April 24, 2013 § 1 Comment
Another Fashion Friday post missed, but last week was a real doozie, and the week ended with a very special (surprise) dinner.
My husband always tries to downplay his birthday, with singing cake and gifts not in his preferences for the occasion. He desires for nothing more than to pass the day as just another. However, with this year’s passing his number of years ticking to one ending with a “0″ meant I couldn’t feign indifference and planned a surprise dinner party for last Friday evening with just a few folks that Ramon considers family. The theme for our festive event was “A Dinner Party at the Swiss Chalet” and I served all of the makings from a weeks worth of labor for Raclette followed by a desert of chocolate fondue with fruits. Raclette is a traditional Swiss cheese. Dating back hundreds of years to when shepherds tended their herds in the mountains of Switzerland. With limited supplies meals consisted of cheese which was melted by the fire and drizzled over potatoes and pickles. Today raclette can easily be served in the home with raclette grills which can fairly easily be found. Each individual in the dinner party uses their very own grilling tray. It is a little like “advanced” fondue.
I’ve only had raclette once before and it was made from delicious leftovers prepared by the best amateur chefs I know over a weeks time at a cabin up in Tahoe. I used the week leading up to the party, and Ramon’s birthday as an excuse to make tons of food so that once Friday arrived I would have very little to cook. I started planning weeks in advance, and with the Little Buckaroo in tow, I was fully prepared for my week-long culinary adventure, complete with budges and back-up plans just in case crabby pants wasn’t having any of it. I also knew that we would have a vegetarian at the party so I knew that all of my sauces or post-meat-grilling-pared-veggies would need to be handled in a way as to not be “contaminated” by non-vegetarian-friendly tools and ingredients. So, no well-seasoned-with-bacon-fat cast iron skillets, or reducing a sauce with reserved liquid from a cooking pan. Thank goodness I planned ahead and thought about this before beginning a single dish, or I would have had lots and lots of work on Friday to make a whole new set of dishes for our vegetarian guest. All I did all week was cook, and try to hide the evidence. On Friday Ramon had quite a wonderful surprise and we all had an amazing feast.
While the fruits of my labors were expected to result in many dishes for both herbivores and omnivores (and, if I am being honest, at least one carnivore) I didn’t expect to have so many left-overs from my left-overs but found myself happily cooking omelets on Saturday that took mere minutes from start to finish with mustard-seed crusted prime-rib, grilled green onions, seared bell sweet peppers, topped off with a creamy horseradish sauce. Delightful decadence that could never have come about just from getting raw ingredients out of the cabinet that morning. This started off what I am fondly calling: The Best Saturday of the Year (so far).
Later in the day I was able to sit-down and finish my Joan Tank, from the pattern Essential Tank by Wendy Bernhard published in Custom Knits, which I had also been plodding away on while plotting my work carefully. I started out with one huge skein of somewhere around 800 yards of yarn. Not a knot, or an end in the middle other than just the two to start and finish the skein. Feeling lucky that my ball winder was specifically made to handle “Jumbo” yarn masses I happily knit round and round up until the arm-hole. Now this yarn is slippery, mercerized cotton. Anyone who has ever knit cotton knows how difficult it can be not only to weave in the ends, but to do so in a way which makes them invisible on the right side of the garment.
Listed in bullets for other knitters who want clarity on my modifications, they were:
- So, my first modification to the pattern, even before I landed on the lace panel going up the middle, was to add a purl 1 through the back loop to create a faux side seam, giving me a place to hide the first end from the cast-on.
- Then I decided on the 36 stitch lace panel, finding the center 36 stitches and marking them out with stitch markers. I worked my side decreases and increases every 12 rows as it matched up with the transitions of my lace patterns and the length / number of rows and inches I wanted the piece to measure. I started the decreases for the waste after 36 rows. Immediately after finishing the 12th row of the 3rd decrease I began the increases.
