Thursday, September 24, 2020

Tutorial: Mitten Liners

A couple of years ago when I designed the Bellevue Mittens a knitter wrote to ask about how I make mitten liners (I had suggested using them for added warmth). As anyone who lives in a wintry climate knows, a single-layer mitten doesn't do much to keep out the cold and wet. I always either double up my mitts, or wear them with liners. The best of the these are made from wool felt. Last week I purposely felted Isabel's old Wheatsheaves (yep, this one!) in the washing machine and dryer until it resembled something that might fit a 5-year-old. The resulting fabric was dense and very thick, about 1/4".

Next, I traced around the mitts to make a paper pattern for the liners.

Using this I cut out 4 pieces from my felted fabric.

The liners were too thick to sew together by machine, even with my Singer Heavy Duty, so I used Gutermann sew-all thread, doubled, to whipstitch the fronts and backs together. I chose contrasting thread so the stitches would be easy to see. Once they were pulled tight, they sank invisibly into the felt.

Below you can see one mitt filled with its liner (on the left) and the other in its unlined state. I love the way the liners plump up the mitts.

 Finally, here's a pic of all the stages in the making of my new liners.

Ready for winter!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Desperately Seeking Colour

It's only September, but already I feel as though I need more colour in my life. November, the dark days of December, and the grey desolateness of February are a long way away, but in this pandemic year my soul is seeking snippets of joy. It's why the helianthus of two posts ago screamed at me as I walked past. It's why this red-tipped grass,

 and these crabapples caught my eye while Bill and I were out walking after lunch. 

You can see where this is going, can't you. I want NEED to design something new with eye-catching colour. Do you have a favourite colourful knit? I'm looking for inspiration...

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Make Your Own Linen Scarf

This is a good time of year for linen, not wool, scarves. You want a little something around your neck, but it's not cool enough for wool. Since I have a stash of leftover linen, yesterday I made a scarf out of some. Prepare yourself. The colour is not exciting. It's a bluish grey. Next time I order linen I'll make sure to order some in yummier hues. Anyway, here's how I did it.

1. Cut out a piece 60" x 11". Make sure you are on the grainlines. I didn't tear the linen to to achieve this, not wanting to stretch it out of shape, so I did that thing where you pull a thread across to create a straight cutting line.

2. Fray the ends. I did this for only 1" at each end. Ideally you should do this for longer, but I confess that I ran out of patience, and my audiobook was nearing its end.

3. Press the sides under 1/4" twice, then edgestitch. If you love hand sewing and have oodles of time, you could choose to hand stitch the edges under. Not my thing. If I want hand work, I'd rather knit. Done.

Same scarf in different rooms in different light. Notice how the worn and crinkled version looks so much more stylish!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Are Your Knits Working Hard Enough?

I'm passionate about wearing one's handknits. Yes, actually wearing them, and not letting them sit around as museum pieces. This is especially true for sweaters. I see (or used to, pre-pandemic) lots of knitters wearing accessories, but not very many wearing sweaters. Even at Rhinebeck. If you're not wearing handmade sweaters, why? Is it that you're nervous of making one because of concerns about fit or cost? There are answers to that. Think seamless and top down. Look for workhorse, inexpensive real wool. It's out there. Is it because your sweaters don't turn out as well as you had hoped? Is it because you've made all the pieces, but they're waiting in a shoebox at the back of your closet while you gather the energy to seam them together? Get over it all. Make sweaters and wear them. To death. When thin spots emerge at the elbows, darn them or patch them. When the cuffs wear off, re-knit them in leftover yarn or find other imaginative solutions. When the sweater has finally given all it can, felt it (another reason to use non-superwash wool), cut it up, and make tea cozies and mitten liners. Got the idea?

Today I 'm making good use of my latest Perth Cardi. This is my third, the other two having gone to sweater heaven. This little cardigan, which I prefer in alpaca or an alpaca blend, is the most useful sweater in my wardrobe. It fills the awkward gap in spring and fall when you need some warmth but not too much. It can also be worn layered in winter, and it just happens to be my favourite reading-in-bed garment. 

It's perfect this morning when the furnace has clicked on to cope with the 4C temp outside (going up to 18C this afternoon, I hope). It seems we're likely to have a long and difficult, possibly semi-locked down winter. Plan to make some sweaters to enliven the dark. And get outside and enjoy what remains of sunshine and warmth. Look at these gorgeous helianthus that I passed on my walk yesterday afternoon!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

My Sunday Make

Don't you love all-in-one-day projects? I stumbled upon this on YouTube last night, realized that I had just enough linen/cotton Essex (yarn-dyed in indigo, in case you're wondering), got up this morning and was finished before tea time.

