Monday, August 31, 2009

Making a train pattern

So here's the post I promised about making the train pattern. Life got crazy last week with my office moving, so this post has been sitting for over a week waiting to get finished. Anyway...

I started out with the dress laid out on a sheet on the floor, as I posted previously. Then I threaded some green ribbon through those handy lines of yarnovers I obsessed over when I was decreasing for the train. The neat line of yarnovers stopped below the yellow life line, so I just laid the ribbons on top of the piece, continuing the diagonal lines as established by the yarnovers.

I took a look at it and decided I'd laid it out with the train waaaay too short and wide. So I did it again, stretching it longer & skinnier this time.

It's not so obvious in the photos, but it was in real life. Trust me on this one.

Then I covered the train area with tissue paper and taped all the paper together.

I tried to then trace the lines of ribbon with a pencil, but it wasn't really working - I obviously didn't want to press too hard, but still kept tearing the tissue. So I dug out my little sewing marking wheel thingie (I'm sure it has a real name, I just don't know what it is) - which is a little spikey wheel on a handle. I used this to trace the ribbon lines.

Then I cut out along the lines, leaving plenty of extra room.

I folded the pattern piece in half in a vague attempt to make something symmetrical and taken into account the differences between how the piece was blocked on its right and left sides.

Finally, I used a highly scientific process, involving an improvised compass (a piece of yarn tied to a pen) to determine that the curve at the bottom of the train did not work as any kind of regular, semicircular curve known to man (or woman). So I kind of spliced two curves together and came out with something that still looked pretty good to the naked eye.

And that's the train pattern piece. Isn't it cute?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Done? Not so much.

So last Thursday night I was quietly sitting, finishing up the first Size 8 rep of the chart while watching Defying Gravity (I'm of mixed opinions). After I finished (the chart, not the show), I thought, "Well, I better do a test and see how long this is, so I can decide how many more reps I need." I used my highly scientific method of holding the needle around my body and then raising it until the bottom edge of the fronts of the dress rested on the ground. I put the needle about at my waist. Nope, dragging on the ground. Raised it. Raised it. Raised it to just under my boobs, which as you all may know is where the skirt on an empire waisted dress sits.

I stood in shock. The dress was done.

I went into the dressing room to see what I looked like - one hand holding the needles around my chest, the other holding the still enormous cone of yarn. As I walked through my closet (our apartment geography is weird, my closet is a tiny hallway that connects the main apartment to our dressing room, which is another small room where we keep all our dressers and I have my sewing machine, as well as all the Barbies that Justin deems too "girly" to be displayed in the public areas of the apartment), something happened. Something which has plagued my mother's fears every since I made the decision to knit the dress. The bottom hem caught on something. Specifically, it caught on one of the boot hooks of my Doc Martens, which were mysteriously kind of out and about in the closet, as opposed to kicked to the back as one would expect of boots in August. Anyway, the dress caught, I felt a tug and I stopped moving. I quickly ascertained the source of the tug, unhooked the dress and moved on. The place that had snagged immediately blended back into the froth of lace that is the bottom border.

So that's one major worry semi-resolved. I will still do some reinforcing down there, of course, but the dress caught and there was no disaster.

I looked at myself in our full length mirror and, allowing for the fact that I was wearing a t shirt and shorts under it, the dress looked damn good. My main thought at this point was:


"What am I going to do now?"

The answer was "Some frogging." The dress had only one rep of the chart on the Size 8's and I really did want some more. Plus I needed to to the final decreasing to get the piece down to something vaguely approaching my underbust measurement. And it was on the floor. In fact, it was bordering on slightly too long.

So I sat back down on the sofa. And ripped back to my last lifeline, which was where I'd switched to the Size 8's.

Then I looked at the next lifeline - the one I'd put in right before I did the final train decreases. The decreases I'd decided I could live with, but now that I was looking at them again and thinking how they'd be more on my back and less on my butt, I was less thrilled with them. I threw caution to the winds, pulled out the first lifeline and ripped down to the second.Here's a pic showing the two lifelines - the vertical arrow is the first lifeline and the horizontal one is the second - both are a little hard to see since they're turquoise and blue on a blue background.

So now I'm redoing the train decreases and I feel much better about them - it's not quite done yet, but I looked at the pattern of the lace and I think I came up with a concept for the decreasing that flows with the pattern much better. It probably won't take the full 16 rows to decrease out the stitches, so as soon as I've done so I'm going to switch over to the Size 8 needles.

