Wool Skirt to Wool Dress

Remember the wool skirt I turned into a jumper?

It’s had heaps of wear this winter, because it’s so cosy and comfortable. However, first time I wore it was to an art class where everyone helps out setting up and putting away props. I discovered several holes in it when I got home. They could be moth damage, but I reckon I would have noticed as I put it on. A bit of mending later and the jumper is fine to wear at home, and I now don’t wear knitwear to classes.

The skirt was one of six from Late Lucy’s wardrobe. Of the other five, one I wear as is, one was 100% acrylic and was donated, and the other three are too big for me. I reckon most op shops would send them straight to landfill or recycling, so I’ve kept them with an eye to refashioning.

My simplest idea was to turn them into pet blankets for the RSPCA, but the buttons Lucy had added to the split at the back of two skirts looked so much like button bands that I turned one of them upside down and put it on the dress form.

Could I make a cardigan or jumper? I played around but it was clear there wasn’t enough fabric to make sleeves, and the idea went into hibernation.

Then my latest winter dress idea had me looking at the skirts again. Without removing fabric for sleeves, they were long enough to be dresses. Lots of pinning and sketching later, I had a couple of different approaches to consider, depending on how brave I was going to be about cutting into the fabric, and how confident I was that I could sew it on the machine or overlocker.

The brown was my least favourite so I decided to experiment with it. I took out the elastic in the waistband, but found the band still pulled the hem in so it would have to be cut off. There were a few holes at hip level, so I cut there finished the edge on the overlocker, which produced a slight ‘lettuce’ effect. I found I could tuck and dart and avoid cutting at all on the top part, but the bottom hem would require top stitching… across a very stretchy fabric. The prospect of that and the distraction of weaving had me put the project aside for a while.

But I kept the proto-dress on the dress form and every few days would examine it and think, and so eventually the solution hit me: sew it by hand. I unravelled some of the yarn from the waistband to use as thread and got sewing, and a few days later I had this:

Which I’m wearing as I type this. It’s warm and cosy and comfortable and I’m pretty chuffed with the result. I’d probably wear it only in casual settings, but since I spend most of my time at home that’s not a problem.

I’d like to turn the purple skirt into a dress as well, maybe taking the cut and machine sew approach instead, but I have other ideas for the navy one.

Ribs & Shadows

Once the rosepath warp was off the Lotas, it was time to plan a new project. Two, actually, because I’d decided I wouldn’t keep rethreading and sampling blended drafts on the Jane loom, which needed to be free in time for the start of the 8-shaft certificate course. Though that was two months away, I didn’t want to risk that a distraction, back flare up or something else stop me from weaving off the sampler warp.

What to weave? Something not too challenging, I decided. The latest Heddlecraft theme is ribs, which reminded me of one of the sampler I wove of half the first chapter of the Strickler book. Two of the twills formed ribs and a slightly stretchy fabric, which I’ve always wanted to use in a project. Going back to the source, there’s a note with the draft saying that it was used as a kind of knitted rib substitute. I decided to weave a simple ribbed scarf with the rest of the sampler warp, which only required rethreading the loom in a straight twill. Then I chose purple and aqua-blue weft yarns and started playing.

It’s easy to weave and you can see the ribs forming in the plain white section. You can also see my beat has been a bit variable. We had our covid shots a few days before, and my body did not react well.

For the Lotus, not wanting to tackle anything too challenging steered me toward weaving a Venne kit. I’ve woven shadow weave before, but I haven’t woven a kit. This one makes two scarves. I’m planning to do the first in the treadling provided then a variation for the second.

I replicated both drafts in Fiberworks so I could print at a bigger size, and play with shadow weave drafts. Once I’d threaded the shadow weave scarves I found I’m going to have to wait until the faux rib scarf is done to have two free shuttles for it. That’s fine. After all, I can only weave on one loom at a time!

Black Twill Stripe Rag Rug

I had enough warp left over from the twill rag rugs to weave a square t-shirt rag rug.

The variation in the depth of the black wasn’t obvious as I wove it, though I did reject one garment worth of rags because it was quite noticeably grey. This a bonus ‘spontaneity’ that comes from weaving rags from used rather than new cloth.

I like the extra squishiness of the knit fabric, and it was nice to not have to worry about ironing and placing the rag so the back side of the fabric doesn’t show. In fact, not having to fuss led to me trying different approaches on the next rug warp, but I’ll cover that in the next rag rug post.

Winter Wardrobe

As the weather has grown colder and I’ve started dressing warmer a feeling has crept over me.

