This one began as a three heddle rosepath project, but after most of a year in hiatus when I returned to weaving it I was totally over the novelty of wrangling three heddles. So I untied the warp, pushed off the little bit of weaving I’d done, and rethreaded with one heddle as plain weave.
The rosepath wasn’t the only effect I had intended for the scarf. The warp was a painted skein. I laboriously adjusted the warp length as I threaded the loom so that the colours aligned. So this has become the Painted Roses Scarf. The effect is subtle thanks to the weft being a similar red to that in the warp, but the weft also has a bit of glitz in it, adding a hint of shimmer to the final piece.
Matching the colours made for a shortish scarf, but some people prefer that.
Cutting up the flannelette scraps for use in rag rugs is done.
I’d estimated it might take a month. Instead it took about 12 hours, spread over two weeks. A lot more scraps had already been cut than I realised. I also weighed the strips and did the math to work out how long a rug each batch would make, and chose warp colours to match. Next I need to sew the strips together, then fold the edges in using and iron and a bias tape maker. From what I recall, the sewing is fast but the ironing is slow.
I had a mild feeling of de-ja-vu during the last four days of cutting, as I’d done the first big batch of cutting during the first lockdown in Melbourne. Thankfully both cutting and lockdown were much shorter this time.
This coat has weighed on my mind for the year and a half since we cleared Late Lucy’s house. It was a quality piece, but oh so 80s. There was a coffee stain on the front, so I got it dry cleaned before taking it to the vintage shop to sell on commission. But the shop didn’t want it. I doubted that any op shop would try to sell something so out of date, so if I donated it I’m sure it’d go straight to rags.
It sure was ugly. Like someone took half of a Michael Jackson inspired coat and half of a 80s batwing coat and made a Frankenstein’s monster out of the two.
But it was “100% pure new wool” (well, obvious except for the lining and hideous plastic buttons) and I couldn’t help trying to think of ways to refashion it. Mostly I’d come up against the fact I don’t know or want to learn how to do tailoring, remind myself that I don’t need another coat, then push it to the back of the craft room cabinet.
But since my sewing jape hadn’t exhausted itself, and despite – or perhaps because of – having put my sewing machine in to be serviced, my brain kept returning to the conundrum what to do with it. That impression of two coats forced into one made me wonder what design ideas I might have if I just separated them.
The first good thing about this coat was, I had nothing to lose but the $15 I’d spent on dry cleaning. So I grabbed the Quick-un-pick. Off came the buttons, then the bat-wing sleeve-sides, then the cuffs. I put the bat-wing sleeve-sides onto the dress form on their own. They didn’t meet at the middle, but the gap at the back could be filled with a panel and a collar that swooped down to the hem would fill out the front. Did I want a bat-wing coat? I had a niggling memory that they had come back in fashion, so I searched the internet and found that yes, bat-wing was back in everything from coats to dresses to tops to jumpsuits.
It also seemed to have a cosy, unfussy vibe – like the Tessuti Berlin Coat only with bat-wing sleeves. Or maybe I should tap into the Australian wildlife version and call them flying fox wings? That gave me a better name for the coat than “Late Lucy’s Ugly 80s Coat”!
The second good thing about this coat was that it contained a LOT of fabric. However, I do not wear cream. It makes me look ill. Fortunately, I’d snatched up two packs of Dylon cold dye in ‘black velvet’ at a sale a while back, and I had enough that I might be able to get a nice grey. I like grey whether it’s light, mid or dark so I was sure to get something I liked. Theoretically. I followed the directions and…
My first project using an Echo draft I designed is done:
I named the draft “The Twirly Moustache” after the design line but I’m going to call the scarf the Owl Scarf, because the resulting pattern looks like owl eyes and beaks to me.
There are a couple of other Echo ideas I’d like to explore, but I’ve decided to move on to the Deflected Doubleweave designs I created after the workshop so, hopefully, as much as possible of that stays in my memory.
In the meantime, I’ve started cutting up more flannelette.
The intention is to get it all turned into strips so they take up less room in the stash. It’ll be quicker and easier to mix, match, weigh and work out sizes, too. Since most of rag rug weaving time is prep, and the weaving is fast, it’s silly to wait until the loom is free before deciding to weave a rug, since that leaves the loom empty for weeks.
It’s around a year since I bought the huge bag of rags and I’ve only woven less than a quarter of it. I don’t really want it to take four to five years for me to use it all up, especially when there are other rugs, made both of rag strips and rug yarn, that I want to weave too. So I’ve set myself up in the kitchen with the electric bias binding cutter and aiming to do an hour of strip-making a day. If all goes well it’ll take under a month to get through it all.
Having successfully made three garments from handwoven fabric, my sewing confidence was high. I thought: “What next?”. I wanted to refashion of one of Late Lucy’s dresses to either a dress or top. Last year I made a calico test version of a dress pattern I thought would suit, but it came out badly. I’d decided to make a simple gathered peasant top instead. But even as I made the first cut I had that niggly feeling things weren’t going to work out, and I was right. Pity. The fabric is lovely, but it’s now mostly cut into small pieces. I will pack it away until some other idea comes to me or I stumble on a promising pattern.
