Tag Archives: blouses

Journal: 22 February 2015

Homemade yarn

Homemade yarn, just beginning the plying process

It’s been a bit of a while since I posted—I blame my busy social calendar and regret nothing—so I’ve got a fair bit to share with y’all today.

Yesterday I had a really good crafting day: I successfully re-dyed a shirt that had gotten pinked in an Unfortunate Laundry Incident, as well as playing with dyeing tatted pieces. I worked a little bit on the blouses I’m assembly-line-ing, and had good luck with my serger. I also had good luck with plying my home-spun wool; I came up with a way to make the colors work out and it’s looking like real yarn now.

I’ve also done a fair bit of tatting in the past month, started and nearly finished a pair of mitts out of my Christmas present yarn, and chugged away on the blanket and scarf I talked about in my last journal post. The blanket is now about halfway done, hooray hooray, and I’ve picked up enough yarn to finish the scarf.

In tatting news, I did a bit of design, both yesterday’s pattern and a modification of this pattern that I like rather better but is fiddlier to do (I intend to post a pattern for it in a bit). I’ve been playing with variegated thread, reproducing the beautiful bracelet that I made as a gift and failed to take pictures of, among others. I also made a butterfly bracelet with beading, which worked well. Photos:

Stripey mitts

Stripey mitts

The mitts are pretty straightforward double-crochet spiral things. I am striping them in the two yarn colors, with the interface between stripes being alternating stitches of the different colors. I’m pretty pleased with the starting row—I chained along the length of my hand, then chained back putting a treble crochet every third stitch to make four separate finger holes. The yarn is bamboo/wool, so very soft and warm, and it’s thicker gauge than I usually work with so the mitts are going quite fast and coming out bulky and lovely. I made the two mitts have opposite colors—red on top vs. gray on top—on purpose, in case you’re wondering.

Opposite colors

Opposite colors

I did intend to learn broomstick lace crochet with this yarn, and I tried to make a pair of mitts that way, with the first row of lace holes being the finger holes. Suffice to say broomstick lace in the round is tricky and not for beginners with improvised tools. So I ripped that out and started again with ordinary crochet. I do want to do broomstick lace at some point—probably the next time I have yarn that’s begging to be a scarf. I did learn that the packaging for a zipper makes a pretty decent flexible “broomstick”, for whatever that’s worth.

Sewing table with serger

Sewing table with serger

In sewing news, I picked up some fabric a while ago and it has been patiently waiting to be turned into blouses. I finally cut it this week—stacking all three pieces of folded fabric and cutting together, so let’s hope I don’t find any wrinkles—and hauled out the serger yesterday. I was, let’s say, pleasantly stunned to find that this old beast was still in good working order, threaded (!) in the correct color for two of the blouses (!!) and had good tension settings for the fabric (!!!). I was expecting to chew through quite a bit of scrap fabric getting it into that state, as the last time I recall having the machine out it was not doing so well on any of those counts. Evidently I either a) have completely forgotten the last time I used it, or b) have an infestation of wonderful. wonderful sewing-machine-mending gnomes in my house. At this point I can’t even think of any project I’ve made that would’ve used the serger and blue thread, so I’m leaning towards explanation b.

Lovely serged seam

Lovely serged seam

At any rate I am pleased with how the serger is doing. I tend to think of it as for knits only, but I’ve been irritated with the thick seams on the other blouses I’ve made, so I decided to give it a go. I’m a little nervous about a few things—the measurement of the seam allowance on curves, for one, since the knife and needles are fairly far apart and the guideline is at the location of the knife; I’m also worried about fitting the very different curves on the front princess seams, since I have to take the pins out at the knife point and hope the fabric stays in place until the needle. I guess that’s what the foot is for and I should just trust it. Wish me luck!

