Saturday, November 22, 2008

FO: Top-down 3-spiral hat (with pattern)

The beauty of knitting hats from the top down is that gauge doesn't matter; just try the piece on the wearer as you knit, and knit more or fewer rounds as appropriate.

Yarn: Lion Brand Cotton-Ease, 1/2 skein or less.
Needles: 5mm (US #8) needles for knitting in the round (I used 2 circulars)
Gauge: 4.75 sts / 1" (but see comment above)
Size: fits 6 month old (ditto)

Note: M1 = make one using Elizabeth Zimmermann's backward loop method.

CO 9 sts using wrap (aka figure 8) method as follows: wrap 6 loops around needles and K6 around. Then, K1, Kb&f around to complete the cast-on. (9 sts)
Rnd 1: *K1, Kb&f, Kb&f, repeat from * around. (15 sts)
Rnd 2: *K2tog, K1, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (18 sts)
Rnd 3: *K2tog, K2, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (21 sts)
Rnd 4: *K2tog, K3, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (24 sts)
Rnd 5: *K2tog, K4, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (27 sts)
Rnd 6: *K2tog, K5, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (30 sts)
Rnd 7: *K2tog, K6, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (33 sts)
Rnd 8: *K2tog, K7, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (36 sts)
Rnd 9: *K2tog, K8, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (39 sts)
Rnd 10: *K2tog, K9, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (42 sts)
Rnd 11: *K2tog, K10, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (45 sts)
Rnd 12: *K2tog, K11, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (48 sts)
Rnd 13: *K2tog, K12, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (51 sts)
Rnd 14: *K2tog, K13, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (54 sts)
Rnd 15: *K2tog, K14, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (57 sts)
Rnd 16: *K2tog, K15, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (60 sts)
Rnd 17: *K2tog, K16, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (63 sts)
Rnd 18: *K2tog, K17, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (66 sts)
Rnd 19: *K2tog, K18, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (69 sts)
Rnd 20: *K2tog, K19, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (72 sts)
Rnd 21: *K2tog, K20, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (75 sts)
Rnd 22: *K2tog, K21, Kb&f, M1, P1, repeat from * around. (78 sts)

Knit straight as follows:
Rnd 23: *K2tog, K23, , M1, P1, repeat from * around.
Repeat Rnd 23 until piece is 6" from cast-on point.

Next round, decrease as follows: *K2tog, K1, repeat from * around. (This mirrors EZ's original pattern, which is knit from the bottom up and, after the garter-stitch band, increases the number of stitches by 50%.)

Garter stitch band:
P 1 round.
K 1 round.
P 1 round.
K 1 round.
P 1 round.
K 1 round.

BO using purl decrease bind-off (which works well here because it's stretchy but not too stretchy): *P2tog, P2tog, slip 1st st on the right-hand needle over the 2nd st, repeat from * around.
(To avoid the step you get when binding off circular knitting, see this lovely tutorial.)

The pattern for the original version is published here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Top-down 3-spiral hat, in progress

It's a bit lumpy-bumpy, I think because of the Kf&b increases I used. I'm counting on the cutefying effect of having an actual baby wear it when it's done. So I'm going to finish it even though I need to find a better increase method.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama elected!

I've never felt prouder or more optimistic about being American.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Top-down EZ 3-spiral hat?

My current project is a version of Elizabeth Zimmermann's 3-spiral (aka snail or conch or Dairy Queen) hat for baby N.

The original pattern (for adults) published in The Opinionated Knitter, as well as this adorable baby version, are knit from the bottom up. I tried and failed several times while Baby N was in the NICU. I winged it without making a gauge swatch, but N's head was growing fast, and I knit real slow. After frogging for the third or fourth time, I gave up.

I'm trying to convert the pattern to knit top-down, but it's a little harder than I expected. For example, does "K2tog" bottom-up convert to
(a) Kf&b
(b) M1, K1
(c) K1, M1
(d) M1, P1
(e) P1, M1
(f) other ???
The only way I could figure it out was to actually try each and see how it looks. Finally, I think I'm close to a pattern that, although isn't exactly like the original, has a very similar effect.

To be continued....

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Vintage apron patterns make cute dresses

Just scored these patterns on ebay for $12:

They're described as "aprons" but I think they'd make really cute dresses, especially the Butterick 9579. I have a thing for back-wrap dresses and skirts, probably because my fashion sensibility developed in the 70s.

