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Festive Crafting

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How has it got to the 4th November and I still don’t have my festive crafting organised? Normally by this time of year crafters have been busily turning into elves for at least four months. Not me.

I have started a cross stitch tree ornament. And I do have some needle felting projects lined up. All of these are featured in my October Round Up over on YouTube. I did also buy some wool in a sale over the summer anticipating a knitted present, but that is not yet even cast on. So I am feeling decidedly unprepared for the holiday season this year.

With a mere 7 weeks to go before Santa starts to load his sleigh I know that the time is simply going to fly past – not least of all due to the silly season kicking off at work this half term with the sugar rush of Halloween and the premature excitement of the school fireworks display over the past week. In addition I have a test knit on the go, and blogs to write for Minerva Crafts (my first one comes out December 23rd), not to mention a growing list of selfish need to makes (and a scarf to finish for the OH). So this may not be a year when I repeat my feat of entirely handmade christmas presents, which I’ve achieved twice, once being entirely knitted from stash and hand delivered wrapped in the previous years left over paper (can you tell I was on a budget?). However that is a goal I have in mind for another year. Who knows, if I start now maybe I’ll have it all done in time for Christmas 2019.

I will be keeping you up to date with the progress of my needle felting and cross stitch, both here and on the YouTube channel, so keep an eye out over the coming weeks to find out how many times I stab myself with a felting needle. In the meantime I’m off to swatch a card I simply HAVE to have now the weather is turning frosty (seriously, I’m chipping ice of the bike saddle before I cycle to work these days), and to put a few more rows on the Big Red I am test knitting for Mina Philip (Knitting Expat) in blue. You never know, I may even get out the scarf in the oh so exciting black and grey acrylic brioche that the OH asked me to make him last winter… … …

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Musings on my History with Knitting

 

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Knitted toys.
Knitted by Ewe Sew You.
Patterns by Knitables.
Yarn from Paintbox Yarns.

Having found myself a few minutes of non-crafting downtime this evening I took the opportunity to mooch around the internet and decide to knit all the things (well it is knitting season after all). Much of this time was spent admiring the gorgeousness that is the V&A Knitting Collection. If you haven’t yet taken a look I highly recommend you do. Not only are the items varied and intricate but they trace a history of knitting from the 12th century.

As I was meandering through the virtual archive of this craft I began to ponder about my own personal history of knitting. I come from a family where knitting always happened. Both my mother and her sister learned to knit at a youthful age – they were certainly knitting in their teens (and indeed dressmaking), Mum still knits, whilst my aunt has become more of a quilter. My Dad even had a go whilst my parents were still dating. My maternal grandmother is the earliest relative I know of who knitted – I suspect her mother knitted too but I don’t know. Grandma is certainly the oldest knitter I remember participating  in the craft. As a result  I learned to knit young. I was about 5 I believe.

Like many knitters who grew up knitting I started with straight needles. Progressing from wonky doll clothes and accessories to baby clothes pieced and seamed together and on to adult garments – the first garment I remember knitting myself was also the first cabled pattern I remember. These days, as an experienced knitter, I knit more on circulars. This seems to be far more common now than I remember it being. It used to be that I only saw circular needles in use for circular yokes and hats, but now I rarely knit on straights. I find them useful for toys, but when it comes to most of my projects circulars have become my go to. They allow me to knit socks two at a time, or a jumper I can try on as I go. Perhaps it is my current minor obsession with shawls that has led me to my current needle preference – I have 3 crochets, 2 knitted and 3 in progress (knit & crochet) at the moment. Whatever the cause it does seem to echo the fluctuating trends in hand knitting tools.

i cannot help but wonder which method will be the preferred choice for knitters in the know in another 35 years time.

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Thurlow Trousers – Stage 2 and completion!

So the Thurlow trousers are complete!

Despite a few fiddly moments, and needing to mix and match linings from my stashed scraps, I have managed to put in welt pockets and a fly. Woo and hoo!

For more details on my thoughts about the pattern, and to see the finished article in motion pop over to the YouTube channel. If you would like any more information on how to install pockets and flies do let me know!

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When to Wash Your Fabrics

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Photo by Fancycrave.com on Pexels.com

When we first start sewing we are told that we need to prewash our fabrics before we cut them out. But to the novice this seems like nothing but delayed gratification – we want to have a go as quickly as possible. The same is true when we create our own knitted fabric for the first time. There is an urge to wear the item immediately rather than wait for it to dry. So what is all the fuss about when it comes to applying water to our fabrics?

Having grown up with handmade clothes, both knitted and sewn, I have no recollection of my mother prewashing fabric, or blocking my school cardigans. Of course she may have done so whilst I was at school, but I don’t remember it being mentioned when I was learning the craft. It wasn’t mentioned at home, or at my grandmother’s (who knitted the most cherished scrappy sweaters). It wasn’t even mentioned in home economics lessons. I had been knitting for 20ish years before I even attempted blocking. It was about the same time I began to see the benefits of prewashing fabrics as I moved into garment making.

