Keep on keeping on

Posted by Caroline in Family, Knitting, socks on September 30th, 2016

Right then, let’s be upbeat and positive and model appropriate adult behaviour in the face of adversity. I shall start with a quick backtrack to May which is when the train of my life started to jump the rails. I was knitting a white baby jacket back then, it finished up really quickly and was immediately out of the house so these are all the photos you are getting because it’s probably been outgrown by now (as always, click on the little photo to see the bigger one). This is DROPS 17-14, it’s a free pattern and I liked it well enough to be able to say that I might knit it again, possibly even with the matching bonnet and bootees. It is supposed to have a single row of the contrast colour on the inside facing and I’m sure that would be a lovely touch but in my view it wasn’t worth sewing in the extra two ends on each facing so I took the decision to omit that.

I would like to say that I took the decision to replace the buttonholes with snaps but that’s not what happened. I knitted the front facings to the accompaniment of some good evening tv and I’d cast off before I realised that while my hands had been on full autopilot I’d forgotten to make the buttonholes. As it was a facing there should have been two sets of buttonholes, one set before the turning row and a matching set on the underneath of the facing so I would have needed to have ripped back almost to the start to correct it. I briefly considered reknitting it but thought it was better to press on and get it finished. I was glad that I did, the snaps were easy to fasten and it meant that I could choose buttons based only on appearance rather than also having to make sure that they matched the size of the buttonholes.

This was my holiday knitting, it should have grown up to be mittens and a matching hat but I was not altogether sold on it from the outset. I couldn’t tell you why really, between the middle of July and now I haven’t touched it and that’s usually a sign that my inner knitter thinks that there’s something wrong. On this particular occasion she’s not giving me any clues as to what that might be. The last thing I did was to pull back four rounds because I misread the chart and I must have decided at that point that it was worth keeping because I put it back onto the needles. I’ve picked it up this week and I just don’t want to be bothered with finishing this mitten, never mind starting a second one. What I need now are things that bring me joy and this was not cutting it so it’s now back in the yarn bag.

When all else fails, there is always sock knitting to fall back on. The pink leftovers on the left are from the socks that I knitted for my aunt. They are the same size as each other but might not be the same size as her feet because I was not exactly thinking about what I was doing at the time. They got me through a difficult week and have left the house so I don’t have to see them again and remember how bad I felt when I was knitting them. I will dye the remnants navy so that they become unrecognisable, it’s either that or throw them in the bin. The ball in the middle started off as another pair of socks but after the rib of the first one my inner knitter managed to communicate her misgivings and I weighed the ball. It will make a pair of socks if I add stripes so that’s on hold while I think about delving into the bag of leftover sock yarn. So far there’s nothing wrong with the third pair of socks other than a run of knots in the second ball of sock yarn. I hate knots in self patterning yarn because unless you are prepared to lose a pattern repeat they won’t match. These are for me and so they will match, I’m hoping that there will be enough yarn in the smaller ball to reach the toe but if there isn’t then the scrap bag will be coming into play for a pair of contrast toes.

What else has happened? The child finished his GCSEs without major incident, the results were in line with what he was predicted and he took up his college place three weeks ago. For those of us who are oldies he’s now in the lower sixth or Y12 as it is these days. I’m back to doing a school run of sorts in that I drop him at the bus stop in the mornings and collect him in the afternoon which is not as wonderful as waving him off to catch the school bus that passes the window because it means that I have to be fully dressed with shoes on by 7.20. On the positive side this means that my mornings have the potential to be much more productive than they have been for the last five years.

I’ve been back through the last eight years of the blog which ran to twenty six pages of post titles. I can’t now be tripped up by an unexpected dog photo because I’ve been and looked at all of them. Originally I thought that eight years was no time at all, a life cut short but now I see it differently. We’ve covered a lot of ground in eight years as can be seen by the fact that the primary school student is now starting his A levels and is much, much taller than me. We’ve done so much as a family and Pebble did it all with us. He had a rich and full life well lived and that is all that any of us can hope for.






All shall be well

Posted by Caroline in Family, hats, Knitting, sweaters on May 13th, 2016

Let us start with a contender for the most boring photograph in the history of knitting. It’s a length of plain white rolling stockinette. Worse than that, it’s a very short piece of plain white rolling stockinette. Hopefully by the next time it appears it will be much longer with a touch of colour – either that or I will have ripped it for offences against tension. It’s sock yarn (again) but this time on a 3.75mm needle rather than a 3.25mm. It means it will make a cardigan the same size as in the pattern rather than combining the stitch count from the third size with the lengths for the first size. This should be a good thing but my inner knitter is positive that she prefers the fabric from the smaller needle. We shall see.

