Finished Unfinished Cardy

And now for a break from ethical fashion posts…

Remember this cardigan?

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Late last year I bought it in pieces from an op shop and put it together. It was a bit boxy, so I set it aside with tweaking in mind. I considered many different way to close the fronts: buttons, toggles, a zipper, making my own press-stud tape, and even sewing them together to make it a jumper. To make it more shapely I contemplated cutting threads and using a crochet hook to add sections of ribbing to the waist, or gathering it within leather tabs at the side. Nothing quite took my fancy.

Putting it on the dress model again yesterday, I found myself eyeing the purl groove along the front edges. Could I continue the groove over the shoulder and down the back by laddering and then hooking the stitches from the inside? That would pull it in a little, though not a lot. I’d have to unstitch the shoulders, though.

It would be easier than all the other solutions, so I got to work while watching X-Files last night. It all came together:

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Next I tried sewing the fronts together, but all it did was turn the rolled edge into a double-wide flat panel, which I didn’t like. So I put it back on the dress form and found myself crossing over the fronts. It made it even more shapely, so I pinned it in place and this afternoon I made some loops and sewed on some toggles, and a press-stud to hold the overlapped part on the inside in place:

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I’m pleased with how it turned out – and it certainly is more flattering this way. And it’s one less project in the refashion pile.

Scratching Beneath the (Textile) Surface

A few weeks ago I went shopping for leggings and some knitwear, and was shocked to find I couldn’t get anything that wasn’t mostly polyester. Then I noticed more people mentioning buying ultra cheap products online from China. Then I happened upon a show on iView about ethical textiles and, though it did not surprise me to find out about terrible working conditions of garment makers, I was excited to learn about the efforts going into tackling them. So I posted about it on Facebook. A friend commented that she’d just listened to a radio interview with a woman who’d written a book on the subject. I looked up the show, found a podcast, listened to it and was so impressed I immediately bought the book.

The book is called Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion by Clare Press. It was funny and tragic, shocking and inspiring, and I tore through it in a couple of days. Then I bought a book mentioned in it, To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle, and absorbed that in a few days, too.

I found it utterly fascinating, from how the fashion industry works now to learning about all the stages, post design, in the creation of a garment. While much of what I learned I already knew, since as a knitter I had made it my business to know all the ethical and environmental issues to do with fibre, but there were plenty of things I hadn’t known on the garment-making side. There’s a lot to be horrified by and yet I came away feeling far more hopeful than I expected.

Why? Because it seems like the garment industry is being taken, sometimes kicking and screaming, in the direction the food industry has gone, with greater awareness and value placed in environmental, social and health consequences of the way it runs. And I can see that the same interest and energy that drives the decluttering and clean living movements could be directed toward people buying, and therefore encouraging the making of, more ethical fashion.

I asked my friends on Facebook if they’ve ever bought really, really cheap stuff and what their reasoning was in order to gauge the sorts of reactions people have for and against ethical shopping. It’s been interesting to see how they regard it. This article investigates people’s attitudes toward ethical products. I was intrigued to see that the people who choose to ignore ethical issues tend to regard anyone who tries to shop ethically negatively – and I’m reminded again of the food movement, and how despite mockery of ‘organic’ products an appreciation for sustainable food practises has grown.

I dove into all this wanting specific questions answered. Why are some clothes now so ridiculously cheap? Is it better to buy direct from China, cutting out the middlemen, or worse? What are the ethical fashion brands and do they make anything that isn’t expensive and dead boring? Why is current ‘fast fashion’ full of dull, unflattering polyester jersey that falls to pieces after a few washes? How should I approach shopping in order to make a difference, even a tiny one?

Most of these questions were answered, and for a few it was easy to extrapolate an answer. But they’ll take more than a few blog post to cover, so watch this space.

Old Timers

In some felt baskets in the craft room I keep ‘lingerers’ – materials that never became what they were meant to, unfinished projects and items too good to throw away that I’ve not had an idea how to repurpose yet. From time to time I rifle through, consider again what I could make with them, then put them back again if no inspiration strikes.

When I was rifling through them recently I picked out a ball of icord I made ages ago on the EmbellishKnit.

