Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Unravelling and learning a new skill

How lucky am I to live near the lovely Farnham Maltings where Unravel takes place?

  The path from the car park to the old mill was...

Past the lamp posts 

And over the bridge

I was determined to exercise full self control.  I have two large under-bed storage boxes bursting at the seams with knitting wool and am spilling over into a third.  I DO NOT NEED MORE YARN.  But they sold so many other beautiful things. I just adore little pieces of vintage kit.

These may be more ornamental than useful but will be loved never-the-less.  The little Bakelite bee skep unscrews to hold a ball of yarn.  If I had a cat it would keep fidgety paws from making a Gordian knot of my yarn, although I don't I shall still treasure it. I particularly like that it incorporates a needle gauge on the bottom.  I most certainly don't darn socks, but if I did it would be pleasing to use the old darning mushroom.  Perhaps now I knit the occasional sock I shall consider darning if they wear out.  But I shall find the perfect use for the three hand made needle lace medallions as embellishment for one of the garments from the Titanic Project

Of course I did buy some yarn, like this merino and silk lace-weight from Ruth &Belinda

The buttons from Wolfe Murray Ceramics are a perfect match

Then of course some more bright lace weight and some F&B ringoes (essential markers for lace) from Skein Queen

BUT the big impulse buy was unspun yarn, this Wensleydale

and this absolutely fabulous ready to spin mixed fibre

All the colours of the sea sparkling in the sunshine of a summer's day are there, in a combination of the softest wool, sheeniest silk and just a sprinkling of metallic thread

No matter that I can't spin!  I am going to learn.  So yesterday I dug out my drop spinning starter kit (AKA a few bits from my mother's spinning stash)

And worked at it all day

A bit 'organic' and over-spun but I'm getting there, although it will be a while before I tackle the seascape.  It would be best in lace-weight I think...



PS Titanic Project update

My next pattern has arrived, it is this beautiful skirt.  Very wearable n'est ce pas?

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Titanic Project post 2

It's been hard work work, lots of head scratching, many hours of hand sewing, new stronger glasses and a  large tin of spray starch but also immense satisfaction -  I've finished my first challenge on the Titanic project.  It just fits on my mannequin (if I adjust it to the smallest size) 

I have to confess to not paying much attention to instructions generally, when sewing I tend to scan the pictures to get an idea of the order of making up and launch in.  So the fact that the Princess Slip pattern has no instructions, and the only pattern markings for the lace placement and numbers at intervals was fine by me.  The idea is you sew the pieces together in numerical order, 20 to 20 then 21 to 21 and so on. Janyce at the Vintage Pattern Lending Library has provided some instructions and for the rest I just thought very hard about the order before cutting and sewing - think twice and cut once and all that. With only four pattern pieces and a flounce this was not too tricky

My only criticism of the pattern itself is that it is produced with grey not black lines - this makes for very faint lines when printing out in black and white - hence the new stronger glasses!  But in a good light I transferred the numbers and lines for lace placement with one of those magical Pilot Frixion pens which produce a strong black line which instantly vanishes when ironed

I continued to work on the lace insertion in the same way as I described in my last post. If the insertion ran over a seam I worked the seam first.  I decided to work all the seams as very fine French seams

When sewing curved seams generally you need to clip the outside of curves and notch the inside but if the seam is narrow enough (and I'm talking of 3/16ths here) then you can persuade the seam to curve without clipping with a gentle steam iron.  The pattern pieces fitted together well, I decided not to adjust them to fit (me or anyone else) but to make up as drawn) 

I did wrestle with my conscience a bit over the button holes.  My sewing machine, has a special foot for button holes.  It works like a little gig with a slot of the button that ensures the machine automatically makes the right sized button hole.  But would seamstresses, particularly home workers have had anything like that? Having learnt to sew on my mother's treadle, already ancient by the 1950s I know they would not and I did want to make the petticoat in as authentic manner as possible (hence the miles of hand hemming on the insertions).  So I hand sewed all 8 of them.

I departed from the standard of 'stitch then slash' for the insertion over the seam attaching the flounce.  I felt the end result would be too bulky so I machined a narrow turning on the slip and one on the upper edge of the flounce then attached the flounce thus bridging the gap and maintaining the sheer effect that I had in the rest of the garment. 

