/pattern design for knitting—I feel like I am groping in the dark a bit, and coming at this from a funny angle, and could benefit from others’ wisdom.

Journal: 8 September 2014

The last few weeks haven’t been great for my crafting schedule, and even worse for blogging purposes: I’ve been slogging away on two fairly large projects, finishing neither, and distracted a fair bit by other things. Real life is such a drag. Anyway, I’ve made progress on my harlequin shirt, which I talked about in my last entry, and cast on and have done about half of a large, snuggly Tunisian crochet shawl. I also had a yarn-dyeing misadventure: I should have read more carefully before attempting to kool-aid dye a cotton yarn.

Shirt in progress

Shirt in progress

The harlequin knit shirt is progressing and looks fairly shirt-like now: I’ve made it past the reconnect at the armpits and am working the slow slog of mostly even rows down the torso. The photo at right shows current progress from the front of the shirt: the shoulders straps, neck hole, arm holes, and then gathering to the circular needle. I ended up ordering additional yarn for it, as the first skein ran out well before the halfway mark. I am kind of ambivalent about the whole project at the moment; the worries about how the colorway will actually look in a garment haven’t subsided, and this is exacerbated by the fact that when I hit the reconnect, suddenly the rows were twice as long as before, so the color stripes get narrower. Furthermore, the more I work, the more every loose edge curls up on itself, so I’m worried I won’t be able to get it flat enough to wear. Ah well; I’ve learned a lot from this project even if I end up having to rip it all out and do something else.


Three yarns that sort-of go together

While I was waiting for the new harlequin yarn to show up, I cast on a shawl in Tunisian crochet. This is using three colors of yarn from my big box of mismatched sock yarns—they’re all multis, and I only got one or two skeins of each color. These three more or less coordinate, all having a pinkish-red overall feel and comprising a reasonable gradient. I decided to supplement with the white yarn I’d gotten in case the surf shawl needed it, and I may also add some burgundy at the end.


Tunisian shawl in progress

The plan is a fairly simple half-circle shawl in Tunisian simple stitch and honeycomb stitch. For the half-circle shape, each row has four increases on average; for the first few rows I made four increases each row, then started doing eight increases every second row, then sixteen every fourth, and am now up to thirty-two every eight rows. Honeycomb stitch doesn’t play nice with single increases, so I am doing honeycomb stitch in some of the even rows in between increasing rows.


Honeycomb stitch in multicolor yarn

Incidentally, this project is making me fall in love with Tunisian honeycomb stitch, which the internet assures me is completely normal to do; it looks lovely and breaks up the monotonous straight lines of ordinary Tunisian simple stitch. In particular, I noticed with the multicolor yarns I’ve been working with that it looks really good with a different color for the posts than for the chains, which happened spontaneously in some areas of the shawl in progress (see photo). I think my next project will build on this idea—I am planning to make mitts in Tunisian honeycomb stitch in the round, making posts out of a solid dark purple yarn and chains out of either (I haven’t decided yet) a) a lighter purple multi, b) a mint-green multi with light purple accents, or c) the white solid.


Shawl center, worked in white and the lightest multi

Anyway, back to the shawl—the way I am dealing with the multiple, multi-color yarns is by setting up a gradient over the whole shawl and then not worrying too much about the details. In Tunisian, it’s easy to mix colors within a row by switching yarns at the far end of the row, after pulling up all your loops and before chaining back. For the first section of the shawl, I mixed white and the lightest of the three multis this way; in the photo at right you can see the rows alternate between having white posts with colored chains vs. colored posts with white chains. The next section is entirely in the first multi; the third mixes the first and second multis; the fourth is entirely the second multi, and so on. To make sure the sections are in some sort of proportion to each other, I’m making them equal area, which means a quarter of each yarn is in the section mixed with the previous skein, a half is in the section with the yarn by itself, and a quarter is in the section mixed with the next color. Instead of counting rows and doing math, I marked the quarter and three-quarters points of all three skeins, and switch sections as close to the marks as possible. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but when I’m finished I’ll put up a pattern with more concrete instructions.