- Working my way through the body I started to think about how to handle the armholes, and the neckline. I knew that I’d need an edging of some sort, and the pattern lists out very basic instructions, but they involved breaking the yarn and starting in again, creating two new, and I felt, unnecessary, ends.
- I knit 24 rows up the front which was one full chart of the lace pattern vertically, and worked the armhole decreases just as described in the pattern. I wanted to shorten the armhole and drop the neck.
- I did have to break the yarn for the top neckline to create the two sides, but I chose not to bind-off the stitches at the shoulder, and just left them on holders, each side of the neck was 26 rows. This created 2 more ends, so now we’re up to 3, total.
- Then I had to start in a across the back—1 more end— and work my way up just at the front for 28 rows, as opposed to 24 for the front. I would still need to break the yarn for the neckline, but had another plan for the shoulder and armhole binding/edging. Upon reaching the shoulder, I took the held stitches from the matching front piece, and with right sides together, working across the wrong side of the work I knit 2 together, and bound-off, leaving the working yarn, unbroken at the armhole side of the tank-top. Then, again without breaking the yarn, I started picking-up and knitting stitches down the armhole, and then back-up the other side, 112 stitches in total. I then worked 4 rows in 2×2 ribbing, and bound off in the stitch pattern
- Before starting work up the second side of the back neck I split the rest of the ball of yarn into two balls, and pulled a loop, and without breaking the yarn, started knitting. I worked all of the way up the last neck piece, and followed just as I had done before to bind-off the stitches together with the front side, and then, again without breaking the yarn picking up and knitting 112 stitches around the armhole in 2×2 ribbing for 4 rows.
- Taking the second attached ball of yarn from the base of the neckline on the back I picked up 140 stitches around the neckline and worked 4 rows in 2×2 rib stitch, then did the bind-off in the same stitch pattern.
In the end I wound up with a total of 8 ends to weave in as opposed to a minimum of 14 if I had broken the yarn before each edging/binding. Then I wove in approximately 10 inches of each end into either the faux seam, or the back-side of the picked up stitches for the armholes and neckline completely hiding the ends from the work. Hooray! Success!! My careful planning worked. Thought I knew that I might have a problem with the abundantly open lace-work on the front side of the tank. I had already decided to lower the neckline of the front, and shorten the armholes on both the front and the back. While I was carefully counting my rows as I started in on the back, I realized that the neck wouldn’t gape with the binding the way I was planning it, so if I lowered it, too, I wouldn’t have problems. The back is 4 rows higher than the front where the neckline begins, but they are still both low and don’t gape.
Nothing ever turns out how you expect that it will with a knitting project. No matter how many gauge swatches, tests, or blocking you do there is always something unexpected. This yarn was supposed to be for a completely different tank-top and it just wasn’t working out. I uncommitted and recommitted to something new, where I anticipated a lot of problems and planned carefully to work around them. I am glad I really thought about it, instead of just following along with the pattern. Serendipity comes in unexpected sizes. Yesterday I made myself a gluten free ham sandwich with brie cheese, ham cubes, dijon sauteed onions and shallots, gently toasted to perfection from unexpected left overs from my raclette and I stood eating it in the kitchen with a glass of home-made lemon-aide while wearing the my Essential Tank with the lace to the back, the unexpected way in which I prefer to wear it.
