Saturday, December 5, 2015

Making clothes

I've been focused on knitting myself tops this year, rather successfully (although there are a few unfinished tops I should get back to).  Last night and this morning I thought it was time to try sewing clothes again. Starting simple with doll clothes using some fabric scraps I inherited.  I found quite a few free, simple patterns for 18" dolls online.  For my first attempt I have used this adaptable pattern from The Craft Patch blog.

For the back I thought I'd be "smart" and avoid a hook & loop closure by sewing most of it up and leaving a little open at the top for a snap. It is a bit snug to get on. I'm glad I happened to cut the fabric so that it stretches sideways - because I forgot to consider that.
Yes, I also managed to match up the plaid - somewhat by luck since I was working with scraps.

Next up I thought I'd be adventurous and try this pattern as a coat. I made the back into the front, made sides a little wider, and went for the full sleeve. The full length sleeves are a little short for this doll (I understand not all 18" dolls have the same measurements.) These sleeves were not hemmed because I decided to skip hemming by sewing on 1" ribbon folded in half and used the finished edge of fabric at the bottom hem. Since I want to put snaps along the front, I reinforced with ribbon, which also functioned to hide the fold-over. Alas, I did not think about which way the fabric stretches when I cut and it doesn't stretch sideways. Granted, if I'd gone that way I wouldn't have the bottom finished. I did make sure the arms stretched sideways when I noticed.  Pretty cute. Could be a bit bigger. I also think I'll decorate the front a little more, or see if the buttons do that for me. A couple little spots to hand sew/tack closed better.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with these and may try a different pattern next.
I may also conceded and buy some hook & loop tape.  I still have to find my snap closures (or buy some).

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Stitches with a machine

I don't sew a lot. In the past few years I've conceded to some hand-sewing when necessary.  I own a sewing machine. I inherited it from my mother-in-law when she passed and it may have been her mother's. It is a Kenmore from the 1970s (model 1774).  It's always been finicky for me. For example, it never adjusted stitch length... needless to say, I didn't enjoy using it. But hey, sometimes having a very limited sewing machine is better than no sewing machine.  Since I wasn't using it, I was trapped in that ever familiar excuse - if I don't really use a sewing machine, why would I get a new one?
Skip forward several more years and the mending pile has grown. There are piles of fabric (recently inherited) that I'd love to sew up and ideas galore for simple projects. I begin to harass my dear hubby more frequently about the sewing machine which has now seized up entirely. We try oiling it, but the machine is too far gone for a simple oiling. Has it even ever been serviced? (Is that a thing we actually are supposed to do with sewing machines? I had no idea before. Now I know better.)  Hubby discovered there is a machine repair shop 3 blocks away, which left us with no more excuses.

Machine is now home. After paying the cost of a cheap machine (in maintenance/repairs) this old Kenmore works again! It does things it never did for me before - such as change stitch length!  All the reviews I've read or watched on this machine by seamstresses praise it, so I don't mind the cost to get her back in working order.  Sure, a girl can dream of a fancy new machine or of finding the pattern cams to fit it - but let's be honest, I just need basic stitches.  If I want fancy embroidery, I'd be much happier with proper embroidery.
I cleared off space on the "dumping ground" craft room counter in the basement (hence poor lighting) and set her up. But before I moved her downstairs, I did whip up a few items to test. (Note, I do not claim to have great sewing talent.)

First a few nose cloths - two squares of flannel with zig-zag edging. I'd serger them if I could, but I can't. I've had a couple dozen of these cloths for 8 years or so. They've withstood frequent hot washes (still in use), so I guess a serger isn't necessary.

Then I was on a roll, so I mended a shirt for kiddo and made some scrap-fabric sleeping sacks for the kids favourite toys (per their request).  Eldest has been handsewing pillows with felt, so I left some of the sleep sack pillows as cases rather than stuffing them.