That is the start of sweater three because I haven’t quite finished sweater one. The grey is left over from the Geilo sweater from the last post and the blue is overdyed sock yarn leftovers. This is knitted on a 3.25mm needle which means my tension is way off but it makes a nice cushy fabric. I am using the neckline from Geilo so it’s knitted around all the way up and then the opening is cut. The photo on the right shows the two yellow lines of machine stitching on the reverse, I’ll pick up alongside those and knit a facing on each side. I am still undecided as to whether the neck will have a plain band or a collar, my decision will be influenced by how much yarn I have left.

Sweater two was started and finished over a weekend. With a 13″ chest it is easily the smallest garment that I’ve ever made and I hope that the baby is too big for it. Full term babies come in all sizes, premature babies do too. This is Heim in Drops Fabel sock yarn, again on a 3.75mm needle as that’s what I needed to match gauge. It took 48g for the smallest size so you’d get one from a ball of yarn. The pattern has five buttons but I thought there was more chance of finding a set of four in the button tin. It goes without saying that when I tipped them all out I found five. The pattern also has a helmet and leggings but I skipped those in favour of a little lace hat in leftover yarn. You can see from my finger how small it is, it fitted nicely over a wine glass.

I might have to find something that needs a lot of planning, possibly also spinning because GCSEs start next week. There are two weeks of exams, a week’s holiday and then another two weeks of exams. After that it’s summer all the way through to September.

One foot in front of the other

Posted by Caroline in Family, Knitting, sweaters on December 15th, 2015

It was a stroke of genius telling the blog where I’d stashed the new tree skirt because there was no way that I would ever have tracked it down to the top shelf of the airing cupboard. As it was I only found it after the tree was up and I didn’t fancy pulling the tree forward two inches so that the tree shirt would lay flat to the wall. We have had a tree collapse once and it wasn’t a pretty sight. I folded under one of the points and it’s good, far less risky than trying to move a fully decorated tree. It has no fastening and that’s good too, I’ll work out what I think it needs before I put it away after Christmas. It is exactly the size it needs to be, it looked enormous when I made it and I was convinced that I’d miscalculated somewhere but once it had the tree for scale it became magically the right size.

Usually at this time of the year I have a long list of things that I have to do and my aim each day is to make it shorter. This year I’m so behind that I don’t even have a list and I thought that it was pointless to start one now because there would be too much to do in the ten days I have left. Then I remembered that we need party crackers and cranberry sauce. There’s a difference between prioritisation and randomly doing stuff so the list needs to happen despite my misgivings about what it’s going to show me. The tree is up, the turkey is ordered, some presents are wrapped, it will all be fine. The reason that I’m so far behind is because of the impact of Dan’s music exam. That has been my focus for the last two months, ferrying him around to music lessons and the sessions with the accompanist, checking that he’d complied with the exam board’s regulations (especially the ones on photocopying music), timing the programme, checking the syllabus again and writing excusal notes to school. When it was all over and I could finally stop having nightmares over sheet music I found that the first week of December had already gone and by the time we’d done with school concerts half of the second week had followed it. This will be the Christmas where I do less, there’s no way I can be a week and a half behind and catch up at this stage of the game and it’s got to come down to priorities. The world won’t end because I didn’t hire a carpet cleaner, Santa will not be pulling out the furniture to see if I vacuumed behind it and if he did he would be invited to consider which was more important, dusty skirting boards or DipLCM after my son’s name. He’s had the results, the pass mark is 75% and he clocked up 96% so that was an early Christmas present for us all with the bonus being that I don’t have to wrap it.