For those interested in my compelete menu for our surprise raclette dinner (links for those available included, though I do often make changes):
- Ropa Vieja
- Ropa Vieja peppers & tomatoes
- Paprika crusted pork tenderloin
- Paprika mayonnaise
- Braised Short Ribs
- Port Wine Braised Short Ribs Reduction Sauce
- Mustard Seed Crusted Prime Rib Roast
- Dijon Mustard & balsamic sauteed onions and shallots
- Creamy Horseradish Sauce
- Au jus
- Bourbon & Dijon Sauce
- Asparagus Tips
- Bacon Sprouts (Brussels Sprouts cooked in Bacon Fat, and served with Bacon)
- Seared Cauliflower
- Seared Bell Peppers
- Grilled Zucchini
- Sundried Tomatos
- Cubed Ham
- Red wine marinated mushrooms
- Sauteed Green Onions
- Pesto, made fresh from the Basil growing my garden
March 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
It has been two weeks since I have touched a knitting needle. Two whole weeks. It is hard for even me to believe. Busy as a little bee I’ve been unpacking, organizing, and of course, as always taking care of my beloved Little Buckaroo. While we moved in on the Ides of March, now here we are just over 10 days later and there is still so much to do. When we moved none of the trim pieces were in place—moldings, door-frames, window-frames, the solid wood doors themselves, wainscoting, and even some of the baseboards. Ramon saved the 107 year old redwood originals (thanks Santa Cruz Mountains) during the demo. He sent them all off to be “tanked” which means that instead of painstakingly stripping off layers and layers of foul paint, the doors and all go in a huge vat of caustic-soda and decades of grime, lead-based paint and God knows what else is removed. At Gymboree today one of the Mommy’s asked me, “Why didn’t you just replace it all?” Good question, one which I asked myself way back when as well. It is probably over a mile worth of “trim,” and you just can’t get this stuff down at the old hardware store. It would all have to be handmade, so why not save the original redwood–great solid, carved pieces—and fix them back up.
All of this is fine and good until the baby is standing up, pulling out our new Pink Panther insulation from the 3 inch, uncovered gap between the window panes in his room, exactly where a trim piece should go. We knew that this is what would happened, but we collapsed in exhaustion and vowed to get to it just as soon as we could move again. Well, the problem got worse on Saturday when I left the room for only a moment and I came back to a screaming, bleeding 9 month old little boy. A huge splinter in his thumb. Where did he get it? I don’t know … so many options. Ugh. As things stand I cannot leave him alone in any room, or in any place for any reason, with the exception of his crib. When you just get him up from a nap, feed him his lunch and then say, oh, need to use the bathroom, you can’t very well put him in his crib again. He’ll be pissed! So, onto the bathmat he goes, pulling at the shower door, toilet paper and everything else until you’re done with you business. Not exactly a road-map for success we’re drawing out here. So, in a delirious state from trying to get boxes unpacked and keep two eyes always on that little, starting-to-take-his-first-steps baby, our new “home-renovation” plan has taken a left turn: Safety first, with a little bit of convenience squeezed in where absolutely necessary. Funny how you can’t open kitchen cabinets without some sort of “pull” or “bar.” And if you don’t have one of those, a broken finger nail just might be able to do the trick. (Special thanks for my Dad to installing all of our kitchen cabinet hardware this weekend, in a special effort to avoid his own home renovation project )
Yesterday I got 15 boxes of books unpacked and put away, 4 boards enamel painted for the baby’s window and a coat of primer on both sides of one door and 10 more trim pieces. Today, the remaining pieces enameled, about 8 boxes unpacked and our bathroom closet organized. At the end of the day we are both exhausted again. Ramon bought an amazing pressure washer which we need to get the rest of the caustic-soda out of the trim pieces. We found out the hard way that they needed a further rinsing. Don’t ask. With paint splattered hands, and through broken finger nails I sat down tonight in need of a Knitcation. I scraped the start of my last project. I just want something simple, something I don’t have to put any thought into—well, not much anyway, little thought for me. I picked up my needles and my Knitting Nature book of patterns and started my Shell Tank—a lovely and unexpected gift from my sister. Two inches in, after two weeks of no knitting and my hands feel cramped and tired. They’ve been very hard at work in other ways though. These two simple, not so special little inches make me realize how much I love creating something new though, and how much I miss, and need it. Un-packing, organizing, painting are all great and extremely worthwhile tasks of employment by our new home, but the act of creating something totally new, where nothing existed before is what drives me forward. Gardening, knitting, cooking, they’re all creating something from nothing, parts, tools. This is why I love all of these types of projects. It is so stimulating and enjoyable knowing that what I have in my hands, even if it is just started, is some sort of contribution I can make that I created completely. There is always something new to learn, and a new tool to enjoy learning about.