I'm hoping to get off one rep through the chart and then 7 rows more. The lace chart comes with an additional set of decreases to be done on either row 7 or row 13 (I think), which is used in the Dayflower Cami pattern to decrease the skirt before the bust stitches are picked up. It's a pretty good decrease pattern and I think it will work for me.

So the end is in sight. Really close. I have to figure out how I'm going to cast this off and if I want a little extra ruffly bit at the top. I really thought I'd have more time to make these decisions.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Aerial Views

So I switched over to the Size 8 emails last weekend and did a few rows on Friday night. The needles seem so tiny! I actually switched mid pattern - I didn't want to make the switch right after I finished the train decreases, but I didn't want a whole other rep in the Size 10's. Put a lifeline in on the last row in the Size 10's. Finished up the pattern, threw it on yet another lifeline and pulled the whole thing off the needles yet again.

Here it is all crumply. I spread a sheet on the floor so it wouldn't touch our yucky carpet and started spreading it out.

It's really, really big. I had to climb up on the arm of a chair to get the whole thing in frame.

I mean, it's huge. You can see the train section in the middle, all nice and curvy, the border looks great in the photo - still have some worries about finishing the edge, but the pattern looks great. There's too little of the Size 8 section completed to really get the contrast between it and the Size 10 - most of what you can see is on the Size 10 needles. I think I'm going to need to do a bit more decreasing to bring it down to my underbust measurement, but I feel pretty confident about that working.

I actually now feel confident enough to say that I think I am pulling off this crazy scheme of mine. The last time I took it off the needles it still looked way too large and wide and kind of like a misshapen shawl. Now it really looks like something. Like part of a dress. Like the elegant lace that will go over my wedding dress.

Next post will be me drafting the pattern piece to make the train for the fabric portion of the dress - fun!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Other Knitting

Will have a major update soon, but for now, take a look at the cute little booties and hat I made for my cousin Cary, who's having a little girl in December. (In fairness to family, I will mention that her sister Gretchen is having a baby hopefully any day now. But she elected not to find out the sex, so no booties for her til after delivery.)

Both of these are super cute and easy knits, free on Ravelry. Mary Jane booties and the Berry Baby Hat. I've made the booties for several babies and a 4 year old too, just by using bigger needles & yarn. I'm thinking of making a pair of these booties in grown up size for myself! The hat was a first time knit, but I will definitely do again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder, m'dear...

"... or forgetful."

To quote the Disney cartoon version of Robin Hood (the one with the foxes? Tell me you didn't love that movie as a kid? I called it "Fox Love" when I was little.)

Well in this case Lady Cluck was right and absense did make the heart grow fonder. No dress knitting since last Thursday, total physical absense from the dress since Saturday (and a complete inability to spell absence, as spellchecker keeps alerting me). I missed it! I wish to work on it again!

And I bought the fabric for the "muslin" of the fabric part. Went for a green similar to what the lace will eventually become. Figured, why not?This pic is surprisingly true to the actual color of the fabric. Ultimately I'd like the lace to be a less silvery green, but for a cheap mock up, this is a pretty good color. Might even turn out pretty enough to wear on its own!

B/c I'll need another full length dress with a train? Right?

A whole new stage of drama is about to begin...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Project Fatigue vs. Separation Anxiety

So for the first time I’m experiencing true dress infidelity. Like, I’m feeling the desire to work on other projects. A strong desire. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’ve not touched another bit of knitting since I started the dress. I was working on a summer sweater of my own design during Arsenic and Old Lace. Almost finished that, but a fatal flaw in sizing, as well as a yarn flaw that I thought wouldn’t be obvious and really was, sent that project to the frog pond. I’ve also been working on a cute striped bikini top with the leftovers from the baby tart hats. That’s almost done, it just needs a cute piece of cotton to be used as a skirt and make it into an apron top or a dress. And I did a variety of baby knitting of little hats and booties… although technically I think I was still just swatching on the dress then.

But throughout all of this, I really just anted to be working on the dress. And now, I find myself wanting to work on other things. I spent a great deal of Monday night frogging old projects. In an attempt to save money and the earth and yarn and such, I’ve been taking apart things that just didn’t work. The first was the summer sweater mentioned above. That I plan to remake, just correcting for my horrible mistakes in terms of gauge (although I really should have checked my gauge before frogging the whole thing. Darn.) And I cut out the bad yarn flaw, which I’d ignored as I knit in the dark and ended up being right over my belly button in an extraordinarily obvious fashion.

I also am in the process of frogging the first sweater I ever made. It was woefully large and although I loved it for being the first thing I made, I wore it twice and knew I’d never wear it again. And I’d spent waaaay too much on the yarn to let it lie. I started frogging it last year, then was distracted, then realized just the other day that I really wanted to make the Airy Wrap cardigan from Fitted Knits. And this yarn would work for it. So joy of joys, I’m frogging mohair. In August. On 90 degree days. I’m insane.

