2019 Year in Review

This is the time of year when so many of us take time to look back on what we did last year and plan ahead for the coming year. Here is what I made in 2019.

  • Knitting:
    • Finished Items: I finished 4 knitting projects in 2019, which is significantly lower than in past years. I’ve had a lot going on with work last year, which has cut into my crafting time. Also I’ve been doing a lot more non-knitting crafts and making a larger variety of items.
      • Cobbled Hat
      • Bounce Baby Blanket
      • Headset Hats for my work team
      • Secret Shawl (More details are coming later this year. Patience is a virtue.)
      • Various washcloths – this is an ongoing project as we wear through our existing stash of washcloths.
    • In Progress:
      • 3 shawls
      • 2 sweaters
      • A hat
      • Socks
      • Slippers

knitting in progress

  • Weaving:
    • Finished Items:
      • Hand towels – these were a log cabin colourwork pattern using worsted weight cotton, and I gave them to my mom before I got photos.
    • In Progress:
      • Handspun/mohair wrap

loom.jpg

  • Sewing:
    • Finished Items:
      • Checked Blouse
      • Sashiko Square
      • Plaid Circle Skirt (I have yet to blog about this, but rest assured, details and photos are coming.)
      • Regency era chemise
      • Small embroidery
    • In Progress:
      • English Paper Pieced Quilt
      • Burgundy Linen Dress – this is a mashup of a circle skirt, and a vest pattern that I adore.
      • Red Sleeveless Blouse – I started this before I got married. It’s time it was finished.
      • Converting a skirt to a tunic – I’m not sure if this project can be rescued, but I am determined to try!
      • Regency era short stays
  • Other Crafts:
    • Finished Items:
      • I have baked a lot of bread! My focus this year has been on sourdough.
      • My sister and I collaborated to make a Narnia-themed mobile for my nephew.

2019 has been a busy year! I can’t wait to see what 2020 holds!

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.

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.

I Made a Basket!!

Last Fall when my husband and I visited Colonial Williamsburg I bought a basket weaving kit.

20171024_170022.jpg

It sat in my stash for a while as I got up the courage to learn a new craft. It turns out, basket-making is not hard (and YouTube is awesome)!

I started by soaking my materials to make them pliable. While they were soaking I found a basket weaving tutorial by Nancy Jacobs and figured out what to do.

It was odd working with a rigid material (yarn is decidedly flexible). For the most part, though, this was not hard to weave.

hand woven basket

Tadah! If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend weaving a basket. When it’s done you can prance around the house excitedly chanting, “I made a basket!!!” (Not that I did that…)

What new things have you tried that turned out way better than expected?

All the WIPs

I feel like a junkie. There are needles all over the place. My yarn storage is a mess. I have so many half-finished projects. But all I want is the next high, the next quick project, the next finished thing.

partly finished craft projects

I am a Project Knitter. I knit (and spin, and sew, and weave…) for the stuff. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the process of crafting. There have been so many times when I went to knitting as a balm for my soul, to soothe and ground me. But there have also been many times when I just wanted a project to be done. I want instant gratification. When a shiny new idea hits me, I want to cast on immediately. I find the yarn and the pattern, and for a while everything is good. But then the project doesn’t get done right away. Maybe I’m busy and don’t have a lot of time to knit. Maybe I decide to read a book. Maybe (gasp) I’m knitting something else. And without realizing it, I put the project down for a week or a month or a year. After a while, I have a small mountain of unfinished things. And they weigh on me, because somewhere in the back of my head I know I need to work on them. Something has to be done.

I am very bad at keeping New Year’s resolutions, but one of my goals this year will be to finish up these lurking projects. The nice thing is they’re already half finished. And think of all the needles I will free up! But all I want to do right now is cast on something new.

What do you do when you have a bad case of startitis?

P.S. The coupon code for my newest pattern is still running. Get the Ribless Hat on  Ravelry for 18% off until January 18 with the code HOORAY18

2017 in Review

Every year December comes and suddenly none of us can believe how quickly time has gone. Isn’t it funny that we have this same conversation every year when nothing and everything has changed?

In 2017 I finished 21 knitted projects, plus several additional small projects.

 

I have 9 Works in Progress at this point…one or two of them were started in 2015! Yikes!

I learned a little bit about crochet and finished 2 projects, with one more in progress (the pattern for the shawl on the right will end up being released in Knotions Magazine in March).

I also learned to weave and finished 2 projects with another currently in progress.

