Fidget vs Focus

The sewing I’ve done this year has been different to the occasional bunches of projects over the last decade. I’ve taught myself how to sew stretch fabric, done some challenging refashions and sewn more handwoven fabric than ever before.

My aim had been to have well made clothes from organic cloth, but the long-term benefit of that has been getting my sewing mojo back. You see, when I was in my 20s sewing was my main hobby, but I pushed myself too hard and wound up hating and avoiding it. Then in my late 30s I discovered refashioning, which was a great way to get back into sewing because it isn’t making a garment from scratch so there’s often a lot of construction already done.

This renewed enthusiasm is a much quieter thing than the obsession I had as a young sewer. Recently, I judged it enough to upgrade my machines. My Jenome is great, but it isn’t strong enough to sew many layers of fabric. My overlocker is good, but it has only three threads so only sews the edge, not the seam. I’ve also found that the stretch seams sewn with a double needle on the sewing machine keep breaking, and I concluded that the only way to get the quality I want is to use a coverstitch machine.

Of course, being locked down meant ordering without trying, so I did my research and aimed for robust machines. Which meant heavy machines I don’t want to be hauling out of the cupboard when I use them. To set them up permanently, some shuffling of the craft room furniture was required. Which led to a review of all the crafts I do, whether new, current and old.

That inevitably turned my attention to the Passap knitting machine. I searched for the email from the seller and was shocked to discover I’d bought it nearly ten years ago. I probably only used it regularly for the first year. The main reason I bought it was to make socks, of which I made a few then stopped because I already had so many socks.

I’ve used the Bond over and over, and it can be packed away into its carrier, so it’s well worth keeping. But I think the Passap has to go. Ironically, it’s home isn’t in the craft room, so selling it has no bearing on the furniture shuffling except to empty the cupboard of the magazines and parts that came with it.

Of course, selling it will have to wait until after lockdown ends. Even if I found someone willing to hire a courier, I can’t get out to collect the packaging needed.

Dyeing to Start

The eight shaft certificate weaving course has begun! Woohoo! The schedule needed to adapt to lockdown, but thanks to Zoom and our adaptable teacher and her assistant, it got underway without a hitch.

The Guild provides yarn for the course, but we couldn’t go there to pick it up. Last year, in anticipation of this course, I bought a range of the yarn we mostly used in the 4-shaft course – Bendigo 3ply classic – but for the first sampler we used the 2ply version, and I only have two colours of that yarn: natural (which I used for the warp) and a red. One weft colour wasn’t going to offer much exciting experimentation, so I dyed ten bobbin’s worth of the natural.

In my limited supply of dye I had the purply blue on the right, red and yellow. Overdying gave me the colours between. I was hoping for a brown using all three, but got dark burgundy-purple shades.

Still, I love how they turn out. Overdyeing creates more harmonious colour schemes. I’d dye more often if I wasn’t too lazy for the set up and clean up.

Venne You Can’t Decide…

… weave a kit!

This is definitely one of those “looks more complicated than it is” projects. I had the treadling sequence memorised within two repeats, and it wove faster than I expected. Avoiding draw-in was a battle. Seems like that’s a thing with shadow weave. I don’t have a temple small enough to fit the scarf, so I laid in the weft in a big angle and left a little bit of a loop at both edges, which kept it getting out of hand.

To be honest, I wasn’t that excited by the design, so for the second scarf I rethreaded the loom to weave a draft from Handweaving.net. I’m a sucker for a weaving pattern that is a weaving pattern. It was a slightly shorter, narrower draft than the kit scarf, and a bit simpler to thread and treadle.

The tie-up had me weaving it back-side-up. I must have missed some clue on the site. But I didn’t mind as I still liked the back more than the original design, and the there was the satisfaction of seeing the front pattern when I took it off the loom.

Funghi Legs

Having successfully made leggings, I looked at the two jersey prints I had, and considered whether to make more or use it for skivvies and tops. I decided the latter, but I did want to make more leggings. The pattern I had traced off an old pair was slimmer at the ankle and lower at the waist than the Style Arc pattern, and I was curious to see how well it would fit. So I went online looking for organic black cotton jersey, and somehow some two other fabrics fell into my cart.