This is another reason why I’m behind. I’ve spent hours researching fridges, comparing energy efficiency, quietness, shelf configuration, net volume and whether it would fit in the same space as the current one. I put a day aside to wait it for it to be delivered and I’ve subsequently spent over two hours listening to hold music in an attempt to get it collected. My extensively researched perfect fridge is damaged and it’s got to go back. I’ve ordered from company A and they’ve had it despatched directly from the manufacturer. In my dreams I talk to A and they collect it but what is supposed to happen is that I talk to A, they talk to the manufacturer and then the manufacturer talks to me to arrange collection of the damaged fridge and delivery of the replacement. The reality is that I try to talk to A, spend half an hour on hold then they talk to the manufacturer and nothing happens. Repeat from start. Three times. I’m fairly sure that what will be happening next is that instead of having a replacement I take a full refund and go somewhere with better customer service to buy a fridge from a different manufacturer. In the meantime I’m on day five with a island configuration that is just not working for me, it’s too tall and has no storage potential.

In the period before the exam I was too stressed to knit but I’m back with it now. I decided to knit the sleeves flat rather than in the round so that I could make both together and avoid messing up the stripe sequence. I can still misread the pattern but as both sleeves will be the same it won’t matter. There are no elephants on the sleeve, it’s stripes all the way up and as I’m knitting both at once if I run out of yarn it won’t be a problem. The real challenge is that I can’t see the difference between the grey and the green at night but because I’m working from both ends of the same ball I know that I will be consistent even if I’m not right. If you try hard you can ignore all those ends, that’s what I’m trying to do at the moment.

With all I have to do it’s unlikely that I’ll be posting again this side of the big day so I’ll get in early and wish you all the very best of the season. That’s what we’ll be having (I hope), just the best bits with the non-essentials skipped for this year.



Keep it simple, my brain hurts

Posted by Caroline in Family, Knitting, socks on February 16th, 2015

It was half term here last week, I seemed to spend all of it either running around or waiting in for contractors. I spent half a day looking for the part of the hob that had vanished after I took it apart to clean, it turned up eventually stuck to the bottom of a baking sheet that I’d been using for bread. I’d already picked through the kitchen bin and the recycling bin just in case I’d thrown it away even though I knew that I couldn’t possibly have done that. After the baffling episode of the vanishing burner plate I will be glad to be getting back to a nice uneventful life this week. Last week was crying out for mindless garter stitch on big needles but unfortunately I didn’t have time to find the wool, needles or motivation so I settled for simple round and round knitting. These are destined to be birthday socks, they have the added advantage of using leftover yarn that I hadn’t got around to putting away. I was hoping not to have any left that needed putting away but the coloured yarn will live to see a third pair of socks, there’s not a lot left but it will make a stripe. I’m well on with the second sock, apparently I knit really quickly as a means of coping with hammering and brick dust.

This was the cause of the noise and dust, last week the gas fire came out and the dog baker went in complete with new hearth and mantel. We still need a dedicated baking sheet (aka hearth rug) but I’m concerned that sometimes the word “wool” seems to be a substitute for “some sort of textile, it doesn’t matter what”. I want proper wool that started with a sheep because wool doesn’t burn. Yes, I could make one but I’ve got sweaters to make and a never ending tea towel warp on the loom and there are only so many hours in the day. As an aside, you can have a dog baker even if you live in a smokeless zone, you have to have one of the DEFRA exempt ones but there seems to be a large selection of those. It’s an improvement on the hanging gas fire that we had before although the in between stage left a lot to be desired.

I’m hoping that this week I manage to get to some wool combing so that I can get my sweater finished this side of Spring. I’ll be honest and say that I’m not entirely sure where I stashed it over Christmas but I know several places where it isn’t. I know it’s in the house somewhere which is exactly what I said about the missing hob part but at least I can be certain that the sweater hasn’t found its way into the recycling.

I have new gloves – they’ll be in the next post unless of course I comb a pile of wool, spin it, ply it and race away with the sweater. My money is on the gloves.



Look, more snow

Posted by Caroline in Bohusish, Family, Knitting on February 3rd, 2015

The weather keeps on trying to be seasonally appropriate, school has been closed due to snow twice in the last two weeks. The weather forecast for the week ahead indicates that junior might manage five days this week and the weather can do what it likes next week because it’s half term. Next week I can shovel using child labour and we’ll have a four wheel drive car as well as one with snow tyres. It has been cold and I’ve been feeling the need for a new pair of gloves to go with my dog walking hat. I keep making gloves but they have never come up to the standard of my favourite pair that is now sadly a single. Now that I’ve tried it on for this photo I find that it wasn’t as good a fit as I remember it, either that or my fingers have lengthened which seems unlikely. It is however just as warm and snuggly as I remember, the yarn was handspun merino and camel so was both soft and warm. They were useless for snow shovelling because the snow clumped to the camel but how many days a year do I shovel snow anyway? (answer – too many). The one thing I didn’t like about them was that blue frankenfinger and as luck would have it the glove that I didn’t lose is the one that I didn’t like. I’ve kept the single glove in the hope that the other turns up, I’m pretty sure that it won’t because I’ve cleared out the porch looking for it and we’ve changed both cars since it disappeared but I can still hope.

