Pushed along the learning curve

Posted by Caroline in Book making on May 28th, 2014

I gave up on bookbinding when I realised that what I wanted to do (using handwoven fabric to make a cover) involved making a case cover. The instructions for that went on for pages and there was much measuring and supplies that I didn’t have. It all looked to be a lot of work and I shelved the idea. Fast forward four years during which time my son has developed into a small Whovian. He was hanging his nose over River Song’s Tardis journal, not the cheapo one with printed covers but the one with embossed leather-look covers. That one is $80 plus transatlantic shipping plus customs charges and it’s not even the right colour. My mouth opened and out came the words “I could make one of those”.

There are lots of things I’d do differently on a second one, the boards are too thick, too small (I added the recommended allowance to the actual paper measurement and it somehow vanished) and the relief on the spine made it a pig to glue on straight. The corners make it look like I’ve never glued leather before (guess what, I haven’t) and some of my straight lines are not entirely parallel. I don’t care, as a first attempt at a case binding it’s a win. This is my first time sewing onto tapes (hem tapes), my first book with a mull (an old linen teatowel) and my first book with endpapers. It’s the right colour, cost very much less than $80 and I have enough leather left for three more. If we were very picky then we should have used cream paper rather than white but white paper is an art store staple and cheap to boot. He is pleased because he got the book he wanted and I am pleased because I learned several useful things.

This means that there is nothing stopping me from going back to my original idea of making notebooks with handwoven fabric covers now that I’ve been forced to get my head around how it is done except that I have to redecorate the spare room first.


Sewer and sewer

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, lace, sewing, socks on May 24th, 2014

It’s been an odd week and I’m having difficulty pulling it all together into one post. I’ve given up now, what doesn’t go in here today will appear another week or I’ll just pretend it didn’t happen. The week started well enough, Sunday was sunny and my neighbour was cutting the hedge at the bottom of his garden. It didn’t take him long to finish so I thought that I’d get ahead of the chore list and cut my hedge too. Go me. What I didn’t think about until after I’d started was that he was cutting a two foot strip of hedge above a fence whilst my hedge goes all the way down to the floor. I had considerably more trimmings to clear up than he did but it’s a once a year job so I can appreciate my work for months. I thought that was going to be the big job for the week but I was so wrong. I’m sure we’ll look back on 2014 as “The Year The Sewer Was Cleared” and yes, that is “sewer” as in drainage not as in tailor. This is one time where I’m making no apologies for not taking photos although there was a video camera in use (but not mine). There was also dye (not mine) and copious amounts of water. When I come to pay the water bill next year I’ll be happy that I’ve had my money’s worth on the drainage side. I’m also happy that the offending man hole cover is on someone else’s property.

I jinxed the socks by calling them “perfectly well behaved”. They weren’t and as a result they are still not finished. I’ve been carrying them around in my handbag in case I find a minute to graft the toes but you can see how well that has worked out for me. I had to pull back five rounds on one and a whole toe and five rounds on the other. They were intended for my son but they don’t fit him so his dad will be getting this pair. I’ve been dealing with junior’s growing feet by adding half an inch to the length of the heel flap and knitting more and more rounds in the foot. It looks as if we’ve reached the limits of a 72 stitch sock and I need now to cast on a number bigger than 72. It’s taking me into new territory and I’m not exactly happy about it, I’ll have to start from scratch with foot measurements. It’s one of those jobs that I can put off for weeks but when I force myself to do it will take five minutes.

As I said last time I couldn’t find a needle that was the right size, the right length and flexible enough to wrap around for a mobius cast on so I had to settle with two out of the three. In a perfect world I’d have gone up a needle size as this is a bit dense, it’s ok but I would have liked something with a bit more drape. The yarn is handspun Rambouillet, I spun it in 2011 so it’s about time that it found a purpose in life. The beads were leftovers from something or other, I’d strung them and thoughtfully added a tag that said there were 256 of them but I neglected to say what size they were. “Big enough” as it happens. The pattern is a test knit for Vicki and I’ll add the link when she releases the pattern. I enjoyed it all the way to the beaded picot cast off, after the first mile of that I’d had enough. It felt as if it took me longer to do the cast off than the rest of the project. I like it though and I have enough yarn (but not beads) for another.

