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..


Plodding along

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks, sweaters, Weaving on June 15th, 2014

This has not been one of my better weeks. I have weeks where I fly through my to do list and then others where I don’t seem to accomplish anything at all. Last week was definitely one of the latter. I abandoned the last box bag after I’d done the hard work of sandwiching together the zip and both layers of fabric. I’ll finish that one when I pull out the next length of fabric and start on the next set of not-box bags. I will then be muttering about the inefficiency of working with two colours of thread and wishing I’d done all the turquoise things at the same time. I’m surprised that I managed to get as far as ten bags before being bored with the shape, I didn’t think that I had as much staying power as that.

I managed to sort out the warp where I ran out of yarn. The lack of focus in the photo is down to me having one hand for the camera with the other one fending off the dog who seemed determined to have his toy in this photo. This was originally planned to be a 16″ wide twill sett at 16 epi but my plan didn’t take any account of the yarn that I had and I ran out half way through winding the warp. What can I say, I started with a big pile of yarn and I thought that there would be that magical quantity of “enough”. I thought about it for a while, rummaged through the boxes of yarn for some other candidates and changed tack. It’s now 16″ wide, plain weave, 12 epi and on the rigid heddle loom. At some point I may encounter a new challenge, this was planned for the floor loom and it’s a five yard warp. I can report that you can get a five yard warp onto the back beam of an Ashford rigid heddle loom, whether you can get that amount of fabric onto the front beam remains to be seen. It’s no big deal, I’ll weave until I can wind no more on and then I’ll look the scissors out.

Mr Fluffy helped me to warp it one morning, you can see that he is carefully holding down that piece of paper for me. How do I manage without him? The warp is going from the back of the photo and doubling around the long wooden stretcher under the settee so that I can tension it and inch the loom forward as I wind on. In the afternoon, tired from all that helping, he had a little snooze on the window sill, rolled over, fell off and landed on an instrument case. He managed to rip a claw which needed two trips to the vet and anaesthesia. He’s all mended now but he has learned nothing from his experience because that’s still his favourite snoozing spot.

Even the plain Jane socks tripped me up. I’d grafted the toe on one and was about to start the second when I noticed that it was an inch longer than the first. It was exactly ten rounds longer so it was obviously a counting error but of course I didn’t know whether the first one was too short or the second one too long until the matching feet came home from school. These are the prototype new and improved bigger socks, I only gave him an extra four stitches around because I can’t believe that his feet are really this big. I’m dealing with the recent outbreak of sock hijacking by labelling all future socks, I might go through the older pairs (and I’m using the word “pair” very loosely here) and mark those up too. As he has two out of three initials in common with his father I’ve settled for using the one that is different although they could also stand for “junior”.

The sweater sleeves turned out to be about the right length, I think they are fractionally too long but they are close enough to do. I managed to avoid obvious joins in the yarn right up to the last ball. It wasn’t so much that the colour was darker but there were no light flashes in the last ball of yarn so it is more solid. I decided to live with it because the alternative was to pull back four inches of both fronts and the back to have enough yarn to alternate rows all the way to the end . I felt better about it after seeing the recent Knitty, I will just take photos under a tree and let the dappled light hide the colour jump seeing as that’s what the professionals do. I’m picking up for the collar now, the zip is on order so it’s nearly done.

It was Whit Friday this week which is probably of no significance unless you live in Tameside or Saddleworth or play in a brass band.  In an attempt to be educational I’ve found you a video (here), I know without looking that I have no family lurking in the background (as much as you can lurk whilst playing a brass instrument) because they didn’t get to Delph until after dark. Can you imagine seeing one band every six minutes for eight and a half hours? I am glad that the classic Monday morning school exercise of “what I did at the weekend” is long gone because it would no doubt result in an eyebrows-into-the-hairline moment.

Too many wips for progress

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, Non-fibre, socks, sweaters, Weaving on June 3rd, 2014

My major work in progress is still the study/smallest bedroom and it’s currently at the stage where it looks worse before (hopefully) it starts to looks better. I’m attempting to make it into a woodland retreat (yes, really) but I’ll settle for it being more of a woodland retreat than it was before I started. This is setting the bar very low as it was previously pink. Progress is slow, it’s full of furniture that I can’t clear out so I have to work around it all and I am intimidated by all the cabling and black boxes with flashing lights. The internet lives in there and I’d hate to be the one responsible for breaking that. The room is occasionally occupied by a homeworking husband whose at home days mean that decorating is off (although I was so desperate to see some progress that I spent one day working around him). The overdue declutter/redecoration is dragging on and on and so far the ceiling is the only thing that I can say is finished. Please note that Pebble is being a Good Dog in the photo (although he is pushing his luck) because the squeaky pig under his chin is not technically on the wallpaper. I probably couldn’t get a credit card between the pig and the paper but “next to” is not the same as “on”. I’m pretty sure that the pig would have jumped onto the wallpaper as soon as my back was turned which is exactly why I didn’t take my eye off him while reaching for the camera.

The sweater is in a heap waiting to be blocked blocking. It’s done bar the front bands and collar, they are on hold until I see if it fits. I’m not happy with it, the reasons for this are as long as my arm but if it does fit I’ll slap a zip in it and call it good. I’m so prepared for it to be wrong that I’ve not cut the yarns after the cast offs, I want to see the body on a body and the sleeves in place before I do that. If by some miracle the sleeves fit you should be able to hear me cheer from there. I went off it about four inches in when the cables failed to grow from the initial ribbing and after that it would have had to have worked very hard to redeem itself.

My only knitting at the moment is this solitary sock. I’ve set off into the great unknown of a 76 stitch sock in an attempt to fit the ever expanding junior foot. I’m pretty sure that now I won’t be able to get a pair out of a single 50g of black yarn and some scraps without the colours showing above a shoe (these are uniform socks and have to be plain black with shoes on). It’s no big deal, or so I’m telling myself anyway. The point about these was that they used up leftovers so it feels all wrong to now start planning to have some black yarn leftover. I know that plain black isn’t all that exciting but we’ve reached the stage of certain people pinching other people’s socks so someone really needs more socks (possibly with his initials knitted into them).

I fell behind with the bag making this week, I only have three half bags to show. They all have the zips in and the lining attached but are lacking in all other seams. I’d like to blame it on the decorating but it could equally be down to boredom setting in. I’m pretty sure that these will be the last box bags for a while, after making eleven of them I’m fancying another shape. I still can’t get the lid on the fabric bin but it’s getting close now. I think another two lengths of fabric made into bags should mean that I can close the box and maybe think about making more fabric to put in it.

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.