In dyeing news, I had an Unfortunate Laundry Incident a while ago where a non-colorsafe red thing pink-blotched two of my favorite shirts (the patchwork ones), plus a shirt I didn’t care about as much, a bathroom rug, my nice gray sweatpants, and so on. Two of the affected shirts were blue, so I decided to pick up some purple RIT dye and see if I could remediate them that way. I’m pleased to say it worked on the one I cared less about, and used only half the dye, so next time I have a good chunk of free time I think I will try it on the blue patchwork one. Not sure what to do about the brown shirt, unfortunately. Plus, while I had the dye out, I dyed a test bit of tatting just to see how it would do. The results are lovely, meaning I suddenly have a lot of options for all this white thread I have around. Photos:

The color is a little blotchy/uneven, but it looks a lot more deliberate than the single pink splotch it had before. I’m hoping it’ll be even less noticeable on the patchwork shirt, which is made of patterned fabric and is lighter-weight than this one, making it easier to dye evenly in my little basin. I’m particularly pleased with how similar the coloring is between the shirt and the lace bits, considering they’re made out of different fibers and all; I was prepared to have to snip the lace off if it didn’t work well. I did learn one interesting thing: slight deodorant stains make the fabric pick up more (purple, RIT-brand) dye than it would otherwise; hopefully not by a noticeable amount when it’s worn.

3-plying setup with crochet hook.

3-plying setup with crochet hook.

Last but far from least, I am thrilled to report that plying the homespun wool is going well. I had been planning on 2-plying it, matching end to end and working towards the center, making the yarn be multicolor at every point. I tried that. It looked terrible. So I laboriously un-plied the few yards I had done and tucked the thread away for a while to think about what it had done. Eventually I came up with a brilliant idea: 3-ply the sucker, working in crochet-like chains, making each section of yarn be all one color. It’s going really well: I love the colors of the yarn, and 3-ply brings me a lot closer to the sock-weight store-bought yarn I’d like to use it with. I’ll report again once I get more of it plied, but am really pleased so far.

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Journal: 18 August 2014

It’s been a bit of a while since I’ve posted here—I don’t want to be one of those blogs where half the space is spent apologizing for not putting up more content, but I do want to mention that I may be posting less often for a while but that I am not hibernating. For a long while there I was binging on designing tatted lace, which makes it really easy to put up a new pattern every few days; I was also completely unemployed. More recently I’ve been feeling a bit tapped out on tatting, having embarked on a couple ambitious knitting projects instead; I’ve also picked up a very, very part-time job which is reducing my need to feel productive by blogging. This particular long break between posts was a combination of the above factors, plus I spent this past week on a family vacation with really poor internet.

Today I have a couple of hand-sewn blouses to show you—both of which showed up in my last tutorial post, but I have a couple more pictures that didn’t really fit in. I’ve got a little bitsy crochet meta-project: a box to hold in-progress projects. I’ve also got a knitting project that I am rather excited about, although I actually have no clue if I’ll like it at all when I’m done.

Sewing blouses

First, progress on the Great Five-Blouse Sewing Project: I have now completed three of five. Photos:

I’m still quite happy with the pattern, McCalls M6035, on the whole, but a little disappointed with how the stand-up collar and short-sleeve variants came out. I love Mandarin collars, but the collar coming forward all the way to the overlapping front makes it rather awkward. I kind of like how it looks with the collar folded down, but a) it’s a very old-fashioned look, which is sometimes but not always a good thing, and b) I used a non-reversible fabric, so you see the wrong side and it looks less professional. My complaint with the sleeves is just that they’re too tight—which may be more to do with my chubby upper arms than anything, so your mileage may vary. The green one is a little frumpy—using the full collar and bishop sleeve variants—but I did it deliberately, so I’m okay with it.

One final bit of news about my sewing situation is that I recently found out that Woot occasionally sells sewing machines. Really nice ones. For half their usual going price. So I’ve got a 185-stitch Brother with automatic buttonholing features in the mail, about which I am exceedingly excited. For anyone keeping score, this brings my total sewing machines up to three, and I barely use the ones I have—on the other hand, there are good reasons I don’t use them. At any rate, I am designating one of the remaining blouses as my getting-acquainted-with-my-new-machine project, and I’ll let you know how that goes.

Crochet project box

basket_inplace

Basket, full of cashmere knitting, in amongst my other crafting things

I’ve got some odds and ends—all right, several skeins—left over from the big bag o’ cotton yarn I got a while back; they are awkward colors that I don’t really want in my kitchen, but I hate to waste good yarn and I don’t mind having a, well, eclectic crafting space. I also have a knitting project on sock needles with cables, with really delicate yarn—so I thought it would be nice to have some way of holding all those little needles and all together and protect the yarn from the rest of my crafting space. Putting two and two together, I made a quick basket in single crochet out of the hideous yarn, and am rather pleased with the result. It’s not the flattest or most beautiful thing I’ve made, but it serves its purpose well enough.

