Friday, June 20, 2014

Hiya Hiya Knitting My First Cardigan

Hiya Hiya Circular Needles Size 9
Knitting has been one of those craft skills that I never mastered when I was younger. My sisters all learned to knit when they were in primary school, and they pretty much kept the skill through adulthood. They tried to teach me in my teens, and then I tried to learn again in my twenties when I was bedridden and pregnant with my first child. No success.

Then about six years ago, I took a new temporary job assignment where I was responsible for territories in East Asia, and the long flights sparked my interest in knitting again. Was it out of necessity? Or was it my mental state in need of the repetitious and even calming effects that knitting has on the knitter? Probably both at the time.
Close-up of the tip

Unlike sewing, where my creative juices can overflow into design and construction. Knitting is for me a new refuge. Any kind of refuge.

This month, the process of knitting climbed a new high when I ventured into the "tools" territory. For the past few years, I have been using Clover bamboo needles for all my projects. They are easy to find at my local big box store. I do think it's strange however that when I have visited local yarn stores, no one ever asked me if I needed needles, or even offered to teach me about my options. Maybe it's just a fluke. I swear, it's never happened.

Then I stumble across some reviews on Amazon, purely by accident for me, but probably on purpose by Amazon, because they are so good at linking me with things that I don't need, or didn't know I needed, and something sparked my attention: Hiya Hiya needles. Okay...maybe these are nothing new to the advanced and even average knitter. But for the knitting challenged and clueless, it was a bucket of cold water in the face. I ordered a set of basic number nine circulars to finish my Craftsy class, and what should happen?

I began to knit twice as fast, that's what. Really?

Yup...and all this time, I thought Clover made the only needles I need because they were bamboo, and environmental, and I could take them on the airplane without fear of confiscation.

These Hiya Hiya needles are like "stealth" tools. They are made of steel, light, sharp, and if I could use the word precise here...okay, I'm going to...and they are precise. Seriously, precision is really more in the person holding the needles, but I swear, it's almost like these little metal sticks have some engine attached to it. But these needles also help me with unstitching my constant mistakes with ease. My miscounting, my forward tbl, instead of the back. I actually knitted the whole back panel in some weird backwards purl stitch and didn't even know it until I started on the second panel and saw there was a difference.  That is how pathetic of a knitter I am.

Now that I'm almost done with my sweater...which has been sitting in my "to-do" box since last October 2013, I can honestly say, in my most sincere Oscar award voice, "I would not have been able to have accomplished this without the help of my Hiya Hiya needles. I owe it all to them, and I am truly grateful." [loud applause here]

So without further ado...I just got in the mail yesterday, the rest of my Hiya Hiya interchangeable needles and gear from the lovely folks in Washington called Paradise Fibers. I bought from them, not because they are cheaper (Hiya Hiya needles and gear don't get discounted...even on Amazon), but because when I called them on a Saturday afternoon, some live person picked up the phone, and took the time to answer all my novice (stupid) questions, and he (Nathan) even looked at the live merchandise to make sure he answered my questions correctly. Now that's worth a purchase don't ya think? I think so...because fumbling knitting dummies like me can be a pain in the butt.

Look Ma...more knitting gadgets!

I bought the large interchangeable needles, and the accessories set, which came with all these other knitting accessories that I didn't know I needed in order to knit a proper anything. They also came with really luxurious carrying bags. I feel so grown up.

The interchangeable set was $79.99, and the tools bags was $39.99. Not cheap, but not unreasonable either.
I feel like this is the beginning of my "new" knitting life with these little babies. I don't know if I can take them on the airplane though. Hiya Hiya also makes needles in bamboo. I should try theirs and see how they compare to Clover.  BTW, I stopped using the Clover circulars recently because I didn't like how the yarn kept getting caught between the plastic wire and the needles. But I don't have this problem with Hiya Hiya, they are smooth, and the plastic wire is much more pliable, unlike the stiffness in the Clover circulars. Also, there really wasn't a huge price difference either between the deciding on the switch was brainless.