This is the result of my two sewing days, the first sewing day turned into a sewerage day when I got next to nothing done. I got three bags from the length of fabric that I made in 2011, I have under three inches left over. I couldn’t have added an inch to each bag because otherwise the zips would have been too short so maybe I need to think about cutting out and then buying zips rather than the other way around. These are more square than the last ones that I made because I’ve cut more out of the corners. I think I like this shape more than the other so this is what we’ll be going with now (at least until I change it again). I’ve already cut the next three bags and then I think I might have a change from box bags. I can’t get the lid on the fabric box yet so I might be at this for a few weeks longer but I can’t see me making more than a dozen of one thing without getting bored.

There will be no bags next week because top of my to do list is “decorating”. When we first moved into this house twenty three years ago we painted or papered every room. There’s one room that has not been touched since then and not surprisingly it’s overdue a bit of a freshen up. I’m telling myself that when this room is done then I’ll be finished for a few years but I don’t believe me at all because some jobs come round again and again and again. (Not drains though, I’m happy that when they’re clear they stay clear forever. I’m not listening to you, my fingers are in my ears)


I need a bigger naughty corner

Posted by Caroline in Book making, Knitting, sweaters on May 14th, 2014

The sweater that came out of the naughty corner on the sleeves went straight back in again after I started the body. That’s not quite right, I knitted a whole four inches before things went wrong. The body of the cardigan starts with rib and then there’s a cable pattern on the fronts and centre back. The cable is the same width as the rib and in my mind one sprang naturally from the other. When I came to the increase row before the cables started and the instruction was “increase evenly X stitches” I knew it was doomed. Every other cabled thing I’ve ever knitted has been very specific about where the increases should be, if you don’t get them in the right places the cables don’t form naturally from the ribbing. When I actually looked at the photograph on the pattern, really looked at it rather than glancing at it, I could see that the start of their cables didn’t match up with the ribbing. I suppose that is one option but not the one for me. The sweater spent a few days sitting and contemplating its sins while I ignored the graph paper. It’s fixed now but to get it right I had to make the right side the original wrong side.

I have a naughty needle too. I came to cast on for a mobius cowl only to find that I didn’t have a needle that was the right size for the yarn and the right length to wrap around itself for the mobius cast on. The cable on my interchangeable needle set is nowhere near flexible enough and all of the fixed circulars I own seem to have vanished except for the hat-sized ones. I had to make do with a needle that was the right length and nearly the right size, after I started knitting I found that one of the joins was horribly catchy owing to a large gap between needle and cable.  This is no reflection on the manufacturer, something unusual has happened to this needle at some point because the needle tip didn’t get that way all by itself. As soon as I cast off this needle is going in the bin, I can live with the bend but not the catchy join.

Also in the naughty corner (or by the time you read this, possibly the bin) is the book cover. The actual book bit is fine, the board itself is fine but the stuff that I bought to cover the board is too thick and springy to glue into the recesses. It really needed leather but I didn’t have any, didn’t have anywhere to look at it and didn’t have a clue what to buy. This applies equally to the stuff that I did buy but at least that was a cheap mistake. I’m currently hoping that a piece of soft thin blue leather will drop out of the sky, if that doesn’t work out for me then I’ll just have to pay proper money for the proper stuff.

It sounds as if it’s been a week of mistakes and bad news but that’s not the case at all. Things that went well include the fixed Etsy widget over there in the sidebar (it’s still there, I just checked), another two bags and a 3/3 win with the child’s GCSE options choices. There are a pair of perfectly well behaved socks too but they are so close to the toe that they can wait for the next post. The zips on these are different colours because I bought the last cream zip, the white one is acceptable, just not as pleasing as the cream.