After that, my sewing confidence was dinted. Do something simple, I told myself. I considered the to-do list.
Back in the late 80s, when fashion favoured volume and bordered on costume, I made a cloak. It was black and made out of good quality wool, and I wore it quite a bit – mostly to and from Melbourne CBD where I was studying “Promotional Design” but also when I went out at night with friends. It was wonderfully warm and didn’t have the restriction of movement for the arms that most heavy coats have so was great when carting folios around. Eventually the lining wore through and the wool started looking a bit pilled, so I made a new one to replace it. Last year I bought fabric to reline the old cloak. I thought I might shorten it to a cape. Was it time to work on it?
I put the cloak on the dress form and decided I should also remove the hood as it was way too deep and would either slip off backwards or fall down and cover my face. The hem was very uneven, I noted. It had never occurred to me as a new sewer to level it…. and I suddenly felt all sentimental and nostalgic. I realised this garment sums up so much of my youth. It and my debutante dress are the two pieces I think of when I think back to my early sewing days. How could I cut it up?
So the old cloak got packed away. I considered shortening the newer cloak, as I don’t really wear it these days and I was still keen on the idea of a cape, but suddenly the conversion felt too challenging. I began thinking that maybe this sewing jape was over. I’d faffed about for a few days and got nothing done. Perhaps I should finally get around to having my machine serviced. Considering that I’d adopted the machine from Mum ten years ago and hadn’t had it serviced once… yeah, it was definitely long overdue.
Off it went to the service man. With the machine out of the house, I figured my mind would turn to something other than sewing.
Projects on the refashion list and the projects on it kept nagging at me, keeping me awake at night. “I can’t do anything without a machine!” I protested. “Ah, but you still have an overlocker!” my brain replied. “One of these projects only needs an overlocker.” I gave in. After all, if I tackled it my brain would be satisfied and stop making me want to sew.
This was one of five knit wool skirts from Late Lucy’s wardrobe:
Too old fashioned for op shops, they would only end up in the recycling or trash. I began wearing the only one that fit me around the house last winter, and it was very comfy though not all that flattering. I’d had the idea of turning them into dog or lap blankets. The above grey one was the only one with pleats, which made it unsuited to a blanket conversion. While partway into putting one on the dress form to see what I could make of it, I suddenly realised it could be made into a jumper. All it would take was slashing it up from the hem to what would become the armpit. All done with the overlocker.
So I pinned and tried it on and adjusted and overlocked. It worked out pretty well, though I should have anticipated that pleating over my stomach would add bulk where I’d rather it didn’t. It will be another cosy garment to throw on at home in winter. And I could cut it down the front and make it a cardigan. Hmm.
My sewing confidence had lifted again, which meant my mind didn’t stop thinking about sewing. Instead it latched onto another Late Lucy garment refashion. This time a much scarier one. But as with the skirts, it was a piece that would probably become rags if it went to the op shop, so I nothing to lose. That one, however, will take a few posts to explain.
Early last year I wove fabric with the intention of making two tops in the same style as this top I made several years back and then embellished in 2016:
The first was woven from some fine blue yarn with white cotton slubs along it, that I got as part of a mill ends batch. I call it my Little Fluffy Clouds top.
The second was woven from some leftover and new Seta Soie Silk. I call it my Seta Soie top.
I’m resisting the urge to add darts on the front and back. For years my style has been fitted on the top and loose on the bottom, but I adopted it back when I didn’t have much of a bust and anything loose made me look flat-fronted. Now I certainly don’t have that problem. I’m more of an hourglass than a pear, and anything too fitted shows more than just the flattering bumps and creases. Loose on the top works with fitted on the bottom, or loose on the bottom so long as there’s a waist, or a suggestion of one.
I’ve been wanting to do more fresh leaf indigo dyeing since the workshop, but my plants copped a beating from heat and rain and I had to wait until I had enough healthy leaves to play with. Paul rustled up a broken mallet I could use the shortened handle of, and I found an old cutting board to use under the fabric.
First I added a few extra leaf prints to the soy-mordanted top:
Then I added lots of leaf prints to the un-mordanted, green over-dyed top:
I scrunched the imperfect and squished leaves together with some salt and massaged the juice into a scrap of cloth. Who knows? Maybe I’ll use that scrap some day. The stalks I dropped into a container of water and within a week or so they had sprouted roots:
In May last year I finished this shadow weave jacket:
It was a fudged solution to a failed attempt at replicating a knitted jacket in woven cloth. I knew I wouldn’t wear it, and I didn’t, so wound up in the refashion pile.