This was a good year for spinning – I finished 9 spinning projects in several different weights. Most of my handspun is from combed wool top, but this year I spun my first batts and my first silk. I am so proud of my Rumpelstiltskin yarn. And, yes, I have some spinning in progress as well.

I sewed quite a few garments this year, mostly tops, but the crown of my handsewn garment collection is actually a pair of undergarments – my Watson Bra and Bikini.

Lastly, but certainly not least, this year I launched my own line of knitting patterns. I have published 4 patterns this year: two I published myself, and two were published in Knotions Magazine.

And we can’t forget the gnomes…but they have a whole page all to themselves here.

During the year it is very easy to get bogged down by the details, and it can seem like I’m not accomplishing anything. I think taking a little time for us each to focus on our achievements is healthy and uplifting. So now it’s your turn: What did you do this year?

In Progress

Is anyone else struggling with Startitis right about now? I feel such a weight of “MAKE ALL THE THINGS NOW” that I hardly know what to do with myself. Do I give in to the madness and wake up next week with 25 projects, or struggle valiantly to finish at least a few of the things? Here’s what I’m currently working on.

  • Slippers for Grandma (Ssh, don’t tell). I’m using this pattern and 2 yarns held together: the white is my own handspun (it’s a singles yarn in Southdown wool) and the pink is the leftovers from my Watermelon Socks.

knitting with white and red wool

  • I’m in the middle of a crochet shawl using Miss Babs Yowza! in the colourway “Friday Afternoon.” Assuming I get it done in time, the pattern will be released in the March issue of Knotions Magazine.

crocheting broomstick lace

  • I’m a sucker for unusual patterns, and these socks have been on my list for a long time. Worked on US1 DPNs and using Knit Picks Felici in Mint Chip. I love KnitPicks sock yarns for their softness, thinness, and ability to be washed and dried(!) without harm or shrinkage to the sock. I try not to put them in the dryer, though, just to be on the safe side.

knitting a sock

  • I’ve had 6 balls of Burly Spun by the Brown Sheep Company since 2013 when I bought the yarn to make a jacket. I couldn’t get gauge, so the jacket never got made. This yarn has been weighing on me, so I decided to weave with it and make a long vest. This one is totally stash-busting. That makes it not count as a new project, right?
  • And, of course, I have the Advent Bunting (today is day 6)…

What are you working on? Are you knitting gifts?

I Finished the Bag!

handwoven blue and green plaid bag

I am so pleased with how my handwoven and handsewn project bag turned out! It is a 7-8″ cube(ish), so it is quite roomy! For scale, this is a ball of Miss Babs Yowza inside and the beginnings of a shawl.

handwoven blue and green plaid bag with yarn inside

I worked this bag up in several different phases.

Weaving:

About a week ago I finished weaving the fabric. I detailed my finishing process here, and then handwashed it and hung it up to dry.

Sewing:

I recently read that sewing with handwoven cloth is harder than sewing with commercial cloth. I thought, “Huh. That’s interesting. I wonder if it’s true….” and then went on with my day. Once my fabric was dry I got to experience sewing with handwoven cloth, and it is definitely different than working with commercial cloth! I think it is because commercial cloth is a)finer than most handwoven cloth and b)more closely woven and thus more stable. The yarns in handwoven cloth are more likely to move around, making the fabric more stretchy and more likely to misbehave if you are not expecting stretch. The key is knowing what you are working with and managing your expectations. I sewed the thing together, took seams out and resewed, and eventually it was all done. Weaving the cloth in a square(ish) plaid definitely helped me to sew more evenly.

Finishing:

I started the finishing by sewing a 1 1/2″ ribbon around the outside edge of the bag. The ribbon acts as a binding, and I planned to turn it to the inside so the top of my bag would be nice and tidy. I was quite lucky with my sewing thread and ribbon, as both were from stash and matched my navy blue yarn almost exactly!

My finished cloth was quite soft and drapey. In order to give the bag more structure I bought a sheet of plastic canvas, cut it into 3 pieces, trimmed it to size for the front, back, and base of the bag, whipstitched these pieces together, and finally tacked them to the bag. Once this was done I sewed the ribbon binding down and steamed everything.

I wanted the top flap to have a little more stability, so I cut a thin piece of plastic canvas and sewed it down, then hot glued all the fringe ends of my weaving down. I added a magnetic closure to the flap and front of the bag, then turned it all over to hem the edges. I don’t usually use hot glue on projects like this, and it really messed up my sewing needle. But oh well, I have about a hundred needles, so I can afford to lose one.

handwoven blue and green plaid bag with magnetic closure

The last bit of finishing really brought the bag together. I took my remaining ribbon, snipped off a piece for the front, and braided the rest for a handle which I sewed onto the back of the bag. I tied the short piece into a loose overhand knot and tacked it onto the front flap as a decoration. It worked a charm.