Tomorrow is another day. More paint, more boxes, more Gymboree and giggles from the little guy, and I hope a little bit of new creation can be found in there, too.
March 13, 2013 § 4 Comments
I saw my friend Nicole the other day, an impromptu meeting at her house. She showed me a herringbone cowl that she’d just finished knitting. I saw it hanging on the hook by the front door when I walked in, and just glancing at it I thought it was actually white “camo” fabric. She showed it to me, as we show each-other all of our knitting projects, and explained to me just how, and why she hated it. We gave each-other that look, as anyone who has ever made things for themselves well knows, the “I spent so much time on this, and it is terrible. Now what do I do with it look.” Oh the frustration, the disappointment! Do you just toss it? Donate it? Or the standard, just keep it and hope that someday you’ll change your mind about it, even though you know better.
That is how I felt when I first started my Coachella tank top. I first found it back in 2010 on Ravelry, and added it to my favorites. In the beginning of September 2011, it officially went into my queue on Ravlery, a sacred area I use for that literal purpose of lining up the projects I actually want to do. So many others just use it as a bookmark. On September 12th, 2011 I found the yarn I wanted to use, on clearance at Imaginknit in San Francisco, Lana Grossa New Cotton Seta, but sadly, they only had 3 hanks it was discontinued. I worked my little tail off to find three more, and once I found them, quickly, I began knitting my swatches. Problem was, I hated, HATED the way that felt knitted. The yarn was so soft when just wrapped in the skein. I couldn’t understand how anything with cotton could be so soft. This particular cotton is 60% Rayon, 20% Cotton, 20% Silk, so I guess it is hardly “cotton,” but rayon is wood pulp, and only 20% silk, still I had a hard time believing that it could be so soft. So the yarn isn’t long fibers twisted together, they are sort of braided together, and when knit, you feel the “harshness” off the braiding. Or, at least that is what I thought. I started the gauge swatches about the time I started feeling the morning sickness from the beginning of my pregnancy, and instead of looking at that as the hold-up, I decided that this yarn I had worked so hard to find, and finally got from a little yarn store in Massachusetts was the culprit, and quickly wrote off the entire project.
Now that the move is in full swing, when I had to go through my stash last week to look for two
missing not purchased skeins of yarn, I found my six skeins of Lana Grossa New Cotton Seta, with my printed out version of the pattern stuffed in the bag, and long forgotten. I knew it would be a quick project. I decided I didn’t want to try to use the yarn for anything else and so I got it out, put it on the couch, and once I determined I in-fact didn’t have the yarn to finish my Cara Cara tank, I started this, and it flew off the needles. Even with the packing and the baby I finished it in 4 days, and a strange thing happened: I LOVED the way that it knit-up! I just couldn’t believe it.
Way back when I originally found this pattern I also found Roko on Ravelry, a knitting force to be reckoned with. She knit this top twice, and did it in merely 1 day the second time. I don’t know how this woman knits so fast. Most of her work is in seductive greys and blacks, which are hard to see and dull to look at for mile after mile of yarn yardage. She’s cute, does beautiful work, and seems to have no idea just how special she is, making her that just much more special.
She simplified the Cochella pattern, originally published in Knitty in 2007, widening the back so that it is not a skinny piece requiring a halter-esque undergarment, but so that it might be more comfortable for the average, or more modest wear-er. Her pattern modifications looked so flattering and were so, SO simple that this is the exact route that I decided to go. I didn’t even have to adjust the number of stitches that I cast-on. My gauge was a little larger, which resulted in a size more appropriate for me.
- Her gauge was: 26 sts and 40 rows = 4 x 4 inches on size 4 (US) needles
- My gauge was: 22 sts and 28 rows = 4 x 4 inches on size 6 (US) needles
- Of the six skeins I had of Lana Grossa New Cotton Seta, I only have about 20 yards left, meaning I used about 700 yards.