Finally, I should mention my yarn-dyeing misadventures. I’ve run across a bunch of people talking about dyeing yarn with kool-aid recently, and I’ve got a couple skeins of cotton yarn in colors I will simply never use: Christmas multi and a terrible lime green. So I picked up some kool-aid, on a whim, in the grocery store. Then I went looking for more complete instructions, and discovered that acid-fix dye only works on wool and similar fibers, not cotton. Surprise! A few people did say that it worked on cotton as well, but less effectively, so I figured I had nothing to lose and tried it. Welp, here are before, during, and after pictures of dyeing a Christmas-multi yarn in cherry kool-aid:

The thought with choosing cherry would be that the white sections would become red or pink, the red would become darker red, and the green would become brown, and I’d get a warm-colors multi. The result was what I probably should’ve expected: identical to spilling kool-aid on fabric, the white sections turned a very light pink, and the red and green sections didn’t perceptibly change. Ah well, lesson learned, very little damage done—the yarn is of equal utility to me as before, and the kool-aid cost a grand total of $0.28. Next time I’m at the store I will pick up some RIT dye and do this right.

Journal: 18 August 2014

It’s been a bit of a while since I’ve posted here—I don’t want to be one of those blogs where half the space is spent apologizing for not putting up more content, but I do want to mention that I may be posting less often for a while but that I am not hibernating. For a long while there I was binging on designing tatted lace, which makes it really easy to put up a new pattern every few days; I was also completely unemployed. More recently I’ve been feeling a bit tapped out on tatting, having embarked on a couple ambitious knitting projects instead; I’ve also picked up a very, very part-time job which is reducing my need to feel productive by blogging. This particular long break between posts was a combination of the above factors, plus I spent this past week on a family vacation with really poor internet.

Today I have a couple of hand-sewn blouses to show you—both of which showed up in my last tutorial post, but I have a couple more pictures that didn’t really fit in. I’ve got a little bitsy crochet meta-project: a box to hold in-progress projects. I’ve also got a knitting project that I am rather excited about, although I actually have no clue if I’ll like it at all when I’m done.

Sewing blouses

First, progress on the Great Five-Blouse Sewing Project: I have now completed three of five. Photos:

I’m still quite happy with the pattern, McCalls M6035, on the whole, but a little disappointed with how the stand-up collar and short-sleeve variants came out. I love Mandarin collars, but the collar coming forward all the way to the overlapping front makes it rather awkward. I kind of like how it looks with the collar folded down, but a) it’s a very old-fashioned look, which is sometimes but not always a good thing, and b) I used a non-reversible fabric, so you see the wrong side and it looks less professional. My complaint with the sleeves is just that they’re too tight—which may be more to do with my chubby upper arms than anything, so your mileage may vary. The green one is a little frumpy—using the full collar and bishop sleeve variants—but I did it deliberately, so I’m okay with it.

One final bit of news about my sewing situation is that I recently found out that Woot occasionally sells sewing machines. Really nice ones. For half their usual going price. So I’ve got a 185-stitch Brother with automatic buttonholing features in the mail, about which I am exceedingly excited. For anyone keeping score, this brings my total sewing machines up to three, and I barely use the ones I have—on the other hand, there are good reasons I don’t use them. At any rate, I am designating one of the remaining blouses as my getting-acquainted-with-my-new-machine project, and I’ll let you know how that goes.

Crochet project box


Basket, full of cashmere knitting, in amongst my other crafting things

I’ve got some odds and ends—all right, several skeins—left over from the big bag o’ cotton yarn I got a while back; they are awkward colors that I don’t really want in my kitchen, but I hate to waste good yarn and I don’t mind having a, well, eclectic crafting space. I also have a knitting project on sock needles with cables, with really delicate yarn—so I thought it would be nice to have some way of holding all those little needles and all together and protect the yarn from the rest of my crafting space. Putting two and two together, I made a quick basket in single crochet out of the hideous yarn, and am rather pleased with the result. It’s not the flattest or most beautiful thing I’ve made, but it serves its purpose well enough.