It may be that I end up with frankenfingers on this pair too. The one on the last pair was due to the random colour changes in the yarn, with this pair it would be the result of plain old running out of yarn. The yarn I’m using is the leftovers from my Wild Apple hat so all that I have is what’s in the bag. I think that there will be enough of the brown to make all of the fingers but that’s down to the stripe on the cuff and the pattern on the palm – without them there wouldn’t have been enough of the main colour. I’ve not got a huge amount of any of the contrast colours either which is why I’m knitting both gloves at the same time. I’ve found the centre of each ball and made a knot in it, then rewound the yarn into a centre pull ball. If I hit the knot then it’s time to back up to the start of the round and make a colour change. So far it’s all going well and I’m not that far from the top of the thumb gusset so it won’t be long before I’m back to one colour knitting. Once I’ve made one finger I’ll have an idea of whether I have enough yarn to knit all the others.

I made a chalkboard door from half of the tin of paint I showed last time, this one happens to be a blackboard but you can get the paint in different colours. Despite sanding the door first there is one place where the paint has pulled off, seeing as this is a kitchen to garage door I suspect that it’s had a drip of oil down it at some time which my inadequate sanding didn’t shift. I’ll leave it for a month or so to see if any more comes off and then I’ll sand the offending spot and repaint it.

Holiday souvenirs

Posted by Caroline in Family, Knitting on January 27th, 2015

A quick look at the camera card reveals that we had a weekend away. The dog was exhausted by Sunday night after he had been faced with a non stop parade of squirrels, moorhens and ducks with the occasional swan thrown in for good measure. If you click on the photo you can see the squirrel with its offensive tufty tail to the left of the central tree, I could probably have pointed the camera at a window at random and had a squirrel in shot. You can see that the new sock went with us and I suppose that it is possible that it was really a pair with the other one worn on another day. I’m doubtful but until I start hanging socks to dry I can’t prove that he’s not been wearing both of them. I’m sure I’d be happier if I started making single socks rather than matched pairs but the last time I suggested this as an option it was shot down as being totally unacceptable.

I finished another Wild Iris (on the left), this one is in Apple Laine Apple Pie sock yarn (65% wool, 20%  mohair, 10% nylon, 5% silk). I left the button off this time because I found that the lack of a button (and therefore no designated “front”) makes it easier to fling on and as this is for me I can guarantee that flinging will be the order of the day. The yarn was not originally this colour, it may possibly have been “Arizona”, but I was planning on using stash beads and the yarn as it stood went with none of the beads I had. I went on to make another mobius with some pale green Kidsilk Aura that I picked up at a church fete last summer. I weighed it carefully and aimed to use up all of the second ball but the ball ran out with inches of beaded picot bind off still to go. Luckily I had four balls to play with so it wasn’t the end of the world. You may detect some proper photography at work here courtesy of my husband who was testing his lighting prior to photographing more interesting subjects.

I’m still failing with big knitting, I’ve swatched for two cardigans for my mother and failed to start either. One was derailed by the pattern of many errors and the second was doomed by me trying to use a bad choice of contrast yarn. I spent three days trying to convince myself that the two yarns made a harmonious pair when it was blindingly obvious to even non-knitters that the union had nothing going for it. My sweater is waiting for me to comb more wool and that’s on hold until I’ve finished the bit of painting in the kitchen because the last thing I want is dust on fresh paint. I’m done with mobius knitting for now (I have another to show that needs the ends sewing in) and everyone seems to have enough socks so I feel rather at a loose end. No doubt the right project will come along, until it does I suppose I could always get on with finishing those two baby jackets that I’ve been resolutely ignoring.

