Bazaar Times

So ask I mentioned a few posts ago, I’ve been doing some yarn culling. First there was the big rug yarn/fabric cull last year that triggered the Summer of Quilts, thanks to me thinking it would be easier (ha!) to just sew up all the flannelette strips into quilts. Then in April I culled some dyeing supplies and knitting yarn. As May arrived the rest of the stash got thinned and I figured it all may as well go into the yearly weaving guild sale. I added magazines, a pin loom, a 16 shaft loom I was going to fix up but no longer want, and circular knitting machine to the pile.

And it was quite a pile.

More like a wall.

Estimated total number of items was topping 100. Aside from the possibility it wouldn’t all fit in my car, the thought of filling in ten forms, and deciding on prices, and labelling it all, and carting it to the guild sapped my will to live. It had me wondering if I should just have a studio sale instead. That reminded me that I’ve seen people hire a table at the Bazaar and have their own eftpos machine. Both Paul and a friend have organised such things before so it didn’t intimidate me. Doing it that way would remove the need for filling in forms and I could change prices or put together bundles as the day progressed. I called the guild and asked if I could do that instead.

After a few days they got back to me, and the answer was ‘no’. So I looked at the pile/wall and figured I had to reduce it to a more manageable size. I decided to donate the knitting yarn to op shops and toss the magazines into the recycling (I’d got them for free at the Bazaar two years ago when nobody wanted them). I was all ready to take the rug yarn to the tip when a weaver I know said that friend of hers would take it. Perfect.

That got the items down to just under 70. It took me 4 hours to fill in the forms and write and attach the tags. It and the rug yarn (which I delivered the same day) filled the back of my car.

And, thankfully, most of it sold.

Looking at the Loom Room now, the difference is obvious. Only half of the shelving and little wardrobe contain weaving things. The rest holds either knitting/crochet, embroidery and spinning items, or empty tubs. I’m not sure what my next move is, but it might involve even bigger changes.

As I always remind myself: nothing in life is more sure than change.

Gradient Slouchy Hat

Going through my weaving tools looking for things I don’t want any more, I came upon the box of pin looms and some unfinished projects woven on them. One was a scarf with which I had been teaching myself a join-as-you-go technique. I wasn’t interested in finishing it, so I carefully unwove all the pieces, matched the thread up according to the colour gradient, and tied it into one piece.

I only had one 200 gram ball of the yarn, which might be enough for a scarf. I perused a few stitch guide books and bookmarked a few, but the ones I tried demanded too much attention or formed overly stiff fabric.

So I figured I’d let other crochet designers do the hard work and went looking for patterns. I found this beanie pattern designed for multiple yarns, but I thought the ribbed look might work with a gradient too.

I love it.

The only change I made was to make the main part – the sides – just be alternating FYDC and DC (US terminology) rows. I’m now wondering if I can make a matching accessory with the rest of the yarn.

Colour-blocked Corduroy Jacket

Or is it a shirt? I guess it’s a ‘shacket’, as it works as either.

It felt like I had a lot left to do when I tackled the next stage, since the sewing up is the main part of garment construction. But in truth, it was no more than an easy day’s work. I took breaks for cuppas and lunch, and one to write the bulk of this post before tackling the buttonholes.

This was a ‘just for the fun of it’ project. Though it was done in the spirit of using up fabric, the main aim was to play with colour-blocking. I bought fabric for it and have enough of five of the six kinds to put to other uses, though not for any full garment.

What’s next? Well, some sewing thread I ordered for topstitching a quilt back in January has finally arrived, so that might be next. Or perhaps I’ll fix the wool skirt that got shrunk last year first.

Cutting the Cord

I was all ready to start cutting out fabric for the patchwork corduroy shirt when we went away for a long weekend. When I got back I was tired and bound mess up the task and then I got into an organising and culling state of mine. It wasn’t until two weeks later that I returned to the project.

The catalyst, I suspect, was going to a second hand and vintage sale looking for nice pants and long skirts and not finding any. That sparked some ideas, both of garments and of creative challenges I could set myself, and the next day I was back at the cutting table.

There were a lot of pieces to cut. Six colours and textures of corduroy. It took me most of a morning and then I really needed a mental break so we went for a walk then for various reasons I was drawn away from the sewing room again.

I didn’t get back to it until the following weekend, when I sewed it all into pattern pieces and got the pockets and front yokes attached. I’m hoping to make more progress this weekend, but I’m not in a hurry. It’s nice to sew at a relaxed pace.

Cord on Bleu

This project began with two remnants of corduroy in my stash. One a navy-based floral pin cord with light blue, white and pink in the pattern, the other a plain burgundy with a quite broad cord texture. I searched online for corduroy colour blocking and up came pics of men’s shirts.