So, as follows is Roko’s pattern (click here for link to her original) with my modifications as my gauge was different:
- Cast on 160sts, pm, and join to work in the round.
- Work in stockinette st for about 2 inches.
- Divide the sts for the front—120 sts—and the back—40sts, work front and back separately
- For the front, with RS facing Dec 1 sts on each edge as foll: k1, ssk, k across until 3 sts rem, k2tog, k1. Work 1 WS row. Work Dec 5 times, work 2 rows even. Rep Dec plus 2 rows 3 more times (20 decreases, total)-80 sts
- For the back, with RS facing Inc 1 sts on each edge as foll: k1, kf/b, k across until 2 sts rem, kf/b, k1. Work 1 WS row. Work Inc 5 times, work 2 rows even. Rep Inc plus 2 rows 3 more times (20 increases, total)—80 sts
- K across front, PM for side, seam, join, and k across back, PM for beg/end of rnd
- Work in St st for about 4 inches
- Inc 1 stitch every 8th rnd 3 times at both side of M,
- Inc 1 stitch every 10th rnd, 3 times at both side of M (184sts).
- Work 10 rnds even.
- Bind off all sts.
- Crochet edging: 3 rnds of single crochet, then completed crochet edging
I washed the top in my sweater-tub which is now being used as a box for packing things for the move on Friday. I dried it in the sun, on-top of the barbeque as the weather is getting so nice out. The once again experienced the magic of blocking and I didn’t even have to press my little crochet hem down, so that it woudn’t roll up from all of that stockinette stitch. Then, I put my Roko-chella on. The yarn is amazingly soft. I love the weight of the plant fibers in the yarn. It has structure and drape. This is the most even I have seen my tension since I changed from English style knitting to continental. I just love, love, love it. I think I am going to be wearing it every day, and I even wore it out for yesterday in the 75° heat (I know it’s not that hot, it’s still Spring‚ but I was happy and cool—and comfortable—as a cucumber. (Cucumbers look comfortable, don’t they?) I’d like to go on and on and on about how much I love this yarn, but sadly there is no point as it is discontinued and it was practically unobtainium a year and a half ago. I’d like to make another, but I’ll have to find a different cotton (based) yarn to work with.
The only thing I don’t like? WHY THE HELL DIDN’T I MAKE THIS TANK-TOP SOONER? I guess I just expected to be disappointed. I think that this goes to show that sometimes when we get results that we find less than satisfactory, we shouldn’t just write off the project.
So, I’d like to say: Nicole, your cowl may come in handy, but maybe for something you haven’t even thought of yet.
Wait, did I just promote hording?
September 11, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Yet another lovely pattern from Kristina McGowan’s book, Modern Top-Down Knitting. I made this Annie’s Hat for my mom for her Birthday. She picked it out at Christmas after she gifted me the book, and also picked out a color that she liked. I had intended to get it done for Mother’s Day, but with finals and New York, it just wasn’t meant to be.
This pattern actually proved more challenging that I thought it would, which was actually quite delightful as I learned a lot. I had followed Kristina’s tutorial on how to crochet elastic into a garment for my Feather Dress—pattern from the same, beautiful book—and while this hat utilizes the same technique, pipe-cleaner/wire is substituted for the elastic, helping to form a nice rigid, shape-able brim. This creates a very sturdy edge, eliminating the elasticity in the knitting. The first use of the pipe-cleaners fit one of my knitting needle sizes perfectly, while the second was between my 29″ and 36″ needles, thus requiring me to use 12 DPNs to fit all of the way around the brim. Very, very different from anything I have done before!
My other notes and modifications:
- While I purchased 4 hanks of Tahki Yarns Cotton Classic (in Purple, #3947) I use just under 2 hanks, so I have 2 left over.
- My gauge was just shy/short of the specified in the pattern, and so I made a “Large” and ended up with a “Medium” which is the finished size that I wanted.
