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.

The Granny Square Jumper

When I cleared out and assessed my yarn stash last year, I put aside some 8ply/dk yarn in greens and purples with some kind of crochet granny square garment in mind. The mix skewed a bit dark and green, so when I found some mauve yarn in an op shop a few days later I knew it was what was needed to brighten the colour scheme.

Patterns I’d considered included several granny squares made into a jacket or a jumper in the usual grid, the same but joined at a 45 degree angle, a jumper with one really big square each for the front and back, and two hexagons that could be folded up to make one half of a body and sleeve in each piece.

While the multiple squares versions had a traditional appeal, by the time I’d crocheted a square using all the yarns it was much bigger than required for the multi-square garments. It looked good, and the thought of the sewing together of squares didn’t appeal – probably due to subconscious memories of the pin loom blanket. If I just continued on enlarging the square I’d soon have a front, so I decided to do the square-for-front-and-back design.

I didn’t use a pattern, figuring I’d just crochet until the square was big enough for a front, then repeat for the back. Being the perfectionist I am, I decided I wanted both sides to match and that wouldn’t be possible if I ran out of one of the yearns, so I began crocheting both at the same time. Then I noted that the sleeves in one of the patterns I liked are also big squares, so I started those and had four squares going at once.

When the sleeve squares reached the right size for my arms, I put them aside and I continued on with the front and back. Then when the front and back were big enough I decided I wanted the sleeves to end on the same colour, so I added some more rounds. Then I joined everything with a join-as-you-go method, which is something I’ve not tried before. It was a nice surprise to find that the sleeves are the perfect length. The only extra crocheting I did was a single round of granny clusters around the neckline.

I really enjoyed making this jumper and I wish it was cold enough in Melbourne to wear it. The bigger the rounds got the longer they took, which I didn’t mind. I only had trouble making myself stop so my hands didn’t get sore. I’m now ready to try turning the UK trip scarf yarn into a garment.

Projects of 2023

This year I’ve been all over the place creatively and, well, so has life in general. I didn’t seem to get much done at times, but when I look closer that was because I tackled single projects that took up a lot of time. I did a bit of sewing, a bit of weaving, delved into some occasional crafts like jewellery-making and air-dry clay, finished some long-term WIPs and culled several kinds of hobby supplies. It feels like my mind began to jump from hobby to hobby in the latter months of the year, new shiny things taking my attention before I’d finished with whatever had last attracted me, as if Covid 19 gave me some king of creative ADHD.

January & February:

The Print & Paint With Natural Dyes workshop took up all of my creative energy at the beginning of the year, partly because so much else were going on, including having Dad and his very naughty cat staying with us.

March:

Using the knowledge I’d gained in the workshop, I painted/dyed three tops and a scarf. I also sewed a shirt out of a sarong.

April:

I didn’t include the Ink-Making workshop in my 2022 summary, but I think I should have. Six months after, I made some more inks as some sources dependant on season became available.

May:

A bit more sewing happened, first when I turned Motto Skirt into a top…

… and made a Chambray Dress.

And I returned to the loom to finish the Bouclé Chains Scarf.

June:

I finished a coiling fabric basket, made while visiting Mum.

More exploration of Deflected Doubleweave with bouclé yarn happened with the Baroque Scarf.

I also culled my mosaic supplies and did an illustration commission.

July:

And another DDW project finally using a design I drafted a few years ago: the Electricity Scarf.

August:

We went to Lord Howe Island, and I did some sketches.

September:

The fourth and favourite DDW bouclé scarf: Copper Roses.

I tried making watercolour paint, and felt a bit ‘meh’ about it.

October:

A bout of finishitis set in. I lengthened Slinky Ribs and made it all rib:

We went to Norfolk Island on an artist holiday.

A bout of Covid 19 somehow led to me culling things. First my jewellery collection, which led to jewellery-making.

November:

I finally, at long last, finished the Pin Loom Blanket.

I wove a Honeycomb Scarf and Tapestry Beret.

The jewellery-making also included a dive into air dry clay.

I finally, at long last, finished the dishcloths that had been on the Jane loom for a year.

December:

Watching Project Runway and The Great British Sewing Bee had me itching to sew. After culling my sewing materials, I made Paul a bucket hat and me some shorts.

And then got the itch to crochet. This Granny Beret seemed a good warm up to something bigger.

A big yarn cull moved the flannelette strips meant for rag rugs into the fabric stash intended for quilts. I sewed a single bed sized quilt.

Also:

This year was also the year of the artist subscription box. I tried one Paletteful Pack but decided against signing up because the postage was too expensive, then gave SketchBox a go and stuck with it. They proved to be a very entertaining and interesting monthly treat. It allowed me to try some art supplies I’ve never encountered before. It’s likely after a year I’ll stop the subscription because there are only so many kinds of art supply so the rewards will eventually diminish, but it has been fun and I suspect I’ll miss it if I do.