I have had a few days where I’ve been busy but had nothing to show for it when I sit down at the end of the day. I’ve been comparing exam boards for music exams, researching log storage, chalk board options and catching up with the mountain of laundry that we generate on a weekend away. It’s all necessary and time well spent but I’m left with nothing tangible. It means that I berate myself for doing nothing at all before realising that my “nothing” included three hours in the car, filling the freezer with food and the wardrobes with clothes. I decided that today I would spend some time making something visible and permanent. Where we were stopping at the weekend had a chalkboard wall next to the kitchen and we all had fun with that so I thought that we’d have one at home. My hint for the day is to have plenty of cloths because it turns out that this paint is very, very runny as well as being very, very black. Even if you are usually a mess free painter you may find that you’ve dripped it on the floor and flicked it down the kitchen cabinets and the opposing wall. Not that I did that of course, not that anyone can prove anyway.

Well hello 2015

Posted by Caroline in Dyeing, Family, Knitting, lace, socks on January 11th, 2015

I’ll say that I’ve been away because of Christmas, there were other reasons but let’s blame the season as it’s easier to point the finger at the festive time suck rather than anything else. Everything I was making was finished, although one thing wasn’t done in time to meet a present exchange. It was finished and wrapped for Christmas Eve though so I’m counting it as done. It would be appropriate to do a big reveal at this point except that I don’t have photos of everything I made. The socks I made have been through the wash and are no longer a pair but seeing as they are plain black when in shoes the one remaining sock will match all of the others that are black above the heel. The other is in the house somewhere and sooner or later the two will be reunited.

Earlier this year I dyed a jacket and replaced the buttons, he’s worn this so many times now that I wouldn’t mind if he never wore it again. He’s worn it with a T shirt and trainers, he’s worn it with a shirt and tie. At some point it will no longer fit him because he’s fourteen and still growing. I found another charity shop grey wool jacket, dyed it green and bought it new buttons. This one is a little larger and will last a little longer. I prefer the purple one, it was much lighter to start with which meant that it was a brighter colour after dyeing. Finding a jacket that is the right size, wool and a light colour is not all that easy so I bought the grey even though I knew it wasn’t going to give me the bright green I would have liked.

I liked this cowl so much that I’ve cast on for another for me. This is Wild Iris by Silvia Harding. It’s a moebius cast on followed by evenings of round and round tv knitting and a beaded edging to finish with. The pattern includes mitts as well but I wasn’t convinced that I had enough of the yarn to make those so I didn’t try. I spun the yarn in 2011 from a Juliespins Rambouillet braid (details here), there would have been plenty but I’ve already made a beaded something from it back in May. Fortunately I had some of the beads left over as well, the beaded edging only goes half way around the cowl so it needs fewer beads than you might think. I will confess that this was finished so close to deadline that it had to have a swift steam blocking over the ironing board.

I have had a longstanding love/hate relationship with our coffee machine, there’s something that I don’t do right and whatever it is I’ve been doing it that way for the last eight years. My husband makes espresso and it’s fantastic, whereas mine tastes of failure and despondency. The two variables are the amount of coffee that goes in the holder and how much you tamp it down. I’ve stood and watched him make coffee time and time again and although I think I’m doing exactly the same thing it’s obvious by the results that I’m not. I’ve been looking at domestic beans-to-cup coffee machines every Christmas and each year they are a little smaller and a little cheaper. This was the year when a machine that would fit in the space we have was less than £200 in the January sales so I bought one. Beans go in the top, water goes in the side and then all you do is press a button. There is no skill involved in pressing a button so after eight years of muttering and occasional finger pinching I can now have coffee whenever I want. There has been a lot of button pressing going on, so much so that I’m now buying beans a kilo at a time.

I like to have a fresh start to January, I threw away the to do list but I failed to complete everything that I had on the needles. I’m still looking at two baby jackets that maybe need an hour’s work between them, it feels more like finishing than knitting so it’s just not happening at the moment. I hope to start up the combing-spinning-knitting cycle and get my new grey sweater finished before the end of the season for wearing it. I’m certain that the first thing to be finished this year will be the cowl because little pretty things get my attention every time.



I’m making a list and checking it twice

Posted by Caroline in Family on December 20th, 2014

I have the normal to do list floating about, I’ve now started crossing off things that aren’t urgent, important or festive. I have another list that can’t be left in the open because it’s the secret special list with the present related stuff on. It also includes all the things that I’ve bought but that haven’t arrived at the door, happily the only one that had a delivery window as far as December 29th was crossed off early on and I’m down to one outstanding parcel. I have a third list that looks very like a Christmas/Boxing Day menu and a fourth list which is all the food items that I need to buy to make the third list happen.