I always wash fabric before sewing it, just in case it stretches or runs or behaves weirdly. When I went to cut out a pattern I found that both new and old fabric was distorted where they had hung on the line, so I stuck all five pieces in the rinse and spin cycle and then into the dryer. Now, we barely ever use the dryer. Call me old fashioned or hipster, but if I can save money and avoid producing carbon by drying on the line or a clothes airer, I will. The only reason we have a dryer is because I adopted Nana’s one when she died in 2009 for emergencies, like the house flooding (which seems every house I own will do at some point) and we have an excess of wet towels to dry. I think Nana’s dryer was bought in the 80s. It worked fine until recently, when it started making a burning smell whenever it was on the warm setting. This meant it took about three days to get all the fabric dry, helped along by me ironing it now and then to speed things along. Cotton sure goes suck up moisture. Anyway, it all dried eventually and…

I sewed up some black leggings first. The pattern worked fine – a teeny bit tight around the legs. When I cut out the next pair I gave them a few mm extra room, but that pair came out a little loose, despite feeling a little less stretchy. That just seems to be the luck of the draw with jersey.

I have another pair of leggings to make, but I’m moving on to skivvies and tops next because they’ll use black thread. No sewer changes the thread on the overlocker until they have to!

One From Two

Earlier this year we spent a weekend in Castlemaine, and at one of the local tourist attractions, the Mill Market, I bought a second hand jacket:

I love how three different knit fabrics have been combined to make it. This came to mind when thinking about how I might make garments out of Late Lucy’s knitted skirts at around the same time I culled some knitwear from my wardrobe. Could I make another jacket out of the navy skirt and an old jumper?

I had a perfect match colour-wise, though that only gave me two fabrics.

So I made a rough pattern from the jacket using calico, and laid pieces of it on top of the skirt and jumper. I had enough fabric to make it, if I eliminated the pockets.

The jumper I’d cut up had been sewn so the purl side faced out. This meant the knit side was in really good condition, so I put that one on the outside.

The next day, despite not feeling 100%, I got out the scissors, too a deep breath, and started cutting. The pieces from the jumper were cut first, then I turned to the skirt, and that’s when I got distracted.

It occurred to me suddenly that if I flipped the side pattern piece over it would fit right down beside the collar piece. I should have then made sure I still had room for the sleeve pieces, but I didn’t, and only went to cut them out did I realise my mistake.

I didn’t fancy making a vest, so I’d have to find more fabric. I packed everything up and put it out of sight. Then, a few days later, a possible solution came to me. The cuffs on the original jacket are extensions of the sleeves, that fold up. What if they didn’t fold up, but were attached halfway up the forearm? The main sleeves pieces could be shortened. I measured and tweaked and made it work, though it meant the sleeves would be bit skinnier so I had to hope they wouldn’t be too tight.

Once cut out, all of the pieces were overlocked around the edges except where I’d taken advantage of already existing hems. I sewed the bottom hem of the side pieces on the machine, but though I’d done a test on a scrap I wasn’t happy with the way this stretched out the fabric. So I hand sewed the rest of the seams, using thread unravelled from the waistband, until I got to the zipper, which is a non-stretchy part of the garment, and the inside of the collar, which benefited from the reinforcement of a straight stitch.

The sleeves are a teeny bit short, but I don’t think I’ll notice. It took quite a few weeks to make it, and a lot of hand sewing, but I’m chuffed to have made something wearable from two tired old garments.

Skivvies

So of course, having chosen and started another filler project, the skivvy pattern arrived. I decided to continue with the filler project, then I stuffed it up big time and packed it away in the hopes I’d stop beating myself up over it. Out came the skivvy pattern and my test fabric, and I quickly whipped up a garment:

The fit is almost perfect – only the neck is a little tight when putting it on. I was so chuffed, I cut out the pieces for another, out of a mercerised cotton from a friend’s destash. This time the fabric was a one-way stretch, so it would be a test of whether the pattern works without vertical elasticity. The cutting required matching the pattern, but what made that extra challenging was the pattern was denser at the sides than the middle, as if the centre area had been stretched. I tried steaming the fabric to see if it would even out, but it didn’t help. Fortunately I had enough fabric to place the front and back at the centre, and the sleeves at the sides.

I took a break, had a cuppa, considered other things I could be doing… and went back to the craft room and sewed this one up too. It came out fine – a little tighter at the neck but still comfy once on:

My plan now is to alter the pattern to make a round or scoop neck top. But by then I’d figured out a possible fix for the filler project I’d messed up, so I returned to that.

Faux Rib Cowl

It’s done…

The rib texture is subtle. It has a nice drape.

As I expected, it was too short for a scarf but just right for a mobius cowl.