Now I really need to go on a pattern diet. I already have so many patterns I haven't used. And I should be able to create (or cobble together) any style I could possibly want to sew or wear with what I have. It's ridiculous how much time I waste on ebay poring through the pattern listings. I think I may need an intervention.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

FO: Top-down knit hat for baby

The hypothetical hat pattern worked!

(Everything looks cute on a baby, don't you think?)
(Definitely cuter than on a roll of paper towels, viz.:)

Specifics for this version:

Yarn: Lion Brand Cotton-Ease (cotton-acrylic) in Lime. (This yarn was such a pleasure to knit--I loved the feel and color both.) One skein can probably make at least 2 baby hats.

Needles: 5mm and 4.5mm needles for knitting in the round (e.g., 2 circulars, or a set of double-pointeds)

Gauge: 5 st/inch in stockinette on the 5mm needles

Fits actual head size (with a little room to grow) as follows:
eyebrows-to-base-of-head measurement=11" (laying the tape measure over the top of the head)

Using the larger needles, CO 12 sts using Wrap (aka Figure-8) method and join to knit in the round.
Rnd 1 and all odd rounds: Knit.
Rnd 2 : *K1, Kb&f, repeat from * around. (18 sts)
Rnd 4: *K2, Kb&f, repeat from * around. (24 sts)
Rnd 6: *K3, Kb&f, repeat from * around. (30 sts)
Rnd 8: *K4, Kb&f, repeat from * around. (36 sts)
Rnd 10: *K5, Kb&f, repeat from * around. (42 sts)
Rnd 12: *K6, Kb&f, repeat from * around. (48 sts)
Rnd 14: *K7, Kb&f, repeat from * around. (54 sts)
Rnd 16: *K8, Kb&f, repeat from * around. (60 sts)
Rnd 18: *K9, Kb&f, repeat from * around. (66 sts)
Rnd 20: *K10, Kb&f, repeat from * around. (72 sts)

Place a marker to mark where rounds begin (and end). Knit straight until piece measures 5 inches from cast-on.

Change to smaller needles, K1 P1 for 3 rnds.

BO using tubular cast-off.

Testing the Hypothetical Top-Down Hat pattern

Ready to bind off (using TECHKnitter's Tubular Cast Off)!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hypothetical top-down knit hat pattern

After the first hat I made for Baby N turned out way too small, and then repeatedly starting (and frogging) a second hat because it was either too small or too big, I decided that top-down was the way to go, because you can fit it as you knit it. It was difficult to choose a pattern, though, because naturally I must consider all patterns available either online or in library books to determine the very best one--which I was ultimately unable to do. So I made one up using bits and pieces from several different sources.

This is for a simple cap in stockinette stitch with half an inch of 1x1 ribbing.
Cast on 6 sts using the figure 8 (aka wrap) method. *K1, M1* all the way around (12 sts). (For this purpose, M1 = knit in the back of the loop then the front of the same loop.)

Rnd 2: K.
Rnd 3: Increase 6 sts evenly spaced.

Repeat rnds 2 and 3 until the circumference looks almost big enough.

Now do the following calculation:
1. using what you've knit to this point, determine your gauge, G sts/inch;
2. measure the wearer's head circumference, H inches; and
3. the number of sts needed for the circumference, C = 90% x H x G.

Continue repeating rnds 2 and 3 until you have C sts.

Now, measure from eyebrows to the base of the head, L. The length of the hat (from cast-on to cast-off edge) should, in theory, equal 1/2 x L.

Knit straight (no increases) in stockinette st, until the piece measures (1/2 x L) - 1/2 inch.

Switch to knitting needles that are 1 size smaller, and knit 1/2 inch of 1x1 ribbing (K1, P1).

Cast off tubularly.
So, that is the hypothetical pattern. Now I just have to test whether it works.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Baby sling M5678

Five years ago when Little M was an infant, and we were living in downtown SF and carless (not a typo: we didn't have a car), we carried him everywhere in this NoJo ring sling:
(As you can see, he was very comfortable in it.)
But it was quite bulky, and not ideal for wearing when the weather's warm. You can make a sling quite easily. There are free instructions on the web. I used McCall's 5678 (only I made it single-layered instead of double). Here it is in size Small (for reference: I'm 5'7" tall):
Baby and mom are both comfortable, but it's a slight bit of a challenge getting him into the pocket. Size Medium works perfectly (and even my 6' tall 200-lb husband can use it).