IMG_0282So why do we prewash fabrics? Seasoned sewists are well aware of the need prewash.  These leading ladies of the sewing machine know they should treat a fabric in the same manner they intend to treat the finished item. That means using your normal wash cycle for the fabric type and ironing the fabric if you are making an item that will be washed. We wash it to remove any potential shrinkage from the fibres. Otherwise all our hours of pattern tracing, cutting and construction will go to waste as the beautiful tunic we’ve been lusting over turns into an attractive, but entirely inappropriate crop top. This would, of course, be an exaggerated example, but shrinkage is real people! Many fabrics shrink by up to 10%. Some fabrics, like polyester, are unlikely to shrink but I am now in the habit of washing all my fabrics regardless rather than take the risk.

But why iron before cutting? The purpose of ironing is to smooth a fabric out. Whilst I rarely iron my ready to wear clothes as I hate my iron I do iron my prewashed fabrics. I have learned from experience that a creased fabric, even the slightest bit crinkled, can impact the final fit because it affects the accuracy of the cutting.

IMG_0140_medium2Now this all makes sense when sewing, but what about this blocking business? Surely once you’ve finished knitting you’re good to go? Not so my friends. Blocking your knitting gives it a polished finish. The yarn we knit with contains a certain amount of energy left over from the spinning process. Blocking effectively enables the yarn to chill out. The energy is taken out of the stitches, opening out lace work and evening tension. When knitting flat blocking evens out the edges making it easier to stitch together accurately. In all cases the result is a finished garment that drapes better, or a cushion cover that seems more professional.

Ultimately, as makers, we need to remember that water is our friend if we use it properly – if we fail to show it the courtesy is deserves it will play tricks with our makes.

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The Joy of Knitting – 1

Whilst sitting working on an improvised sock pattern it occurred to me that I had not yet put up a blog post about my knitting. Since this is what I spend probably the largest proportion of my crafting time doing I figured I should rectify this!

wood table white ball
Photo by Anastasia Zhenina on Pexels.com

So why do I spend more time knitting than any of my other crafts? It’s not so much that I enjoy it more than the others, if I didn’t love a craft I would quickly stop doing it! However I have been doing it the longest. Over the past 35 years I have graduated from a plain garter occasional knitter to a seasoned garment and stuffed toy maker. I have also been known to modify the occasional pattern, and am considering starting to design my own – hence the improvised sock. There was a time when I would knit on my commute to work, but since I’m now a cycle commuter I feel that might be a little on the unsafe side! These days I spend most evenings knitting in front of the TV. Sometimes I’m watching things on the tellybox, other times my other half is shooting stuff and shouting at people internationally through the power of Xbox. Knitting is quiet, which means it doesn’t interfere with what else we are doing and I am able to socialise at the same time. The same cannot be said for most of my other crafts. Crochet sits nicely alongside knitting as a craft I can do without shutting myself off from the world, so it makes a good alternative between knitting projects.

spool of purple thread near needle thimble and measuring tape
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Dressmaking is noisy and requires a degree of problem solving that knitting, for me, does not. Although I do sometimes sew whilst my partner is online I am very conscious that my sewing machine, in all its rattly old glory, can be heard in the United States. In addition the walls on our house are not thick, and we do have neighbours, so the machine has a bedtime to avoid annoying anyone too much! I cannot watch TV whilst I am sewing. I could listen to music or an audio book with headphones on, but I tend not to. I certainly could not be sociable outside of a sewing circle (anyone know of one in Buckinghamshire?).

shallow focus of sheep
Photo by Leigh Jeffreys on Pexels.com

Spinning and weaving have a similar meditative quality to knitting. They are slow, calm and quiet. However they are my newest crafts, and as a result require the greatest part of my attention. I am confident that as I improve they will join knitting and crochet as evening TV tasks. Every once in a while I’ll pick up one of a few unfinished quilting projects (also a newish craft to me – yet to finish anything more impressive than a tote bag!), I have one hand pieced and one machine pieced quilt top on the go. I’m sure you can work out which one is the TV project. In addition I occasionally have embroidery or cross stitch projects on the go – I have cross stitched for about as long as I have knitted, so I find it relatively straightforward, whilst the rest of the embroidery styles are more challenging for me. However I find that I need to really fall in love with a needlework project before I start it – but it’s not like I don’t have plenty to keep me occupied!

So knitting is my go to pick up and craft thing. Which has made me want to explore its history and the world that surrounds it today. So this Joy of Knitting series of blog posts will be my investigation into the history of knitting and the community that has arisen around it.

 

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Introducing the Inkle Loom

 

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I recently treated myself to a new toy.

An Ashford Inklette loom.

This diddy little loom is deigned for the weaving of narrow bands that you can use to make bookmarks, bag or guitar straps, belts, trims for clothing, and so on, and so on. You can even sew them together to make other items like phone cases and purses.

So why an Inkle Loom?