- I used an embellished Bias Tape on the brim, and a velvet ribbon at the base of the cap, before the brim increases, but as my supplies were so well color matched, I opted to leave the trim off of the two crochet-stabilization sections. I felt that adding more ribbon would have made the hat look busy given the contrast of the purples.
- In each of the two crochet-stabilization section, I only completed two-thirds of the specified rounds, as I felt the rigidity of the brim was enough to support the weight and keep the shape.
I really loved this project, and I would certainly do it again!
April 11, 2011 § Leave a Comment
A few years ago I read Sara Gruen’s novel, Water for Elephants. I had the hard copy sitting in my bookcase for years, but never seemed to get around to it. After donating it to my local library, a (now) former co-worker gave me her paperback copy because she thought I would enjoy it. After reading it, I felt quite lame for previously not giving it the time of day, and today it remains as one of my favorite novels.
I recently heard that they’ve made it into a movie, which is proof that I don’t live under a rock. I generally am not the biggest fan of books in movie format, though, I must say, the Harry Potter series has really changed my opinion on this. With Harry Potter hopes in my mind, I am really looking forward to the movie version of Water for Elephants.
All that being said, upon watching the trailers, I have noticed Reese Witherspoon’s amazing costumes throughout.There was one little goodie which caught my eye, and seemed to me to embody the spirit of the book, the movie, the beautiful and soft whimsicality, and the textures and passions of the circus and the characters: the scarf Reese is wearing when she’s with the Elephant in the stall.
I have only seen the trailer, and the moment where she is wearing the scarf is quite fleeting, and well, small. I understand that my version is a departure from hers, as mine is plaid, and hers is single stripes, but I think that the same whimsical colors and flowy spirit remain the same.
The item for sale is a scarf that is inspired by Water for Elephants, made out of Japanese Import 100% Cotton, Double-Gauze. The fabric itself is very lightweight and drapes beautifully. The double-gauze includes the pattern on both sides of the scarf, so there is no back side. There is a single hem stitch around the entirety of one side of the scarf.
64.5″ long, double sided
December 13, 2010 § 9 Comments
As I have recently made a number of hats for the Holidays, I have come across a big problem. I have used a number of different patterns, but I have yet to find a good pattern, for a masculine hat that is sophisticated in its simplicity. So, I have made my own pattern.
I am sure that this pattern is similar to a number of others out there, but I did create it all on my own, based on what I wanted.
The way that Ramon likes to wear hats, he likes to be able to take the ribbed section and flip it up, or down depending on the temperature. This hat is made to be long enough to almost cover the ear with the ribbing folded up, and made to be very low on the neck, ear, and mostly likely over the eye-brows when the ribbing is flipped down.
I chose to work with this specific yarn because it is very soft, and wonderful to knit with. I have realized that the softer the yarn, the more comfortable on the neck and forehead over long durations of time. Knit with the US size 7 needles, the tightness of the stitches provides generous enough elasticity and a lot of warmth in addition to the softness.
Blue Sky Alpacas, Worsted Cotton, 613 Ink (Black), 1 Hank 150 yards, and this project used almost the entire hank.
Blue Sky Alpacas, Worsted Cotton, 614 Drift (White), 1 Hank, 150 yards, used probably about 1/4 of a hank.
4.5 sts per inch on size 7 needles
OR 18 sts and 26 rows equals 4″ x 4″
US size 6, 20″ or 24″ circular needles, for ribbing
US size 7, 20″ or 24″ circular needles, for the cap
Large Hat, 24″ in Diameter
Row 1: With Size 6 circular needle, Using Color A, CO 96 sts using continental method, pm,
Row 2: On the next round, Join sides, being careful not to twist stitches.Work in k2 p2 rib, in the round
Row 3-20: Continue working in k2 p2 rib, in the round. Piece should measure 3.25″
Row 21: Switch to Size 7 circular needle, working in stockinette stitch, k12, m1, repeat to end of round [104 sts]
Row 22–23: Knit even.
