Wild West Vest

I recently started wanting a few nice vests to wear to work both as a fashion layer and a warmth layer. You may remember my black vest and my Ruana that I finished earlier this year. This time I wanted something a little more tailored, so I chose view C of Butterick B5359.

B5359

As shown, the V-neckline is somewhat curved, but I wanted a straighter neckline, more like a men’s vest, so I modified the shape when I cut it out. I had 1 1/2 yards of brown woven 2-way stretch fabric as well as about the same amount of quilting cotton for a lining. The pattern has instructions for the vest to be fully lined, but I decided just to line the front. Originally I planned to sew the entire thing by hand, but after a while this started to suck the life out of me, so I took a friend up on her offer to use her sewing machine and serger. It is amazing how much more quickly you can make garments when using a machine!

I had a hard time with the fit of this vest. I generally find that home sewing patterns run large, even when I am careful to check the pattern measurements. Knowing this, I chose a pattern size smaller than the measurements suggested. Even so, I ended up taking the vest in 4-6 inches total to get a tailored fit. I know using a stretchy fabric (with the stretch going around the body) made a difference in the fit, but I also think part of the problem was with the pattern. Despite the fit issues I am interested in making this pattern again, possibly using View C again, but I’m also interested in the other views to get some different silhouettes.

There are 2 things that I am super proud of with this vest:

  1. Except for the 2-way stretch interfacing (which I didn’t know existed before this project), everything I used for this vest came from stash. I’ve been on a stash-using kick recently, and it is exhilarating to be able to make things from what I have already.
  2. My friend doesn’t have a buttonhole attachment for her machine, so I sewed the buttonholes by hand. I’ve never sewn buttonholes before, and I’m so pleased with how these turned out!

An Afternoon Cap

October has arrived in all her multicoloured glory. This has long been my favourite month of the year, not just because of my birthday, but because this is when Autumn comes in full force. I love the colours of Fall and the lovely warm foods – soups and pies warm the soul as much as the body. October also brings the recognition that the Holidays are almost upon us, and as a crafter that always gets me started thinking about gifts. If I was a little more organized I might start my gift knitting earlier in the year, but most years that just doesn’t happen.

I recently finished the “Texture” issue of Ply Magazine (If you are a spinner or want to become a spinner you need to read Ply. It’s fantastic!). Each issue focuses on a technique or wool breed or a spinning style and includes instructions on spinning specific yarns for patterns that are also included in the magazine. This is perfect for all of us spinners who finish spinning a yarn and then wonder what to do with it. The very last project in the Texture issue was for an intriguing slouchy no-sew Saori cap. It took me a few read-throughs to really understand what needed to be done, but once I understood I realized that this would be an excellent stash buster!

saori no sew hat

I chose harmonious bits and bobs of colours  from my stash – blues, teals, and greys – in a variety of weights (fingering to worsted) and randomly warped the full width of my 15″ Cricket loom, sleyed the reed, and tied on. Since Saori is about weaving what you want and how you want, I didn’t adjust my warp tension before beginning weaving. Whenever I accidentally skipped a warp thread or 5 I didn’t go back to fix it – I just kept going. Weaving in this way was so freeing and joyful, and I soon had enough fabric to go around my head. I cut the fabric off the loom, making sure that I had about a foot or so of extra warp length on each end. Now I was ready to start the adventurous part – the making up!

saori no sew hat

I am a very visual person – I do best when I can read words and study diagrams. The Ply instructions had written instructions, but no diagrams, so I’ve drawn a few for you in case you want to make a similar cap.

  • Step 1: pull the first and last weft threads tight to gather the width of the fabric on both ends of the hat. This is a good time to try your hat on to make sure the fabric is the right width. Ideally the fabric will be 1/2″-1″ larger than your head circumference (Reminder: woven cloth doesn’t stretch like knitting does!). If your fabric is larger you can pull on some of the warp threads to gather the fabric to the correct length.
  • Step 2: Pull the last 3 warp threads tight on one long side of your fabric. You are scrunching this side of the fabric up to be the crown of your hat.
  • Step 3: tie both ends of your 3 long warp threads together. Tie or braid your many weft ends together in a way that pleases you and secures your hat.
  • Step 4: Wear with panache.

saori no sew hat

I made my hat from start to finish in an afternoon. I don’t like to leave anything to chance, so I tied my weft ends together in bundles, French Braided them down the hat, and then finished them off as a humongous tassel. I happened to be at the yarn store when I finished the hat, so I gave my cut weft ends to a friend to use as stuffing. This means that my project had almost no waste, which pleases me greatly. I found that there was a decent sized hole where I had done the warp gathers, so I tacked it down over the top of the braid, which also neatened that bit up and helped the hat to lay just that bit more nicely.

saori no sew hat I imagine making a whack of these in different colours with different finishing treatments would be an entertaining project, and perfect for gifts.