I finished festive project number two (number one being the mittens), it involved a lot of pressing and some buttons. It’s a green thing with gold buttons and that’s all I’m saying. Festive projects three and four have been sat around for weeks waiting on a spot of fitting, thing three is now finished and waiting for a steam press (I don’t have the time for wet blocking now) and thing four needs some ribbing, some sewing and some more ribbing. That leaves me with a pair of socks as my last remaining knit and as both of them are past the heel and well on to the toe there’s a chance that they will be finished over the few evenings before Christmas Eve. I am quietly optimistic that everything is on track. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be knitting on Christmas Day but I’m sure I’ll rustle up something.

It won’t be the green cardigan – I’m shelving that until next year. My in box this week had another set of pattern errata and I’ve decided to either go with “inspired by” and knit my own version using the rather pretty cables of the original or wait for a few people to finish knitting it. I have enough on my plate at the moment without reinventing a cardigan pattern or checking it line by line.


I’m fresh out of normal

Posted by Caroline in Family, Knitting, socks, Weaving on July 1st, 2014

It would be tempting fate to say that things are back to normal this week, that would be begging for something weird and wonderful to happen. There are only three weeks of “normal” left before the school holidays start so it would be good to have everything dusted and polished before the long slide into summer chaos. Last week was a busy week, the husband was off work so we caught up on all those jobs that need two sets of hands but can’t be accomplished with conscripted child labour. The home office is finished, the carpet taken up, new flooring put down, new blind at the window, trim to the floor – it’s really finished as opposed to our usual nearly finished (I am ignoring the dangling alarm sensor for very valid and earsplitting reasons). It does look more like a woodland retreat than it did before, the mural paper turned out to be cheaper than the paper on the other walls and I’ve put it up so that it can be removed without wrecking the adjoining walls. If in a few years he’d prefer a sea view then we can paste that up instead. We cut off Christmas tree lengths from the top of the hedge and had two runs to the tip household recycling centre. I’d love to see a recycling project involving conifer, pink foam backed carpet and laminate offcuts but don’t think that is ever likely to happen.

This week everyone is back at school/work and I am just about caught up with the washing that I didn’t have time for last week. This is good because I have things to catch up with on the fibre front. The gap on the loom is waiting for me to plan a contrast stripe. I’d originally thought that the whole warp would be solid red but a dig in the cotton box revealed that I had nowhere near enough red but quite a lot of orange. The current plan is for a red and yellow (lime? black?) stripe and a black weft. It needs a bit of planning now so that the pattern is balanced across the full width and the contrast starts at the right point in the pattern. This is rather more planning than I usually do so I’m in foreign territory. I’ve been avoiding it for a couple of days but it’s not going to work itself out, I either have to do some number crunching or accept that the pattern falls as it will.

This is old ground, this is my third pair of socks out of this ball of orange yarn. I think I’m done with socks for a while now, it might be time for some lace. They don’t match but I accepted that they wouldn’t match at the outset when I started knitting from both ends of the ball. This is not a problem seeing as it’s not unusual for him to be wearing one green and one red sock. As long as he keeps his shoes on they are a pair, he doesn’t care and I’m trying not to.

That’s all I have time for today, there’s floors to clean, grass to be cut and I still have a zip to put in a cardigan. The fun just never stops..


Quick change

Posted by Caroline in Dyeing, Family on April 16th, 2014

Patience is a virtue they say so I will refrain from gnashing my teeth and ranting about the delivery performance of a large internet bookseller. I am poised on the edge of a deep, deep rabbit hole and the one thing that is stopping me from flinging myself into the depths of a new obsession is that I’m waiting for my book on tailoring. I have the idea, the pattern, the fabric samples, a book on pattern fitting, a sheet for the muslin and a waiting husband. What I don’t have is the book on tailoring that I ordered on March 27th. “Delivery in 9-12 days” my eye.