Here is where I am so far with my project...I know it doesn't look like much. I haven't steamed the pieces flat yet. Up until now, most of my sewing projects have been rectangular, except for the socks, and the hats I've knitted in the round. My most advance attempt was a cable stitched beanie wool hat, which turned out surprisingly really well.

I might want to mention here, in case someone out there on the internet might be looking for a review of this class on Craftsy, that it's overall a really good class, and the instructor Amy does a good job slowing down the process for me. knew this was coming...there were lots of little errors on the knitting instructions that don't come through in the class. The class is about technique, but it doesn't go over line-by-line knitting. If it did, Craftsy would have caught all the mistakes. I am knitting the button up 3/4 sleeve cardigan, and there were enough mistakes like miscounts in the instructions to throw a simpleton knitter like me off kilter. I literally stopped knitting until I got a response from the instructor about updating the errors. There were actually fixes to the pattern written in the response sections of the class because the poor instructor couldn't get Craftsy to load the corrections on the PDF class materials. Really? Well, maybe now that Eunny Jang is working for Craftsy...(yes, she left Interweave, can you believe it?)...these kinds of things won't be happening anymore in the knitting division.

I have lots of imperfections in my cardigan, but I'm just at this point where I want to get it done. It's like a practice sewn muslin, except it took me months to complete. I can't even give this sweater away, because I think some of the errors are glaring at me. Do your mistakes talk back or make faces at you? Mine do. I may or may not post my finished project depending upon how mean it is to me.

My hope is to eventually knit mediocre.  (No this is not aiming my standards low.)  I don't have high aspirations to design, but certainly I could eventually knit with more than one color. (I'm starting with achievable goals here.) I don't think I've ever really seen a properly knitted, handmade sweater before until a couple of months ago while perusing through the racks of my local Goodwill Store.  Yes, I like shopping at Goodwill and finding things I can recycle. My latest visit, I scored a $5 wool sweater that fit me perfect, and was also meticulously hand knitted. I now have something to use as my gauge (pun intended).

Everything about this sweater screams, "I've been knitting so long, I could do this with my eyes closed." Take a look at what I mean!

Then look at these buttons, they are actually handmade buttons to match the sweater...


Look inside the sweater...I didn't know you should hand stitch grosgrain ribbon to stabilize the button holes...but it makes sense. I do it in fabric sewing for Pete's sake.

Lastly, how about those seems...I have yet to stitch my sweater together, but I want it to look as good as it was knitted as a single whole piece of perfection.

I hope whoever made this knows that I'm appreciating the hell out of it, and giving it another life, and using it to inspire me to become the next stealth knitter.

          Happy Knitting!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Childhood Inspirations

Dedicating a project to Frida is a lot more work than I thought. Last year I made an eyelet blouse and decorated it with fabric flowers. I felt like white eyelet was an ideal fabric that reminded me of the many simple lace blouses that Frida wore in her photographs. I tried to move into modern Frida this year...imagining what sort of clothes she would wear if she were alive today. I believe her style would remain vibrant and fearless in any century.

From Olvera Street website HERE
Olvera Street is a little tourist town
next door to Los Angeles Chinatown
The internet has really brought cultures closer together, and that has far exceeded my wildest dreams. Unless we lived in the urban neighborhoods across melting pots like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, and the like, most of us would miss the opportunity of blending history and culture by simply crossing our streets.  What do I mean?  There is San Francisco Chinatown next to Little Italy, and Korea Town, a stone's throw from Hollywood, and the list goes on.

This is how I grew up...smacked up against the Hispanic cultures of central Los Angeles, and Chinatown. My Latin neighbors were mostly from Mexico, and most of what I know about their love for friends and family stems from them. My elementary school celebrated Cinco de Mayo just as fervently as Chinese New Year. We danced and sang in both languages and rhythms. We ate each other's food, fought in English and in our native tongue, and on a rare occasion when unspoken neighborhood rules got broken, we banded together, brown and yellow. This is how I want to remember that time in my past. It's easy to recall the negativity, and maybe even difficult to see the good for some amidst our shared poverty and struggles. But I want to remember our many shining moments together in our hood.

