Housebound

A couple of months ago Paul started getting severe back pain and sciatica from a bulging disc. Several visits to the doctor, pilates, physio, medication, a scan and a cortizone injection later he has improved, but in a ‘wait and see if this lasts’ way.

As the weeks passed, with Paul unable to sit let alone drive, it became pretty clear that some of our plans for the rest of the year had to be shelved. Then a few weekends ago I drove us to a family birthday celebration, with Paul lying on the passenger seat with the back fully down, and after two hours driving on roads that seemed to constantly require gear changes plantar fasciitis reared it’s ugly head again.

So suddenly neither of us could drive. At that point I either cancelled, or warned of likely cancellation, everything else on the calendar.

And that’s also when I decided to try online grocery shopping. Which has been… interesting. I didn’t want to shop with Coles since they deliver orders in plastic bags. Finding online stores that use minimal packaging took a bit of googling, but I soon located a bulk store a few suburbs away and a grocery store with a policy of avoiding as much plastic as possible.

Fortunately Paul can now drive for short trips, and I’m tentatively driving his car now and then, which is an automatic so at least my left foot gets a break. We’re both hoping life will get back to normal soon, but only very cautiously committing to outings.

You’d think I’d be getting lots of craft done, but I’ve done almost nothing. This is because I was doing the household tasks that Paul usually does and taking him to appointments. But it’s also because shopping at online stores and watching the War on Waste second season had me trying things like cooking up and freezing beans and lentils and making beeswax wraps. And it’s birthday season in my family. And there has been some house and garden work happening, too.

And I am chasing a work deadline as well as dealing with lots of little publicity tasks for the paperback release of my last book.

It’s amazing how tired you can be at the end of a day spent avoiding being on your feet.

Which I have to say, I’m not managing to do as much as I should be.

And That’s That… Mat

The yarn used in this project had been knitted, stained accidentally by being spun dry with another garment that lost colour, overdyed to hide the stain – which partially fulled and shrank it, then frogged. Honestly, I was close to tossing it in my stash cull, but then I remembered that I wanted to make a mat for the brick edge in front of the heater, which is in a nice position for warming oneself up but rather cold on the posterior.

It seemed like a good opportunity to try out flat panel knitting on Chew-bacca. I set up the machine and started. The balls of yarn are made up of short lengths knotted together. After four tries to get a panel cranking I gave up. The furthest I got before stitches started dropping was about ten rows. No idea why, but I suspect the yarn is to blame. Having to take the yarn out of the guide to let the knots through was probably creating inconsistent tension.

I nearly tossed the yarn out, then and there, but I still had the option of weaving it instead. I wanted a thick fabric, however. When I remembered that I had a batch of long rug warp left over from an earlier project the answer came to me: beating hard to make a weft-faced fabric.

So I dug out the cotton and warped up the knitter’s loom, wound the yarn onto shuttles and got weaving. It was good, brainless plain weaving and after a couple of days I had this:

Which I’m ambivalent about, to tell the truth. It does what it was meant to, but I don’t think it’s particularly attractive. The cat likes it, or at least he likes the fire and the mat makes the bricks less cold to sit on.

I only used up half the yarn and since I had no great wish to weave another mat from it, or anything to be honest, I tossed the rest. At least it’s a natural fibre, and will decompose. And it got the stash total down a little more.

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.

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.

A Tidy Space Oddity

A few weeks ago I was feeling poorly, so for something to do I backed up this blog. Well, not in the usual way. Looking at the backups WordPress does, I couldn’t see how I would ever access the entries if I ever needed just the contents. So I cut and paste the contents of every month into a Word document – which is how I used to back up when this was a Blogger blog.

When I was done I skim read through the blog from the start. That was… interesting. It’s easy to feel like I am some kind of crazy person obsessed with making stuff when I read an entire year’s entries in one sitting! The blog has seen lots of changes, from RSI forcing me to give up knitting to passing phases of craft-related internet phenomenon (blogs, podcasts, ravelry, pinterest).

It put me in a strange, fed-up mood, so that once I had a little energy again I began tidying up and finishing things. The Taupe Jacket lining got sewn so I could put the machines away. Materials I’d gathered for a talk at the Guild that was cancelled got packed away as I was sick of them taking up space waiting to see if it would be rescheduled. I finished spinning the banana fibre after not touching the wheel for many months, to see if I should pack the wheel away.

I decided this mood might be good for culling so I started halfheartedly tidying the craft room. I started with jewellery supplies, moved on to refashioning projects and finally tackled the accumulation of carry bags around the house. In the middle of it I wound up in the garage, where I made the biggest impact – all the basketry materials I accumulated early last year went into the green waste bin.

Other than that I didn’t get rid of much. Mostly I put stuff away or stored it better. While the result was satisfying, I suspect if I had more energy and time I could have done a lot more.

I have the WIP list down to just three items now, but I’ll be starting a few weaving projects soon so that isn’t going to last long!

Briefly Beading

Happy New Year!

I’ve still got a few posts from last year waiting to be published. Aside from this one, there are three weaving posts to come. Better get to it!

Having banned the phone from the bedside table, I’ve noticed some interesting benefits. Aside from an improved memory and sense of calm, I got to looking at the jewellery pinboard hanging over the dressing table. There were pieces on it I didn’t wear or needed altering. That led to a bit of jewellery-making, refashioning and repairing.

In the process, I noticed a bead in my jewellery making supplies that I’d bought at a Viking museaum in Denmark last year. Matching it with some cones led to this very simple choker:

I also saw a resin pendant from a necklace I’d bought on another European work trip. It had been culled a while back because the wire it came on wasn’t comfortable to wear. I noticed the metal in it was copper, and I had a length of copper chain. And some medallions. So I got this:

And the leftover chain was long enough to make a matching bracelet.

Finally, I tackled a more complicated piece. I used the beads from a string I’d culled and some others in my stash to make this:

It was the perfect Christmassy bangle to wear to lunch with my parents.

Tapestry Bag

Remember when I bought some big batches of canvas tapestry thread on ebay? Well, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. It was quite a while ago.

In it was a small collection of Beehive tapestry thread, but it was so old each skein had fulled to itself. It was too far gone to stitch with so I decided to weave it. I cut all the thread into shorter lengths then fused the ends together by wetting with soapy water and rubbing between my palms. This gave me three shuttles worth of weft. I wove this on the Knitters Loom with a firm beat to make a weft-faced cloth.

Once off the loom I found it was a good thickness for a bag, but simply folding it in half made for a rather boring one. I started folding on the bias, and found the result much more appealing. I’ve seen bags folded so that they formed a square with a triangle missing so I tried that, and I had just enough material to do it.

I’m not a fan of bags that don’t close, however, but I couldn’t see how I could easily add a zip to this design. After a lot of thinking the answer came like a bolt of lightening – a bag within the bag!

I found a silver belt in an op shop to make a handle out of, and when I went looking for some leather to make the inner bag from I found some in the same shade of silver, the right thickness and on sale! I bought some matching lining and a zip and got sewing.

It all came together easily until I got to attaching the handle. Where the buckle had been sewn onto the belt the leather was splitting. If I sewed the handles to the bag (and reattached the buckle) the same thing would happen. Rivets would be better. But do you think I could find any at the right size? The fruitless search for suitable rivets has put this project on hold for months. Last week I gave up. I cut the holes for the rivets anyway, then sewed everything with thread.

Perhaps I will stumble on the right sized rivets in future. For now, I have a useable bag.

Which I love!