I made single-layered slings (M5678 calls for 2 layers of fabric). There is just one, curved seam. For strength you should double-stitch it. The edges are narrow-hemmed. Also, to make it even easier to put on (you have to fold it in half lengthwise and match the edges, before putting it on), you can stitch the two sides together at the shoulder so that it's always pre-folded and ready to don.

Fabric used: Thrifted duvet cover.

(Addendum: If you get stuck at step 14 of the instructions, check out the tips in the Comments below.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

S3874 nursing top

This nursing top is based on another idea from Rostitchery. The top part (the overlay) is from Simplicity 3874 (now OOP), which, conveniently, has an underbust seam. I put on the dress I made from this pattern to confirm that I could cut the back piece on the fold and get rid of the zipper. The underlay is a simple rectangle.
After taking the above photo I tacked the underlay to the overlay's armhole seam allowances, to keep the underlay from getting pulled down whenever I sat down.
Fabric used: a thrifted super soft, all-cotton sheet.
It's cute, but I should have adjusted for the larger & lower mammaries.
By the way, I overcame my lazy tendencies and fixed the nursing T by taking in the underbust elastic--it looks much better!
In non-sewing news: I got Baby N to smile at me today!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Easy access, baby!

Totally stealing this idea, I modified a free T-shirt pattern ("Lydia", from, to make a nursing top:

with easy access (my duct tape double is flashing you!):

The original front pattern piece looks like this:

but instead you need to cut an overlay and an underlay.
The front underlay piece looks like this:

and is elasticized at the top (stitch 1/4" elastic to the edge).
The overlay piece looks like this:

and is elasticized at the bottom (if your fabric doesn't curl, just turn up 5/8" and stitch a scant 3/8" casing).

Other modifications: after cutting the 5/8" seam allowance off the neck edge, I bound it with a crosswise strip of fabric, which wasn't difficult and turned out well.

My only gripe is that size 38 is loose-fitting on me so this looks more like a dorky nursing top than a non-dorky non-nursing top. Next time I'll try cutting size 36, tightening up the elastic, and shortening the overlay piece. (I need to get in the habit of trying things on as I sew; I could have remedied the loose-fit problem easily.)

I used a double-knit (1-3/8 yards), which was fast and easy - no edges to finish.

This is definitely wearable and therefore a (qualified) success!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Crocheted itty bag finished!

crocheted itty bag
Originally uploaded by sew-sewcrafter

Used 1 skein of Lion Cotton exactly. Less than 6 inches of yarn left at the end. I single-crocheted the pieces together but could have sewed them instead (if I'd run out of yarn).

Dimensions: 8.5" tall x 6" (26 single crochet) wide x 1" deep. One inside pocket. Just big enough to hold an oversized wallet, cel phone, and car keys, but not much else. Inspired by Pammy's Bag in Knit or Crochet (pdf) at

Monday, August 4, 2008

Would you pay $17 to have "Vogue" on the pattern envelope?

Has anyone else noticed that Vogue 8351 (price $20) and Butterick 5202 (price $2.99), for empire waist knit dresses with gathered fronts, are identical? So, you can choose to pay an extra $17 for the "Vogue" name on the pattern envelope. Or not. This is not like finding a designer knock-off at Target; this is like finding the exact same item with a Target label. I'm not complaining! But I am curious about the thinking behind this marketing tactic.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Preemie hats finished

N's 5 weeks in the NICU gave me plenty of time to knit - but mostly frog. I completed just one hat, which was too small by the time I finished it:

Sewing is so much easier and faster. Yesterday I made these for him:

Basic instructions: sew up a tube using stretch fabric, the circumference of which equals the baby's head circumference less 1 cm. Draw 4 darts at the top (about 2-3" long--these were a little too short so the hat was too boxy):

Stitch up 2 darts on opposite sides:
Stitch the remaining 2 darts in one long seam:
Turn up a deep hem and stitch:

Friday, July 11, 2008

Double your sewing pleasure

...or halve your sewing pain, as the case may be. What I've learned in the process of sewing 24 capes for Little M's 5th birthday party (theme: superheros):

1. A rotary cutter is not only more accurate but also many times faster (I could cut 8 layers of broadcloth in a single bound). Mine is by Fiskars and it's GREAT.