I’m SO over my winter clothes.

Not with individual pieces. There are garments I love in there. It’s more the general look. Cotton tops and skivvies under hand knits because I can’t wear wool against my skin. Skirt or pants. It feels like a uniform.

How to change that? Adding other kinds of clothing to the mix seems the obvious answer. But before I got too carried away, I took stock of what I had in case I’d forgotten something or saw new potential in the old. I’ve been making clothes more lately and that inevitably leads to too-tightly-packed wardrobe, too. I decided to be ruthless and remove anything ‘faded, jaded, worn, torn, smelly or pilled’. Which was… a lot more than I expected.

Then I updated Stylebook so I had an overview at my fingertips. It had already occurred to me that I have one good outside-the-usual winter garment that I love: a black wool knitted dress with a big cowl collar. I wear it with leggings and the combo is different enough to be refreshing. The only down side was that if I get too warm, there’s no taking it off. Leggings are definitely NOT pants.

Still… a dress. A winter dress. I don’t have many dresses, and only this one is winter-weight. A lighter dress could still be part of a layered outfit, though. Looking in Stylebook, I noted that I have a black, jersey sleeveless dress that might suit.

So I gave that a try, layering over a skivvy and leggings and throwing a loose handknit cardigan on top. Comfy. Cosy. Looked good. A bit snug around the waist with two layers beneath, however. Still, it proved the theory right, and I’m now thinking about making more winter dresses to my wardrobe.

I swear every time I sew a garment, three more add themselves to my to-do list.

Problem Solving Inspiration

As I was finishing the blue and aqua twill rugs, I started winding the warp for the two pink and one light blue rosepath ones. It was very tempting to slip in a different project before returning to rugs, but I feared I would get distracted and that project would become two, three, then more.

I’d already wound the warp, too. I’m always reluctant to let an already cut warp sit idle. Knowing my luck it will get all tangled no matter how carefully I store it, or the cross will be in the wrong place for whatever loom it ends up on, or I’ll simply forget what it was meant to be for.

It was much easier to wind, being one colour. Since I knew I didn’t have enough of the grey, I’d bought another cone, which had the added benefit that I could wind with two threads at a time. Still… it wasn’t an exciting warp to look at, being all grey.

What got me excited to use it was working out, while creating the draft in Fiberworks, how to fix a niggly problem I’d had with the threading of the blue and aqua rugs. Well, not really a problem for the resulting rug, but a quirk in the draft that bugged me.

You see, the edges of the rugs I’m making are plain weave, but the rag section has the threads doubled.

When I wove the first three rugs this wasn’t a problem, because the body of the rug was plain weave. I just warped the loom with a straight 8-shaft twill, and used a tie-up that lifted shafts 1+3+5+7 followed by 2+4+6+8 for the edge weft then 1+2+5+6 followed by 3+4+7+8 for the rag weft.

But when weaving twill on the blue and aqua rugs, I found that the weft on the edges would skip over two warps wherever the threads aligned with a twill point in the rag section.

The twill was an extended one in places, so the skips didn’t happen often enough to affect the fabric width of the edges (all basketweave would have woven narrower). The rosepath had far more points, which made it worth trying to find a solution.

I knew that the twill in the rag section was essentially a four shaft pattern – the only reason I used eight shafts was to separate the pairs into singles for plain weave at the edges – so if I considered the problem threads as pairs, what could I do to them to ensure there were no skips?

The answer then came easily: turn the pairs 90 degrees.

I was so chuffed to have worked this out, suddenly I was all fired up to weave the next lot of rag rugs. The following day I had the warp on the back beam and half threaded, but I made myself wait a few days until I did the second half, not wanting to set off my back issues.

Blended Drafts Workshop

During the numerous Zoom sessions of the last year and a bit, the lovely Jeanette at the Guild talked about her venture into blended drafts. Her explanation kind of blew my mind. While the method made sense at the time, my understanding of it seemed to dissolve straight after. Well, it was a trying time for our poor, stressed brains!

When the news came that Jeanette was going to run a workshop I was definitely interested. Yet I hesitated a little out of lack of self confidence. You see, it has occurred to me that nothing I’ve started this year has quite gone to plan. The Wiggle Scarf had wobbles, the warp for the aqua and blue rag rugs was a bit of a nightmare and the Aqua Rug came out short. I felt like my brain just wasn’t up to something as challenging as learning to weave two weave structures on the same threading.

But I signed up anyway, because when was I going to get the opportunity again?