I also did a lot of oil painting, mostly in the plein air group but also lots of still life both at the art society and at home. I decided to stop posting pictures of my art, however, until it was clearer how plagiarism software (AI) was going to affect everything.

The Crochet Granny Beret

Back when I had Covid 19 I watched a season or so of Project Runway, then later I caught the most recent season of The Great British Sewing Bee. I also watch a few crafty YouTubers. All of these seemed to be telling me that crochet is back in fashion.

So when I needed to replace the collar on the grey jacket, I immediately thought of crochet. I had been planning to knit it, but not that my Denise set is kaput it meant going out and buying a long circular needle. So I dug out the yarn and my hooks, and got to work. I like the result. It occurred to me then that for crochet you just need a set of hooks, not multiple sizes of different kinds of needles. Handy. And economical.

I also found an hour of crochet a day was doable without much hand or back pain. You can get a lot done in and hour a day. Maybe even an entire granny square blanket. Or a jumper. Maybe a granny square jumper. I went looking for patterns on Ravelry. Turns out I hadn’t updated my projects in a year or so. After I did that, I browsed crochet patterns to get a feel for what I might make next. I was determined not to buy any new yarn. Second hand was ok, but only to add to an existing project. So what I made had to come mostly from the stash.

Start small, I thought, so I picked a granny square beret pattern.

One of the things I’ve always loved about crochet is how adaptable it is. The pattern called for aran yarn and the yarns I picked are thinnish 8ply/dk alpaca, but it doesn’t matter! It’s a circle, so I just have to add more rounds until it’s the right size. Of course, working out how to increase without the circle warping was a bit trickier than it seemed, but once again the internet came to the rescue.

Being mostly alpaca (turns out the green yarn is 50% wool) it’s more slouchy than the beret in the pattern photo, but I prefer my berets slouchy.

One Cull Leads to Another

During my fabric, pattern and habby cull, I got to thinking about how different my attitude to fabric stash is to yarn stash. With sewing, I have a limited time I can spend on the machine before my back complains, so I don’t waste it on making items I don’t want or aren’t fun to make.My fabric collection isn’t overly large. It fits in four plastic filing boxes and one tub.

With weaving, I often make things I don’t particularly want to keep in order to use up stash or learn something new. The weaving yarn stash is seven or eight times larger than the fabric stash. Which is sobering, but not unexpected. It’s been my main hobby for quite a few years now, and until recently I was on quite a learning drive.

I’d like to weave with the same attitude as sewing, so having a weaving yarn stash as practical as the sewing stash appeals. However, to get to that point I’d have to cull quite a bit of yarn. The thought was rather intimidating, but on a free day recently, I girded my loins and got stuck in. What I found surprised me.

Since it was a large task, I broke it into smaller ones. My cones of yarn are stored separately to the skein, ball and hanks, and I left them for another time.

Out: a few cones I knew I’d never weave.

The balls, skeins and hanks of yarn made up about half the yarn. I was surprised to find they were mostly knitting and crochet yarn. Not that I don’t weave knitting yarn, just not as often these day. Some is intended for machine knitting projects, so it turns out this is also a machine knitting stash. And possibly hand knitting and crocheting, but I’ll get to that later.

Out: a bag of yarn I wasn’t keen on.

Below the knitting yarns were eight tubs of fabric for rag rugs. Am I going to weave more rag rugs? Probably not. While I like rag rugs, the oldest ones I have I made 13 years ago, and I plan to replace them with the flannelette ones I have in storage.

Out: ALL of the fabric for weaving.

When I’d estimated the amount of weaving yarn I had, I was waaaay out, because I forgot the wool rug stash.

Yikes.

Out: about half of it.

Having decided that this was also a machine knitting stash, I moved the circular knitting machines in from the craft room. In order to do that I had to move the embroidery and macramé yarn stash. You know what happened next.

Out: er, nothing. I meant to get rid of most of it, but there’s now plenty of room on the yarn stash shelves and I have a few ideas I’d like to try. At least removing it from the same cupboard as the sewing supplies gives me a some room for all that ex-fabric-for-weaving, which may become quilts and chair covers.

I’ve come up with a couple of crochet projects for the knitting yarn, too. All things I want and will be fun to make. Next time I have the urge to downsize, the cone yarns will be in the firing line. Hopefully before the next Guild bazaar.

Lucy’s Honeycomb

A little white ago a friend asked on FB if anyone wanted a ball of slubby, multicoloured yarn formerly a scarf that had unravelled. I put my hand up for it and offered to weave it into a new scarf. She accepted.