I have been looking to get into weaving for quite a while now. I bought myself a heddle and some weaving tablets a few years ago at a reenacters fair (nope, not a reenacter) along with my first drop spindle. I did try out the heddle and the weaving tablets on a make shift backstrap loom a improvised – which involved being tethered to the bathroom door of the studio flat I was living in at the time, so not the most practical! Ideally I would like to weave fabric that I can use in dressmaking projects, which is obviously not something I’m planning on doing with the Inklette, However as I am limited to space in my current house, not to mention budgetary constraints, Inkle weaving seemed to be a good fix. The looms are relatively compact and affordable. Or at least the table top ones are, I imagine the large floor versions I have seen in photos online are a bit more pricey! In addition, since the weaving is narrow it is quick – I have spent 3 hours actually weaving over 3 days and am about a quarter of the way through my first project (Ashford reckons that the Inklette has a warp length up to 1.8 meters) which is pretty good for a beginner, in my opinion. Yes it took me 3 hours to warp it, but still.

Why an Ashford Inklette?

As far as I can tell there seem to be two main producers of looms and spinning wheels, Ashford and Schacht. To the untrained eye there appears to be little to distinguish the two brands. If you are an experienced spinner or weaver feel free to comment below on what the differences are. My local spinning and weaving store (yes they do exist), Freya Jones Spinning & Fibrecraft is an Ashford stockist and I wanted to support small businesses and have someone relatively close by that I could contact if I needed support. Freya runs weave and whine sessions at the shop in Stoke Mandeville, which is about half an hours drive from where I live. So, the decision between the two brands was fairly simple. I then had to choose between an Inkle Loom and the Inklette. Both looms are pretty portable, but the Inklette is much smaller and about half the price. There is about a meter difference in the warp length, but for now the smaller loom suits my purposes as a learner.

Why are they called Inkle Looms?

Inkle is an old English word, as far as I can tell, meaning band or ribbon. Inkle looms make bands and ribbons.

Where do Inkle Looms come from?

Good question! I have asked the hive mind of the internet and opinions are somewhat divided. Some people are under the impression that because it is more common to see tethered weaving and box looms that they are a modern invention. Several places claim that inkle looms came about as part of the Arts & Crafts movement in the late 19th and early 20th century. Others believe that the loom type itself is likely to be much older, with the Arts & Crafts movement reviving it as a tool.

Whatever the case the style of weaving these looms produce is old. Inkle bands are believed to have been used by the Vikings to decorate their clothes, tie up their bundles and swaddle their babies. Shakespeare even references inkles in some of his plays (referring to the bands not the looms). A quick Google search will give you more examples of inkles throughout history and in literature. Today inkles are popular with Viking reenacters to add authenticity to their period clothing, but they can also be seen in non-historical contexts such as in a guitar strap.

What distinguishes an Inkle from a Braid?

Simply put an inkle is a woven band, whereas a braid involves plaiting like you would do in your hair. A braid involves three or more strands that are passed over each other in turn so that they become intertwined and twisted together, almost parallel to each other down the length of the strands. Weaving involves the interlacing strands or strips together that are perpendicular to each other. The most obvious example of this is a simple basket weave where one strand goes over, under, over, under a series of other strands at right angles to it. Inkles use the same side to side approach, however they are what is called warp faced. More on this later. Braids and inkles can have very similar applications but their construction, and therefore texture, is different.

Structure of an Inkle

As mentioned above an inkle is referred to as warp faced. The warp is the long strands that are wrapped around a loom under tension. Warp dictates how long the weaving will be. In a typical basket weave both the warp and the weft (the cross strand) can be seen as they go over, under, over, under. Inkle weaving is different. The warp strands are seperated into two layers and the weft passes under one half and over the other simultaneously, the layers of warp are then swapped over enclosing the weft ready for its return journey. The only place the weft can be seen on a finished inkle is on the edges.

So how do we use an Inkle Loom?

Funny you should ask! You can learn alongside me!

Once I finish my current project I am going to be working from The Weaver’s Inkle Pattern Directory by Anne Dixon as well as Card Weaving by Candace Crockett to develop my skills, along with any other resources I find on this here interweb thing, which I will be tracking both here and on my YouTube channel. So invite you to get hold of or (if you’re handy) build your own inkle loom and join in on the fun!

 

 

 

 

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Thurlow Trousers – Stage 1

The first project in my queue as I transition to a predominately me made wardrobe is the Thurlow Trousers by Sewaholic. I’m going to be making View A, the full length trousers in a dark brown needlecord from Sherwoods Fabrics. Having prewashed and pressed the fabric, and stuck the pdf together, I have now traced the pattern and analysed the finished garment size. I very quickly realised that I would need to make a simple adjustment to the pattern as unfortunately as my waistline increased my leg length did not, meaning that the inseam would be about 6.5″ too long if I made the pattern as it is. The rise of the trousers is also considerably longer than my own, however the trousers are designed to sit below the waist and I would rather they came to my natural waist as I will be cycling in them and wearing them to work as a teacher – overlap between tops and bottoms is helpful when writing on a whiteboard! I have therefore decided not to adjust the rise at this stage. I’m effectively using this version as a wearable muslin, so we’ll see if I decide to make the adjustment at a later date.

The process for adjusting the inseam length is relatively simple, as pattern adjustments go, and you can see how I did it on my YouTube channel. So grab your pattern pieces, scissors, a pencil, measuring tape/ruler and some sticky tape, and let’s go adjust our patterns!