Have no fear. The sewing machine will not be taking over from other stitches or spinning. I also spent many hours in the past couple of weeks combing and carding All The Fleeces. Here's the most current batch on the wheel.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Magical Comb

Still no proper wool combs around here, but I'm making do with my little comb.
I remain entranced with how this little comb can transform a washed fleece with dirty tips into fluffy white stuff. The dry dirt falls right out and the short bits find their way into a mulch bucket.

It's slow work, but worth it (at least, that's how I feel about it today).

This current pile of fluffy stuff (from fleece 4 that's been through the FSM vat and one scour) is being carded together with black alpaca (Freya's fleece), rolled up and spun for a fluffy yarn that will be knit into mitten liners for hubby.

The carders were a gift from a friend who found she had extras. They just arrived and I had to try them out. I'm getting the hang of it.

As for the mittens...
I've moved on to liners because I'm not ready to deal with this:

I don't know how I managed this. I've been vacillating between two options: ripping out a thumb, grafting the hole closed, steeking a new hole, and re-knitting a new thumb OR buying more black Tuffy and knitting at least one more LEFT mitten (eventually, 2 left mittens). The problem with option 2 is that I dislike stranded knitting. I've recently tried my hand at steeking and it went well.  However, my practical-self reminds my "I hate this" self that I do have a few stranded projects in my queue, including a sweater kit, and so I should practice stranded knitting so that I don't hate it.

I now have THIS:

I blame hubby for not exploding the Invader on the far left. I didn't make a mistake on the left mitten. Nope.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Who doesn't love alpaca?

At the MB Fibre Fest 2015 with one of several baby alpacas.
As a spinner and fibre-prepper (it's a word, now) I love that alpaca does not require scouring. Or, at least, I never bother to scour or wash it before spinning.  If I have raw alpaca fibre I comb locks/sections with my little dog comb (still no proper wool combs) and watch the dust coat the floor, then spin it. I prefer to spin from the fold, but sometimes I spin it from the end.  Alpaca roving is equally lovely to spin with even less of the prep work.

Some of my first spinning was alpaca on a support spindle.  That first attempt with the support spindle wasn't my best work.  I did well with the long draw, but I realized fairly soon that the alpaca staple length was a little long (it was a roving from the local fibre fest) and that was making it difficult for me to learn on the new spindle.  I slid that first spinning onto a straw and packed it away for years.

Until one day this year I spun/wound that first length onto a bobbin and finished spinning the remainder on my wheel. I decided to spin my first cable ply yarn for a fingering weight alpaca with decent stitch definition.

My skein-ing helpers

I tried knitting a pair of intricate cabled gloves, but after knitting the first cuff I had to concede that the alpaca was still a little too fluffy to do justice to the intricate work.  I needed a simpler cable.

The yarn went into Time Out again for a while until recently when I knit up these long fingerless mitts.  I was tempted to work them as fingerless gloves, but feared the alpaca would become floppy.  So far they've held their shape beautifully. I chose a pattern that doesn't rely on ribbing for stretchiness. These Can Can mitts are fitted with decreases and I made sure to work my top ribbing sections with twisted knit stitches.  I also knit mine with an extra repeat of the chart in the arm and another set of decreases.

Knit in time for the chilly autumn winds to hit.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pajama Day and Naked Gardening

It's time to post about something other than All The Fleeces.
Something with colour.
Something knit!

How about how this gorgeous merino-silk (80/20) hand-dyed fibre from sdspin on Etsy (I bought it as a pick-me-up right after the twins were born in 2012).

became this fine single on my favourite support spindle (over a very long period of time; much of it was spun while nursing twins as I sat on the floor)

that was plied with some white louet merino-silk (plying singles were whipped up on the wheel where I also plied)

and later sections plied with some white-orange Falkland when I ran out of white

to be knit into this Naked Gardening shawl. [Design link provided]

The body and lace of the shawl was knit with the white-plied yarn while the ruffle was knit with the orange-white-plied yarn.  I used 6/0 iridescent beads that capture the colours of the yarn and provide a subtle shine.
Having been knit in some of my precious handspun lace (that took me over a year to finish! and actually is not yet complete as there is still some of the coloured single on the spindle waiting for something to ply it with - it's a never-ending thread! Many times I was certain I'd spun up enough to ply it with, only to discover I had much more remaining) this shawl is MINE.