A few months ago, when I was having the fabric/sewing clear out, I started playing with it again. I unpicked the seams and considered the fabric pieces I had, and after some playing on the dress model I mapped out a plan:
And then didn’t have the courage to start sewing. But last week I bit the bullet, so to speak, and got stuck into the sewing.
The back was a ‘make it work’ moment, as I’d wrapped the top of the sides over the shoulder in the hopes of using less fabric for the back, and have enough left over for sleeves.
That wasn’t to be. I could have made 3/4 length sleeves, but I hate them, and short sleeves would look odd in fabric this thick. So I decided it would have to be a vest/top. The only seams I’m not 100% happy with are the armholes, which gape a little at the back of the right side, but otherwise I’m pretty chuffed with how it came out. And amazed at how secure the overlocked edges are.
I’m quite chuffed with how it turned out. I don’t need another vest, but the only alternative was to throw out some perfectly good handwoven fabric. At least this one is cotton, so I don’t need to wear anything underneath to prevent contact with my skin. Which might mean it’ll get more wear than my knitted vests.
The pin loom workshop last Sunday seemed to go very well. It was quite a challenge teaching half the class on Zoom and the other half in person, but my aim was to get everyone to complete one square by the end of the day and that was achieved. The rest of what I covered I did as demos, which worked well with Zoom.
The Guild is keen on me doing more rigid heddle workshops, which I’m considering. However, by the end of the Pin Loom workshop day, despite being home by 4:00, I was entering a bad back flare up that made the next day hell and shadowed me for the rest of the week. I don’t know if it was the workshop itself, or falling asleep in an armchair later that day, that sparked it. Exhaustion hit me like a wall when I got home. Maybe I need to limit myself to half day workshops.
Of course, all inspiration for the projects I was longing to start as soon as the workshop was done evaporated in the face of pain and fatigue. I got out the yarn and patterns for the two machine knit garments I want to make, but felt too brain-fogged for the complexity of adapting the patterns. Instead I did a bit more fresh indigo leaf printing and wove more of the Moustache Scarf.
Finishing existing projects and chores appealed. I finished a portrait. It’s been kicking my butt for the last year. No matter how much I tweaked and reworked, it just didn’t look like the subject. Working on it upside down for two sessions got it close enough that I am happy to let it go, if the recipient likes it.
Once I decided machine knitting was too much, I packed everything away. I noticed a half draped garment on my dress form and began to play with it again. That led to some sewing, but I’ll save that for the next post.
In preparing for the pin loom workshop, lists were written, items crossed off, new lists created and those items crossed off, and finally I realised I was ready… with a week to spare.
This was a relief and also a bit annoying. I’ve been looking forward to the workshop, but also to getting stuck into some big meaty project afterwards. I didn’t want to start something that would need my full attention until the workshop was done. So for that spare week I had to look for short projects to fill the time. It was hot so no gardening. I didn’t want to risk a back flare up and migraine on the workshop day, either so no hobbies that might cause that.
I had considered making pin looms to sell, so I had a go at making one out of an old picture frame. It worked, but doing multiples of these would take too much time and put too much strain on my back. It’s a lot of nails to hammer.
I also made a half size loom at the vintage Weave-it loom nail spacing so I could make smaller wire squares, then turn them into a necklace:
Then I returned to the Jane loom and my Moustache Echo warp:
I decided not to work my way through the treadlings I’d come up with, but instead weave a scarf using the first one. Of course, I found a threading error only a few cm in, but once I’d fixed that and got into the swing of it I began to enjoy the weaving. As my brain memorised the pattern, I let my mind wander… to thinking about what I’ll do after the pin loom workshop. Dammit brain!
There’s the two tops I wove fabric for to sew. And two new garments to make on the Bond. And that 16 shaft loom I keep saying I’m going to make. And there’s still a loooot of work to do in the garden.
On the weekend I had a short one-on-one workshop with Amanda (@theweaversworkroom on Insta) on dyeing with fresh indigo leaves. It was a lot of fun, first beating leaves with a mallet onto cloth to make imprints:
I brought two long-sleeved t-shirts I’d picked up on sale. The leaves made only faint green marks on the first, but on the second, which I’d soaked in soy milk a few weeks ago, I got darker, bluer shapes. I intend to do more printing with the indigo I’m growing from seed Amanda sold last year.
Next we tried the salt rub method.
The lefthand skein is some leftover silk I’d bought. The middle yarn is commercial wool yarn. The rightmost skein is some silk handspun. We got good colour from the method, especially on the wool.
Lastly we tossed lots of indigo in a blender and strained the juice before dyeing some of Amanda’s yarn, and then I tossed in the first t-shirt I’d dyed to get a nice pale duck-egg blue solid colour overall.
It was a lovely morning that felt as much like play as a lesson thanks to Amanda’s enthusiasm and generosity. I’m definitely going to be doing more fresh leaf dyeing… after my indigo recovers from the scorching heat the following day. So far it’s looking much happier so maybe I’ll get some dyeing done next weekend.