Really, the heat may be part of my lack of desire to work on the dress. Even though it’s light and airy and all that, it’s still pretty warm when the whole thing is piled in my lap on a 90 degree day. So we’ll hope it isn’t 90 degrees the day of the wedding. Of course we're hoping that anyway. Also I don’t plan to spend the wedding with all the lace of my dress piled in my lap. I’m planning something vaguely more aesthetically attractive than that.

I’m frogging my Cropped Cardigan with Leaf Ties. I love it and I love how it looks, just not on me. On me, it does not cover my boobs. And it’s not like I have big boobs to cover. It just kind of frames them in an odd way. I don’t know yet what that yarn will become – some other kind of cropped sweater I suppose, or maybe a full length but short sleeved one.

But in the end, I think part of the reason that I’ve slowed working on the dress is that I know that the more I work, the closer it will be to being done. The process has become almost bittersweet. Once I finish the final train decrease, there really aren’t any big challenges left with the skirt. I’ll have to do the crocheting around the top to reinforce it so it will hang properly. But that will be after I’ve cast off. I’ll have to do the final decreases for the empire waist, but after all the decreasing I’ve already done, I’m not too worried. The end of the knitting of the lace skirt is in sight. Still at least a month out, but in sight. It’s a wonderful thing. But it’s also a little sad.

Or it could just be that I’m terrified of dyeing this thing and I’m trying to put it off as long as possible.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ode to my Lifelines

I'd never used lifelines before this project and let me tell you, they've been, well, lifesavers. Really, I realized that I hadn't knitted a lot of lace before this project - some scarves, Branching Out, Wisp & Juno Regina, and the original Dayflower Cami that inspired the dress. Some projects with lace trimming or some such, but otherwise that's all.

Only one time have I had to unravel all the way to a lifeline for the whole dress - the first train decrease I did wind up taking out a whole 16 rows. That was kind of depressing. And there was the one isolated section where I dropped down to the lifeline and fixed one repeat of the chart. But just knowing the lifelines were there has been so good for me psychologically.

I took this picture to show off all my lovely lifelines. (And added some green arrows in MSPaint, since they're a little hard to see against the plaid sheet background.) The first is the purple - it's at the top of the border section. The second, pink, is at the top of the short row section. In this pic they're very close together, but at the deepest part of the short rows they're 12-18" apart. Then I placed the yellow lifeline before I started decreasing for the train and the blue one after the first train decrease. I've since pulled that blue lifeline; now it's just before the final group of train decreases, which is the one where I'll be decreasing from both sides in one repeat of the chart. I made a special new chart just for this section, but I really couldn't face another swatch, so I'm just knitting the whole darn thing. But I did at least have the sense to place a lifeline, so if it looks like crap, away it'll go again. Plan then is to pull the blue lifeline a second time and run it through at the top of the train section.

Plan after that is probably a couple more repeats on the 10 needles, then the final needle change down to the 8's. Can you believe that? FINAL NEEDLE CHANGE.

Clearly, I'm having a hard time with it.

Almost a whole train

See those two stitch markers? See how close together they are? They used to be NINE repeats of the chart apart from each other. Now they're less than 3 repeats from each other.

I said to Justin yesterday - I think I'm closer to the end of this now than the beginning. He looked at the pile of knitting and said, "That's not the whole thing, right?" In Justin's defense, he hasn't seen any of the sketches of the completed dress - allowing for the whole thing to be a bit of surprise on the big day. I quickly reassured him that it was NOT the whole thing, that there would in fact be a large fabric portion to the dress so I wasn't, you know, indecently exposing myself to all our family and friends. He nodded.

"I figured."

Sunday, August 2, 2009

My first wedding related injury

Burnt myself on the iron when steam blocking last Sunday night. Was on the phone with my mom - when she heard me say "Ow" she asked what was wrong. When I admitted to burning myself, she said "You probably shouldn't be doing that while talking on the phone." Apparently I can do nothing without total concentration, or disaster may occur.

Treatment included a Spider-Man ice pack (no, I do not know why we had one of those in the freezer), some Neosporin and a band-aid. One week later my arm looks like this:

And the dress looks like this:

Lightly steam blocked and still on the needles - which I shoved into the cargo pockets of my capri pants for this photo.

I almost can't wait to really wet block this thing. Only the fact that it will take both many hours and about a million pins is holding me back. That and the fact that we keep having company on the guest room bed.