Busy, busy, busy

Posted by Caroline in Book making, Knitting, socks, Spinning, sweaters, Weaving on May 7th, 2014

I’m happy now that the sleeves will be the right width, there’s only one here blocking because I was so uncertain that I put one sleeve aside until I’d seen the other one finished. I think that they will be too long, I did use a tape measure but it’s difficult to decide how long something is while you’re pulling it sideways at the same time. I’m not bothered about the length right now, I’m just happy about the width. Once I have the sleeves set in then I can work out how many rows I need to take from the length, snip a stitch, separate the sleeve into two, take out the right number of rows plus one and then graft the two bits back together again. I haven’t yet cast on for the body as that involves the major stumbling block of finding a long circular in the right size. It’s a two minute job that’s taking me days to do.

The socks finished up the right size but then I knew that they would. There’s not a lot that can go wrong with socks. These have a 2×2 ribbed cuff with two of the lines of ribbing continuing to the toe. The blue was leftover from the Baby Sirdal that I finished recently and the greens are miscellaneous leftovers from the bag of sock yarn scraps. I can’t say that these had a big impact on the leftovers, I think I’ve got enough yarn left to make another pair. I’ve already promised that the next pair will be school socks so these leftovers will all going back in the bag for now.

Last week I spent an hour or so chasing wool around the spare bedroom. After I’d finished packing things into boxes, moving yarn and fabric into a pile to be dyed and throwing random bits away the floor appeared. This is my reward for tidying up, it fell out of the shop box. I originally dyed three lengths of the plum and chocolate (right) so I could afford to sneak one for myself and the orange and pink was really too bright to sell (yes, these do sound like excuses for a shop raid and that’s because that’s what they are). I couldn’t decide whether to ply them together or on themselves so I did both to make a bright yarn, a dark yarn and something in between. My plan was to use them for a wide warp on the rigid heddle loom and then use the leftovers together with a pile of random bits to wind another warp for the floor loom.

The first part of this idea went well but it fell down with the second warp when I ran short of yarn. “Short” in this context means that I only have half of what I need so adding a few contrast stripes just won’t cut it. I think my public stance would be that I am considering my options, this translates to me bagging it up and sticking it in one of the wool boxes. I could go back and spin the other two dark braids, I could rummage through the boxes of wool in the hope of finding something that would work, I could make a narrower warp. I don’t know what to do so the answer is to do nothing.

Pro tip – don’t look at something, exclaim about the price and then utter the words “I could make one of those” because that’s what you’ll end up doing and all of your other plans will go straight out of the window. I have promised to make a book. I’ve played at this before but this attempt involves a learning curve so steep that the only way up it would involve a rocket. So far I’ve failed to make holes at right angles to the paper which is why those black lines are not even beginning to be parallel. I’m telling myself that the worst that can happen is that I make a total bodge of the first book and hopefully in the process learn enough to make the second one presentable. I have a fallback position of making a bodge of the first three and hitting it with the fourth. This morning the postman failed to bring me the faux leather for the covers, I’ve never been so pleased to not get post because it gives me another day to work out what I am supposed to do next. Remember Caroline, next time try to stick to a nice non-committal “that’s nice dear”.

Sort of a sweater start

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks, Spinning, sweaters, Weaving on April 29th, 2014

I finished with all of the dark Shetland, I have about 1100 yards of a thinnish aran yarn which is probably enough for a long sleeved sweater. It’s very nice even though it is still full of straw but its time has not yet come so I’ve packed it away for another day. I think that this would be classed as a decent enough workout for my new Pony bead lacing spinning wheel drive band, I’ve used it for most of the spinning and all of the plying. I did wonder whether it would be up to the job of turning the jumbo flyer with a full bobbin of yarn but it coped well. The lacing was very stretchy for the first week and I had to keep shortening it but it did settle down after that. It is not happy with being loose, I’ve had the band flip off more times in this month than in the life of the wheel, but once I’d accepted it needed to be tighter than I was used to then it was fine. You can have sixteen Pony drive bands for the same price as one proper flexible spinning wheel drive band, I wouldn’t mind buying a proper band quite so much if the postage didn’t add a third to the cost.

