Knitting: Chevron and striped cardigan

2015-10-26 Chevron cardigan - back - in progressI am still enjoying Fiona Duthie’s online felting courses but I found I needed a TV-watching knitting project.  I was inspired by Melody Johnson’s panel knit cardigans.  I liked the bias knit parts but wasn’t interested in all the domino knitting squares.  I also liked that she was using two yarns that complemented each other.

Off I went on a yarn hunt.  I dropped by The Loop in Calgary at the end of September. After checking out their broad selection of worsted weight yarns, settled on Malabrigo Rios in colourways Jupiter and Cumparsita.  I really like the softness of the Rios. The colours are a dark berry-burgundy where the Jupiter has sparks of light red or rose.  The contrast between the two yarns is subtle.

I decided this would be another knit-as-I-go project.  I like the fit and length of the sweater I made a couple of years ago from my handspun.  It’s one that gets me a lot of compliments.  Yes, even though the handspun pills like crazy, I do actually wear it outside the house!  It’s very comfy.  I really like the sleeves on this one with the alternation of the dark with the lighter coloured yarn.  I also like the raised collar.

My design for my new cardigan involves six parts:

  • chevron front and back panels with the front divided so I can add a button band
  • picking up stitches along the long sides of the front and back panels, knit garter stitch side panels to connect the front to the back
  • sleeves with ridges similar to my handspun sweater and garter stitch cuffs
  • seam the big seam on each side from the cuff to the bottom of the cardigan
  • pick up stitches at the bottom edge and knit a small bottom band all garter stitch.
  • pick up stitches along the front sides and neck area, knit a garter stitch raised collar and front button band

The chevrons are knit as 6 rows of stockinette stitch in the lighter yarn and 4 rows of garter stitch in the darker yarn.  I increase one stitch at the start of each row and do one double decrease in the centre every other row.

I’ve taken my measurements and I’m starting with a back panel that is the same width as my shoulder-to-shoulder measurement.  So around 33 cm (13″).

2015-10-26 Chevron cardigan - swatches
I do like to swatch.  It’s not because I care about stitches per inch with a pattern like this. It’s because I care about the hand or drape of the finished knit.  I tried 4.5 mm needles (sample shown on the left) and 4.0 mm needles (right swatch).  After washing and blocking, I like the feel of the 4.5 mm needle swatch.  It is less stiff and I like the stitch definition more.  So that’s my needle size!

Because I’m knitting a chevron shape, I cast on one stitch in the corner and knit on the bias until I reach the halfway point in terms of width.  Then I knit from the other side, join in the centre and then knit after that from side to side across the entire back panel.  I’m aiming for around 70- 76 cm (28″ – 30″) long.  I’m going to stop at 70 cm, knit the two front panels, barely attach together at the shoulders and then check the length before I continue with shoulder shaping.

For shoulder shaping, I am planning a small cutout in the back neck area (10 cm x 2.5 cm or 4″ x 1″) and a slight angle on the centre front of each of the front panels starting around 30 cm (12″) below the neckline to narrow the panel from 18 cm (7″) to about 11.5 cm (4.5″).

Have you ever tried knitting panels to create a garment?  Any words of wisdom for large swathes of bias knitting?  Let me know!

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Felting: Two online courses and my first weekend results

It’s wonderful to be back to making and blogging.  My fifteen minutes a day experiment was a failure.  It’s interesting to try if one is a get-things-done person but that’s not why I was working with fiber and fabric.  So rather than being a break from a busy day, the fifteen minutes just became another thing to squash in.  Instead, I decided to take a hiatus, focus on some other important things for a while until they were behind me and then choose finally to spend some quality time making things again.

My one consolation is I bought masses of jersey knit fabric in early 2014 back when the Canadian dollar was around par with the U.S. dollar.  Now, the exchange rate is so against me that I can safely say I bought jersey knit futures back then!  So all worth it even though I didn’t manage to sew anything.