Detail of claw feet

Detail of claw feet

I don’t have a pattern for this wee beasty—I bet you could do as well or better on your own—but the general idea is a flat rectangle worked in spirals, then side walls that use decreases to slope inward a little bit and hold everything together. I do rather like one detail I came up with, which is to give the corners a bit of a claw-foot. The first row of the sides is in normal single crochet, working in only the front loop of the last row of the base; the second is in single crochet except a few stitches around the corners, which are: yo, yo, yo, insert hook in back loop of a stitch on the base, pull up loop, (yo and pull through two loops) twice, insert hook through both loops of a stitch on the side, yo and pull through all remaining loops. From the inside it looks just like a sc or possibly an hdc; from the outside it is a raised column. I did this to the five stitches directly on each corner, then on one stitch to each side separated by one sc. Anyway, a couple more photos:

Knitting a drape-neck shell

Drafting and pattern creation!

Drafting and pattern creation!

drape_frontSo I’ve done a little bit of drafting of sewing patterns in the past—mostly by modifying commercial patterns. The one shown above is traced and modified from New Look 6483; I removed the seam allowance, moved the bust dart, and heavily slashed the neckline to create a drape-neck. I had an idea a while ago to make this in diagonal knitting, but ended up getting too frustrated and scrapping it. In the meantime I added the seam allowances back in and sewed the shirt shown at right, which I wear pretty frequently and like. Just before heading off on vacation, though, I realized I didn’t have a project to take on the airplane, so I hauled it all out and set to work.

Back piece of shell

Back piece of shell and first few rows of front

For some reason—I am not at all sure why this is—I hate the thought of making knits in sections and then joining them, even though I don’t mind sewing at all. I think it just offends my sense of elegance: there are so many shaping tools you can bring to bear in knitting, so you should be able to make fairly complicated garments all in one go. Plus, I hate cutting yarn, in case I decide later to rip out the project and do something else with it. At any rate, this means the construction plan needed some thought. I figured out that I could do a one-piece sleeveless shell by starting at the back, at armpit level; working upwards to the neck; working the neck like a buttonhole with a bind-off and then cast-on in the middle of a row; working down across the bust to the armpit; then reconnecting with the back and working the torso in the round. Connecting this plan to the sewing pattern required making a gauge swatch, then taking a lot of measurements across my pattern and converting them to stitch counts. At the end of a couple hours’ work I had a plan of increases and decreases.

Shoulder showing slip-stitch shaping

Shoulder showing slip-stitch shaping on outside edge

The first cast-on, since it needs to be joined later, is the double-sided cast-on you’ll see sometimes for toe-up socks: the yarn is just wrapped around and around two needles. The main part of the work is all in stockinette, since I don’t have the patience for complicated drafting plus lace at the same time, on oversized needles. The armhole shaping, which is horizontal, is done with simple decreases and increases. The back-neck and shoulder strap shaping, which is vertical but doesn’t need to be precise, I did by making some sections of (slip 1, k1)/(slip 1, p1) work, which compresses vertically. Apparently this stitch curls a lot though—hopefully I can get it flat in blocking, or failing that by sewing in a facing.

Detail of front showing cast-on

Detail of front showing cast-on

The bind-off for the neck is the usual knit bind-off, with the trick of working a knit-in-front-and-back stitch at the beginning to avoid gapping or distortion. The cast-on for the neck I wanted to make a little decorative, so it’s actually the tatting double stitch, which does just fine and creates long, lacy loops at the edge. Now I’m beginning the long, slow slog of decreases to shape the drape-neck and front armholes.


Detail showing yarn colors

Detail showing yarn colors

The yarn, by the way, is premier yarns’ serenity sock weight, which I’ve mentioned loving before, in the Harlequin colorway. It’s coming through really dull in my photographs, for some reason, and indeed in the online-yarn-store photographs I can find, but in person it’s a really vibrant mix of Mardi Gras teal, purple, gold, and a bit of leaf green. It’s somewhat of an interesting experience to work with—in some lights I love it and think it’s the best thing, in others I hate it and suspect I will never wear the shirt. So I’m feeling a bit of trepidation about this project. On the other hand, this yarn definitely does not want to be a shawl or a scarf or anything, at least to my mind, so I’m not sure I lose anything if the shirt doesn’t turn out great either. Wish me luck!