Vintage Damask

As a designer I always have too many ideas and not enough time to knit them. This also  applies to all the patterns that are already written – I want to knit them all, but I have limited time and yarn money. About a month ago as I was scrolling through Instagram I saw the most beautiful cowl. Annie Lupton of Boho Chic Fiber Co. was looking for test knitters for her new pattern, the Vintage Damask cowl. I immediately emailed her and felt so lucky to be chosen as a test knitter.

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My original colour combination didn’t work as well as I hoped it would. Medium grey and burgundy just looked like a sad rainy day, and this pattern deserved better than that (Pro tip: swatching is not just to check your gauge – it’s also a chance to make sure your colours/yarns work well together). I rummaged around in the stash a little more and unearthed this beautiful skein of hand-dyed yarn that looks like the sea. Perfection.

knitted cowl

I happily began knitting, making sure I left my floats loose so the cowl wouldn’t be too bunchy (this is only my 2nd time knitting colourwork). Halfway through the pattern I realized my gauge was off. Instead of going up a needle size from my swatch I had gone down. The cowl fit over my head, but it was not the intended 24″ that the pattern stated. I frantically emailed the designer to see if it was ok for my cowl to be a bit smaller (when you are test knitting a design it’s important to follow the directions to a T and not make alterations). Annie was so nice and said that as long as I was happy with the fit, there was no need to change it. Whew! I happily finished the cowl and was so glad that when I blocked it the cowl grew a little.

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All in all, the Vintage Damask cowl was a lovely knit. I can’t wait until it’s cold enough to wear it!

knitted cowl

Finished Object: Bulky Ruana

When I was a new knitter my first big yarn purchase from a proper yarn store was 6 skeins of Brown Sheep Burly Spun for a bulky knitted jacket. The yarn store owner ordered the yarn for me and when it came in I paid a shocking (to me) amount of money for it. That’s where the problems started. I swatched (see, I can learn!) with several different needles, but couldn’t get gauge. So the yarn languished in my stash. Looking back I wonder why I thought I would need a bulky wool jacket in the warm climate of the Southeastern US. Clearly I didn’t think it all the way through.

Last November I bought a 15″ Cricket loom. I’ve been on a little bit of a weaving jag since then, and I am having so much fun learning what I can (and can’t) do with this piece of equipment. I don’t have a sewing machine or a serger, and I’ve read that handwoven fabric is not as stable as commercial fabric, so I’m reluctant to cut into my fabric, but I still want to make wearable garments with it. So I set out to determine what kinds of garments can be made with squares and rectangles. Number 1 on the list is a vest. The vest can be long or short, but since it’s made of uncut rectangles it will end up blocky.

Recently I’ve been trying to use my stash instead of always buying new yarn . I mean, that’s what stash is for, right? (Note that I have not stopped buying new yarn, I’m just trying to also use some of the yarn I already have) I unearthed my Burly Spun and had a thought: if I used a fingering weight yarn in the warp (vertical) and sett it pretty wide, then I could use this Super Bulky in the weft (horizontal) and end up with a fabric that would (hopefully) not give me heat stroke. I did some measuring and some math, and found 2 fingering weight yarns (red and white) in my stash that coordinated well with my main yarn, then I warped up my loom and started weaving. I’m pleased to say that everything I used in this garment came from stash.

How I constructed the garment:

  • A Ruana is a fancy name for a long vest. I took my measurements and wove 2 back pieces and 2 front pieces. The red warp yarn blended in extremely well with my weft yarn, so the woven fabric almost looks like brick.
  • I used mattress stitch to sew the side seams, leaving slits for the arm holes and vents below the waist.
  • I sewed lace along the outside top edges, turned it to the inside for a clean seam line, then sewed the shoulder seams at a similar angle to the slope of my shoulders.
  • Using my red warp yarn I picked up stitches along the fronts and neck and knit a garter stitch collar using short rows to shape the bottom edges. I also picked up stitches along the side vents and armholes and knit a 3-row garter stitch edging to stabilize and clean up the edges. Conveniently my knitted stitch gauge was the same as my woven row gauge.

What I learned from this weave:

  • If you use a fine yarn in the warp and a big yarn in the weft your fabric turns out super interesting and textured. I must do this more!
  • Weaving with super bulky yarn goes incredibly fast! Talk about instant gratification!
  • The finishing on a sewing project can take as long as weaving the fabric and doing the basic construction (I hate the finishing work).
  • Projects only get done if you work on them. I started this project in November, and after the first panel was completed inexplicably stopped until mid-June. Maybe I didn’t want to deal with warping my loom?
  • When weaving multiple panels of the same width, weave them all on the same warp if possible. This eliminates time spent warping and helps with loom waste.