I did seam the side front seams properly then cut them off when working the back of the insertion.  I wouldn't do that again - it was too fiddly and left me with very little fabric to turn under and hem.  Next time I will stitch a plain seam with as wide a stitch as I can get from my machine and then pull it out after attaching the lace.

In one blog I read that the blogger found the neck gaped between the two side front seams.  I think it does and wonder if it is meant to do so to accommodate the cleavage a woman would have got from the way the corset was worn.  I used the ribbon insertion to pull up the fullness so that the neckline laid flat.

When I finished I had about a meter of the lace insertion left but did feel I could have done with a little more of the eyelet lace ribbon, and lace edging for the neck and armholes.  The broderie anglaise was exactly enough, about .5m more would have been less scary and the same amount more ribbon would have given me enough to have proper ties to adjust the fullness of the neckline.  Of the lace edging, I did not have enough to gather it all around the sleeve edges so kept the fullness to the the shoulder only.

But overall I loved making it, the pricked fingers and the needle threading all worth it - and I'm looking forward to the next project coming soon.



VPLL Checklist

1.         Pattern Name Princess Slip #0336
2.        Sewer’s Skill Level: Advance
3.        Pattern Rating: I LOVED IT! So pretty, I had never attached lace insertion this way before but it was quite easy and I found the hand-sewing relaxing (am I the only person who loves hem stitching?)
4.        What skill level would someone need to sew this pattern and why? Intermediate, there are one or two tricky seams which look like awkward shapes but you just have to take charge!, 
5.        Were the instructions easy to follow? yes?
6.        How was the fit/sizing?   fine, it came out just as it said, with drawing up the ribbon at the neck and putting it over a corset, the fit was very good
7.        Did you make any pattern alterations? the slip was a perfect size 36, although a little small for me I wanted to make my first 1912 pattern up as drawn to get the hang of the general way the patterns and instructions are drawn before I began messing about with anything!?
8.        Other notes: I loved the pretty design, and will make one in a size 40 bust for me to wear under my vintage outerwear.  Some people have said it would make a perfect summer dress and I think that's right, although too frilly for me it would be perfect for a younger person

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

It's 100 years since..

... the Titanic's maiden voyage and sinking, all over in a matter of days.  Why does it capture the imagination so much?  In the 100 years since the tragic loss of more than 1,500 lives there have been worse disasters.  In 1987 a ferry travelling between two islands in the Philippines sank with the loss of more than 4,000 lives, in wartime 2,500 soldiers and sailors were lost as HMS Lancastria sank off the coast of St Nazaire in France. But still the Titanic is emblematic of tragic loss at sea

Perhaps because the ship, built to rival the Cunard liners, with its hull of 16 separate watertight compartments was said to be unsinkable.  Perhaps because at the time it was built it was the largest boat ever afloat and fitted out in unrivalled luxury.  Perhaps because it was not equipped for evacuation, with too few life boats, no evacuation drill and passengers who did not believe such a thing could happen.  Or even that poems were written about it. Well this blog is not about maritime history and the National Maritime Museum tells it much better, but there is a connection.

Pootling around the internet, as you do, the other day I came across the Vintage Pattern Lending Library 1912 project.  The aim is to make up all the patterns featured in the 1912 editions of a magazine called La Mode IllustrĂ©e and blog about them.  These patterns are of clothes that typically could have been worn by the passengers on the fated liner.  There are over 400 people involved in the project and this week my first pattern arrived, it's for a petticoat.  Before doing anything else I rushed out and bought the fabric and trimmings

Although the e mail arrived earlier I did not think to carry my USB stick up to the print shop till Saturday morning - bad decision, all print shops in my town open Monday to Friday only.  So at first I just printed everything off on A4 to have a good read.

And found plenty to do working on the 4m by 23cm (4.5yards by 9 inches) flounce.
Measuring, cutting, hemming, fixing the lace insertion and pleating.

I am using 100% cotton lawn which I can get at my local fabric shop for £2.50 a metre which is similar to the sort of fabric that may have been used for underwear in 1912 but I have compromised on the lace.  I'm sure they would have used machine made lace, it was available at the time, but it would not have been in the synthetic fibre I can buy locally.  But I need such a lot it is far more economical for me to do so.

I found a brilliant website with sewing instructions from Butterick 1911 to help me get the sewing techniques right.

Hemming the raw edges of the insertion took 4 hours!