Historical LA Chinatown, more HERE
These days, the reach of new neighborhoods are even easier, and we don't need to step outside our doors.  It comes to us from the tech phenomenon we call social media. It makes me appreciate Google translator...and forces an awareness about how little I really know about my neighbors on the other side of the world. Which brings me back to sewing...

Who would have thought that a needle and thread could be our universal language, and that regardless of our diphthongs or intonations, we could share a love we do with our hands without ever uttering a word. Dedicating a project to Frida Kahlo reminds me of so many things about what I love wrapped into one garganchuan, indescribable mix of my past, present, and passions.

Happy sewing!

A little update on my Frida Kahlo challenge...

Drying the sari fabric I am using for my Frida challenge. A 
Google+ SOMKT member told me how to launder the sari 
using shampoo. I like the way the seven-foot long sari draped 
across my back porch. I almost wanted to leave it there. I will
be blending the fabrics of India with my Japanese-inspired
Frida dress. A melting pot indeed! I think Frida would approve,
don't you?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Frida Kahlo 2014 Birthday Tribute - July 7th

When I'm supposed to be doing other things...I find myself wanting to work on crafts. I think there's this procrastination switch inside me that uses my ideas as a good excuse to stop working. You know they all sound so good at the time.  One of those big ideas is drumming up my Frida Kahlo tribute again. So far, no takers except my buddy from last year. She's such a trooper...and maybe the only other person that shares my fondness for Frida. Seriously? It can't be. 

So last night, I went to bed early, and then stayed up late. Do you ever do that? Blame my iPad...whatever...  I started reading posts from folks who cannot get into the LA Mood store. I didn't know there was an earthquake in April, did you? I live in California and I didn't hear about the Earthquake? Maybe I was in Asia at the time. 

Anyway...Mood's ceiling collapsed. It's still closed, even though its online store is alive and well.  After just purchasing a bunch of stuff from Ann at Gorgeous Fabrics, I decided to poke around Mood to see what similar things they had. Bad idea. Of course I didn't buy anything...not yet...stuff is sitting in the cart waiting for me. I did not put this item in there because it was a dry-clean (Rayon viscose) only fabric, but the colors look great for my Frida challenge.  I mean can't you see it on Frida right now? 

Then I'm thinking, wouldn't this fabric be great paired up with this Satsuki Victory pattern? 

Except I would probably add the cut shoulders from this version of the same pattern, but keep the ruffle front on the other with no waist strap. I say go all out damn it!  Check out the pattern HERE.

I missed joining the Perfect Pattern Parcel when one of the Victory patterns was being offered. (REALLY sad face.) The current collection is expiring in seven days.  It includes the Bombshell Bathing suit this time around. If you've been itching for one, here's your chance to get it along with five others (depending upon your package). Who doesn't have $28 for six Indie patterns? I spend more than $10 on just one!  

What is Perfect Pattern Parcel you say?? Check them out HERE.
I seriously think that these pattern collections are the best deal in the world right now. If you sew with ANY Indie patterns at all...DO sign up. Not tomorrow...right now. 

Back to Frida...

Her birthday is July if you think you want to be a part of her tribute, then post your finished piece, and it can be ANYTHING. It's a tribute...not a costume party...but I suppose one could make it a costume party, and that would be plenty fun too. I'm thinking on the lines of...if she were alive today, what would she wear, or what about her inspires me... I think of vibrant colors and great big flowers...both of which I love, love, love!  

Oh your finished pieces at the Google+ Sewing on My Kitchen Table community. You can find us all HERE. Your prize will be knowing that Frida is looking down upon us from heaven and admiring all those beautiful colors.  Happy sewing! 

Dress like Downton Abbey Anyone? My New Book and Zine Stash

Just a quickie today because I've been really naughty with my time ever since I got up.  It might have to do with that little dose of vitamin C I had before bed. I made me sleep like a log, even though I had all sorts of lovely dreams...and then I woke up wanting to do a million things except for the things I really needed to do. You have days like that? I secretly have them everyday, but some days I have more self control than others. It's Friday afterall...

