Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Wearable vintage

I began making this sweater just for fun, a challenge to myself to see if I could knit something from a photograph.  This photograph

Oh no! not this one... this one is mine - three months of thinking, planning, writing notes and crossing out
and I got there -

from here...

via here...

I have simplified it, by knitting the main body sideways from cuff to cuff via the front and back I could knit the colour work panels fair-isle fashion and not as intarsia, much quicker.

The finished piece was HUGE and took over half the dining-room floor when I blocked it. Sewing up took ages too.  Does anyone else use safety pins for this?  It made it much easier to keep the lines matched up

All the little crochet detail were interesting too.  The fillets at the shoulders allowed for some fullness rather in the same way as one gets from a shirt with a yoke

And I loved the bobble buttons

and the tassells

Loved making them too

When I joined the Titanic sewing project the choice of patterns was wonderful but when I looked around there are far less things to knit.  Hats gloves and mufflers a-plenty, baby things too but not actual items of women's clothing.  Perhaps knitting was mainly confined to shawls and working men's sweaters.  So I was thrilled to find this which is spot on for the period.  Spot on for the style too.  I realise that many of the women in steerage would have kept themselves warm with a shawl but the patterns we are making up are more of the style of the 2nd class passengers and although this tunic is probably designed by Poiret, someone who would have dressed the first class passengers, I see no reason why a 2nd class passenger who was able to knit could not also copy.

My mannequin, still decked out in 1912 blouse, skirt and underpinnings wears the tunic well.

I too shall wear it, with something more modern such as a pair of straight legged jeans

The pattern I devised is available as a Ravelry down load if you would like to make one too.  If you do please let me know - I would love to see other versions



Tuesday, 24 July 2012


With the very special exception of independent book shops, local yarn shops (LYSs) are The Shops where you find people working there who just love and understand what they are selling.  They often buy a lot from their shops too. At my LYS in the Hampshire Metropolis one lady shop assistant says her stash is spilling out of two large wardrobes into a third.

I wander the shelves stroking the yarn and soaking up the colours getting into conversations about this or that yarn, how it feels to knit, what we have already knitted with it - how long is the yardage?  And so often someone has to put down their knitting to serve which is the occasion to feel the knitting, remark on the colour and say how gorgeous it will be when finished (the knitting sorority  is nice like that)

I not only have a LYS where I live but one in the town where I work, its called Rokka Sheek. Situated in a shabby little 60s shopping centre that time forgot (used as a set in the fabulous film Made in Dagenham ) it is a real find.  The ladies in there might be mother and daughter, auntie and niece or friends but they both love knitting and often have something beautiful on the go and love to talk about their yarn and their own knitting projects.

Yesterday the whole of Croydon was in a festive mood, the sun was shining hotly and the Olympic Torch was in town.  Queue excuse for  everyone to be out, there were singers, dancers and face painting as well as The Torch.

what a difference a year makes

When I called in to Rokka Sheek on my usual short-cut to the station and home there seemed even more time to chat.  One of the ladies was knitting a sweater in some yarn that looks very like Noro, but a good deal cheaper - I only resisted buying some because she was knitting with my favourite colour (soft greys and greens) and there was not enough left for sale.  So we got talking,what she likes to knit, patterns and yarn and what I make (my handy app called Woolly stores all my ravelry projects for easy showing off).  I bought this...

Beautiful 100% merino at £2,99, how could I not? But what put a smile on my face was the lovely welcome and conversation.  If you knit and live near Croydon go and see them (49 St Georges Walk) they are going to stock Debbie Bliss and maybe Rowan too very soon



Wednesday, 18 July 2012

#BlightKAL progress

Rules is Rules and The Rules say it's OK to swatch before-hand but not to cheat and keep knitting instead of casting on again on day 1 of the KAL.  So I frogged my swatch

Day one was Sunday and I knitted all afternoon .  The main chart, chart B has to be repeated 7 times but that is if you are making the shawl in sock weight.  My yarn is lace weight so I shall have to add several more repeats.  Three complete by the end of day 1

Each pattern row grows by four stitches so the work gets slower and slower, although I am making up a bit of speed by getting more familiar with the stitch pattern.  Day 2 only 1 repeat as most of my knitting was done at knitting group and I would never be able to knit lace and talk at the same time.

I had another knitty frustration on day 2 - my railway knitting, consisting of toe up two at a time socks on two circular needles, was severely hampered when didn't remember I had robbed that knitting bag of one of the circs to make Blight.  Only one repeat completed.on day 2

Day 3 better, three more repeats (it looks smaller because it crunches up as you knit and the colour is due to taking an i-phone pic at some time past midnight.)