2. The sewing machine is not supposed to make that knocking sound. Clean out the lint below! I used the dustbuster (rather than the teeny lint brush that came with my machine). The smooth silence is such a joy, as is the absence of skipped stitches. In my defense, my mother's machine (a beautiful sage green all-metal Kenmore, probably from the 60s) always sounded like that, I just assumed it was normal!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Worst blogger, with good excuse

I am the worst blogger ever. But since I have a readership of only about one (counting myself) I'm not disappointing too many people. I do happen to have a good excuse this time for not posting in a while. At 3am on Monday June 2, my water broke, more than 9 weeks before my due date. This time it wasn't just a little trickle, as with Little M five years ago (I was walking around downtown at the time, and, I'm proud to say, I briskly but calmly walked 2 blocks to Geary St. and took a bus to the hospital. A gentleman offered me his seat, which I had to decline).

This time was more like a scene from a lame sitcom. I was awakened by a sharp pain on one side of my belly (like a muscle cramp) and rolled over in bed to try to relieve it, when I felt the leak. I jumped out of bed and ran to the toilet, as more amniotic fluid gushed out along with a small red blob onto the bathroom tiles. Yelling at Big M, "Wake up! My water just broke!" (response: "Huh? Wha?") while I raced around pulling on street clothes, calling Kaiser's Labor & Delivery dept in San Francisco ("My water just broke 10 weeks early!" "What is your medical record number?...What's your telephone number?...Has your address changed since your last visit?" "Christ! Shouldn't I go to the hospital?...Then why are you wasting time getting all this information NOW???"), grabbing beach towels (because they're dark and would hide stains) to sit on in the car. Little M starting to cry, "I'm sleepy!" We had friends lined up to take care of him closer to the due date, but they wouldn't be expecting to be on call yet, so he had to come with us.

Once I got to the hospital I felt a little less panicked. Within the first few hours I had an IV inserted in my arm, a dose of antibiotics (to try to delay labor), a steroid shot (to help develop baby's lungs), and an ultrasound to see how much amniotic fluid remained. Then there was nothing to do but wait (and endure various injections, manipulations, pinpricks, and hospital food).

Fortunately, the baby waited another week before deciding to come out. Unfortunately (for me) he required an emergency C-section. I'll take a vaginal delivery even without painkillers over a C-section any day. That's all I have to say about that.

Baby N, born June 6, 2008, gestational age 32-1/2 weeks, 3 lbs 9 oz., 16.5". He was tiny but strong. I heard him cry in the operating room shortly after delivery, and he didn't need to be intubated, though he did get extra oxygen (piped into his incubator) the first few days.

Last Friday June 20 was his last day in the incubator. The next day his IV was discontinued. With luck we may be able to bring him home by the end of the first week of July.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Burda 8577 Maternity Top

This is my version of Burda 8577, also reviewed on I bought the pattern and this fabric when I was pregnant 5 years ago and back in school, full-time, studying organic chemistry and calculus and other subjects that I nearly failed in college the first time around (in the 80s). No sewing was accomplished during that pregnancy.
I have more completed maternity projects to post....This 2nd pregnancy has really gotten me gassed to sew--but it's still pretty irrational to spend time sewing things I can wear for only 4 months, when I can certainly get by on the several tops I got at Target ($4 each, clearance sale). Is this the so-called "nesting"?
Downsizing box #3: mostly bed linens.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Downsizing: Box #2

Visiting family out of town at the moment, but before we left, I did clear out box #2 of stuff: some raggedy pants and T-shirts and several (more than I'd like to admit) micro-miniskirts and skorts that arguably I've been too old to wear for as long as I've owned them. Living in HongKong for a few years in the 90s I was unfortunately influenced by the local fashion, which tended toward Lolita-secretary. They are totally out of place in San Francisco, where the style is definitely anti-cutesy. Yet apparently I couldn't part with them while they were in perfectly wearable condition, since I paid good money for them. But they are taking up valuable space (over $350/sq foot) so it's time to go.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Making room for one more

Last year I vowed not to buy any new clothing, in an effort to be less consumptive and more frugal. My first purchase after my year of living frugally: a bunch of end-of-season maternity clothes from Target, which were so deeply discounted I could not have gotten the same number of outfits for less money at a thrift store or even if I made them myself.