Row 24-25: Add in Color B, be sure to carry up the opposite color at the marker whilst. Knit even
Row 26–28: Switch back to color A, and knit even. (3 rows)
Row 29–37: Switch back to color B, and knit even (8 rows)
Row 38–40: Switch back to color A, and knit even. (3 rows)
Row 41–42: Switch back to color B, and knit even (2 rows). You are now finished with Color B and no longer need to carry it up. Cut the yarn, leaving at least 4″ to weave back into secure.
Row 43–55: Using color A knit 12 more rows even. Piece should measure 8″ from CO edge.
Row 56: K11, k2tog, repeat to end of round
Row 57: K10, k2tog, repeat to end of round
Row 58: K9, k2tog, repeat to end of round
Row 59: K8, k2tog, repeat to end of round
Row 60: K7, k2tog, repeat to end of round
Row 61: K6, k2tog, repeat to end of round
Row 62: K5, k2tog, repeat to end of round
Row 63: K4, k2tog, repeat to end of round
Row 64: K3, k2tog, repeat to end of round
Row 65: K2, k2tog, repeat to end of round
Row 66: K1, k2tog, repeat to end of round
Row 67: K2tog until you have only four stitches remaining. Pull 4 stitches carefully to inside of hat, and using a crochet hook, weave tail of yarn through the stitches, securing.
When I get a moment, I’ll create the same pattern for smaller sized hats, as I know this one is on the larger side.
If you find any errors I would love to know!
©2012 Julie LeFrancois. All Rights Reserved.
Please respect copyright law and Do Not Reproduce in any form. Duplication & distribution of this pattern in any form without express permission of the author is a violation of copyright law: You may not make multiple copies of this pattern, reformat it for commercial use or resale, or sell items made from this pattern. Your respect for coypright law allows me to keep bringing you new and interesting designs. Write with feedback or errata via my contact page. Thank you.
December 4, 2010 § 1 Comment
I’ve spent the last two nights at Eddie’s Quilting Bee taking an introductory class for my Bernina. I missed the first class, because I was an idiot, and didn’t bring all of the required supplies, ie. my Bernina. Overly adopting the personality of my hair color in stereotypical fashion leads to much embarrassment and feeling like, well, an idiot. So, I rolled over to the next class, and I am really glad that I went.
The first night was spent going over threads and needles, how they work and why they are different. Before the class I didn’t really think that there could be that much different between the tools, and, to be honest, I didn’t really even realize that thread came in different gauges. Sure, some of it felt thicker, and some thinner, but, it’s thread, right?
Thoroughly and well explained I now understand why you use a “jeans” needle on woven fibers, and a ball-point on knit fibers, and what the different numbers mean in regards to the fiber your working with.
First of all, the sizing gives both the US and EU sizing of the needle, and The larger the number the bigger the needle.
For Woven fabrics- ones that make a noise when pulled taught quickly
Shmetz Jeans Needle – Blue Tips
A “Jeans” needle is missleading, as it is for woven fabrics, not just denim. In fact, most “Jeans” needles you would not want to use on denim, as they don’t have the girth for the fabric. The number lable for the needle, i.e. 80/12, 100/16 not only refers to the size of the needle, but the higher the number the more open the weave of the fabric. So, for denim, canvas or linen, which you can clearly see the weave of the fabric, and because of the thickness/density of the fabric you’d want to select a larger needle, like a 100/16 or a 110/18. For general cotton, depending on thread count, you’d be safer in the range of an 80/12.
Shmetz Quilting and Topstitch – Green Tips for the quilting, The topstitch needles have no color on the flat shank.
Both of these are intended to go through several layers of fabric, and will require a thicker thread. The size of the topstitch needle is 100/16 and is intended for specifically that. While the needle is thicker, as indicated by the larger number (100/16), it also has a larger groove or scarf for the thread to be protected by as it goes through all of those layers of fabric.
