Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sweather for My Mother

As I work on the Argyle socks, I have been remembering the first time I did multi-color knitting. In the early 1990s I made this sweater for my mother.   I have always loved this pattern because it was "so Mom." She was an outdoorsy, casual woman who always enjoyed the color blue. She loved the sweater but didn't get to wear it too often. Kansas doesn't get cold enough for such a warm sweater very often.

I do not like to make large
Mom in 2000
projects. They take forever to knit. This sweater took close to two years to complete. (The heirloom sweater from an earlier post took three years.)  It is not that I am a slow knitter. When I am knitting, I can chug out the stitches like a sewing machine. The slow comes from interruptions. My knitting can languor for months on end while I am gardening, or sewing, or reading or doing whatever has distracted me. Ah, well. They do get done.

I enjoyed knitting this. The diamonds are knitted in, not embroidered afterward. It required me to develop a two-handed knitting technique where I held the main color in my right hand and the carried color in my left hand. I would weave the carried color over or under the knitting needle to be caught by the main color as I created each stitch. Mom, who had always been my knitting mentor, said a sign of good multi-color knitting is for the back to be as tidy as the front. I won't promise that happened for every part of this, my first try, but I was pleased with the outcome.

Today the sweater belongs to me. I'm waiting for Kansas weather to get cold enough to wear it.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Russian Bind

How do you join two ends of yarn without a knot? My favorite method is the Russian Bind.
1.  This can be used with yarn (or rope) of uneven sizes. Begin by looping the two ends over each other. Thread one end into a needle.

2. Sew the yarn back into itself,  working the needle in and out.

 3. Flatten the yarn. Remove the needle.

4. Repeat steps 1-3 for the other piece of yarn.

 5. Viola! No knot!

Intarsia knitting: challenging but fun

We are the Merry Cranks! Leon and I do some living history demonstrations with the hand crank sewing machines and the (foot cranked) pennyfarthing bicycle. We dubbed ourselves the Merry Cranks when one venue wanted to know our name.

I enjoy making garb for us. I have several dresses of various periods and have made period garb for Leon. I made his vest and adapted some thriftstore pants to be the knickerbockers, but Leon's 1890s bicycle garb has had one problem. He needs knee high Argyle socks. The ones I have found ready-made are too short. WELL...I am a knitter...

Enter intarsia knitting. I wasn't certain what intarsia knitting might be at My brother does intarsia wood-working where images are built from various pieces of wood. The different colors and textures of wood shade and build the images. Intarsia knitting works the same way. The fabric is built from multiple kinds of yarn drawn into the pattern.

Juggling those multiple strands is both the challenge and the fun of intarsia knitting. I am carrying eight strands. Some of the time I am working two strands at the same time as I knit with one color and carry the other color behind the work. It helps to be able to knit with both hands for this. I use American knitting techniques for the main color and European knitting techniques for the carried color.

I was a bit chagrined that I could not do this pattern toe up, two at a time, and in the round. Because you carry the main color behind the pattern color in the center diamonds it has to be worked flat.  There is no way to get the carried color back to the start if you are circular knitting. ( sigh). I suppose you could carry it behind every stitch all the way around the circle, but it would make your socks dense and they would lose some of their stretchiness. Ah, well. It doesn't hurt to knit some things flat.

The first problem I had was with all those bobbins dangling from my work and getting snarled together. I posted to Sunflower Knitters Guild on Facebook to ask for help. I got lots of good suggestions and ended up using a mix of them.  Colors that use a lot of yarn, such as the cream of the body and the grey and brown of the diamonds I carry in bobbins. The red that uses less yarn, I allow to hang free. I usually have about 12-24 inches of red working and 36-48 inches of the other colors in the bobbins. If the red tries to snarl, it is easy to pull the thread free. The other colors are usually far enought apart they don't tangle. If they do, shorten the tail by winding up more loose thread onto the bobbin. A Russian bind secures the next section to the existing one: no knots!