I had already tested this MKAL design using white lace. That shawl was gifted in June.  Normally I don't reknit a pattern, but I knew this design would show off my beloved handspun delightfully.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Baa Baa All The Sheep, have you any wool?

...Yes ma'am, yes ma'am, three bags full.

Took a trip to the Farm for Canada Day / my BIL's birthday and skirted three more fleeces the next morning.

 Empty barns/animal shelters on the way to the shed.

 Sack is still very full. Will I ever empty it?

 This fleece was shaved funny - it's somehow inside out!

 I was much more aggressive in my skirting this time.  Experience has taught me that I really don't want to deal with ALL the fleece of all the fleeces.  I have enough to be choosy. Skirted more than a third of each fleece. That's the skirting from one fleece.

 Some of this fleece is very yellow!

Three bags of fleeces. One extra stuffed bag of garbage.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dying (some of) All the Fleeces

While some folks might like the yellowed colour of these fleeces, I'm planning to dye most of it.
I've not had much luck in the past (once) with dying fleece (was white romni), so I've avoided dying it. Mostly, of course, I've been purchasing lovely roving/batts dyed by other talented fleece artists. This won't change.
However, I'm going to have to take my dying skills up a notch. I don't expect myself to spin all the yellowed fleeces into yarn and THEN dye it. That would be far too boring.
Plus, I might want to needle felt some of it.

Dying the fleece is a skill I need to learn.

I'm starting simple with what I know and what I have the tools for - food colouring and vinegar dying.  I'm going to need to collect other kitchen tools if I want to use not-food-safe methods. I'm sure I'll get there by the time I'm done with All The Fleeces.

I prepped a bucket of Fleece 1 - the fluffy fleece - by combing it. As usual, the middle where I hold the fleece locks remains quite sticky with lanolin, so I gave it all another hot wash along with some combed black fleece locks.
The black fleece has not been in hot water or soap yet and I found that when I combed this batch it definitely needs a hot wash if I want to spin this lace easily.

Ready for a bath.
 After a rinse, it was time to prep the dye water. A little orange Wiltons paste in a glass bowl with vinegar added goes a long way.  This is a large and deep bowl. Fortunately, we have a very large microwave. Yes, I chose the fastest heat-set method for this test.

Fluffy! Even when wet.

All soaked.
After several 2 minute rounds in the microwave (and then another set of rounds with more vinegar added because the dye didn't seem to be taking as well as I would like) it was time to spin dry. Oh, first I drained the dye water and rinsed the orange fleece back in the first rinse bath - which was clean enough.  I don't have  a salad spinner and I'm pretty certain it would be a bad idea to toss a recently dyed fleece into my washing machine to spin dry (orange spots on DH's white shirts?). Plus, that sounded like a waste of electricity for such a small amount of fluff.
I did it the manual way! Spin it in the sack!

 The "black" fleece locks are looking lovely. (I should stop calling them that, even if they were labelled as such.)

The orange fleece is looking scrumptious!

Ooops, a couple of small sections were hiding in the wash bags. They'll find their way into the next dye bath once I have confirmed that I didn't create a matted mess. So far it looks fine. I'm excited for it to dry. Right now.

Spun up as 120m of squishy, worsted-weight-ish yarn. About 15m of it is a beaded 3-ply using a very finely spun portion of the wool to hold the size 8/0 beads.  The first 22m section was plied with some of the natural yarn (same fleece) that was sitting around on a bobbin.