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I’d started crocheting it with my giant wooden hook at some point, and I liked the result and thought it would make a great hat, but I didn’t have enough for one. This time I had the idea to make a headband instead:

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I’m happy with how it turned out. It did hurt my hands a little to crochet it, though, so it’s just as well it was a small project.

A top made of two squares of cheesecloth also caught my eye. I made it back when I hadn’t got over my dislike of sewing with a machine, so it was all hand sewed. There are no pics of the original. It was a bit of a dud, and I don’t think it even made it onto this blog. A bit more hand stitching turned it into a boat neck top. I’m planning to embroider all over the front. Not sure what yet. An idea will come eventually.

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Next I picked out this houndstooth wool fabric I made in 2012.

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I’d never blogged about the finished piece because the I’d intended to sew it into something. But I do like it as a scarf. Later wove a small rectangle of log cabin out of the same yarn, which I was going to make into a clutch, but this time I hit upon the idea of adding pockets to the scarf.

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There’s something very gratifying about finding a use for odd bits and pieces too good to throw away, or an old failed project. There’s a hoarder in me that gets to say ‘I told you it was worth keeping’. Fortunately I also gain satisfaction from the occasional cull, or I really would be drowning in craft materials!

Giotto Scarf

Working out what to do with odd balls of yarn in my stash can be either an enjoyable challenge or a source of frustration. Years ago I bought a ball of Colinette Giotto – a hand-dyed cotton tape yarn. After some false starts I combined it with some plain navy tape yarn to knit an off-the-shoulder top.

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I wore it once, and found it a bit scratchy. After removing the body, the band around the shoulders – the bit made from the Giotto – became an infinity scarf.

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I never wore that. So some time in the last year I frogged it. Because I’d cut the band to make it into a scarf, I wound up with lots of long pieces of yarn. I just tied them together and wound it into a ball.

Needing a rigid heddle project recently, I looked at my stash spreadsheet for inspiration, noticed the Giotto and did a quick google for what to weave with tape yarn. I found this blog post.

The Giotto isn’t a railroad yarn, but I could certainly use it as an interesting warp yarn. And the yarn was already cut into scarf-length-ish pieces. What was a little revelation to me was that the weaver used 16/2 cotton as the weft. I have plenty of that, in blue and aqua. So I dove into the stash and the blue turned out to be the nicest match.

So it wouldn’t take forever to weave, I did bands of closely beaten picks followed by spacing them out.

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It still took longer to weave than I expected, but I figured that was because the weft was so fine. Only when I got it off the loom did I realise the scarf was long enough to touch the floor!

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I could cut it in half and make two perfectly reasonable length scarves, but I won’t do that unless I decide not to keep it, as I rather like it as it is.

Pattern Recognition

Since I bought the little Jenome (Lil’ Jen?) I’ve had the itch to sew, not helped by thinking a lot about what to embroider. So I went looking in my box of fabric and refashioning project baskets for inspiration.

Early last year I went through my fabric stash and culled it, mostly removing offcuts of fabric from past projects. Out of what I kept, if I had an idea for what it could become, I put a post-it note on it. So I now looked at the post-it notes and selected two projects that appealed: a white cheesecloth tunic that I’ll embroider, and straight grey denim skirt.

I also did a bit of a ‘mix and match’ with some of the smaller pieces of fabric, and hit on the idea of replicating a skirt I have, which is denim at the back and a cotton print at the front.

After that I went through my refashioning baskets. Plenty of projects waiting there, but I was most attracted to a sarong-into-shorts project and, in complete contrast, some thick pieces of woven, felted wool that I might be able to sew into a vest.

But for all but the shorts, which I have made before , I didn’t have any suitable patterns. The half-denim, half-print skirt is very simple, so I’ll just trace a pattern from it. I wasn’t game to try to invent the vest, straight denim skirt and tunic pattern. Fortunately, a while back I bookmarked a few that I liked and found a pattern for a tunic. I couldn’t find any classic straight denim skirt patterns, but I found a vest one that I could adapt for the woven fabric.