Now, on to the fun stuff.  I had heard such wonderful things about Fiona Duthie’s felting work and her teaching. So without hesitation, I signed up for her Fall 2015 online offerings of two workshops: Surface Design and Felt Jewelry.  It was hard to choose from what’s available but now I’ve saved something for next year!

2015-09-07 Online courses with Fiona Duthie - my Week 1

Thank goodness it was Labour Day Weekend here in Canada so I could make some progress with these online classes.

Fiona’s Surface Design course just started last Friday and is well underway.  There are five parts to Week 1 and I’ve only done one part. Yikes! The two samples under the felt balls in the photo are my attempts at the first exercise which has multiple parts.  The left is silk on merino and the right is kid mohair locks on merino.

I’m still a bit slow as a felter but by the time I’m finished this course, I’m sure I’ll be a whiz! Fiona provides clear, well-labeled handouts as well as webpages and demonstration video material.  Then she’s online in the discussion area every day providing feedback and answering questions for the eight weeks of the course.  I’ll be able to get access to all the online material through the end of 2015. Given how slow I’m going, I’m going to need all that time!  I’m looking forward to having a healthy set of useful samples as well as trying a project of my own.  There are a huge number students in this course who are all amazing and it’s quite inspiring to see how they are interpreting Fiona’s assignments.

Fiona’s Felt Jewelry course is still open to newcomers for another bit and it’s more a work at one’s own pace course with all the exercises available now.

I made the four felt balls yesterday that appear at the front of the photo.  They are the same colour all the way through and I was experimenting with different fibres from my massive fiber stash (shown midway through this post).

Today, I made the 13 felt balls that appear at the back of the photo.  They have 5 grams of wool each and are 3.5 cm (1 3/8″) in diameter.  I used four colours:  brown, avocado, rust and purple to create four layers in each.  When they are dry, I’ll cut them in half to see how they worked out.  There isn’t much contrast between the brown and avocado so the results may just be a “learning experience.”  As we all know, everyone needs some of those!

Posted in Felting, Fiber, Stash-busting, Wool | Tagged | 1 Comment

Almost back: One more week

Reader Rock Garden - YYCYes, I’ve been away for ages.  Wish I could say I was off smelling the flowers, but not! However, I’m counting down until I’m back to this blog in one week!  I’ve signed up for two online courses from Fiona Duthie that start September 4th.  I have some of my supplies from New England Felting Supply as they have a pre-assembled kit for one of Fiona’s classes.  The rest of what I need is hopefully coming from my stash.

Oh, and I’ve managed to get into a one day knitting class in September with the Yarn Harlot right in my very own town.

Hoping to get into a routine of posting once a week.

Let the fun resume!

Posted in Felting, In Person, Knitting, Learning, Online, Stash-busting, Wool, Wool yarn | 2 Comments

Sewing: Being realistic about body shape

Today I finally did it!  I took the time to make a photographic dress form of myself wearing a t-shirt and leggings.  Measurements are one thing, but it’s seeing the actual shape I am that’s going to help me make good choices for the clothes I sew myself.

2014-06-28 Four views of body image

I’ve avoided doing this for years even though the “weight” folks believe this is one of the most motivating things to do for those who want to be a different size.  Now that I’ve seen my results, I get their point!

Sewing one’s own clothes takes a lot of time.  I want what I make to look good and look good on me too.  I know at midlife that I have fitting challenges.   Restricting myself to working on a dress form and flat pattern pieces isn’t going to work for me.  So I’m actually going to try to mockup my outfits on the real me — whether by using an online drawing tool or printing out the image working with that in some way.   I can use a drawing tool to convert the photo to outlines, print it and then colour that with pencil crayons.

I’ve also gone back to using Pinterest with fresh eyes.  I have boards set up for ideas for using knit fabric and another started with style ideas as well as some assorted tips and designer boards.

My 15 minutes a day (from my last post) have mostly been spent browsing Pinterest and test-driving a couple more fabric suppliers by buying small amounts.  I did pre-wash all my knit fabric (warm wash, cold rinse) last weekend and that did introduce some surprises which I will reveal in another post.