Of course, then I had insomnia the night before, and so I did struggle a bit, especially toward the end of the day. However, overall I was fine thanks to the clarity of Jeanette’s instruction.

On the first Sunday we learned the what, why and how and created our own blended draft by matching one of the overshot patterns Jeanette supplied to a twill in one of a couple of books. I chose a slanting, angular overshot and modified a very simple herringbone twill to suit. We started threading our looms. At home we were to finish threading and weave the two structures.

I also tried making another blended draft, this time crackle and twill, and it seemed to go well. Then I created a draft in Fiberworks and confirmed it was correct. Yay!

On the second Sunday we did a ’round robin’ and tried what Jeanette and the other students had warped their looms for. Jeanette had blended o overshot with Atwater-Bronson lace:

Libby had a mix of overshot and waffleweave:

(pic to come)

I didn’t get to try Rosie’s combination, as we ran out of time. That night I took the crackle draft from my previous at-home blend and mixed it with Spot Bronson.

I still have warp left on the loom so I’m going to rethread for the crackle/spot bronson combo and weave a sampler. Then who knows? Maybe keep blending, rethreading and weaving. Maybe there’s enough warp left to weave a cowl.

Rugged & Blue

There’s something that tickles me about how the actual weaving of rag rugs is so fast. There is SO much preparation, and then BAM! a couple of hours more and the rug exists. (Mostly. There’s still hemming and washing, of course.)

The Aqua Rug turned out shorter than I’d intended. When sewing together the rags I had an older batch of mixed rags already sewn together, a few misc strips, and two newer batches of unsewn strips in the same colourway. Instead of cutting the already sewn strips apart to mix in the new ones, I added only the misc pattern strips, then sewed the two similar colours together. My aim was to use two shuttles to weave alternate rows of old-mixed and new-similar batches.

This made for only slightly more complicated weaving. It also meant I ran out of the old batch before I got to last quarter of the new, and I wound up with a shorter rug than I’d planned. I’m wondering, now, if I should have woven two new-similar rows for every old-mixed one. Too late now. The unused strips went into the box of leftovers.

The Blue Rug was one big batch of evenly mixed pattern, so I could just wind it onto a single shuttle and weave to the very end. Despite this, it really felt like it took much longer. Partly because I was weaving in shorter sessions, and because it wasn’t much shorter than it should be!

Since the Aqua Rug came out shorter than planned, I had a lot of warp left over. I decided to try weaving with t-shirt fabric strips. This came out much nicer than I expected and not needing to fuss with folding in the edges of the strips made it SO much faster. It was only slowed by having to stop and cut up more old garments. The down side is that no matter how you cut up t-shirts or leggings, you’re going to have corners or seams creating lumps. I don’t mind this, but it does make for a more bumpy rug and some people mightn’t like that.

I got to thinking, as I wove, that it might be worth taking the time to sew the flannelette strips. Ironing them with a bias tape maker helps by folding in the edges, but I still have to fiddle a lot to get them to sit right when weaving. So I tried that on the next rug’s strips and found that it’s slower than I hoped and chews through a lot of thread.

I’m at the point, now, where I don’t think I’d take more flannelette rags even if they were free. Though it was nice having a source material that was not ‘used’, the prep is too time-consuming and dark colours aren’t common (light colours not being so good for hiding dust and stains). If the fabric comes in larger pieces it is much faster to cut, and if the colour is near to or as dark on the back the edges don’t have to be folded in so long as it isn’t too prone to fraying.

There’s still enough flannelette for five or six rugs, however, so I’m not even going to be looking for fabric for some time!

From Play Pen to Weaving Tool

At the beginning of last week I looked at all the part-done projects and tasks hanging about and decided to get stuck into completing them. The list included the rag rugs, some gardening tasks, a few sewing jobs and carpentry projects. I thought I’d get it all done in a day… it took a week. But I did succeed in my aim!

The rag rugs will be in another post, and the gardening and sewing jobs were small and menial, so I’ll stick to the carpentry projects. The first one was another box thing to match the one I put my 4-shaft certificate course notes in, ready for when I do the 8-shaft one. It made sense to make it while I could recall what I did on the first one. However, I do wonder if I’ve now jinxed the course, and it won’t go ahead now!

The other project was to turn a giant warping board which was once two sides of a wooden kid’s pen into two normal sized warping boards. I’d picked up the broken play pen from hard rubbish aaaages ago. It once looked like this:

Only two panels survived. I was going to make a clothes drying rack or hang plants off it, but one day I looked at it and thought, “all I’d have to do is cut the dowels a handspan long and I’d have four sides of a warping board”. Of course, Paul did the cutting as he is master of the power saw, and he found some metal brackets to join the corners with and “Ta-Dah!” we had a warping board.

