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February 2015

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Liberty Love

February 23, 2015

There's a limit to how long I can go until I just have to sew with a little Liberty lawn, and I reached that limit over the weekend.

I just love working with this fabric – the patterns, the colours, the feel of it – gorgeous.  I'm also quite keen on working with Robert Kaufman linen blends – the dark pink here is an Essex Linen and the pale pink is the Brussels Washer – very different handles, but both lovely.

Of course, there also seems to be a limit to how long I can go between making sewing cases – they are a bit of an obsession of mine.  These two are outrageously girly and just had to have ribbon tie closures rather than the usual button closure.

Apart from the actual construction of the cases, everything is hand stitched – the pocket trims, the appliques and all the quilting.  I think this is one of the things I love about sewing cases, I can indulge in the hand techniques I love without making a big commitment to a larger project.

I made a new template for the scissor keeper this time around and it fits the little scissors I put in my sewing kits just perfectly.

I used to thread the sewing needles in the case with threads, but now much prefer the little cards of wound thread that I pop in the back pocket of the sewing kits.  I also now add a little press stud to the larger of the three pockets so that things can be held in there a little more securely.  I really enjoy challenging myself to improve the design every time I make a new case.

The Liberty lawn print I used for these cases is Ciara and I only now have a few scraps of it left, although I'm pretty sure I will need more in the future.  This one would also look great with a blue linen, a natural linen, maybe a green…  Mmm, something for next weekend maybe 🙂

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Doubling up

February 13, 2015

As a maker / designer, I'm not really big on embellishment unless we're talking Christmas, which I love to cover with sequins, beads and glitter at every opportunity. I do knit and crochet with sparkly yarn too, but I wouldn't normally dream of embroidering a piece of knitwear. Sometimes though, things are just too plain – like the little silver coloured baby jumper I made recently:

Whilst I love the simple clean look of the mini boat neck sweater, it was just crying out for a little fun to be injected, so I thought it was a good time to learn Swiss darning or 'duplicate stitch', which involves stitching on the knit side of stockinette stitch (there's a piece over on Mollie Makes that explains all).

From what I've gathered so far, duplicate stitch can be used in lots of different ways in knitting. You can use it to make a simple decorative edging (there's a step by step at the source for this picture):

Or perhaps an all over pattern?  This is actually called 'thrummed knitting' where you create the 'duplicate' stitch with wool roving, which makes for a very messy looking, but supremely warm wrong side (check out this free pattern):

Duplicate stitch also looks great when used as an integral part of the design – especially if you choose a colour that really stands out from the background, as the Purl Bee have with this Friendly Fair Isle sweater (pattern link here):

It does seem to be a technique that lends itself to making it up as you go along too, as with this very simple but effective design on a child's cardigan:

The way it seems to be most commonly done though is to create a motif from a chart.  I actually bought a little collection of charts for my motif, but you could easily use any other kind of free chart available on the internet, and I reckon cross stitch charts would be great for this too.  You can also create your own charts of course, there's a useful piece about that on 'Knitty'.

Here's my little sweater with its foxy motif:

I do like the look of the final result, although it wasn't without challenges…  The back of the motif can be rather messy if you're working with several colours – it's an awful lot of yarn ends to have to weave into a small space when you think that you not only have to weave in the start of each piece of thread to anchor it, as well as the end.  If covering a large area, you'll also need to use several pieces of thread for each colour, if you're to avoid unwieldy lengths of yarn to stitch with.  For my motif, I used yarn of the same aran weight as the sweater, but I stupidly chose to use cotton, which meant that it didn't have enough body to entirely cover the 'v' of the knit stitch underneath and it feels a bit stiff (cotton, just ain't stretchy like wool!).  I think what I'd do next time is to use exactly the same yarn for the stitching that I used for the knitting below or, if I couldn't get the colours I needed in that yarn, make sure the replacement is as close a fibre match as possible.  All in all though, I will definitely use the technique again – at least until I master knitting intarsia with enough speed to avoid making it feel like torture!

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A saunter down memory lane

February 5, 2015

When I was dashing about my favourite yarn stores online at the beginning of this year checking out the sales, I noticed some Debbie Bliss Aran Cashmerino and was immediately reminded of the very first piece of clothing I knit, which used this yarn. It was this cute little boat or slash neck baby sweater:

It was a super easy and straightforward pattern, which was perfect for me at the time as I'd only made flat non-seamed things to this point and was keen to develop my skills and expand my knowledge.  As there was a baby in the family at the time, this looked like just the ticket! I ended up making quite a few of the pieces in the book, so it was a brilliant investment and I'd definitely recommend it, not only for the patterns, but also for the technique notes, which are very clear and easy to follow:

I originally made this little sweater in a deep red purple colour for my niece and was thrilled with the yarn, which seemed incredibly soft. Since then, I've had the pleasure of working with lots of much softer yarns, but this one is still very nice and very practical for babies as it's soft and machine washable too. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of this original sweater but am delighted to say that when it was outgrown, it was handed down to a teddy bear that another aunt made for my niece, which is lovely.

So I thought it would be fun to make this little boat neck sweater again now, so many years later, and see how it felt. The Cashmerino Aran I selected this time was a lovely Silver shade and I like how it looks against the pink of this hanger:

And against this minty green one:

In fact, it'll go with lots of colours I think – truly unisex!

It took me a while to knit the original sweater but I expected it to be really quick this time – I've had a lot of practise since, after all… Sadly, it wasn't that quick, despite being basic stocking stitch and an aran weight yarn…  But, I could now bring more technique of my own to the pattern and add little details like fashioned shaping on the sleeve increases:

I also found it much easier to stitch everything together perfectly, which always makes the little OCD fairy who lives inside me very happy 🙂

All in all, it was an interesting experiment to make this pattern again, but I can't say I enjoyed it all that much – it was a little bit dull – poor little sweater.  I definitely did not enjoy all the seaming and put it off for ages – something that I always used to do when I first started knitting, so some things definitely don't change!

The question now is, what to do with the little sweater?  I don't know anyone with a baby this size (9 to 12 months) to gift it to, so I'm wondering if I should have a little giveaway on my Facebook page.  Any suggestions anyone has would be welcome!