But now with a baby on the way it's not enough just to stop adding to the things in our house. Our first baby's things will have to be kept for #2, so there's no downsizing potential there. But there's plenty of adult stuff that can go. So, new resolution: to get rid of one box of stuff each week until the baby arrives. 17 weeks to go. Here's my first box, which I posted on Freecycle last week:

A bunch of cookbooks and miscellaneous other books. It's irrationally hard for me to part with books, even ones I haven't cracked open in decades. When I was growing up, going the public library was the highlight of my week. Now as the mother to a little almost-reader, I really miss my beloved books that were passed onto my younger cousins when I outgrew them: all the Little Bear books for early readers, Harry the Dirty Dog, E.B. White's children's novels. I have a wonderful surrogate grandma who always gave the best, most thoughtful gifts (and still does).

One week later: the cookbooks were spoken for almost immediately. The rest are going to our local library for their book sale (if they'll take them) or to the Salvation Army which is just a few blocks down the street.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Best maternity pants pattern

Kwik Sew 3324, modified.
These fit way better than my underbelly-band jeans from Motherhood maternity (which also happened to cost 5x as much). The pattern is for pull-on maternity pants/cropped/shorts with self-lined front and back panels from ribbing, with elastic (1-2" wide) stitched to the lining side. The instructions were very straightforward, and it was super fast and easy to make. (One criticism about the instructions: they have you stitch the inner and outer leg seams first, then put one leg (they're now tubes) in the other to stitch the crotch seam. It's easier to stitch just the inner leg seams first, then the crotch seam, and then outer leg seams.)

Fabric used: a somewhat loosely-woven denim + 2-way stretch cotton-lycra + 2"-wide non-roll elastic (all from JoAnn's).

I made size XS (my normal size in patterns for bottoms is 10-hips, 12-waist), with 3 modifications:
1. Added vertical length to the stretch panels
2. Didn't stitch down the elastic (made a casing for it instead)
3. Redrew the rear crotch curve to make it more L-shaped.
Details below.

mod#1. I didn't like the waistband sitting at my "waist" (now the widest part of my torso) because every time I got into/out of the car or bent over to pick something up, the elastic would naturally slide downward (to a narrower part of my body), and so I was constantly having to hitch it back up. At 4.5 months, I expected the problem to get worse not better, so I took out the original ribbing waist panels and cut new panels from 4-way stretch cotton/lycra (remainders of a T-shirt dress); added 1" to the finished vertical length (or "height"?) so that the elastic waistband would ride above not at my belly; and used the XS measurement for the elastic instead of the S measurement to ensure that it would be snug. Next time I would probably add another 1-2" to the vertical length of the panels (you can see from the photo, taken 2 weeks later, that it won't be an over-belly waistband for much longer) and add ~1/2" to the vertical hip length on the pants pieces.

mod#2. I didn't stitch the elastic to the stretch panel as instructed. Stitching it down didn't make sense to me, because as your belly gets bigger the back side of your waist stays the same, so you'll need relatively more & more of the elastic to be in the front. It was easy to make a casing by stitching through both layers of the panel.

mod#3. I redrew the back crotch curve on the pattern to approximate the hotpatterns crotch curve. This worked out surprisingly well for my flat-ish butt and I definitely want to try this on some "real" pants eventually.

This is essentially the review I posted on, but after a few months those reviews aren't viewable unless you're a member.

Does this dress make me look pregnant?

Simplicity 3874.
I don't really understand the current trend of tops and dresses that not only obscure your waist but in fact make it look bigger than it is. What kind of body shape looks good in this style? Why would someone who's not pregnant want to wear maternity clothes?

Yet, somehow, they do seem to look good on everyone Stacey & Clinton put in them. So I spent $1 on this easy-to-make pattern (hey, it's only $1) on the off chance that this look might camouflage my less-than-flat abdomen without making me appear either pregnant or as though I was trying to hide a pregnancy.
Then, right after Thanksgiving, I found out I was pregnant. At my age, according to one website, the odds of this happening without medical intervention are so low as to be considered incalculable. So I was quite surprised, but happily so, and also very relieved that I hadn't just eaten too much turkey and stuffing to fit into my clothes. And so I'm definitely OK with looking pregnant in this dress. I just wish I didn't look so FAT in it.