This morning I went to the print shop first thing and I'm ready to go!

The finished petticoat will be up soon



In a solitude of the sea
Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

We haven't met but...

...I think I know a little about you now. Do you ever walk into someone's house for the first time and take a sneaky glance at their book shelves?  No books? Horrors! Well perhaps they prefer a Kindle.

A few years ago I worked in the city of London as a locum solicitor.  A young woman had left her office on an ordinary Friday night and was not going to be back for a while.  I never met her but when I opened the bottom drawer of her filing cabinet I suddenly felt I knew her quite well.  She had left behind twenty pairs of shoes (it was a big drawer but as time went on I found shoes everywhere).  You can tell a lot about a person from their shoes.

But what about a Knitters stash?  When a friend, the poet Joanne Limburg asked me  if I would like some yarn that had once belonged to her late mother my first thought was TREASURE.  My second was how to get it from Cambridge to Hampshire..  But among my friends there is a steady flow of traffic between Cambridge and our now far flung homes and another kind friend played courier.  A few days later she and I met in a car park in Hungerford.

Imagine the scene...

Lizzie:  I know nothing of course, but the colour and texture -  like jewels

Me;  ooh hand dyed lace weight

Lizzie: Joanne and I have no idea what you can do with it but this is her favourite

Me: AND Rowan tweed

Lizzie:  I spread it out on my bed when I got it home and just gazed at all the silky sheeny ones - its all so evocative - there's a story here (Lizzie is very good at stories)

Me: this will be perfect for ... #thinksofadozenprojects

We eventually transferred the treasure to my car and went for lunch

And it was such treasure

This is the hand-dyed lace weight

The Araucania (also hand-dyed)

The Rowan

And much more as you can see from the picture above of my new hoard laid out on my kitchen table.

This lady was not just a knitter she was a Knitter.  Her quiet appreciation of beauty demonstrated in the careful way she conserved her collection (there were lavender seeds among the yarn balls to keep the moths away).  And her skill with her needles evident by the variety of weights and textures she bought.  Even her travels could be guessed at, with some yarn only available in the United States and Italy hinting of holidays and journeys to see friends and family.

How to say thank you to this lady's daughter for her generous gift?  By making her something to keep herself warm, to remind her of her  mother's love.  Something suitable for the yarn I knew was her favourite.

And as I am a bit of a show off kind of Knitter who loves trying out new techniques, a moebius with i-cord bind off.

I posted it yesterday, I hope it arrives soon and that this blog will not spoil the surprise



Friday, 3 February 2012

Baby blankets

I think I mentioned somewhere here that I started to knit with a capital K when The Little Model was expected and I began with a blanket for her

Then last summer I blogged about my first reaction to the news that my daughter was to have another baby. I bought yarn - what else would a Knitter do? The yarn sat in my pending projects basket till after Christmas then I had to knit at 100mph

The pattern comes from Blankets and Throws to Knit by Debbie Abrahams, You might have read about the first blanket I made from this book earlier.  My intarsia technique improved as I went along

This square was easy, never more than three colours and three balls of yarn per row.  But intarsia can be tricky, it is easy to end up (as I have done) with a less than flat surface with small areas of colour bunching up and bumps appearing at the point that colours change.  The trick is to use a separate little ball or length of yarn for each colour change.  Even if the colour appears again further along the row you should not be tempted to run the yarn across the back of the work creating 'floats' as in fairisle.  I like to use long lengths rather than little balls as it makes untangling easier (you just draw the yarn gently through the cats cradle of colours one by one) but it does sometimes mean I have to join the yarn more often than is ideal.

I realise it's the height of knitting naughtiness but I knot yarns when I have to join them, leaving enough yarn to darn in the ends as well.  I hope that anything I make will be used and washed a lot (this blanket is machine washable) and I don't want to risk the work unravelling.

When changing from one colour to another the instructions always say to twist the yarns together.  I used to think this meant twisting tightly for several turns but this is how I ended up with bumps.  Just a single twist (imagine a row of dancers linking arms) pulled as tight as possible is better.

I have lots of yarn left and plan to make bootees... soon

The work is backed with cotton jersey.  This helps make the blanket warmer, of course, but also hides all the joins.  The lazy daisy stitches over where the corners of the squares met were a quick way of making the plain white backing look prettier but were also practical in fixing the backing to the blanket.

It was just finished in time for his arrival this week