My next problem was keeping the stitch count correct. Oh, have I ripped out this
project! (Six times so far, and it could happen again.) The pattern requires 75 stitches across. Unlike ordinary knitting, if you drop a stitch, it is difficult to ladder down and weave back up to repair the mistake. I immediately saw the need for lifelines. The red of the cross threads is bold enough to be noticed and I had plenty of it, so that is what I used. Any other scrap yarn would work just as well.  I place the lifelines at the beginning and middle of the diamonds. When the colorwork is done, I will pull them out.

The best way to prevent needing to frog a section ("Rip-it! Rip-it!") is to check your stitch count every row. This can be a bore, but it sure beats frogging! If I keep checking my count, I might actually get the first sock finished.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Hand Knit Reticules


Contra Dancing at Cottonwood Falls, Kansas
 Leon and I enjoy contra dancing (and a bit of living history re-enactment as well.) When I put on garb to go dancing, I hate to carry a modern purse. How tacky!

Knitting to my rescue! I have started making reticules. The flat white one was designed to hold a cell phone, a few dollars and some ID. You can slip the drawstring on your wrist and keep it with you. (Don't swing your partner too enthusiastically. A cell phone up side of the head is no fun.)  

My flat reticules are based on a toe up sock pattern, minus the heel. If my lady wishes a more traditional shape, she can also make a round drawstring bag, such as the one on the right. I have described it in other posts. I remember in the 1950s my mother and grandmother both carried large drawstring bags made of a lightweight but bulky nylon yarn. They were very similar in design to the small white bag I have made, just larger.

If you would like to make a flat reticule, here is the basic pattern. I cast on 20 stitches for both sizes of bags. The yarn size and needle size makes one smaller than the other. The white flat bag, for example, was knit with size 0 needles and acrylic fingering yarn. The salmon bag was knit with size 5 needles and Hobby Lobby's cotton Sinfonia yarn. The sea foam green yarn is also Sinfonia.

Cotton Reticule (to hold a large wallet)

Below are directions for the salmon cable knit reticule. You may use any design that can repeat over 18 stitches to decorate your bag.

1 skein cotton Sinfonia yarn from Hobby Lobby (this is closer to fingering weight than other cotton yarns such as Lily Sugar n' Cream, which is more a worsted weight.)
US Size 5 16-inch long circular needles or  US Size 5 double pointed needles (set of 5 needles). 
Stitch markers (one should be noticeably different from the others to mark the beginning of each round)
Cable stitch holder
Row counter

Circular knitting will be done by the Magic Loop method where loops of the cable protrude from either side of the project like rabbit ears. You will work across these loops when you move from one side to the other. If you prefer to circular knit with double pointed needles, I will define where to break for each needle.

Cast on 20 stitches.
Row 1: Increase in each stitch. (40 stitches).
3. If using a circular needle, remove needle from yarn, (Don't panic. Your loops will hold their shape). Starting from the side that does not have the ball end of the yarn, and alternating left needle/right needle work stitches onto each end of your circular needle. When done you will have 20 stitches on each needle. The left needle will hold the left stitches of each increase and the right needle will hold the right stitches of each increase.
3. If using double pointed needles: Leave yarn on 1st needle. Taking 2 new needles, work left and right as described above until 20 stitches are on each of 2 needles.
Row 2. Circular needles: Knit 5 stitches. Place unique marker to identify beginning of round.  Knit to stitch 20. Insert Row Counter onto cable. Knit to end. Pull a loop of cable out of the stitches between stitches 20 and 21 and between stitches 39 and 40. These are the Magic Loops that allow you to maneuver around your circle. Be sure to draw your stitches tight when you jump to the next row and close the loop to form the circle of this bag.
Row 2: Double pointed needles: Knit 5 stitches. Place unique marker to identify beginning of round. Knit until 1 stitch remains on first needle. Knit this stitch onto 3rd needle. Knit first stitch of 2nd needle onto 3rd needle. (2 stitches on new 2nd needle)  Knit next 18 stitches on old 2nd needle. When you reach the last stitch on the old 2nd needle, knit this stitch onto the 4th needle. Pick up 1st stitch from 1st needle and move it to 4th needle.  (2 stitches on 4th needle) You will now have 18 stitches on Needle 1; 2 stitches on (new) Needle 2; 18 stitches on (new) Needle 3; 2 stitches on Needle 4.  Attach Row Counter to end of Needle 4. Be sure to draw your stitches tight when you jump to the next row and close the loop to form the circle of this bag.