This is either the start of a sweater or a failed swatch. I haven’t decided yet which it is but my inner knitter suspects the latter. I hate patterns that measure things when “slightly stretched” because how much is “slightly”? It’s usually the front bands of cardigans that start me ranting but this time I haven’t got that far because it’s the tension square that needed to be measured “slightly stretched”. I did knit a tension square (two actually) and I was happy that I had the right needles but the more I knitted, the more uncertain I became. I am capable enough of being self deluded over tension without the added complication of stretching. There is an answer, I have to knit a swatch of the cable pattern because that’s measured flat. I’ve been putting off doing that because then I’ll be certain that these sleeves are doomed, at the moment they might be perfectly fine.

Luckily I have some other knitting that is not being difficult. Socks are usually my answer to avoiding dealing with knitting problems. These are the leftovers from baby Sirdal together with some odds and ends from the bag of green leftover sock yarn. When I set off I thought this would be mostly blue with some green but there was some engaging television on and I overran with the greens because I knitted to the end of the ball. There is a fair chance that these will have reached the toes before I grasp the nettle and swatch the cable pattern on the sweater because it’s easier to reach out and start knitting than it is to sit and problem solve.

I think I’ve got the hang of the box bag construction, I changed the sizing, narrowed and lengthened the handle and ended up with a pair of nicely sized project bags. I’m done with green for now but I’m going to poke through the heap of fabric and see what else I can come up with. I like the size of these, I don’t have a totally free hand with sizing being constrained by the length of the zip that I bought and the width of the fabric that I made. I could buy smaller zips and make the bags not as long but if I change the circumference then I would be cutting fabric to waste. The Etsy widget has fallen out of the sidebar (it’s probably down the back of the settee), I do still have a shop there and that’s where the bags are going.

Purple suit wrap up

Posted by Caroline in Dyeing, Knitting, sewing, socks, Weaving on April 22nd, 2014

The worst part of the whole business was pressing the jacket – it was such an educational experience that I started looking for local tailors in the Yellow Pages because I would have happily paid someone to do it for me. I watched a professional do it on Youtube and then set to with a tailor’s ham and a sleeve board. It would have been more straightforward if I had a wider ironing board, I got on much better once I’d put a chair behind it to stop the jacket making a break for freedom. Tacking it all together was a good thing to have done, it would have been even better had I run a line of stitching around the cuffs and hems of the jacket because I had to rediscover the edge of those. It would benefit from better pressing and I will show it the iron again once I’ve forgotten what a performance I made of it the first time. Badly pressed or not, it’s a lovely colour.

The buttons were also educational, my new word for this week is “ligne”. That’s how buttons are traditionally measured and the ones I took off the jacket were 24 ligne on the cuffs and 32 ligne on the body (also known as 15mm and 20mm). In keeping with the theme of cheap and cheerful I bought a mixed bag of ten of each size on Ebay for £4 including postage so the jacket has cost £15, a teaspoon of dye, two tablespoons of citric acid and lots of hot water. He’s pleased with it and more surprisingly (because my standards are much higher) so am I. It’s very evenly coloured and I made a much better job of dyeing it than I thought I would.

I released another pair of school socks into the wild last week. As usual they didn’t hang around long enough to be photographed, this morning I tracked them down to the laundry basket. Of course I would prefer to be showing a shot of a pair of clean socks but at least they are currently still a pair so I’ll work with what I have. The knock on from knitting the longer cuff and starting the colour before I’d finished the gusset decreases was that I ran out of the patterned yarn before I started the toe. Fortunately I still had some bright yarn that I hadn’t out away yet and that lasted to the toe with about a yard left over. That means that I’ve used up two small balls of yarn rather than one so it’s a win.