Posted in Clothing, Clothing patterns, fabric, Sewing | Tagged | 2 Comments

Sewing: What can I accomplish in 15 minutes a day?

I know a quilter who raises 4 children and works fulltime.  She makes fabulous large art quilts by squeezing 15 minutes a day out of her busy schedule.  I’m busy.  I want to sew some summer tops for myself and I want to play with knit fabric.  So I’m taking a page out of her book!  Let’s see what I can do in 15 minutes a day this week.

I’ve been collecting fabric and patterns.

Some fabric I bought locally, some I mail-ordered from a Canadian supplier who happened to be located in my home city and some was shipped internationally from Marcy Tilton’s online store.  Here’s the inventory:

Thirteen fabrics from Marcy Tilton.  Ten have four-way stretch and are all roughly the same weight.

2014-06-14 Knit fabric from Marcy Tilton - 4-way stretch - 2


2014-06-14 Knit fabric from Marcy Tilton - 4-way stretch - 1

And then three fabrics that are a bit different:  a mesh and two fabrics with 2-way stretch.

2014-06-14 Knit fabric from Marcy Tilton - mesh and 2-way stretch

Here’s how the mesh looks when it’s doubled up (see the middle section) and laid over another fabric such as a stripe (at the bottom):

2014-06-14 Knit fabric from Marcy Tilton - mesh combined with stripe

It’s an interesting way to make a favourite fabric go a little further and to create some texture.

I bought some fabric from a local store.  Some of it is lightweight and drapey.  I should have kept better records because I think some of this has bamboo in it.  The multicolour in the first photo is a slinky fabric.

2014-06-14 Knit fabric from local store - all 4-way stretch slippery

2014-06-14 Knit fabric - combining 4-way stretch fabric

I also picked up some solids that are a bit heftier than the others and I think this might actually be ponte.

2014-06-14 Knit fabric from local store - could be ponteFrom a Canadian mailorder place, I picked up some 1/2 yard pieces.  I was really looking for stripes but I also bought some solid white and a stripey-coloured remnant that I’m not sure how I’ll use.  I might dye the ivory/grey stripe as it’s quite plain.

2014-06-14 Knit fabric - rayon+cotton and cotton jersey2014-06-14 Repurposed knit fabric - cotton and synthetic

I have some fabric to play with.  I bought some solid-coloured cotton turtlenecks on sale a few years ago but the collars were too tight.  So I decided to chop off the collars and part of the sleeves so I could remake the neck area.  I haven’t done that yet and now I’m thinking some more slicing and stripes would be a good addition too!   I also bought a knit top on sale that had an uncomfortable twist in the sleeves due to how poorly it was sewn.  I’ve chopped that up and now have a neutral print I can use.

My next project will be to finish the green piece below. About 20 years ago, I bought a bunch of knit fabric in quite bright colours.  Some has been donated but I decided to see what I could do with this green.  I’m about to finish the neckline which doesn’t suit me at all and sew up the side seams. Before I do that, I think I’ll try to improve the look of the neckline and insert some striped fabric in various places. I’ll keep you posted!

2014-06-14 Green t-shirt needing some zing - sewing in progress

I also ordered some plain cotton jersey to dye.  It’s quite a different-feeling fabric from everything else I have that I’m not sure exactly how I’ll use it.  More on that later.

Posted in Clothing, Clothing patterns, fabric, Sewing | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Fabric Adventures: Another year re-stashing with the Ujamaa Grandmas

I have been thinking about sewing clothing a lot lately.  The Ujamaa Grandmas spring yarn and fabric sale really gets me going.  First I cull through my fabric and yarn stash looking for donations.  Actually I did this around Christmas.  Closer to the dropoff date, I go through the possible donations and confirm I’m truly ready to let go of the selected yarn and fabric. Destashing decades of accumulated fabric and yarn is an emotional undertaking. I’ve learned to let go in stages!