Shmetz Microtext Needle - Top flat shank is purple
These are very sharp for woven fabrics, and are intended for very high thread count fabrics such as silk, satin,and taffeta. The sizes of these needles are 60/8, 70/10, 80/12
Shmetz Embroidery Needle - Flat shank is red
Intended for embroidery thread only. Embroidery thread is super thin allowing you to get more thread in one area. Often, you will use an embroidery thread through you needle and a thread of equal weight, but less expensive in your bobbin, as it appears on the underside of your piece.
Shmetz Metallic Needle - No color on the flat shank
Intended for use with metallic thread only, and it is specially designed to help protect the weakness of the metallic thread / work with, not against the flaws of metallic thread that allow it to break more easily.
Shmetz Leather Needle - No color on the flat shank
Used with leather, vinyl, or plastic. It has a coating, like Teflon to keep it from sticking. However, if a leather needle isn’t doing the trick on your leather you can get a titanium needle!
You’d also want to use one of these for sequins … gosh, would have been great to know that before.
For Knit and Stretch fabrics – ones that don’t make a noise when pulled taught quickly.
A needle that is too sharp will distort the fabric, as it will pierce holes in the fabric, causing it to deteriorate. Thus, a needle with a ball-point is used to “move” the fibers, instead of piercing through them.
Shmetz Stretch Needle – Yellow flat shank
Used on a more open weave knit, lower thread count.
Shmetz Ball Point Jersey
Used on a higher thread count, more closed weave knit
Universal Needles are neither really sharp nor ball-point round … they are in the middle, and can be used with woven and knit fabrics together, or on something like linen, with really big structure. They are the compromise needle when woven or knit needles aren’t appropriate.
And then there is … the Twin Needle! which are two needles, side by side on one shaft. You’ll need to be able to place to spools of thread, know how far apart you want the needles, what size you want the needles and if you are working with a woven or knit fabric.
So, onto the thread.
First off, you should be selecting a polyester or cotton (or other variety) of thread that coincides with the fabric you are using for the project. Don’t use polyester thread on a cotton fabric, as the fabric is weaker than the thread, and vice versa.
Unlike the needles, the higher the number of the thread, the more easily it will break and the thinner it is.
60/2 – This is a size 60, 2 ply thread. It is very thin, and can be used for really light seams, pin tucking, and on very light fabric.
50/2 and 50/3 are 50, 2 ply and 50, 3 ply. This is pretty standard for most garment sewing. 2 ply will be better to use, but 3 ply may be preferable for topstitching.
40/3 and 30/3 you’d want to use with a topstitch needle and on thicker fabrics
There are three types
1. Embroidery, 40/3
- use with 60/2 ply in the bobbin
2. All purpose
- Can’t use this on cotton because it is too strong for the fibers
- This will work on blended fabrics
- Ok on both polyester and cotton fibers
So now, standing in front of the thread spools I feel … overwhelmed.
I don’t feel overwhelmed standing in front of the presser feet, though. On Thursday night we got to try out a number of different feet and features on our Bernina’s. Let me state again, just how freaking much I love my Bernina Aurora 450 !!!!!
At the end of the class Santa may have purchased these two:
1. Button Sew-On Foot #18
2. Ruffler #86
This thing is amazing, and looks like a locomotive engine on my sewing machine, which for some reason, I think is the most fantastic thing ever.
Thank you Santa! I see these coming to a stocking near me.
I am making really great progress on my final project for my patternmaking class, but now I will not be able to get any more work done over the weekend as I have other obligations, which also included staying up until 12:30 last night making bakes beans from scratch on the grill. In case anyone is wondering, it is, in fact, freezing outside. However, the bean recipe is so good that it makes our entire courtyard smell of yumminess.
I also attended a preview for the draping class next semester.
It seams like fun, but a lot of work. So I need to spend some time thinking about my priorities … maybe I should just take more classes at Eddie’s Quilting Bee since I learned so much there in so little time! If you have never taken the time to learn about your machine, I suggest you take a day off from sewing to do it!