The Thrill of Autumn

I love this time of year. The thrill of Autumn is in the air and the leaves are slowly starting to change colours and fall. The days are beginning to be cooler, making this the most lovely time of year to be outdoors. I love Fall. Fall is when I can start to wear all the beautiful woolens I’ve knit throughout the year. I get to pull scarves and shawls and hats out that may not have been used since last winter. Fall is a time for layering and for earth tones and warm things to drink. In Fall I can enjoy the nip in the air without longing for it to be warm again.

I’ve a colorwork hat in the works that is so very Fallish. I can’t wait for it to be off my needles so I can wear it. I’m using handspun from the first time I spun Batts. They were little tiny things made of Merino, Alpaca, and Bamboo, and I had no idea how to spin them.

wool batt

This may have been my first attempt at woolen spinning, but by the end I was just spinning worsted. The yarn is a 2-ply sport-weight(ish) and is very soft. My contrast yarn is a light fingering weight yarn from Hedgehog Fibers that I bought on my honeymoon. Fingering weight on it’s own wouldn’t stand up well to the sport-weight handspun, so I’m holding it doubled for the most lovely Marl. Really, I can’t tell you how beautiful this is!

handspun yarn

I’m making the pattern up as I go, but for the colorwork section I modified a chart from a book the owner of my LYS gave me for my anniversary (Thanks, Krista!!). And last, but not least, I am using Jane Austen stitch markers. This project is just so perfect in so many ways. I can’t wait to see how it comes out! Hopefully you’ll see a new pattern coming soon. Watch this space!

colorwork knitting with teacup stitch marker

Finished Object: The 5-Year Hat

5 years is a long time. 5 years ago I had just graduated from college and gone on a trip to Europe: I was broke. It wasn’t a great time for jobs, so I was working part time and sharing a 1-bedroom apartment with 2 other girls (my “bedroom” was actually the dining room and my “door” was a curtain).

I was a new knitter, so I barely knew what I was doing and had no idea what good yarn was. But I was passionate about knitting, so I made do with what I had and somehow not everything I knit during that period was crap. I had found Ravelry by this time and I adored Tin Can Knits (I still adore them. They’re fabulous!). It was Christmas time, so I bought their Sitka Spruce hat pattern and some KnitPicks yarn (Wool of the Andes Superwash) and began to knit (note that I did not swatch).

knit beret

I had trouble with the pattern – not because it wasn’t a good pattern (Tin Can Knits patterns are awesome), but because I was a new knitter and I was still figuring the whole knitting thing out. By hook or by crook I finished the hat and then realized it was too big. It probably would have fit a giant perfectly. I stuck it in the washer and dryer and hoped it would shrink some…no dice. So I threw it in the bottom of my stash and started something else. I was really sad though. I had spent so much time (and a decent amount of money to me at the time) on this hat, only to have it not fit. I knew it was my fault because I wouldn’t take the time to swatch…but it still hurt, and from time to time it niggled at my brain.

handknit beret

I did a few google searches and found out that I could sew elastic thread inside the brim to tighten it up, so I bought some elastic thread and set to with gusto. I got halfway through hat surgery and tried it on to see how I was doing, only to find that now my beautiful hat was too small. The Horror! The Irony! The knitting goddess was really trying to beat this lesson into me: For the love of wool, swatch before you start! (For the record, I swatch pretty religiously now. I still dislike it.) I threw the hat and elastic back in the stash and there it has stayed for the last 4 1/2 years.

sew elastic thread into knitted brim

Today I pulled the hat out and found the elastic, determined to fix the darn hat once and for all. First I loosened the elastic I had already sewn in, then I sewed elastic into the rest of the brim. 30 minutes was all it took. Why did it take me 5 years to do 30 minutes’ work? Next time I need to amend my knitting remind me of the 5 year hat.

handknit beret

Finished Object: Autumn Entrelac

Last time we talked I was beavering away on my entrelac scarf. I kept it in my bag to knit on while waiting and on trips and in meetings (the kind where I join online and no one can see me. Alas, I have too many in-person meetings). Once I understood the basics of how entrelac works it was easy to pick up for a few minutes here and there. It’s just stockinette with the occasional decrease. It turns out that if you work on something consistently (even if consistently just means a half hour a few times a week) it eventually gets done. I’m pleased to show you my finished scarf.

I handspun the yarn over a year ago. My goal was fat singles, but the end yarn was a little more thick and thin than I really like, but there’s a kind of perfection in the imperfection, right? I can’t wait to wear this with a jean jacket this fall.