Which I like the look of. The colours and pattern I’m going to use are going to be different, of course. The pattern I’m going to use is one I traced from an old corduroy shirt, but adding pockets and leaving out the waist shaping. The colours are taken from the navy floral fabric: pink, a dusty light blue, a light burgundy, the dark burgundy leftovers from my stash and – because I wanted more than one patterned fabric – a mid-tone aqua-blue with little flowers and mushrooms.

Texture is going to be another factor. The two batches of leftover corduroy are a fine pin cord and an unusually broad cord, so I figured I’d embrace textural difference and have a variety of cord widths. The corduroy I bought to go with them are a mix of medium and fine cord.

I did some sketching…

The first two versions were deliberately riffing off the men’s shirts to see what I liked and disliked about the blocking and colour placement. I really didn’t like it having one dark and one light breast pocket – that’s going to matter more on a woman than a man. I also preferred seam lines going along the arms rather than around them. The third sketch is my own choice of seam lines and colour placement, and I like it much better. The arrangement of colours seems more balanced.

The next step was to tweak the front and work out an arrangement for the back.

Once I was satisfied with that, I spent an afternoon making a tracing of the main pieces of the pattern and creating pieces for the pockets. Then I drew design lines on the front, back, and sleeve, and traced off a pattern piece for each block, adding 1cm seam allowance. Why go to all that trouble? I just knew that if I simply cut up the front, back and sleeve, I’d forget to add seam allowance later. And I’d have had to make two more copies of the front and sleeves, since the pattern isn’t the same on each.

Then I went alway for a long weekend, so there was a bit of gap between making the pattern and making the garment. The latter will have to wait for another post.

In the Navy

It was time to change the thread on the overlocker again, and tackle the navy knit fabric leftovers. They consisted of three kinds: enough plain to make a skivvy, enough gum nut print to make two sleeves or some side panels, and a small amount of a thinner striped knit that might work with the others if I used it like the gauze in the recent t-shirts.

I drew up some options and worked out there was only one combo where I got two garments out of the fabric and didn’t need to draft a new variation on the patterns I’m using. The first was a t-shirt with the striped fabric as puffed sleeves and neckband, the second was a skivvy with the gumnut fabric for arms and collar.

However… the day I started cutting out I didn’t realise I was too tired to be sewing until I’d cut out the plain navy fronts and backs at 90 degrees to the grain. Oops. I decided to go ahead and make the t-shirt anyway.

While it looks good and is wearable, the stretch being so generous along the length of the body is a mistake I don’t want to repeat, so I decided to abandon making the gumnut skivvy.

At that point I decided I was done sewing stretch. I was starting to feel a bit over it anyway. Most of the knit fabric in my stash had been sewn up. Aside from a small amount of leftovers, I had one recently-purchased batch of fabric that might make a dress, and I wasn’t in the mood for tackling a dress.

So what next? Well, I’m still enamoured of colour blocking. I have two kinds of corduroy in the stash and an idea I want to pursue, so I’m thinking it’s time for a projects done purely for fun.

Aqua Sewrobics

I took a five day break from sewing before starting on the next stretch fabric projects, and rather than continue making tops I started with a couple of UFOs. The first was to put ribbing cuffs on my painting jacket, which I’ve been meaning to do for, um, over thirty years. The second was to put ribbing cuffs on a jacket I made from woven material some time ago. I’d already changed the collar to ribbing last year, then got distracted by quilts and other things. The old too-narrow collar looked like it was eked of a scrap of fabric – which it was – and the sleeves were too short, so these bomber jacket inspired changes improve both the look and wearability of the garment.

The next day, the Saturday of the Easter long weekend, was a craft and chat day with some friends. I felt familiar enough with the pattern and overlocker to whip up another mock turtleneck.

Then I took the leftovers of aqua and floral fabric and made this colour-blocked top.

However, I wasn’t satisfied with the second one. Something about it felt out of balance. It looked like I was wearing an ill-fitting vest. So I checked what fabric I had left in the stash and did a bit of tweaking on my phone, and eventually settled on adding vertical stripes and a scoop-neck.

Much better!

What’s the Madder?

Last month I went outside to do half an hour’s gardening, and somehow that turned into several hours. Mainly because I decided it was time to dig up the madder.

Having heard that madder could get invasive, I grew it in a cut-down old oil barrel. I’d harvested and dried most of the roots a year and a half ago, but since those roots hadn’t been particularly thick I left a couple in the barrel to see if the plants would come back and grow thicker roots.

Initially I thought they hadn’t. The roots were few and not much bigger than the previous harvest’s. But then I continued emptying the barrel and discovered a whole other layer of roots at the bottom half of the barrel. They were chunkier and more numerous, and I was pleased with that because they’d yield more dye.

Then I reached a layer of polystyrene I’d forgotten I’d lined the bottom with as a barrier to discourage roots to escape out of the holes.

Except it turned out the madder really liked those conditions. The roots had grown really fat, making their way through the polystyrene.

Under this were more big roots. Then I tipped over the empty barrel and wasn’t so pleased any more. The ground beneath was riddled with madder root.