Tadah!

Have you ever sewn with handwoven cloth? What did you think about the experience?

Weaving Lessons

Lesson #1:

O weavers, heed my tale of woe and beware of false shortcuts!

I’m new to weaving. My first weaving project was mostly completed under the guidance of my lovely friend who actually knows what she’s doing (she also works at the yarn store, the lucky duck!). So when I started my second project I tried to remember all the very wise things she told me. I also wanted my second project to be a plaid, and I didn’t want to cut and tie my yarn every time I switched colours. I planned a 1″x1″ plaid, and when I warped my loom I didn’t cut my yarn every time I changed colours. I thought I would save myself a little time and a few knots, so I just crossed the yarns over each other like you would do with knitting. BIG MISTAKE!

warped rigid heddle loom

The beginning of the project was easy to weave. But by the time I got to the last few inches of warp my sheds were barely opening and it was hard to pass my shuttle through the opening.

It turns out the yarns were twisting around each other and pulling their neighbors up or down, resulting in a very narrow shed and some skipped threads.

woven plaid with skipped threads

I had to weave with some care to keep the pattern going (plain weave), but eventually I finished it and cut my weaving off the loom Yay!

woven green and blue plaid

Lesson #2:

Thou shalt stabilize all thine edges before cutting anything!

After I cut the weaving off the loom I tied both ends of the warp in overhand knots. I had woven three separate sections on the same warp, leaving a little space between each section for finishing. Alas, I did not leave myself much space and I cut some pieces apart before the edges were stabilized.

Oh the drama! The Agony! As soon as I realized the error of my ways I put the pieces down and walked away from my project. I needed time to formulate a plan of action before all of my beautiful weaving came undone. I looked up how to hemstitch the edges (this tutorial is great), gingerly picked up a piece, and hemstitched as well as I could by holding each short piece of yarn against my leg to keep it from slipping.

Unbelievably, my plan worked! After a few sessions of intense sewing, both of the prematurely severed pieces were stabilized. I had two more pieces to cut apart, but I was wiser this time and hemstitched before I cut.

hemstitching woven plaid cloth

See: I can learn from my mistakes!

What beginner mistakes have you made (in any yarn-related craft)?

Calculating Yarn Usage for a Rigid Heddle Loom

When I had my weaving lesson last week my teacher gave me a weaving planning sheet.

project sheet

The sheet takes you through all the calculations you will need to determine how much yarn you will need for a given project. For the warp (vertical yarns) you start with the desired dimensions of your finished cloth, add in extra for take-up and shrinkage, then calculate how much yarn you need based on ends per inch (epi, this is the weaver’s term for how many strands of yarn are in an inch of warp) and the length of your cloth. The process is very similar for the weft (horizontal yarns). The main difference is that the number of ends per inch is predetermined for your warp by the heddle you use (The heddle is the plastic thing in back of the loom that you thread all the warp yarns through. You can buy heddles that have more or fewer ends per inch to weave a coarser or finer cloth.), but the number of picks per inch (ppi, this is the weaver’s term for how many times the yarn crosses the warp in an inch) is determined by how closely you beat your weft.

Confused yet?

So for a “balanced weave” I would have 8 strands going vertically and 8 strands going horizontally. But if I beat my weft closer I could end up with 8 strands going vertically and 9 or 12 (or any other number) strands going horizontally. This also goes the other way. I could have fewer weft (horizontal) yarns than warp (vertical) yarns.

So why does this matter?

The more closely packed your weft yarns are, the more yarn you will use. So if you are really close on yarn it is a good idea to do a few inches as a sample just to make sure you will have enough.

The picture you see above is my planning sheet for a plaid project bag. I want the finished bag to be an 8″ by 8″ cube with a fold-over top. I planned for the front, bottom, back, and flap to be all one piece, then for the 2 sides I skip an inch or so and start weaving the next pieces. My EPI (ends per inch on the warp) is 8 and my PPI (picks per inch on the weft) is 12. But my original calculations assumed a balanced weave. I started the project with almost twice the yarn my calculations said I needed, so even though my math was way off I went ahead with the project.

blue and green plaid fabric on a rigid heddle loom

I guess it’s a good thing I paid attention in Algebra!

Do you have a process for calculating yardage for your weaving? Let’s talk about it in the comments.