Cranky – in a Good Way!

A few months back the local Lincraft store closed down. They had a sale, and among the many bargains I picked up was this circular knitting machine for, if I recall correctly, about A$50:

I gave it a try, taking a series of pics on my iPhone…

It could be a hat:

Or could be a sleeve:

Or one legwarmer:

Or a hat for two people:

Much giggling was had. Then I put the machine away and mostly forgot about it as I was swept up in sewing with handwoven fabric. But the other day, while I was waiting for my dyed yarn to dry, I figured it would be a way to scratch the machine knitting itch. I dug out some skeins of beautifully soft alpaca yarn I bought a little over year ago in Canberra.

And I got cranking. However, this second tube confirmed my suspicion that the machine was the right size to make small children’s hats, not adult ones. I could get the tube onto my head, but it was really too stretched out to make a comfy, attractive hat. I decided I would knit a hat on the Bond instead and use the rest of the yarn to crank out a plain scarf on the Lincraft machine.

But just in case I was doing something wrong on the machine, I looked up circular knitting machines on Ravelry and did a quick google. Next thing I knew I’d lost an hour or two in YouTube. I learned that there was a version of the machine I’d bought released in the US that was pink and white, and that it was rather good for the price. The Addi King was the best, however, and the right size for adult hats.

So I googled and it came up in Amazon for over A$600. WTF!!!

Some more searching and I found it for half of that on eBay. Then I found a shop in Germany selling the machines for a far more reasonable price… and a $90 shipping fee! So high postage costs partly explained the crazy prices I was seeing – if it was travelling to the US and then to Australia the costs would be astronomical. Direct from Germany was better, and the price came down considerably if you shipped two machines – the small Pro and larger King model.

I did think about it for a little while before I succumbed to temptation. Now I just have to wait for them to arrive.

Dyeing to Knit

The Squares Jacket got me thinking about how I’d like some new knits in my wardrobe. Of course, I can’t hand knit any but I could drag out the Bond Sweater Machine. But did I have any yarn that would work? And patterns that wouldn’t be too hard to do on the knitting machine?

The stash presented two possibilities: either I finally get around to dyeing and knitting the 1.5 kilos of cormo yarn, or I combine smaller batches of yarn to get enough for a garment.

The cormo yarn has intimidated me since I bought it, because it is beautifully soft and therefore easy to ruin when dyeing (and I know I’ll have to dye it because I don’t want a big fluffy white garment or blanket), and I know the maker had some trouble getting it to dye evenly.

The smaller batches were a mix of frogged projects and leftover yarn. Some I’d already matched up. But once I removed anything that wasn’t machine washable I had to reconsider those matches. Some were flat colours, others were variegated from previous dye jobs.

I bought and printed a few patterns and studied them, seeing how well they’d adapt to being knit on a machine. Hand knitters tend to prefer knitting in the round these days, but increases on knitting machines are easier done on the sides, so I have to divide patterns up into smaller pieces and sew then together. The first pattern I looked at turned out to be knit from the top down with raglan sleeves, and trying to convert it did my head in so I abandoned it. I found two more that would work. One was for 10ply, so I decided the cormo would be for that. The other was for 8ply, so it would be for the mixed batch of yarns.

Then a couple of hours dyeing turned into a day of frustrated plans.

The first mistake was mixing up a batch of orange dye by accident, because the label had faded to yellow. I wanted to overdye a blue yarn with yellow to make a variegated green. So I set the orange aside and started again. Only instead of a nice green I got khaki. So I overdyed that with a blue. Which worked but left me with a much darker result than I’d intended.

The dye bath was still very blue so I tipped it into the orange and got a nice forest green. I divided it in half, diluted it and dyed the cormo in two batches. The first batch came out looking great but most of the dye rinsed out and I was left with… various intensities of orange.

So I grabbed the remnants of another blue and some magenta and black sample packs and threw them into some fresh water, divided it into quarters, and dyed the cormo again in hanks of three. It came out… a very pale patchy mauve with dark purple areas and some lingering orange bits.

Which was better. I noticed, as I squeezed out the hanks, that the water beaded off the surface of the yarn. So maybe it still has lanolin in it. Well, I don’t mind the mauve-with-orange bits result, and I don’t seem to have ruined the yarn, and the blue-green is okay, so ultimately I got what I needed.

Now for the machine knitting bit…

Wear

While knitting garments, back when I used to knit by hand, I was probably not thinking too much about what state they’d be in after five or ten years. I was more worried about whether they’d fit properly! I realise now that I expected that, if everything else went well in the making, by creations would last a lifetime.