Day 4 (today) and I haven't begun knitting yet as I'm working (at home).   This does not stop me swapping sarky comments on twitter and suggesting a fellow knitter visits a friend's house and steals from her stash. But @knitsend has finished!  Oh well onwards and upwards



Tuesday, 17 July 2012

On negative ease and learning from the past

It took me a little while to feel as comfortable as this in my new skirt and sweater but I got there in the end

When I made this skirt for the Titanic project the fit was so good that it got me thinking.  I wondered what it would look like made in a contemporary style.  When I say contemporary I mean short, there was no need to mess with the shape in any other way at all.  I made a few little modifications like using a zip fastener under the scallops.

I still did lots of hand stitching as I felt the skirt went together better that way.  It is made entirely with stash fodder, the gunmetal coloured linen was bought a while ago on a visit to Goldhawk Road and the ribbon left over from a previous project, rummaging around in my work-basket I found the right colour cotton and zip.

I loved the skirt it looks perfect in its 21st century guise, I expect to make it again and again and I love the little Tana Lawn shell top, Sorbetto, from Colletterie patterns (it is a free download at the moment)  But not together,

So delving into the stash boxes again I came up with three skeins of Manos Del Uruguay silk and merino blend in just the right colours.  A search on Ravelry came up with the perfect pattern from Ram Wools Yarn Co-op.

The largest size was a 36inch - too small for me so I swatched (yes I truly did) and added stitches to give me an extra 2 inches round.  I also decided to go for an all stocking stitch construction with curly edges.  This is when I discovered what negative ease is.  It was huge and only looked OK if I grabbed a handful at the back and smoothed out some of the curlyness.

It was just a Sloppy Joe and not the look I wanted at all (I should have learnt from the way Sorbetto was the wrong shape).  So I pulled it all out and made it up in the 36inch size, obeyed all the pattern instructions and VOILA!

So, negative ease - knit a sweater that you want to fit snugly about 2inches smaller than your bust size then it will fit not hang.



Friday, 13 July 2012

Knitting A-long

I have found the perfect use for this beautiful Yarnscape Lissom in winter sea that I bought from my friend Vandy's on line yarn shop a while ago.  Its Blight by Deborah Frank and I shall be knitting it in the company of tweeting knitters world wide in a knitalong organised by @atknitsend.  The details and sign up are on her blog 

So I've bought the pattern

Blight by Deborah Frank
wound the yarn

and swatched

Now anyone who reads this blog regularly will know I am too impatient to swatch very often.  This sometimes results in disaster and knitting and entire sweater twice but this time if I didn't prepare I would be in for some public humiliation.  I have also done my usual thing and set my heart on using yarn that is not the recommended weight for the project.  Deborah Frank calls for sock weight and the  Lissom is lace weight.

So... swatch is what I did this afternoon.  I have knitted the foundation chart and one repeat of the main chart.  I may have to repeat the main chart more than the 7 times stated in the pattern if I don't think the long side of the triangle is large enough but otherwise the lace weight will do fine.

The real work begins on Sunday, there are lots of excited tweeters chatting with the hash tag #brightKAL so if you tweet, look out for us there.  I will also blog a little PS up date following my regular posts.



PS there are some tempting special offers over at Affinity right now, I have just nabbed enough Noro to make a lanesplitter skirt, more of that later

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

On having to admit that these clothes maketh this woman into a Grandma

Of all the discoveries I have made while working on the Titanic project I did not expect to be seeking out the Brasso

But more of this later...  The latest Titanic project felt a little like going off piste without a map.  The #0219 blouse which came with pattern and a photograph but no instructions

Now I've made plenty of blouses before, with collars and cuffs and curved yokes, even one from the project how hard could it be?

The pattern size was several inches too small for me so I slashed the pattern and spread it to give me 4 inches extra all round.

This piece is side front and back and one sleeve, cut on the cross (bias).  At this stage I imagined the slashes at the underarms were darts but did wonder why the pattern numbers did not match up...

(NB these patterns do not have balance points as we know them in modern patterns but there are numbers at strategic points on each piece and as you sew you match 30 to 30, 31 to 31 and so on)

So I went merrily on my way, interfacing the yoke and centres, collar (cut from white medium weight linen) and cuffs with light weight fusible interfacing

Attaching the piping to the centre front, yoke, and centre back section first using the cording foot of my machine.  Then, with the same foot attaching the yoke after clipping curves and corners

Next comes the underarm  and side seams - EEK! they do not match in length and that slashed part is not a dart.  Saved by the project blogs, people have gone before me.  The seam from hem to cuff does a sort of dog-leg turn at the underarm.