When I dropped off my stuff on Wednesday, I saw all the stuff others have donated.  The volunteers as they’re sorting are holding up things and exclaiming “gosh, look at this — how wonderful!” I can’t wait! Note to self:  one year, I have to volunteer to help set up! By Saturday I’m ready with cash and bags — all set for fun.  I go later in the day when it’s quieter and the sale is only a couple of hours from finishing.

By the way, I’m not going to do currency conversions for everything.  Know that today the Canadian dollar (my dollar), is worth $0.90 US, 0.65 Euros and 0.54 GB Pounds.

I had a lot of fun last year but restrained myself by only spending $20.00.  So this year, I brought more cash and had a specific strategy.  I decided to focus on wool.  Last year I noticed there were a number of embroidery and tapestry kits — some unopened but most were unfinished.  This year, I decided I would use those as a source of yarn and/or framing equipment.  For around $12, I picked up 9 kits of varying sizes.  The deconstructed result was 330 g (12 oz) of 3-ply Persian tapestry yarn, some embroidery floss and some needlepoint wool.

2014-04-27 Ujamaa Grandmas sale - tapestry yarn and embroidery floss

I chose selectively and in the same set of kits, picked up pieces for two 12″ x 14″ needlepoint stretcher frames and one 20 cm x 25 cm (8″ x 10″).  In the stores, these sell for about $1.50 to $2 per side.  There was also a rotating roller tapestry frame and a very sturdy 35 cm (14″) hoop.

2014-04-27 Ujamaa Grandmas sale - needlework frames and hoop

As I deconstructed the kits, I amassed quite a few needles and some tapestry canvas (left in photo below). None of the fabric in the kits was worth saving.  Actually I think that’s why people had barely started the kits and never finished them.  From what I could see, the kit fabric wasn’t doing the sewer’s stitches any favours.

2014-04-27 Ujamaa Grandmas sale - wool yardage + tapestry canvas + needles

I also wanted to get some wool fabric in keeping with my interest in sewing and embroidering felted fabric.  I was fortunate to find a medium weight light blue wool that appeared to have been slightly felted when the seamstress pre-washed it (centre, above photo).  It’s perfect for me and, at $5.00 total for 4 meters (~4 yards), I grabbed it.  I also picked up some drab never-washed white and brown wool yardarge ($5.00 for 5 meters) — right side of the above photo. Its weight is on the light side of medium and my plan is to felt and dye before using it.

Someone donated Cherrywood cotton — that luscious fabric with the rich colours and sueded look. They were selling this for $5/meter so I spent a little extra and bought 5 meters in total.  That’s the light brown, rust and gold fabric on the right in the photo below. I also picked up some dark grey suit-weight wool and a little heavier black twill weave wool yardage — both under 2 meters and $4 in total — left in the photo below.

2014-04-27 Ujamaa Grandmas sale - Cherrywood quilting cotton + wool yardage

I picked up some short lengths of cotton and a lightweight woven microfiber fabric for $4. I still need to do a burn test to figure out exactly what the microfiber is made from.

I got a couple of grab-bags for $2 of knit fabric remnants and knit cuffs that I can use for trim on jersey knit T-shirts.

My big investment was in three knitting machines — each for $10.  The Ujamaa Grandmas is a good cause and I figured if they were unusable then I had just made a donation!  One machine was a Brother KH-910 with all kinds of manuals and mylar pattern sheets. However, after some research, I discovered it was missing so many parts (carriage, power cord, etc.) that I’m not going to keep it.  I also grabbed a Brother KH-400 which seems to be in reasonable condition despite appearing to have been stored in a garage for some time –the dead bug collection in the box was my evidence for this conclusion!  I hope I don’t end up with an infestation.  Finally, there was a Bond Elite with a broken plastic bit where yarn feeds from the cone to the carriage.  It had been repaired with duct tape.  Nothing else seemed broken but it did seem to be made from a lot of plastic.

I don’t have time to play with these machines right now but I’m looking forward to making knit yardage that I can dye and felt.  My mother had a hand-me-down knitting machine when I was younger and I remember how painful it was for her to use.  I don’t need to try any fancy things and I’m certainly not going through the pain of trying to make a garment!