I will not distinguish between circular and double point needles for the rest of these instructions unless needed. Whenever you jump from one needle to another or across a Magic Loop, pull tension quite tightly for the first three or four stitches after the jump so the tension doesn't work loose at these joints. If the fabric below the joints keeps the same tension as the rest of your work and does not show excessive laddering, you are doing it correctly.

Row 3: *K1, P1, K1, P1.(mistake stitch pattern) Slip marker. Knit 10. Add marker. P1, K1, P1, K1 (continuing mistake stitch pattern). Increase as to knit in next 2 stitches.*(4 stitches on  Needle 2.)  Repeat between stars adding a marker after first 4 stitches. Double pointed needles now have 18 stitches Needle 1; 4 stitches Needle 2: 18 stitches Needle 3 and 4 stitches Needle 4.  Set Row Counter to 1. (44 stitches)
Row 4: *P1, K1, P1, K1. Slip marker. Knit 10. Slip marker. K1, P1, K1, P1. Knit 4.* Repeat to end. Set Row Counter to 2.
Repeat Rows 3-4 until 5 rows have been completed.
Cable Row: *Continue mistake stitch pattern for first 4 stitches. Slip marker. Transfer 5 stitches from left needle to cable needle. Move cable needle to back of fabric. Knit next 5 stitches. Pick up cable needle and knit those 5 stitches onto right needle. Slip marker. Continue mistake stitch pattern for next 4 stitches. Knit 4.* Repeat for other side. Reset Row Counter to 0.
Repeat Rows 3-4 until 10 rows have been completed.
Cable Row. Reset Row Counter to 0.
Make three full cables with 10 rows between each cable row.
After 4th cable row, reset Counter to 0. Continue in pattern for 5 rows.
Anchor Row: Knit to end. Remove all markers except 1st "unique" marker.
Drawstring Row: *K1, YO, K2tog* to end.
Anchor Row: Knit to end.
Knit next five rows. Bind off loosely.

Crochet or Icord two cords of equal length. If you want a short drawstring, make the cord long enough to go around your wrist about 1 1/2 times. If you wish a longer cord, make to your desired length. (I have made small phone bags with long cords that can be hung around the neck). Entering eyelets from one of the sides, weave one cord from the left and tie off. Weave second cord from the right and tie off opposite the first cord.  Pull each one out left and right the way the Magic Loops extended beyond the bag. Pull drawstrings to close the bag.

If desired, add fringe on the bottom by cutting yarn into 10-12 inch lengths. Group 5 strands together. Draw through the outer edge of bottom of bag. Pull through and loop the loose ends of the yard through the loop to make a half-hitch. Pull tight. Repeat at Center and then Opposite End. Fill in between these three points until the fringe is as full as you wish.

copyright 2016 Iris Evans

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Pincushion Dolls and Living History Garb

This Victorian kick has been a lot of fun.  Besides contra dancing, Leon has a high-wheeled bicycle, called a penny-farthing, that we like to take to living history events. Recently we have started adding hand-crank sewing machine demonstrations to our living history endeavors. Some folks may focus on Renaissance period, or Civil War or Colonial or Mountain Man. We are finding ourselves happy with the Gay 90s.

I have a black and white gingham prairie outfit that works when Leon wears his cowboy hat and stresses our farm roots. Recently I have finished an 1890s walking skirt and mutton-chop sleeve blouse that suits the penny-farthing better. It was for this I made the Victorian corset. I have patterns for more garb, such as a Gay 90s split bicycle skirt.