This is all that I have left from the fabric that started life in this post. At some point I’ll use up all the scraps in a patchwork something, at the moment I’m sticking them all in a bag. I’m not sticking them in this bag of course, that’s the one I’ve just made. With this I started with the fabric that I had leftover, I couldn’t work back from the bag that I thought I wanted because I didn’t have enough fabric to have any choice as to size. It might not have helped me much because I’m no good at visualising sizes, I can wave my hands around as much as I like but I still can’t what the finished thing will look like until I have it in my hands. It’s a perfectly proportioned spindle bag with room for at least four ounces of fibre but I’d rather be making sock project bags. Now that I have one in front of me I can see what I need to change to get the sock bag that I want. I can see that future bags want to be a bit deeper and wider but not as long with a narrower handle and no interfacing in the lining. I knew the lining didn’t want to be stiff but no, I had to follow the tutorial. Bag two will be a variation on a theme and hopefully next time I’ll get the zip in to my satisfaction.


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.



Dredging through the knitting bag

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks, Spinning, sweaters on April 14th, 2014

It’s such a little thing but it feels as if I have been knitting it forever. Guess what, I HAVE been knitting it forever. The blog remembers these things so I don’t have to and it tells me that the first sighting of baby Sirdal was on January 17th. The body knitted up quickly enough but when I got to the start of the second pattern band (about armhole level) I realised I’d made a mistake right at the bottom and that put me off the whole thing. I had a choice between ripping it back and starting again or ignoring it and hoping I could sort it out in the finishing and it spent weeks in the bag while I decided what I was going to do. The thing I like most about this is that it’s finally finished the yarn and the buttons, I liked the buttons so much that I went back and bought the other ten to go with the three that I would have leftover from this. I don’t know what I’ll do with thirteen buttons but there’s a lot more options than with just three.

The pattern is Sirdal, a Dale of Norway pattern available as a download from Patternfish. I wanted the baby size but was surprised to find that the pattern covered all sizes from baby through to adult. This is the first thing I’ve made with steeks, it was knitted as a tube and cut up the front and then the sides sliced to open up for the sleeves. That was straightforward enough and I’d not hesitate to do that again. It was the front steek that tripped me up, when I set off I decided that five stitches sounded narrow and seven would be better so I cast on an extra two. If I’d written that down or remembered it then I would have been fine but I did neither and then when I lost a stitch marker I incorporated them into the pattern.

These are the first buttoned cuffs I’ve ever knitted. As I was knitting them I didn’t like the flare that comes from changing to larger needles and increasing at the same time but now they are blocked it looks right. Knitting cuffs is less messing about than sewing cuffs on a shirt because there’s no raw edge to deal with but it is considerably more messing about than not having buttons at all. The start of the cuff is knitted flat (obviously because if it were joined together it wouldn’t need a button) and that means having single rows of colour before it’s joined in the round. I tried to get fancy to avoid the ends that come from single row colour changes by using a circular needle and working from whichever end had the right colour. To be honest I think I’d have been quicker just cutting the yarn.

I would knit it again, it looks lovely and it wasn’t as much work as you’d think from looking at the time it’s taken me. Most of the time it’s been on the needles I’ve not been knitting it because I couldn’t decide what to do with my two stitch mistake at the front edge. The blue and white is a classic combination and I like the subtle variation in the darker yarn. As I said in another post I don’t like the thickness of the front bands, two layers of double thick ribbing is too much on something this size. It makes for a soft collar though, there’s no hard edge that will rub under a chubby chin. I didn’t like having to change the pattern at the sides, I’d much rather work with a pattern that fitted into the stitch count so that it flowed all the way around. I also couldn’t fathom the concept of the pattern repeating around a central stitch on the sleeves when there was an even number of stitches.

I didn’t say whether I ripped back and fixed my mistake or lived with it. Looking at the first photo I can tell, you knitter-people would probably tell if you could see it closer but the general baby-dressing populace will see blue! white! buttons! and the man on the galloping horse doesn’t stand a chance.

