21 Apr 2014

Knitting Vintage - Cardigan

A while back I picked up a couple of knitting books from the library and scanned some patterns to make. One book was Knitting Vintage by Claire Montgomerie. The book had a few really nice patterns, but also some weird "filler" patterns, like knitted jewellery, typical of newer needlecbooks

One of the patterns that stood out was the Lilac Beaded Cardigan. It looked like a really good way to learn how to start making larger items of clothing. The instructions were fine, but there were places where I felt there could have been more detail, such as when you bind of some of the stitches to form the underarm of the sleeve. A seasoned knitter who has made sweaters or cardigans before would have no trouble with this bit, but the instructions were lacking for a beginning knitter.

The cardigan is meant to be knit with mohair to give that light, fluffy feeling, but couldn't find any cheap mohair in the knitting stores around here. I went the cheap way and found some balls of acrylic that felt really nice and soft, then stuck right in.

Of course I didn't have any of the needles required to match the gauge, so I think I bought an additional 3 pairs of DPNs and 3 pairs of circular needles to get it right. Gah!

I actually started the project back in January, and I think I made about a sleeve and a half wrong because I read the pattern incorrectly. I left it for a while and made the Totoro Mittens as a break from stuffing up the instructions so bad.

Well, once I finally got started the instructions were pretty straightforward, and it was just a matter of knitting, knitting, knitting. Needless to say the Totoro mittens were much more fun to make. This cardigan was more of a slow slog. I think I got through about 12 seasons of South Park plus 3 seasons of Adventure Time while I was making this.

After joining the sleeves. I was horrified that I would get them around
the wrong way, but all went well. I really like the raised decreases.

Blocking the thing! It's blocked before adding the button bands.

Things I learned to do while making this project:

  • Forming and attaching sleeves
  • Making buttonholes
  • Mattress stitch both horizontally and vertically
  • The importance of reading instructions

The end result! Cosy and warm. I admit that mohair would have pushed it over the edge but I wasn't willing to splurge on yarn for my first cardigan project.

You can see my Ravelry project here, which includes notes and the kind of yarn I used.

15 Jan 2014

Knitted Totoro Mittens

So after knitting my scarf, I decided to just jump right in and get on to something more complicated. I had these Totoro Mittens in my Ravelry queue for a while. The problem was I didn't know how to knit in the round, how to use double-pointed knitting needles, how to do stranded colourwork, or how to follow a chart.

Never mind all that!

I made a couple of swatches and had to move up to 5mm needles to match the gauge, then stuck right in.

There are a few mistakes where I got confused following the chart, but the results are warm and adorable!

Well, that settles it. I can officially knit! You can see my Ravelry project here, but I didn't make any notes.

My next project is going to be a beaded cardigan I got from a book (Knitting Vintage).

Yet another item I won't be able to test properly until Winter.

10 Jan 2014

Finn-Esque Scarf

Behooooold, my first knitting project!

A stockinette scarf vaguely reminiscent of Finn from Adventure Time!

Perfect for this bright sunny weather. Haha.

The scarf is made in stockinette stitch which may not be the best kind of stitch for scarves. I also made it with three different kinds of yarn - 100% wool for the grey, 100% acrylic for the white, and the green is 70% acrylic and 30% milk protein. It feels like soft, liquid, amazing.

Also I don't think it's possible to take an interesting photo of a scarf. Plain scarves are pretty boring.

A Knitting Needle Holder

So I thought it was about time I learned to knit. Naturally I had to hoard knitting needles, and of course after that I had to make something to store them in. It's unseemly to have your knitting needles just lying about.

Based roughly on this knitting needle case tutorial, I created this thing!

I didn't like the way that the edges in the original tutorial were left unfinished, so after sewing the pockets to the back, I encompassed everything in another square of fabric and turned it, then top-stitched around the outside.

Since none of my needles matched I didn't want them sticking out the top, so I made sure the case was tall enough to cover them up, unlike the tutorial where the needles are pretty enough to be displayed. Blush.

I also spent about an hour on a couple of straps made from the same fabric, but they were too stiff to tie up. Instead, feeling thrifty, I sewed up a length of bias binding with white thread and called it a unique feature.

When it's bound up it looks like some sort of magical scroll!

Which is rather fitting when you check out these 5.5mm needles I picked up from an op shop. They are definitely wizard wands!

I also tied the needle gauge to one of the ties. pretty handy for checking the sizes of the needles.

I've actually already finished one amazing knitting project - a scarf! Wow! It doesn't even have tassels. But it deserves its own blog post as the first thing I knitted without holes all through it. I'm going to call it either the Adventure Time Scarf, or the Scarf of Finn, because...well, you'll see!

17 Nov 2013

New Hobby - Model Airplanes

Or in this case, model scooter replicas of airplanes.

Don't believe me?