Honestly, I don't know if I enjoy doing the stuff as much as I enjoy making the garb!

But all this sewing reminded me of the pincushion my Mom had when I was a girl. It had a china half-doll sitting in a pincushion that formed her skirt. That pincushion fascinated me. (After the doll broke, it was never the same. [sigh]). So... you can find anything on the Internet, can't you?

I found several inexpensive ceramic half-doll bodies on Etsy. I ordered a few and have been making dolls. I have already planned who will get one, but gee! Which will I keep for myself? As it turned out I gave them all away and ordered a fifth half-doll that will be my pincushion. She is a French court doll rather like the pink and blue one with all the lace. Hm... What fabric should I use for her skirt?  I wonder. Could a skirt be knitted?

Two of these dolls are technically sewing baskets rather than pincushion dolls because their skirts have extra pockets and loops to hold notions. I made them from a Simplicity pattern that I have had for years. (Simplicity 7105) Sure glad I kept that pattern. It is no longer in print.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Corset Making Class

My girls, Jennifer and Lala and I have had a great weekend learning to make Victorian corsets from Marti McCartney. Each of us has a different reason for wanting a corset. Jen has always got a sore back. I am doing more and more re-enacting and need the right foundation for my garb. Lala is a beginning seamstress. Each new technique she learns adds to her skill.

I started with the hand crank Singer 99K. I thought it would be a hoot to say I made my Victorian corset on a Victorian machine (1919 or so, but hey, that was very late Victorian, right?)  I didn't use it very long before granddaughter Lala took it away from me. She didn't like the speed the electric machine had. She wanted the control she could get with the hand crank.  It wasn't nearly as intimidating to a beginning seamstress. Who am I to complain? She sat quietly in her corner, cranking away and like the turtle and the hare, she plodded along and got more done manually than her Mom did with an electric machine.

 In Jen's defense, she is making the most complex corset. We started this class knowing that Jen was about to have gastric bypass surgery. How could she create a corset that would shrink with her?  Marti pondered and decided that Jen needed a maternity corset that she could tighten as she got smaller. Inventing this has been a challenge for Marti. She says teaching the three of us has been the longest class, the most fun class, and the most challenging class she has ever taught. (We are taking more time to get it done because we chatter, laugh, sing, and tell stories, but we are always sewing, too.)

 I got a head start on my corset because Marti had a partially finished one that someone had commissioned but was not able to finish. It fit me, so I picked up in the middle and went from there. Here I am at a fitting. Look at that. I am getting a waist!
 I really like the embroidery embellishment that was put on at the end. Some of it is functional. There must be stitching over each stay to keep it flat. Now that stitching can be plain and white, or a lady can get fancy with her needle. Marti showed me some decorations in one of her books. I copied some onto my corset and then started playing. The "ribbons" on the cups are actually satin stitching.
Now all I have to do is adapt my Victorian garb to work with the new foundation wear. Who knows, I might corset under the Renaissance Faire garb, too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Why do I Blog Less?

You would think that now that I'm retired, I'd be blogging left, right and sideways. Instead, the blogging has dried to barely a trickle.  I've been pondering this. Why? What is different?

Well, EVERYTHING is different. My life doesn't have the routines that it had when I was working. There is very little sitting down after supper and surfing the Net. Now I have Internet on the cell phone; on the tablet; on the laptop. I can check e-mail everywhere. Anywhere. Because it is so easy, I use the laptop less and zip in and out on the Android things.

If I am not on the laptop, there is no inclination to pop open the blog and post an entry. For the blog I want a REAL keyboard. And time. And access to my photos.

The real culprit, however, is that big time waster: Facebook. If you drop a sentence to your friends that you spent the day in the garden, it has been said. The Inner Writer has expressed herself. Why sit down and compose a few paragraphs on the topic?

Now that I know this, I hope I will skip Facebook and post more often. There are interesting things going on around the Old Home Place. I should record them.