I am ripping these although I’ve not made a mistake in the pattern. My mistake was in the yarn choice, it’s sock yarn and although it’s bang on gauge it’s making a fabric that is too loose for my liking. These are the Etude mitts, or rather that’s what this would become if I kept on knitting. This has been sitting in the bottom of the knitting bag for over a month and the fabric has not improved at all during that time. I’m ready for starting something new so it’s time for the non-starters to move along back to yarn. The socks can stay though, the end is in sight and there’s nothing wrong with them except for the length of the foot. I can’t believe that child socks have become the longest socks that I knit, at fourteen he’s now wearing a size nine and a half shoe (Eur 44, US 10). I add an extra half an inch to the heel flap because he has a high arch and with this pair that meant that I ran out of black yarn before I finished the gusset decreases. Next time I need to shorten the cuff or I risk having colour showing above the shoe which would never do as these are pretending to be plain black socks to be worn with plain black shoes, plain black trousers and a black blazer. The socks are the only thing I have on the needles and as I’m an inch from starting the toe shaping they should be finished very soon. They will be the second thing that I pick up as soon as I press “publish” on this, the first one being a cup of tea.

More of the same

Posted by Caroline in Dyeing, Knitting, Spinning, sweaters on April 10th, 2014

I didn’t fill all my bobbins before I started to ply, I knew I wouldn’t because I can never wait to see the yarn but as it was the weather provided me with a convenient excuse to start plying. The forecast was for a warm sunny day with a bit of a breeze which promised to be ideal wool drying weather and it seemed a shame to not take full advantage of it. I had six bobbins of single at that point which gave me two big skeins and lots left over. I’m aiming to spin a bobbin a day so I’ll be plying again at the weekend. I thought I’d be looking at twelve bobbins full and that looks about right because two bags of wool filled six bobbins with a bit left over. I’m still not sure whether I’ll have enough yardage for a sweater, it will be close and I may have to consider stripes as a necessity design element.

The warm breezy weather made me get on with dyeing the yarn previously known as Rogue. There’s a strand of the original colour on the bottom left, you can see that it’s still grey but darker than it was. I was aiming for more of a brown/grey but the brown dye that I put in seems to have vanished without trace. It’s reasonably even in colour, three of the skeins are a little darker than the majority and two are a little lighter so providing that I alternate knitting from two balls at a time and keep the dark and light away from each other it should work out well enough. I know that it doesn’t look terribly exciting yarn but I’m thinking of knitting something with cables and I don’t want an interesting yarn that’s going to fight with a pattern. In this case plain, even and boring will do me just fine.

No, I am not recycling pictures, if you look closer you will see that this one has the buttons actually sewn on rather than being artfully posed on top of the knitting. I had hoped to be showing you a finished Sirdal, earlier today I thought that this was totally reasonable seeing as I thought I had only had two buttons to sew on. Then there were the two buttons on the cuffs, a cuff facing to sew up, a bit more sewing on the cuffs, some ends to weave in so even without adding blocking to the list it’s never going to be finished today. I’ve got all the buttonholes done despite me not liking the front bands at at all. They are double thickness ribbing like the collar and that may work perfectly well on a bigger garment but I think it’s just too bulky on a garment this size. Ribbing makes a thick fabric anyway and there are four layers there underneath the buttons. If I were to make this again I’d be tempted to make a band and facing combo rather like that on the top of the sleeve with the bands single thickness and backed with ribbon. It’s too late to be fussing with it now, I’m finished with it and thinking about what comes next.

I like to look back through the archives and see what I was doing in this month in previous years. Last spring was all about yeast and bread and my mission to ditch the floppy white sliced loaf much loved by the junior household member. I succeeded with that, over the year I’ve settled to a pattern of baking brown loaves, white breadcakes (baps, rolls or alternate regional word of choice) and sesame topped bagels. It’s plain, even and boring bread and like the plain,even and boring yarn it means that it’s easy to use. The croissants, brioche and chocolate products all fell by the wayside because it’s much easier to bake bread and add chocolate hazelnut and cocoa spread to it if I’m feeling indulgent. I have a drawer in the freezer that just holds frozen bread products, we don’t run out and they are as good as fresh if you microwave them for a few seconds. They come out the same every week because when I finished experimenting with weight of dough, percentage hydration and oven temperature I wrote down what I did so now all I have to do is follow the pattern. There’s a novelty, me following a pattern.