We had a couple of quick consultations, in which I showed her some examples of weaving using slubby yarn, she picked honeycomb weave with a green background as her favourite. I did a lot of math and worked out that I didn’t have enough of the green to make a shawl, but plenty for a wide scarf.

Weaving honeycomb was rather pleasant, and similar to the deflected doubleweave I’ve been weaving in that it pairs smooth wool with a textured yarn, and is fast and engaging to weave.

My calculations were way out, though, since I still had plenty of both the slubby and background yarns left when the scarf was done. I considered making another scarf. Then memories of this friend wearing a beret/tam had me digging out a device I made years ago for weaving tams, and I got to work. The body was woven from the old scarf yarn, then fulled a little. The brim was knit separately out of a natural coloured 8ply yarn then sewn on.

The pom pom was made from the thrums, making this a very frugal project. I still have a ball of the slubby yarn left, but I’m going to offer it to my friend to save in case of moth damage.

When I embarked on the band knitting, I looked up beret patterns to see how many stitches were cast on and realised that berets seem to be in fashion again. It has me eyeing the yarn stash.

The Pin Loom Blanket

This project has taken me over half a decade. It started as a small weaving thing to do while travelling then, when I had accumulated enough squares to start thinking about what to make out of them, something bigger. Eventually I hit on the idea of a double-thickness blanket of stuffed squares. Since then, however, I decided not to stuff them because the weave isn’t dense enough for the filler not to show through.

After I did the pin loom workshop a few years ago I bought the double size square loom to get a little variety into the blanket and speed up the process, though it didn’t really speed up the process much. It didn’t help that, no matter what size square I wove, if I worked on it too much my back would complain. So progress was made in small bouts of enthusiasm and abandonment.

Early this year I decided it was time to finish it off. Using safety pins, I connected the squares together in an appealing sequence and used a board to carry it all from room to room when I needed the kitchen table for something else. Slowly I wove the remaining squares. Gradually I crocheted around the edges. Doggedly I sewed it all together, then crocheted a border. When I think about the hours I must have spent on it, I’m sure it has to have taken hundreds. I wonder if it was all worth it. If the journey is more important than the destination, then yes, it being an epic trek that I was totally over by the time it was done definitely overshadows the relief of having it done.

Not all wanderers are lost? Yeah, I’d totally lost all will to live by the end of this one. But I survived.

Longer Slinky Ribs

Way back over a decade ago I knit this jumper.

“Slinky Ribs” by Wendy Bernard.

Well, time changes things and not the least body shape. In this case, the length of the jumper just didn’t look or feel right any more. Too short – causing the hemline to sit right at the widest part of my belly. I was tempted to send it off to an op shop, but decided instead to see if my hands could cope with a bit of knitting again. Seems they can, but my neck complains louder so I listened to it and stuck to doing a few rows at a time, knowing I would eventually get it finished.

I didn’t have any more of the yarn, which is discontinued, and the only people on Ravelry who were selling it had colours that wouldn’t suit. Instead, I opted for adding stripes of navy and light blue yarns in my stash. I didn’t have enough of the navy, and Spotlight had sold out of it, but a friend came to the rescue with a spare ball.

The new yarns were slightly thicker, but any change of tension this created would be better hidden with ribbing than plain knitting, so I frogged back to where the ribs started changing to plain knit and started adding ribbed stripes from there.

A few months later I had this:

A ‘new’ jumper. And an itch to knit that I am trying hard to ignore.

Lengthening

I made this vest/top back in 2006:

The yarn is a particularly soft and luscious cotton. I had just enough to make the vest. My, er, assets were a size smaller back then, and the bottom of the ribbing was at about waist height.

Time passes. Bodies change. The vest has been too short for a while now, and while I can wear it with something beneath, generally I don’t wear fests unless I need warmth, and then I don’t want a chilly gap around my waist.

I haven’t knitted beyond finishing machine knitted garments and the occasional accessory for (yikes!) ten years. A while back I bought some cotton from the Great Ocean Road Woolen Mill that had the same softness, and it occurred to me later that I could use it to lengthen the vest. Recently I finally got around to it.

The process was slow and laborious. I put in a thread just above the ribbing, then one several rows below to reduce the band width, cut and unravelled the yarn. Then I slowly knitted the simple pattern bands. I only dared to knit a few rows at a time, every two or three days, in case my rsi flared up. Even so, my back was not happy with me looking down so much.

After several weeks I had the pattern section complete. I needed to unravel a bit more of the body to end the pattern in a balanced way. Then halfway through Kitchenering the top to the bottom I discovered that there were increases in the extra section I’d unravelled, so I had to pull the stitches out and add the increases before restarting the joining.

So when I finally finished, I was very relieved that the vest still fit, and the ribbing meets the waistband of my jeans and skirts.

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.