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So I bought and downloaded the tunic and vest patterns, then spent most of a morning printing, taping together and cutting them out. The tunic is going to need some careful cutting, as I don’t have a lot of fabric. This is it with the back and front shortened and full length sleeves. I’m thinking now that I’d rather have short sleeves and a longer body.

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Of course, then I had to dig through my sewing notions. I found everything but a skirt zipper and some bias binding. The first I got in my local habby store, and the second I found today, when I went to grab some calico from the stash and found a great big coil of calico binding, the copious leftovers from a quilt I made a few years back.

So with four projects ready to go, I may just need to put aside a whole weekend for sewing. Or two.

Not Quite Finished

This cardigan caught my eye while I as fossicking in an op shop. It was in pieces, with an extra ball and a half of yarn. The yarn was familiar: Paton’s Inca 12ply. I like the colour, and it appeared to be my size, so I brought it home and got sewing.

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I set about sewing in ends and hemming. There were a lot of knots and split stitches that I fixed by darning in a small length of yarn, but the pieces matched and were symmetrical so it all came together in the end.

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After blocking, I considered whether it was supposed to have a button band or a zipper. The bottom edge and sleeves had no ribbing. I had a quick look online to see if there was a Patons pattern that matched, but couldn’t find one. Ravelry didn’t have anything that matched, and while the Patons Australia site has a whole lot of pattern books, they look recent and don’t specify which ones use Inca 12ply.

I’m thinking of adding toggles and leather loops. The cardigan has no waist shaping and it’s a bit boxy, so I’ve been considering ways to fix that, too.

Capucine Cowl

To make a cowl over the leftover yarn from Capucine, I cast on about 80 stitches, knit 10 rows of rib, a pile of garter stitch, and finished with about 8 rows of rib (because I underestimated the yarn I’d need to do a matching 10 row rib section, and I didn’t mind the variation enough to frog back and reknit it).

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A toggle and loop mean I can adjust the fit on the inside by moving the knot on the loop.

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So that’s another bit of stash used up. A bit of unravelled former project yarn stash used up. Sometimes I wish I wouldn’t get so attached to something I’ve knit that when I grow out of it (or it shrinks) I unravel and keep the yarn. It makes using up stash a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ process. But I guess I only do this with yarn I really like.

Capucine

Finished:

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The pattern is Capucine. It was my first handknit project in… ages. I knit about six rows at a time, once every day or two days. My hands didn’t protest too much.

It’s a cosy hat, and the only one I have that truly covers my ears. Definitely a mid-winter hat.

I have this much Patons Inca left:

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I’ve cast on for a cowl out of the bluey grey, and I’ll leave the grey for another project.

On the Go

I’m still weaving two-yarn squares while watching tv:

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I have nearly 30. Though I only had one ball of black and three of the multi-coloured, the black ball weighed twice as much as one multi-coloured ball and is slightly thinner, so won’t have as much leftover multi as I’d expected. I’ll join the squares with it, and do a crochet border. While I intended to make a blanket, I like the fabric so much I’m tempted to try making a garment of some sort. There might be enough for a simple kimono style jacket.

One Scary Tea Towels has been woven:

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Two more to go.

I’ve started two new projects. The first is to de-boringify a cashmere cardigan. I bought it for travel as it’s light and warm, and easily layered:

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After trying several embroidery methods, I’ve settled on using a crochet hook to do chain stitch. It’s fiddly, and very slow. I’m hoping that using some tearaway stabiliser and putting it on hoop will make it easier and faster.

The other project is a hat knit from frogged Inca yarn:

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Yes, that’s hand knitting. I’ll stick to a couple of rows a time, every couple of nights, it the hope of avoiding an RSI flare up. The thing is, weaving the yarn didn’t appeal, and it’s a bit thick for the knitting machine. I’ve got to use it somehow, so hand knitting it is.

Blue Sleeves

The weekend before last I whipped out the Bond and made new sleeves for the remaining part the Gift Yarn Jacket.

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It was fun using the knitting machine. What I made was really just a long rectangle, cast off by hand at either end after latching some ribbing. I had the itch to do more and have been looking at some of my stash yarn and thinking about what I could make with it. But this last weekend I got the gardening bug instead. Well, I got some sunshine at least!