Image credit
This is the exact kit I have. Hilarious! Andrew bought it for my birthday. The model shop guys were begging him to take it away. Apparently it's been sitting there for years.

The kit comes with three wee airplane scooter guys. One is straight, the other two are leaning to each side.

Firstly you assemble and paint the scooter with a (not so) steady hand.

Then you put the airplane base around the scooter.

Oh, and I also painted a dude!

Sorry for blurriness. Gee, what a bad pic.

This is about as much as I've done so far. You can also leave the little dudes out and put a canopy of the scooter instead. Haha! Adorable!

I'm pretty excited about these guys. I had a brief stint with the Lord of the Rings tabletop game, but I kind of only enjoyed painting the things. I wasn't very good at the game. These models don't really have any game associated with them, unless you include flying them around making 'broom-broom-neeeooowww' noises.

15 Oct 2013

Simplicity 2727 (1958)

Simplicity 2727 is an adorable jacket plus dress combo from 1958. The jacket features kimono sleeves and six buttons, while the dress features princess lines, side panels, and a darling little bow.

I wish I could remember what the fabric I used was. Both were cotton blends, and the dress material had a bit of stretch to it, and on the right side had an interesting diagonal weave.

I don't have any photos from when I was making the outfit, unfortunately. Mainly because I started sewing about three and a half weeks before the wedding!

I added belt carriers to the dress as the belt flopped down a bit. I didn't want to attach it too tightly, or else the fabric would bunch too much.

This was also the first time I've made a jacket! I used the dress fabric for the lining, and I happened to have some very pretty buttons lying around.

This was definitely a big challenge for me. The dress wasn't as simple a pattern as I thought - the side panels were a particularly difficult learning curve. However (with the coaxing of Louella) I made toiles for both the jacket and dress, and remade them where necessary. It is a crucial part of making the garment, I've discovered!

I am very pleased with the jacket. It is comfortable and warm, and fits well. The dress has a lot of sewing flaws, but I was in such a rush I couldn't fix them!

All an all an enjoyable project, minus the stress of making it in a short time.

13 Oct 2013

On Learning Languages

I started learning Chinese at the beginning of this year, if I recall correctly. When you choose a language to learn, one might not think that a language as far removed from your mother tongue as it can get would be the best choice.

However, the fact that the language is so very different, I feel like I'm starting from a clean slate, and there's very little from my native English that can interfere with the almost grammar-less and tonal Chinese.

Learning Chinese is particularly enjoyable! I love learning the pronunciation, and the tones make it sound like you are singing as you speak. The abruptness and almost monosyllabic nature of it makes commands and short phrases easy to say quite quickly. For example, 不要 (Bùyào) or "don't want" can be said very, very quickly when one of your friends is trying to make you eat something you really hate! 不要不要不要不要不要! Compared with the contortions your tongue has to perform when speaking English quickly, it is most refreshing.

Character writing and reading is particularly challenging, but with each attempt at reading I become more and more fluid with my comprehension. Chinese grammar is incredibly different from English, and turns-of-phrase and the "way you just say things" makes translation from Chinese difficult, even with beginner texts.

Writing is a whole different story. Recognising a character is one thing, but reproducing it is another. Stroke order and proportion of the character are very important in making it legible.

Learning Chinese also opens you up to the world of Chinese and Taiwanese drama! I love the period dramas (eg, 还珠格格), but I try to watch some modern ones every now and then as the language is much more applicable and less 成语-filled.


  • Chinese Grammar Wiki - fantastic resource for Chinese grammar points, organised in different levels (beginner to advanced)
  • Memrise - great for learning new characters
  • Mandaread - collection of articles and stories from around the internet with a fantastic translation/reading aid tool built in to the site
  • Chinese Reading Practice - beginner to advanced texts with great translation and reading aid tools
  • FluentU  - while no longer completely free, the subtitle overlay and subsequent vocabulary study from FluentU's videos is a fantastic learning tool
  • Viki - Taiwanese and Chinese drama source ;)
  • ZhongWen Popup Dictionary - a neat little Chrome extension that you can switch on and hover your cursor over unfamiliar characters while you browse the innernets

Alas, my language learning adventures are not limited to Chinese. At the coaxing of one of my friends, I've started learning German. From a language as far removed from English as it gets to one that is almost too similar! German grammar is very close to English (both being Germanic languages makes this an obvious point), except for the addition of gendered nouns and verb conjugations, that is. German is incredibly phonetic, and has a Roman alphabet to boot (shock!), so reading something like "Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen" is not as far off a dream as reading "哈利·波特与魔法石".

German learning resources are very easy to find, but my favourite by far has been Duolingo. An interactive language-learning tutor and game website, I think I would call it. Very soon they will have more languages available. I'm crossing my fingers for Chinese!

再见 and Auf Wiedersehen!