It's a Farmhouse Apron. The instructions are by someone who admits she isn't much of a sewer, so I made a few changes to make it a bit more "sewerly" (my equivalent of "knitterly"). So simple, because it's all rectangles. I really, really need this. Tomato sauce, here I come!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Fall Challenge

The so-called "transitional seasons", spring and fall, pose the greatest challenges to dressing. We're told that layering is the solution to days that range from chilly in the morning and evening to warm during the day. I agree. This is the time of year when my Buttonbox comes into its own. This morning I'm sporting the wider all-in-one collar, instructions here.

Below you can see that I'm wearing it with my Pants #1 from 100 Acts of Sewing. Love these pants; they are the most comfortable, especially during a pandemic.

 This outfit lends itself well to pairing with an old jeans jacket when my arms feel a little cool.

Must do something about that awful yellow colour on my bedroom walls. We inherited it from the previous owners, and I've been putting off the re-painting.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Wool Time

The mornings now are chilly, sometimes in the single digits Celcius. This afternoon it's much warmer -- 16C and gorgeous in the sun. The house seems to retain the morning chill until after lunch, so my woolly collection has been seeing some action, especially this morning when I did a grocery pickup ("Click and Collect" at our local Loblaw) around 8 am. Here I am in my new Willingdon with my Pembroke with the picots from last winter.

While I'm writing up "Victoria" I'm trying to sneak in a new Wheatsheaves. My old one was worn to death. This is the upper back worked from the top down. This time around I switched to German short rows instead of the wrap and turn variety.

Remember, if you decide to do this swap that you must knit one extra stitch before turning. Also, after the turn there is no need to slip the first stitch before moving on. All in all, I prefer German short rows these days for their ease in working + reversibility (not that that matters here). Have you caught the fall knitting bug yet?

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Victoria: Inspiration and First Photos

Inspiration: two designs in particular lie at the root of my desire to make this sweater. 

1) Carol Sunday's Jane Morris. What is there to say beyond that this is a tour de force of lace loveliness? It's Carol Sunday to the max. I have adored her work ever since I saw Kelmscott in an early issue of Twist Collective. A few issues later I was honoured to have my own Sandridge photographed on the same page of Twist with Carol's Acorns. Her knitting, however, is technically demanding. I wanted to create something with the same feel and a similar silhouette that wouldn't require me to be wedded to a complex chart with fine yarn for the next month and a half.

2) Leila Raven's Deschain. This has the same boxy shape with a wide body and narrow sleeves. I love the way it hangs, aided by the drapey linen ribbon yarn. But I wanted to make something in wool (heck, this is Canada, and it's cold out there) that wouldn't involve any sewing up.

So, now my own take on this design concept is done. In the end I decided to lower the front neck a little for a more comfortable fit than the boatneck version shown in the sneak peek. Here are some pics.

 Now for the magic words: it's seamless, and the lace pattern involves only four "action" rows so it's EASILY MEMORIZABLE. The pattern stitch is Nestled Leaves from p237 of Wendy Bernard's "Japanese Stitches Unraveled". Don't you love it when you get such a big bang for such little effort? The neck detail particularly pleases me. It took so many tries to get it just right that the wool was on the verge of felting!

The yarn in this prototype is good old Cascade Eco+ in "Legion Blue". As I mentioned in my earlier post, the greenish undertone is gorgeous but doesn't show well in photos. I happen to have tons of this yarn in my stash, and it's great for experiments because it's relatively inexpensive. However, I think this design is also well suited to something with a bit of mohair. How about a strand of mohair held with something else? Suggestions? The gauge is 15 sts to 4 inches. FYI, I'm showing it here with my pale cocoa linen York Pinafore from Helen's Closet, sewn by me a couple of months ago. 

This design will be pretty straightforward when it comes to pattern writing. I'm already working on it.

P.S. Bill didn't disappoint in his fashion putdown comments yesterday when I proudly modeled Victoria for him. "It doesn't seem to fit your waist. Why is it so loose?" No use trying to explain looseness as an intentional design element. Oh well...



Saturday, September 5, 2020

Milkweed and Thistles

This summer I've done no day trips anywhere. Not to Prince Edward County, not to Ottawa, not to Westport, not to Perth, and definitely not to the USA (the border is closed to non-essential traffic). It feels odd, and yet it's been oddly productive. I guess when you're not driving a car you have more time to get things done. 

Instead of day trips, Bill and I walk. Sometimes we do a little drive, such as the 10 minutes (not even that, really) it takes to get to Lemoine Point, and walk at our destination. That's what we did a few days ago.

Thistles gone to seed.

 I love this time of year, when the days are warm but not hot, and the nights are a little chilly. Time to get out the sweaters and get them ready for fall.

Next post, pics of "Victoria". She's blocking on the dining room floor right now.