Not so much, it turns out.

I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how expensive the yarn was, or if it came from a high end brand. That’s no guarantee it won’t shrink or felt with wear and washing. Wear mostly. I wash my woollens very carefully. The Squares Jacket was knit from Jo Sharp yarn. Here it is now:

I can no longer blame putting on a few kilos for it not fitting well. The sleeves are about 5cm shorter. I doubt my arms got longer in the last 12 years.

Wear.

I suppose that’s the rub (no pun intended). Wear will felt wool as well as rough washing. I don’t feel like I got enough wear out of this jacket, though. I’m sad that we’re parting.

I’ve considered adding a panel at the sides and underarms, but the sleeves will still be too short. I’ve considered using the sleeves to widen the body at the sides and make it a vest but I have no yarn to finish the armhole edges and I have more than enough vests for someone who doesn’t wear them much. And the jacket really is a bit too felted. I wouldn’t give it to the op shop. I’ve considered throwing it in the machine to properly felt it then sewing something out of the felted fabric… but what?

At least it’s a natural fibre and will break down if I throw it out.

I am sad, but more than that… as my collection of handknit garments dwindles it reminds me that I can’t just get out the needles and add more. My hands, too, have suffered irreversible damage from wear.

Though I could set up the Bond and get creative will what I make just shrink and felt over the next few years anyway? If I look at the garments that are still in good shape at least I can note which yarns have stood up to wear and seek them out again. Or find the leftovers in my stash and combine them.

Which is where I headed next. Away went the sewing machine and out came the Bond Sweater Machine. And the dyepot. Stay tuned.

Black Denim Skirt

After finishing the Pinstripe Skirt I still had the sewing vibe and the idea of making a gored skirt out of old jeans was next on my list. The working week had started though, so I tackled the skirt in steps. Between breakfast and starting work I enlarging the pattern. I made it 20 years ago but had grown out of the skirt I’d sewn from it. At lunchtime I cut out the pieces.

I managed to get everything out of two pairs of jeans, though it meant the waistband was in three pieces. In the late afternoon I got sewing. This was made faster by having preserved the side seams of the jeans legs.

I didn’t finish it that day. It wasn’t until later in the week that I got the waistband, hem, buttonholes and buttons done.

Here’s the finished piece:

I’m very happy with it.

Do I still have the sewing vibe? Yes and no. The itch to weave is returning, and I’ve felt a twinge of interest in machine knitting. Both are due to winter approaching and wanting to add to my knitwear choices.

Feeling Sew Sew

To get myself into the zone for sewing the Pinstripe Skirt I did an overview of all the sewing projects awaiting my time and enthusiasm. These included both refashioning projects and ones I’d make from scratch. When I had everything together, I laid all the projects out on the kitchen table and considered if I really wanted to make them or I was simply determined to use the fabric or refashion the garment.

A man’s shirt went into the op shop pile, another two were put away in the rag rug box – I have more than enough clothing made from Paul’s old shirts now. One polyester top went in too, and another will join it if I decide I still don’t like the fit.

Then I wrote a list of what was left over, divided it into seasons and put winter ones at the top and summer ones at the bottom. No point rushing into making summer clothing when I won’t wear it for six months.

Next I reordered by priority. The Pinstripe Skirt stayed on top because I plan to wear it to a Guild meeting in which the weaving group is going to show some of what our members make. It was harder to decide what to do next, so I chose projects that were ready to go – no dyeing or shopping for fittings required. Rustling up the black jeans I wanted to make a skirt out of reminded me that the box of denim scraps and old jeans doesn’t close any more, so I decided that project would be next.

The rest were ordered by how keen I was to make them. I stacked the projects up in order in a basket and turned to the sewing machine.

To warm up the sewing brain cells I did some mending, like replacing elastic in a slip and redoing a waistband. Then I gathered my courage and tackled the Pinstripe Skirt, telling myself what the teacher of the Sewing with Handwovens course had said: “it’s only fabric”. I finished it on Day Two.

To my surprise, I was still keen to start the next project. Last time I did some sewing I got fed up with it after a couple of days. What I did next I’ll save for another post.

Pinstripe Skirt

Last year I wove a length of fabric to make a skirt out of. It’s taken me nearly a year to get around to the sewing up the skirt. The trouble with making clothing from my hand weaving is I’m not as keen on the sewing as I am on the weaving.

The fabric is woven with Bendigo 3ply classic with a grey boucle yarn placed every 5cm.

My original idea was to make deep folds in the front and back, but that made the skirt a little too bulky.