I still found it tricky.  Particularly as my fabric is a very fine floaty 50/50 cotton silk mix and frays very easily.  In the end I machined the sleeve from cuff to the turn and the side seam from hem to turn then stitched the horizontal piece.  At first the seam looked puckered and you can see that it is made of 3 separate lines of stitching.

But after pressing and when on a real arm rather than my dummy it fits quite well

Now buttons and button holes (and Brasso).  A friend from my knitting group had given me some vintage buttons and this blouse seemed the perfect garment for the set of grey Bakelite ones.

Bakelite was developed in 1907 and patented in 1909 and is the first ever plastic.  It was not actually produced commercially till the 1920s and 1930s (certainly in any great quantities) but the buttons are nearly from the right era.  Although there is no Bakelite label anywhere,they are certainly of a plastic like material and have the characteristic bloom that develops on old Bakelite. So armed with the tin of Brasso which according to a website for collectors of Bakelite is The Thing for cleaning it up I got polishing with nice shiny results.

While I'm on the subject of buttons, I fund three white buttons styled like collar studs in my button boxfor fixing the collar to the narrow bias neck band, two at the front and two at the back

I have found that patterns of this age tend not to supply pattern pieces for parts that are simply a rectangle, square or strip, the instructions simply giving measurements.  And here I needed to improvise for neck band, cuffs and binding for the lower edge.  

The neck edge I bound with a bias strip, applied not as a facing but as a stand up binding to give something to button and snap the collar on to.  As well as the button at the back I attached press studs to the front and sides of the band and on the collar.  Securing at these four points seems to keep the collar in place neatly

The cuffs were easy, choose your depth, measure your wrist size, add 1.5inches overlap and seam allowance to all four sides, cut four.  I slashed a 3 inch sleeve opening about 4 inches up from the underarm sleeve on the outer aspect of the sleeve, binding the raw edges with a strip of bias binding cut from the main fabric.   Gathering the lower edge of the sleeve to fit the cuff, less teh overlap I attached the cuff in the usual way

For the lower band I decided to make a wideish band that would sit comfortably on my waist and lie flat under a skirt waist band so I cut a 5 inch wide strip the length of my waist measurement plus 2 inches for overlap and seams.  I gathered the lower edge of the blouse (side front and back sections only) on to one edge of the band making sure the overlap matched that on the blouse itself, folded it in two, machined across the ends, snipped corners turned it right side out and  turned and hemmed the inner long side to the line of machine stitching.

Now for the great try on.  I decided to wear it with my scallop edge skirt and with full underpinnings.  How exhausting is that dressing in chemise, corset and  princess slip before getting to the top layer?  I needed a short rest while still en dishabillé

And here we come to the meaning of my bog title.  I really look like a grandma once properly buttoned up

And since I do, I thought I would add the glasses

Now for the VPLL1912 checklist

VPLL Checklist
  1.  Pattern Name Ladies blouse #0219
  2. Sewer’s Skill Level: Advance, 
  3. Pattern Rating:  4 - I nearly loved it as much as the #0335 blouse.  It is perfectly right for the period but it drops a point for lack of glamour.  I realise everyone has to have a workaday blouse and this one says school marm all over it but I do prefer the chance to use lots of lace and the feel of very wide sleeves.  But in technical terms the pattern certainly deserves a 5 as it went together perfectly.  Given the eccentric way I worked the underarm and side seam if the measurements were not exact it would have been all over the place
  4. What skill level would someone need to sew this pattern and why? I say advanced because of the under arm bit but probably if the blouse is made in some sturdy cotton poplin possibly the tricky seam would be easier to work
  5. Were the instructions easy to follow? No instructions of course but the blogs were very helpful
  6. How was the fit/sizing?  The sizing was accurate and by adding the 4 inches as described above it was a perfect fit for me (I am 2 sizes bigger than the original pattern)
  7. Did you make any pattern alterations? yes, 
    1. I made the pattern bigger as described above 
    2. I made the collar stand from a strip of bias binding.  Another time I think I would have used the white linen I made the collar of and make it slightly wider (say 3/4 inch)
    3. I made the waist band wider than a simple binding, it stayed put better under the skirt.
  8. Other notes
    1. I machined the button holes - big confession I know, there were no machine made button holes in 1912 but I had 15 to make and I needed to save time
    2. I made the bow from a wide bias length of silk crepe de chine sewn into a tube, turned and loosely tied into a bow