Downhill to the very long weekend

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, sewing, Spinning, sweaters on April 6th, 2014

We’re racing towards a two week Easter break. It can’t come too quickly for me, it’s been an interesting few weeks at school and the child has been here, there and everywhere. I have nightmares about not keeping on top of the changes in the school day and not being there to pick him up from wherever at whenever. I need either a return to the normal boring timetable or a break from it altogether. As the school holidays are just around the corner that means that it’s the end of Saturday morning music school for a few weeks. This week I managed to get both sleeves sewn in and the facings sewn down, I would have made a better job of it had I thought to take scissors, the slit I’d cut for the sleeve could have done with being a fraction longer and pins would have helped too. The whole point about music centre knitting is that it avoids procrastination, I have to stick with what I take with me because there is no alternative so I finish it rather than waiting for later when I might be able to do it better (or more likely, not at all). I like the finish of the facing, when you get to the top of the sleeve you end with a few rows of reverse stockinette. You sew the last stockinette row to the body, leaving the purl bit to fall to the inside of the seam. When you’ve finished sewing the sleeve seam you turn to the inside and sew the top of the sleeve over the cut edge of the body. Yes, action shots would have been nice but my camera doesn’t go with me on Saturday mornings.

I still have the buttonhole band to pick up and knit but as that is knitting rather than sewing there’s a chance that it might get done, especially as the second set of buttons look more or less exactly as I’d wanted. I thought that they might be too big but they fit the buttonholes on the sleeve cuff which are the only ones that I have at the moment. I bought them by the simple route of going to Etsy and searching for metal buttons from sellers in the UK. These are old buttons, they are much heavier than anything I’ve bought recently and even including the postage they were about the same price as the rather naff ones that I bought locally. I liked them so much that I went back and bought the second set that the vendor had for sale.

I’m on my fourth bobbin of Shetland, I spent an hour plying up random leftovers to free up all of my bobbins so I have no excuse for not filling them all before I start to ply. (I’m sure I can come up with an excuse if I want one) I replaced the dodgy drivebelt with Pony bead lacing as I couldn’t bring myself to pay £10 for a piece of plastic. I’ll hold off telling the world what I think about it until I’ve made my mind up, the lime green bits are what I’ve cut out of it this week. It’s nice and grippy but at the moment it’s too stretchy, I’m hoping that it will find its happy place and find a length that it’s comfortable at. It’s going to have plenty of time to sort itself out as I think there’s enough wool to fill twelve bobbins (not that I have twelve even now I’ve pulled all of them together)

The shirt is finished, washed, ironed and in the wardrobe. I don’t remember ever making a cuff but it looks like a small waistband and I’ve done those before. The buttonholes were straightforward enough as I did all the learning with the last shirt, this time I marked where the machine foot needed to be rather than where the hole needed to be because the edge of the foot is visible while the fabric under it isn’t. Sleeve plackets were new to me, on this pattern there’s only a placket on one side and the other side is finished with a small hem. The instructions have you reinforce the button with some spare fabric on the back because otherwise you’re sewing it onto a single thickness of fabric. Another time I think I’d make a placket on both sides as this is what all the other shirts in his wardrobe have. According to multiple sewing blogs this is easy enough to do as you start with rectangles of fabric so the lack of a pattern piece isn’t a problem. I have promised another shirt, not white thankfully, so I will have something to experiment with.

What I could do with this week is a good drying day as I’d like to dye this little lot. This is a sweater’s worth of aran wool that’s been lurking in the bottom of my wardrobe for a while. It’s been pretending to be a sweater but as I haven’t worn it since I finished Celtic Dreams it wasn’t so much a sweater as a waste of space. This was previously Rogue, I didn’t wear it as much as I thought I would because of the hood. I couldn’t wear it under a coat which meant a change of sweater when I stepped out of the door. When you know you’ll be out on the end of a lead at least three times in the day then it makes more sense to put on a sweater that works with a coat. The lack of wear means that the yarn is in good condition, no felting at the cuff, very few bobbles, so it would be a shame to waste it. I’m going to dye it a less plain colour and reknit it for my mother as she’s a smaller size and does wear sweaters, unlike my son who sticks them in the wardrobe and ignores them.

It’s seven years since I knitted Rogue, doesn’t time fly?