Detail of claw feet

Detail of claw feet

I don’t have a pattern for this wee beasty—I bet you could do as well or better on your own—but the general idea is a flat rectangle worked in spirals, then side walls that use decreases to slope inward a little bit and hold everything together. I do rather like one detail I came up with, which is to give the corners a bit of a claw-foot. The first row of the sides is in normal single crochet, working in only the front loop of the last row of the base; the second is in single crochet except a few stitches around the corners, which are: yo, yo, yo, insert hook in back loop of a stitch on the base, pull up loop, (yo and pull through two loops) twice, insert hook through both loops of a stitch on the side, yo and pull through all remaining loops. From the inside it looks just like a sc or possibly an hdc; from the outside it is a raised column. I did this to the five stitches directly on each corner, then on one stitch to each side separated by one sc. Anyway, a couple more photos:

Knitting a drape-neck shell

Drafting and pattern creation!

Drafting and pattern creation!

drape_frontSo I’ve done a little bit of drafting of sewing patterns in the past—mostly by modifying commercial patterns. The one shown above is traced and modified from New Look 6483; I removed the seam allowance, moved the bust dart, and heavily slashed the neckline to create a drape-neck. I had an idea a while ago to make this in diagonal knitting, but ended up getting too frustrated and scrapping it. In the meantime I added the seam allowances back in and sewed the shirt shown at right, which I wear pretty frequently and like. Just before heading off on vacation, though, I realized I didn’t have a project to take on the airplane, so I hauled it all out and set to work.

Back piece of shell

Back piece of shell and first few rows of front

For some reason—I am not at all sure why this is—I hate the thought of making knits in sections and then joining them, even though I don’t mind sewing at all. I think it just offends my sense of elegance: there are so many shaping tools you can bring to bear in knitting, so you should be able to make fairly complicated garments all in one go. Plus, I hate cutting yarn, in case I decide later to rip out the project and do something else with it. At any rate, this means the construction plan needed some thought. I figured out that I could do a one-piece sleeveless shell by starting at the back, at armpit level; working upwards to the neck; working the neck like a buttonhole with a bind-off and then cast-on in the middle of a row; working down across the bust to the armpit; then reconnecting with the back and working the torso in the round. Connecting this plan to the sewing pattern required making a gauge swatch, then taking a lot of measurements across my pattern and converting them to stitch counts. At the end of a couple hours’ work I had a plan of increases and decreases.

Shoulder showing slip-stitch shaping

Shoulder showing slip-stitch shaping on outside edge

The first cast-on, since it needs to be joined later, is the double-sided cast-on you’ll see sometimes for toe-up socks: the yarn is just wrapped around and around two needles. The main part of the work is all in stockinette, since I don’t have the patience for complicated drafting plus lace at the same time, on oversized needles. The armhole shaping, which is horizontal, is done with simple decreases and increases. The back-neck and shoulder strap shaping, which is vertical but doesn’t need to be precise, I did by making some sections of (slip 1, k1)/(slip 1, p1) work, which compresses vertically. Apparently this stitch curls a lot though—hopefully I can get it flat in blocking, or failing that by sewing in a facing.

Detail of front showing cast-on

Detail of front showing cast-on

The bind-off for the neck is the usual knit bind-off, with the trick of working a knit-in-front-and-back stitch at the beginning to avoid gapping or distortion. The cast-on for the neck I wanted to make a little decorative, so it’s actually the tatting double stitch, which does just fine and creates long, lacy loops at the edge. Now I’m beginning the long, slow slog of decreases to shape the drape-neck and front armholes.

 

Detail showing yarn colors

Detail showing yarn colors

The yarn, by the way, is premier yarns’ serenity sock weight, which I’ve mentioned loving before, in the Harlequin colorway. It’s coming through really dull in my photographs, for some reason, and indeed in the online-yarn-store photographs I can find, but in person it’s a really vibrant mix of Mardi Gras teal, purple, gold, and a bit of leaf green. It’s somewhat of an interesting experience to work with—in some lights I love it and think it’s the best thing, in others I hate it and suspect I will never wear the shirt. So I’m feeling a bit of trepidation about this project. On the other hand, this yarn definitely does not want to be a shawl or a scarf or anything, at least to my mind, so I’m not sure I lose anything if the shirt doesn’t turn out great either. Wish me luck!