As for the volume of fabric, what I brought home was slightly less than what I donated. However, the wool yarn is considerably less than what I donated so I figure I’m ahead space-wise!

Posted in Acid dyes, Embroidery, fabric, Felting, Sewing, Stash-busting, Stitching, Wool yarn | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Felting: At a Judith Dios nuno felting workshop

I know, I know…not the best blogger lately.  I’ve been busy and hopefully, when I look back, I’ll say it was busy in a good way as I juggle recently-started full-time work and my work-related studies.  I’ve had very little time for creative endeavours.  Worse, shortly after Christmas I found myself completely derailed in my quest to complete my 21 UFOs before early March and one year after starting on this.  Know though that I have been being kind to myself!

On the creative front, with a week to spare, a space opened up and I did manage to move off the waiting list and into the actual workshop for a 3-day course in early March on nuno felting with Judith Dios.  It really helped that it was held in my hometown.  I loved the results from this course so much that, as soon as I got home, I immediately ordered a dozen yards of each of the silks she commonly uses in her work.  Judith has clearly done a lot of experimentation as she creates her beautiful garments and she freely shared all she had learned in this course.  Her handouts were terrific!  She also brought lots of her own work for inspiraton.  I was amazed at how beginner and experienced felters were able to produce some truly lovely pieces.  I played it safe making a couple of scarves but others were fearlessly tackling vests, tops and enormous wraps.

Three things made the results of the course different from a what I often associate with felted garments.  One was the colour — Judith has a technique for adding colour that produces subtle pastels.  The other is the lightness — her techniques produce a really lightweight garment or accessory that is quite mold-able to the wearer.  Finally, I found her embellishment ideas to be unique.  She shared quite a bit about how to make those embellishments work (e.g. not fall off and not be too heavy for the item).  She also paid attention to decorating both sides of a scarf so it looked great no matter which side was facing up when wearing it.  Her “no roll” method was pretty neat too and the result of considerable trial and error from what I could tell.

I started with a simple scarf and tried all the basic ideas.  This first one is close to 2 meters (nearly 7′) long by 15 – 18 cm (6″ – 7″) wide — shrinkage was around 30%.  I hope the photo conveys how lightweight it is.

2014-03-30 Narrow scarf made in Judith Dios nuno felting workshopShe has a technique for creating a ruffle effect and here’s a closeup of my interpretation. She is much better than I but I’m still impressed that I could get this sort of working too!

2014-03-30 Closeup of ruffle on narrow scarf made in Judith Dios nuno felting workshop

Then I moved up to a wider scarf.  Unfortunately I was a bit heavy-handed laying down the wool and this one, although still lightweight, is a bit thicker than the blue one.  Too much wool meant it also shrank more — it’s about 1.5 meters (about 5′) long by 36 – 38 cm (14″ – 15″) wide.

2014-03-30 Wide scarf made in Judith Dios nuno felting workshop

Judith showed us how to work effectively on the short 1.8 meter (6′) tables in the classroom.  However, the next time I do this, I want to work on a long table where I can see all the work at once and what I’m doing embellishment-wise.  Come summer, I’ll have access to studio space again and I’m now ready to do more of this type of felting.

For anyone interested, Judith lives on the west coast of Canada and I think she’s an excellent workshop leader.  She had 12 people in her workshop and she was able to help everyone get something useful out of the experience.  She came prepared to work with supplies that students brought to class as per her supply list or to sell small amounts from her own supply to provide only what people needed for their projects.  I found the cost of the workshop supplies for my two silk and fine merino scarves to be quite reasonable.  I liked that she provided handouts with estimates of the cost of different projects and gave measurements so students could choose projects that fit within their budget.  All in all, a wonderful experience.

Also, big thanks to Karin Millson, who took a workshop from Judith last fall out on the West coast and realized that we all could benefit from having her come to our area. Karen managed all the administrivia and millions of tiny details including securing loans of such items as microwaves and kettles as well as hosting Judith.

Posted in Acid dyes, Clothing, Felting, In Person, Learning, Wool | Tagged | 12 Comments