Sunday, 26 February 2012

Recycled Chunky Waistcoat

This winter I decided to rip back and recycle garments that I didn't wear any more and this is my first completed project.  The yarn was a handspun merino which I made into a short sleeved sweater which didn't fit very well.  It seemed a waste to have it sitting in the drawer, so I ripped it back and looked for a pattern to match the amount of yarn.

The pattern is a japanese one, and the details are on Ravelry, it's simply charted.  Japanese women appear to be (a) small and (b) all the same size as only one size was provided.  The pattern really couldn't be resized to fit my slightly bigger frame, so what to do?  The pattern called for chunky yarn, but my handspun is borderline super chunky, so I decided to go up a hook size and see if that fixed the problem.  It did, and the waistcoat now fits perfectly.

The only slightly challenging thing was that the chart only gives the pattern for one of the fronts, so I had to figure out how to reverse it for the other one.  I suppose I could have done two the same and just turned it round, but I wanted the two fronts to be the same, with the stitches worked on the same side on the same rows.  Probably only I would have noticed the reversal, but I would still have known!  So I performed some mental gymnastics and worked the second front backwards, i.e. started the foundation chain at the opposite end.  All I had to do then was substitute the 3ch at the end of the row for a tr and vice versa.

One other thing was the method for doing the buttonholes was unclear.  I slip stitched 3 stitches for each hole, and added an extra row for the edging as I thought 3 rows wasn't enough.

The buttons are wooden ones which I got free with a magazine.  I don't anticipate washing this garment much, but I've fixed the buttons with one piece of yarn simply tied on the wrong side so when it does need washing I can simply snip them off and easily replace them afterwards.

Working crochet with such a thick yarn was new to me, but great fun and I'm pretty happy with the result.

Friday, 17 February 2012


I've been keen to get this laceweight top finished this week, and I'm pretty pleased with the results.  Originally knitted in Fyberspates silk, I chose Rowan Fine Lace instead and it has worked quite well (more on this further down the page).  The pattern called for 2 skeins of Fyberspates, i.e. 2000m of yarn; this was because they only make this yarn in 1000m skeins.  I guessed that it would take a little over 1000m so bought 4 x 400m balls of the Rowan.  In fact it too only two balls to finish the body and the first sleeve, so I reckon about 900m, certainly no more than 1000m.  I would have been pretty annoyed if I had bought two skeins of very expensive yarn!
The shell pattern is lovely, but I did have a false start as I missed an important change in the pattern part way through the 12 rows and had to rip it back.  So for anyone tempted to knit this, do pay attention at row 7!.  The shells blocked really well and the shaping at the bottom of the garment is lovely.  Laceweight knitting is tricky though and one thing I did learn from this is to take extra care when breaking and re-attaching yarn as it has a tendency to create holes which are more difficult to fix than in a thicker yarn.  Swiss darning was called for, and the problem was solved.
So now for my "but".  The neckline is quite wide and with my narrow, sloping shoulders the sleeves seem to have a tendency to drop off the edge.  My choice of yarn may have contributed to this, as it is more stretchy than silk would be, but looking at the picture in the magazine, the girl does have model-style shoulders which are wide and flat.  The gathering in the sleeves does look lovely but it adds quite a bit of weight.  I'll see how it goes, I did manage to "hitch" them up when I tried it on first time and it looked fine, but I haven't tried it on since blocking.

All in all, this has fired up my enthusiasm for lace knitting so there's definitely more of that to come...

Monday, 13 February 2012

Spinning Silk

 It's not unknown for me to get carried away with my purchases at Woolfest each June.  I kind of make it a point to buy something I've never bought before for an experiment.  Here is one of the new things I bought last June, which I've only just got round to trying out.  It's a silk roving and from the colours I think you can see why I fell in love with it.  I decided to set to spinning it up.
I did anticipate that it would be very different to wool, as you can see it has no crimp, just fine fibres lying completely flat next to each other.  So a high twist would be necessary.  It was far more tricky than I thought.  Firstly picking off the right width of roving was a challenge; too thick and you end up with a chunky weight yarn, too thin and it breaks.  And the roving doesn't split evenly, of course not, so you end up with weak spots.  And as for breakages, it tested me almost to throwing it out of the window. I think the general rule with wool is an overlap of 10cm when reattaching - for silk you can times that by three.  Nightmare.  The tension in my fingers and thumb trying to (a) hold it together (b) draw it out to spin a nice fine yarn was tremendous.  And as I drew it out behind the twist, it would push fibres further down into a mess so that then I had to stop, untangle and draw out the muddle with one hand while holding on for grim death with the other so the spun yarn didn't unspin and fall apart.
I am, however, known for my perseverance.  By the end of this bobbin I had got the hang of it.  So here are my tips:

  1. long, long draw, with the twist taken up at least 10 cm from the orifice (15-20cm better), slow the take up by holding it back so that it gets lots of twist before winding on
  2. a roving about the width of a ball point pen
  3. repair any breaks by doing a 30cm overlap, with lots of twist
  4. stop the fibres tangling behind your drawing hand by moving your hand down the roving to ease out the fibres after every twist take-up, while you put a little extra twist in the yarn you've just made
I'm going to ply this yarn to make it stronger. When I started I was aiming for 4 ply, I'll be happy if it is roughly DK!  There are lumps and bumps in here, but hopefully the next bobbin will be better!