Fortunately, the ground there is chunky gravel on top of a thin layer of clay on top of shale, so it wasn’t too hard to dig it all out. It could have been much worse, especially as the roots have a habit of thinning out to a thread, then after an inch or so thickening up and continuing on. So I’d pull at one and it’d get thinner then break, and look like I’d got the whole root.

Having twigged to this growth habit, I knew that I needed to keep digging to check whether I had truly found the end. Eventually I was done, and to my surprise had a bigger harvest than the first one. I chopped it all up into tiny pieces and spread it on a screen to dry.

One of these days I’m going to get around to dyeing something with the old batch, and maybe this new one as well. But I don’t think I’ll be growing madder again. Or, if I do, I’ll use a pot with holes in the side rather than the bottom so I can see if it’s trying to escape. But I’ll also line it with polystyrene, since the roots growing in and around it were the fattest of all!

Reversed & Reused

With the Mushroom Top done, I was almost ready to change the thread on the overlocker. But there was one more idea I wanted to try.

I had noticed when making the Textured Turtleneck that the back of the fabric was nice too.

I’d also noted that the sleeves on the top that inspired the Gauze-Sleeved T-shirt were still in pretty good shape.

So I spread out the textured fabric to see if I had enough for the body of a top. Yes, I did. Then I unpicked the gauze sleeves and they came off without a hitch. The two fabrics next to each other looked pretty good, so then it was just a matter of cutting out and sewing.

Which, of course, didn’t go as straightforwardly as that. My brain kept insisting that the black hexagon side of the fabric was the wrong side, so there was a lot of unpicking. I tried removing the gauze neckband on the old top but it wasn’t coming off without a fight that would probably destroy it. Fortunately, I had a piece of the black fabric I’d used for the Mushroom Top neckband – the bit I’d trimmed off – and it was big enough to use for the neckband on this new top.

It came out even better than I expected:

At this point, I was definitely in the groove of sewing with stretch fabrics. I had two new gauze-sleeved t-shirts, one freshly made mock turtleneck and one long-sleeved top added to my wardrobe – along with the Cascade Skirt. The to-do list consisted of an aqua mock turtleneck, a long-sleeved colour-blocked top, a navy t-shirt and possibly a navy colour-blocked top, and a batch of fabric that might be big enough to make another wrap dress. So I was not quite half way through.

Scrappy Shrooms

I admit, the next garment I made was influencer influenced. There was a frugal sewing challenge for March happening via YouTube at the time. I didn’t want to join it, and it wouldn’t have qualified because I wasn’t using a free pattern anyway, but it was encouraging sewers to make things out of scraps and there was a lot of talk about colour-blocking.

I had two in mind, one in an aqua and complimentary floral fabric, and another based on a scrap of mushroom printed fabric plus a mix of black, dark green and brown leftover knit fabric.

I intended to make a mock turtleneck out of the aqua fabric, too, so I cut those pieces out first. Then I put it and the aqua and floral fabric aside. Sewing them would mean switching out the thread on the overlocker and it made more sense to tackle all the projects that used the black on the machine. Which did include the mushroom top.

The mushroom fabric was too small for any piece of the Alexi top pattern, but I had an idea to turn this dress pattern, with princess and raglan seams into a top:

I made the righthand version back in the 90s, out of a chocolate brown stretch velvet with a rose pattern. It worked perfectly, but with such a full skirt was very heavy. I was a size 10 back then, and hadn’t learned to trace off a pattern in the size I wanted, but I’d kept all the pattern offcuts.

All I had to do was tape them all back on. I spent half a day tracing and altering the pattern, and doing a test version. I used the skirt fabric from the test version of a wrap dress I made year and a half ago (so using up another ‘scrap’):

The result was a bit too nipped in at the waist, but otherwise fit fine. I made some pattern adjustments, then started designing.

The centre front fit easily on the mushroom fabric, but there wasn’t enough to do a centre back. I examined the black fabric scraps, and the only pieces that fit onto that was the side back. Since I didn’t want any colour of fabric butting up against itself, the rest was pretty much decided for me. The side fronts and centre back would have to be green, and the arms had to be brown. I did a sketch to see if I liked it:

I did, so a few days later I cut out the pieces and got sewing. It all went together well until I got to the neck band. As soon as I put it on I felt uncomfortable. The neck opening was much too big. I’m not sure why I didn’t feel that way with the test version, but then the weather had got a bit chillier. I removed the band, shortened and re-pinned it. Didn’t sit right. I made a wider band and tried that. Really didn’t sit right. Finally I put it on the mannequin, pinched in the raglan seams, pinned on the original band – and that fixed it. So I sewed on the band and altered the pattern.

The Mushroom Top was done:

The back:

Constructing this post and seeing the dress pattern again, I realise that the dress is probably supposed to have shoulder pads, so that would explain the extra roominess there. I’m glad I put the work into making it into a top pattern, because it is a good one for using up smaller pieces of fabric. I might use it for the blue and floral top… or I might do something else.