It’s always satisfying when leftovers turn into something useful, rather than ending up yet more thrums hanging behind the Loom Room door.

Flexible

A while back I stumbled upon a website that sold organic cotton jersey in fabulous prints, and I snapped up two pieces – one with navy and white stripes, one of flowers on a black background – imagining them as either leggings or long-sleeved tops (or both). The navy stripe was supposed to be my test fabric, because I wanted to make my own patterns by cutting up an old pair of leggings and a skivvy. Like I used to do in my 20s. Of course, my 20s was a looong time ago and when the fabric arrived I hesitated, and I put everything aside until I gathered some confidence.

Eventually I did, starting with cutting up a pair of leggings and making a pattern. I compared it to a leggings pattern I’d received free along with other patterns I bought from Style Arc. It was waaay different and after I had other problems tracing a skivvy pattern, I put everything aside again.

Since buying the fabric I’d become rather fond of the navy strips fabric, so I decided to buy some organic jersey from Spotlight to use as my test fabric instead. I also bought a double needle, after watching videos on how to sew stretch fabrics, for top stitching.

Recently I got enthused again. I brought out both patterns and laid mine over the Style Art one to see how different they were… then flipped it over. And they matched bar a few small variations. Duh.

So, using the Style Arc pattern, I cut the pieces and got sewing. In a anticlimactic short hour or so they were done.

I wore then the next day and they didn’t fall apart. Two tiny areas of sewing came undone – a tiny hole in one leg seam and a bit of waist overstitching that had snapped when it was stretched – but they were easily fixed. The legs were too long, which I’d anticipated, the calves too loose, and the waist was a bit high at the front. When I laid the traced pattern on top of the Style Arc one again, these were the areas that were different, so I figure I’ll use the traced pattern next time.

The Style Arc pattern worked well enough that I decided to buy a skivvy pattern from them. When I’d traced the skivvies I cut up, I found they were quite different in size and the fabric pieces were really distorted, leading to more guesswork than I was comfortable with.

Distortion in commercial garments is a bit of a gripe of mine, and one of the reasons I want to make my own stretch fabric garments. Since I started photographing clothes to put in Stylebook, I’ve been amazed at how badly cut the fabric pieces of commercial clothing are. Leggings nearly always twist around a leg – just one so it’s definitely not a design feature. T-shirt side seams twist around the body. Even the really expensive organic and ethically made leggings I bought are badly cut and twisty, and the fabric is really flimsy.

Hopefully the skivvy pattern will fit me, or at least be easy to adjust. Because if I can make my own stretch fabric garments, I could possibly make most of my clothes. Not that I’d have to be whipping them out constantly – just replacing garments as they wear out.

Clasped To My Bleeding Heart

It’s been more than a year since I warped the AKL. Used to be I’d have a project on it nearly all of the time, but after all the prep for the workshop I did January last year I took a break. It wasn’t meant to last this long, but much of my weaving attention and creativity went into the 4-shaft course, which I’m certainly not complaining about!

Even after weaving nearly constantly on the AKL for sixteen years (gosh!), there are still a few methods I haven’t tried. One was clasped warp. It was meant to be the next one I did but every time I tried matching up colours for it nothing quite worked. Part of the problem was coming up with a weft yarn that wouldn’t spoil the look of the two warp yarns.

I had another go at it recently, and as I pawed through sock yarns It was thinking back to the Echo and Jin workshop. We used a finer yarn for the weft so the warp colours dominated. The same approach might work on this scarf.

Most of my sock yarn isn’t solid, and the few solids I have are either not a good match for the multicolour yarns or are but don’t provide good contrast – you need contrast with clasped warp (and weft) for the effect to be visible. I applied the principles of matching patterns in clothing: go for different kinds of pattern. Like stripes and florals, or pin stripe and spots, or random and regular, or fine and large. I had a speckle-dyed grey yarn, and a striped dark red and purple yarn. Perfect.

And for the weft… a solid. By going even thinner I had a wide choice of fine wool yarns to choose from. I chose one that would disappear in the striped yarn, and hopefully only add to the flecked nature of the speckled one.

Warping was easy. Instead of threading a loop through every slot of the heddle then, after the loop is cut, moving one thread into the neighbouring hole, you thread a loop in slots and holes. The second yarn loops through this to the peg. Which means every thread is a double thread, and you weave half basketweave.

I beat very lightly so the weft was well spaced. Which made the weaving quite fast.

A couple of sessions later it was done, and I finished it by twisting the fringe.

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.