A really huge warping board. Maybe 120 cm square. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of it. A pic of someone holding it could have been quite comical. I held off oiling it and left it out in the garage because there was nowhere to store it inside and I knew I was going to have to consider whether I really needed a giant warping board or should cut it down.

I decided on the latter and, after some measuring up, confirmed there was enough framework to make two normal sized boards. A bit of sanding, sawing, screwing and oiling later the reconstruction was done. However, what I had then was two warping boards with wobbly pegs. The dowels had shrunk since I’d bought the pen panels.

So I set to carefully painting watered down pva around and into the gaps. This wound up taking a couple of hours, broken up over days as the glue dried and shrank and needed to be topped up, but by the end those pegs weren’t moving anywhere.

Do I need two more warping boards? Nope. But the wood has been repurposed and the boards will eventually find homes.

I Fell Into It, It Seams

In the middle of making patterns for my next sewing project, a friend invited me to a Regency-era costume picnic the next weekend. That sent me off in a bit of a tangent. I have a dress I made some years ago that I’ve only worn twice. While it’s cotton velvet, so should be warm, I was suddenly obsessed with the idea of having the right underthings. Stays were probably not achievable in the time I had, but I could try making a chemise. The garment, from what I recall, goes under the stays to protect the skin and soak up sweat.

And sweat was likely, if we had a hot day. If we had a cold day I’d appreciate the extra layer. So I searched the web for instructions, and after sending my friend lots of questions about fabric and length, cut up a bed sheet and made this in an afternoon:

Some adjustments were needed to match the neckline to my dress the next day. If I hadn’t been in the middle of a sewing jape, I probably wouldn’t have tackled this or got it done so quickly. Though it’s a simple garment to make, all seams are flat fell seams, so it’s rather slow and finicky.

I rather fancy making a full Regency corset now, but I knew I wouldn’t get one done in time for that weekend so it’s low on the to-do list. Probably I’ll get keen again next time I have a Regency-era costume event to attend.

Corduroy Shirt

These days I like to make a calico version of sewing patterns I haven’t tried before, so that’s where I started in my quest to reduce the fabric stash. Over three days, I traced off the size 12 version of the Style Arc Stacie denim jacket pattern, cut out all the pieces in calico, then sewed them together. What I wound up with a jacket that was just a bit too small around the chest and hips. I wasn’t surprised about the hips – I am wider there – but I was a bit perplexed by the general fit of the chest.

When I laid the jacket out flat I realised why. The fronts don’t even meet. It’s not just that there’s no allowance for boobs, the back is wider than the front.

I kinda wish I’d known this before I’d bought the pattern and spent three days making a calico version. Though I’d be much more annoyed if I’d not made a calico, and had cut into my fabric.

Well, I do want to be able to button up jackets on cold days. The front is made up of several pieces and to adjust the pattern would be really complicated, so I moved on to option two: make a pattern from a 20+ year old shirt I already have and love.

Over two days I carefully traced off the pattern pieces, using calico so I could easily spread the fabric into corners where I couldn’t arrange the shirt to lie perfectly flat, and sewed them together. I’ve only ever done this with tracing paper before, and I think calico worked better. I used longest stitch on my machine so the seams could quickly be pulled out. A few adjustments were needed, and the collar was especially tricky, but eventually I had a mostly made up test shirt to try on and confirm it fit right. Then I pulled out all the seams and cut out the pieces in corduroy.

The sewing went well. Whenever I needed to work out what order to work in I just referred to the original shirt. Finally I had everything but the buttons and buttonholes done. Hmm. Buttons. I’d like to add jean’s style rivet-attached shank buttons like on the original shirt, but I learned from the black denim skirt I made a year or two ago that the only DIY ones you can get are so low quality they come apart again with very little pressure. So I had no choice but to use sew-on shank buttons.

Of course, despite having a big divided plastic storage container full of buttons, there was nothing suitable. I searched online shops but the only metal shank buttons I found were at Spotlight, and I didn’t want to wait weeks and weeks for them to arrive. So I figured it would remain button-less until I had more than one reason to schlep across town – which was likely to be sooner than Spotlight delivery times because I expected the next project on my to-do list to require supplies.

And indeed it did. So by week’s end I had the shirt finished:

I wore it that day, and found it just as comfortable as the original. It was quite a journey getting something made out of the corduroy, but at least I now have a pattern I would happily use again.