So I decided to update some of my latest book and zine purchases. I basically want to show you some of the photos of the Downton Abbey Magazine I got from Interweave. Although I am not a follower of the BBC show, I do like the fashions from that time period. So here are some photos for your enjoyment...notice the last picture at the end with the awful head piece. Some things were not as successful, and the section on accessories was the worst. The available patterns can be downloaded on Sew Daily's website. Don't forget to keep scrolling to see more books and magazines.

This was so cute, and I thought it was a pattern on the skirt, but it's the blouse.
The skirt is much nicer than the blouse.
Cute...but I don't think boys would wear this out.
Surprised to see home accessories.
Not so attractive. It made me laugh.
Now for the next batch of things...

I went magazine nuts over the Memorial Day weekend. I ended up buying every single copy of Stitch either in paper (2013 issues), or digital (all the back issues from 2008-2012). I'm not sewing many crafts...but I've been inspired since my trip to Japan. I also think that the more I read and look at what people have will light some spark in me. These magazines are not the best, but there's always one project that is the cream of the crop. I feel like there should be twenty projects at least. But that's just my opinion.  You can get all these magazines directly from the Interweave website.

Then I went kind book nuts...

All the books I purchased were used except for Bunka and came from Amazon dealers. Consider buying any of your books used. It's cheaper, and it saves trees. I have never been disappointed with the condition of my used books.

This first one is a Rowan knitting book.  I love Rowan knitting patterns, but I have yet to try one. I just got my first batch of Rowan yarn shipped over from the UK, so I'm looking forward to working on that project soon.  Rowan has lovely modern knitting designs inside. I am eyeing the pattern on the right (from the book) for Fall.

I have been meaning to pick this book up for a while. I think it's out of print, and there's some copycats out there. I found this one used for a few dollars plus shipping. It's in great condition, and the pictures are bigger and better than my other favorite sewing book: Reader's Digest (the 1960s version that is). Check out the color photos! If this book was printed today, it would probably cost more than $40.

This is another used book I got on patchwork from a popular Japanese designer. It's super, super basic, and that's what I wanted. I have never really made a quilt of my own. I helped my daughter with one, but I don't think that counts. We also might have made some simple mistakes.

I thought it would be helpful to get a beginners book just to make sure I'm not skipping any technique and wasting my time in the long run.  Again, another wonderful book for step-by-steps. move me along further into possibly making a quilt...I picked up another one of Elizabeth Hartman's quilt book. I used one of her books for my daughter's quilt. I like her simple, modern designs (notice the title). I think I've never been interested in quilts because the shapes looked really complicated and busy. I have always preferred designs with more white space, be it in print (paper) or textiles. It's just my thing I guess.

My biggest disappointment, and my most expensive purchase.  All the way from the Bunka Fashion Design Series I. I know about 80% of the information in there. It's meant for the beginner sewists...real beginner. There will be an explanation on buttons and snaps. I think for English-language how-to sewing books, there's a lot better ones out there written by either the classic sewists, or even the Indie ones like Colette and Tilly. This was not really a necessary purchase. I feel like I need to get the second series to really give it a chance though. So stay tuned for that one. But here's some inside photos for you...

Bunka's button explanation.

This last book, I was so happy, happy, happy to get was Mel Clark's first knitting book... I didn't even know she had another book. I own her second book "Knit Two Together" with Tracey Ullman.  I feel like Mel Clark has been my knitting teacher. My knitting really improved after I started using her book.

If you want to see all of Mel Clark's patterns, you can find her on HERE on Ravelry. She has some lovely baby layette patterns too.

This is going to be the first project I make out of Mel Clark's book. I already tapped about six things, but this one was so cute.

I'm still knitting things out of her second book. I used to carry Knit Two Together with me to my local yarn shop to buy all my yarns for her projects. The owner eventually bought a few copies for her store because she saw how wonderful the designs were.

Mel Clark used to own a yarn store in Santa Monica, which is where I think Tracey Ullman met her. Anyway...that shops closed now, and she's moved back to New Zealand. She is such a knitting treasure and I love her work because her designs look complicated but they're not.