I left the jacket pattern where it was seen by other passing males and things quickly escalated from “you could make one of those for me if you like” to specifying the number of buttons and the colour. I’m reluctant to make things for my son firstly because he’s still growing but mostly because he has absolutely no idea of how much work is involved. I’ve been calling in at the local charity shop in the hope of picking up a suitable sports jacket that I could alter to fit him and this week I struck lucky. I found a lightweight wool suit that I thought would be about the right size, when I got it home it fitted perfectly. The pockets still had the threads where they’d been sewn up when new, there was no wear at the hem where it would have rubbed on shoes and it had the look of something that had been worn twice. The downside was that on one of those occasions someone had sat in crumbs of chocolate and it was the wrong colour (his preference being for purple or lime green). I ignored the dry clean only label and washed the trousers on the wool wash to see if I could wash it without it shrinking because I was hoping to dye it in the machine. The trousers were a 30″ inside leg when they went in the washer and a 30″ leg when they came out so I was confident enough to wash the jacket too. I tacked through all the layers before I did that so that it would come out the same shape as it went in. The chocolate stains came out after a fashion, there were still some faint marks on the back but you’d need to be me to find them.

I had hoped to throw the lot in the washer with a dye designed for use in washing machines but all the machine dyes say that they must not be used with wool. Having already ignored “dry clean only” I would have ignored this too but I watched my machine wash on the wool cycle and I suspect that it wouldn’t have worked well. There’s very little water in the drum and it’s a short programme so I don’t think that there would be enough time for the dye to take or enough water for it to colour evenly. I don’t have a big enough pan for the suit to go on the hob so that was out, to get an even colour it would need to swim in lots of water. Patchy yarn is appealing when knitted but I can’t see a patchy jacket being as desirable. At this point I was stuck and then I remembered the solar dyeing I did for the first pair of stealth socks that I made. After seven years and countless wash cycles that yarn is still orange and yet it didn’t get much in the way of heat. Sitting in a jam jar in the greenhouse worked as well as simmering in a pan on a gas ring so maybe I could get away with using hot water rather than a heat source?

This is where I feel there should be a flashing sign like the ones on the television “Caution, these stunts are performed by professionals under controlled conditions. Do not attempt anything you see here at home” except that I’m not a professional and I was attempting it at home. Seriously, what’s the worst that could happen? The suit cost all of £10 and if I learned something and got some nice felt out of the process it would have been cheap entertainment. I dye a lot of wool so unlike tailoring I’m not reaching for the stars from a zero skill base. I knew that the lining and stitching would probably stay grey as they were not going to be silk or wool but I could live with that.

I bought a sixty litre storage tub rather than a barrel because the spare bedroom looks like the wardrobes have exploded so I have an immediate use for another storage box. (Next week’s job – tidy wool room) There was a chance that it might leak so I stood it outside near the drain so that I could empty it easily when I was done. I took the buttons off so the fabric under them would dye evenly, soaked the suit in warm water and then gradually added water firstly from the hot tap and then from the kettle so that it came up to being bath water hot without a sudden temperature change. Many of the dyes you can buy for wool have the dye and the acid combined. That’s not what I wanted for this. As soon as you have heat, dye and acid the dye will start to bond with the fibre and what I wanted was for the suit to become evenly saturated with the dye stock before it started to strike. I added the dye when the tub was about half full and then after I thought the suit was thoroughly soaked in the dye stock and I’d turned it several times I started to add the citric acid solution. After that I just l left it to cool, moving the clothes about every ten minutes or so. The magenta didn’t exhaust (does it ever?) so then it was back in the washer on the wool wash.

The result is evenly coloured, it’s still suit shaped because of the tacking and the added bonus is that the zip on the fly and both of the linings took the dye as well. The stains on the back have vanished altogether and the inside leg measurement is still 30″ so there was no shrinkeage. I forgot to take the buttons off the trousers as my focus was solely on the jacket so I know now that it’s not worth trying to dye the buttons. I will be consulting over button selection, I need eight small ones and three big ones so there’s a chance that it will double the cost of the jacket. I don’t expect him to ever wear the trousers and I doubt he’ll wear the jacket more than twice but then I will have proved beyond doubt that he’s not a jacket wearer without the effort of making him a jacket or the expense of buying one.

I am beyond pleased with the results and would certainly attempt this again although I would not be saying this if I’d done the dyeing inside because the storage box did leak. I’ve looked on Ebay and light coloured wool jackets are cheap and plentiful so if he does wear it there’s a good chance that I might do this again some time in the future. I think I struck lucky with this in that it’s a very light weight wool, I think that a thicker fabric would be harder to dye evenly and it would certainly take more drying.

There will be modelled shots once it’s dry/I’ve pressed it/it’s got buttons.