So I reduced the depth of the folds. I liked the improvement, but then I remembered that when I brought the project to the Sewing with Handwovens class someone suggested box pleats. Lots of pinning later I had changed the folds to box pleats and decided I was happy with the look. I got sewing and finished the skirt:

I like it! It has a bit more flare than an a-line skirt, but isn’t too sticky-outy (for want of a technical term).

Now I just need to weave the jacket I planned to make to complete the outfit. Hopefully that won’t take a year!

Lava Cowl

Having cut off what I’d woven of the Braided Scarf on the Knitters Loom, I needed to decide what to do with the remaining warp. It was threaded at a sett for creating two layers of cloth, so double what would be needed if I wove a single layer, but I didn’t want to continue weaving double weave. So I re-threaded the loom.

At first I thought I might still weave three strips and braid them, but the prospect didn’t inspire me. So I went stash diving for other red yarns to see if that gave me ideas. I found a marled yarn and a boucle.

Then I looked at the to-do list on this blog and saw “Try weaving sword”. Yes! That’s what I would do. I wound some of the boucle yarn on to a shuttle and decided to add a pick every fifth row to hopefully make the wavy weft stand out more.

I loved the result. It was much faster to weave, too. Which I generally did while watching the news of an evening – reports of the lava flow in Hawaii inspired the scarf name. Or rather, cowl. Having cut off the double weave section and rethreaded to the width of the loom, the resulting fabric was a bit short and wide for a scarf, so I flipped one end over and knotted the fringe together.

I gave it a quick soak in woolmix and hung it up to dry, and the wavy pattern seems to have stayed put.

Raffia Revamp

Waaaaay back in my 20s I did a two day short course on raffia hatmaking. I remember the first class was all about the braiding, with the teacher constantly urging us to “weave tighter!”. She told us to keep braiding our stash of raffia at home, and the next week we used hat forms to sew the braids into hat shapes.

I particularly remember I wound up with double the amount of braid than I needed and very sore hands.

So after my hands had healed I decided to see if I could make another hat. Since I didn’t have a hat form I made a boater-style hat – straight sided so no need to get the dome shape right. It came out a bit tight, unfortunately, so I figured I’d give it away.

It never found a head that fit and wanted it. The hat from the class did fit and I wore it quite a bit. But recently I put it on and realised it had shrunk. So I decided to unpick and resew the braid a bit looser, and completely resew the boater hat.

Then followed a long, boring and fruitless search for suitable raffia. In the end I gave up and used some waxed linen thread I’d bought for coiled baskets. It worked fine.

First I tackled the braid from the boater hat. It took a lot of unsewing and resewing, but eventually I got a shape I liked that fit. Then I unpicked the braid of the class hat back to a row before the brim and resewed it a little looser, reusing the raffia it had been originally stitched with. I ran the raffia across some beeswax I used to use for bookbinding thread, and that made it much easier to stitch with.

They’re not as tightly sewn as they were the first time, but I figure the few gaps are air-conditioning. I should get plenty more wear out of the class hat, and I love the shape of the new one, so it’s finally going to get some use.

I have to say, though. I’d be happy if another 20 years passed before I made another raffia hat.

Pear Doorstop

For a small project, this one took a while to finish. The delay was due to searching for something heavy but soft to put inside. It needed to be heavy enough to hold a door open, but not so hard that it would hurt anyone if they dropped it on their foot.

In the end I opted for sandpit sand in a zip-lock bag, reinforced with a layer of packing tape, surrounded by toy stuffing. Seems to work just fine.

Coco Nut Ice Scarf

Over the weekend I had a bit of a think about opportunities and reasonable expectations of what I can do with the time and health that I have, and I made a few decisions. One was to cut the Braided Scarf off the loom. I’m abandoning it because it was taking too long, and that wasn’t great for my back. Just weaving 10 or so cm of one strip took me the better part of an hour. I’m not abandoning the idea, but if I’m going to do double weave on the rigid heddle again I’ll do it with thicker yarn.

Here’s another scarf I finished a while back. To make it I cut another of my Vari Dent heddles in half – the 10 dpi one. I think I will end up halving most of them. Multiple small ones allows me to do so much more.

By cutting the larger 10 dpi heddle into two I was able to have four sections of the same yarn with a single thread of thicker yarn between. The thicker yarn was a supplementary warp, weighted at the back, as it was stretchy and might have acted like a gathering thread if I’d tied it onto the back beam.

It only took me a couple of hours to warp and weave. I had it done in a day. The fabric reminds me of the classic Coco Chanel boxy jacket, and white and pink are the colours of coconut ice.