Tag Archives: cotton

Finnish tough socks naturally?

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It all began when I finally managed to pick up a parcel that a friend who now lives in Denmark had left for me when she had passed through our town while we were away.  The contents were truly astonishing. Better than Christmas.  She had chosen some lovely wool, a book and a chocolate treat, all wrapped up in a bag! She delivered another Danish knitting kit as well. The yarn is Finnish wool dyed with plants and cochineal.  I couldn’t wait. I’d just finished a rather plain coloured sock and I wasn’t finished preparing my next Suffolk sock yarn.  I cast on!

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Here, a sock poses above Port Willunga beach on a summer outing. Is it just my imagination, or was this shot so peculiar my beloved took a snap of me taking it to preserve for posterity?

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Here, it graces a completed summer holiday puzzle.  My daughter brought Christmas gifts that were all second hand, wrapped in newspaper and tied with binder twine, designed to entertain us while in Melbourne.  One of the puzzles was unpacked immediately!

 

Here we have the second sock with many extremely ripe strawberries after a heat wave visit to the Farmer’s market.  And, on the side of a triathlon where I was cheering on my very fit beloved.  And now we have the frivolous images out of the way, here”s the lowdown.  I loved this yarn so much I wanted to knit it right away.  It’s the right weight for socks (4 ply/fingering) but I have no reason to think it is especially sock-worthy in terms of the breed or construction of the yarn.  On the other hand, my experience is increasingly telling me that adding silk into sock yarn is not an especially winning strategy.  As a beginner spinner I was so surprised to be told that silk was strong.  I had always thought of it as a rather fragile fibre.  But here’s the thing.  It’s both.  Silk has a high tensile strength.  If you try to snap a silk thread, it is really strong.  But I don’t think that tensile strength is matched by its capacity for abrasion resistance.  I’ve tested this by mending high abrasion areas of clothing with silk thread sashiko style–with lots of running stitches across the area of the patch.  The silk thread rubbed right off, and quite quickly.  I think that the high wear areas of a sock require a lot of abrasion resistance, and perhaps silk is not the best choice.  This was an experiment with doing all the engineering I know about to strengthen this pure wool sock.

I knit these socks cuff down, and I decided not to rib the leg.  I am not sure whether this wool will be a good match with the wearer’s skin.  It isn’t merino soft or silk soft, so I decided not to add any texture that might create unwanted friction.  Instead, I created a shaped calf.  These socks are for a woman who walks a lot.  So, since I made them quite long, some room for walking muscle.  As I reached the end of the leg, I started heel reinforcing stitch above the heel.  I notice this is a place where socks can wear through and there is nothing technically difficult about reinforcing the section of the leg immediately above the heel proper, where some boots and shoes rub.

When I reached the heel, I used heel reinforcing stitch as I usually would, and added some (ecru–offwhite) cotton/silk stitching thread in for reinforcement.  You can see the stitch and colour changes in the image above. The last time I received feedback on a pair of socks for this specific person, I saw she’d worn through the sole under her heel first.  So when I got to the heel turn and began the sole, I continued the reinforcing thread, through the heel turn and then running it across the sole and snipping it off when I came to knitting across the gusset and top of the foot.

I think the idea for treating reinforcing thread in this way came from something the wonderful Elizabeth Zimmermann (wise and ingenious fairy godmother of English speaking knitters) wrote, though I think she was using woolly nylon.  She wrote in a period when nylon blend sock yarn was not available or widespread as it is today, and she was needless to say, interested in a hard wearing sock.  I think she wrote a pattern for a re-footable sock, which I read once and found beyond me.  It might be time to look it up, because perhaps by now my knitting skills will meet it.  Here is how this strategy looks on the inside of the sock. Lots oof loose ends.  But they will be barely detectable to the wearer’s heel and will not work their way out of the knitting.

I changed down a needle size for the sole to give it more durability without impinging on the wearer.  That might be one of EZ’s ideas too.  The toe also received reinforcement.

And there we are.  I purled the recipient’s initials into the back of the calf for my own amusement and hopefully hers!

And there you have it.  A sock of unknown toughness, engineered for better wear, gloriously coloured and gleefully received.  When I am listening to the former knitters I meet on public transport, in cafes, at bus stops, in meetings, I am often saddened that they know no one who would welcome a hand knit and especially not a hand knit requiring hand washing.  That is the most common reason I hear for their abandoning knitting (followed by arthritis, scourge of knitters).  My goodness!  I am blessed by many lovers of hand knits, and while for me, knitting is its own reward in some respects… it is also like cooking someone a delicious dinner.  People who enjoy and appreciate are those for whom I’d cheerfully cook or knit again given the chance.  There is nothing like being really confident that someone loves that meal or sock or slipper or jumper so much that if you made another, they’d love that too… and I am especially blessed to know folk who will happily wear experimental garments.

 

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A new ironing board cover

The old ironing board cover was made from a lovely but pre-loved piece of bark cloth that had begun to wear right through to the previous cover.  It was time.  I might be taking this ironing board to a workshop, so I want it to be in good shape! I had a big piece of stout orange and white striped cotton fabric my daughter gave me for a birthday.  It bears an IKEA label but she has begun to give me only second hand gifts, which I just love!  It makes me feel… that she sees me somehow.  So this item, perhaps a table cloth, has passed from hand to hand a few times in its lifetime with apparently little use, and in the right hand image I’m tracing around the ironing board before cutting out.

Next steps: finishing the edge and creating a casing, discovering a tool for threading cord through a very long casing in my sewing table, and inserting recycled cotton yarn into the casing.

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Then, fitting damp cover over ironing board, tightening cord, and massaging into position.  Ta-da!

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A little light mending

In our house, one of us likes to hang onto things as long as possible and mend them as needed.  The other one is less enthusiastic about mending and naturally holds different opinions about which things are so special they should be mended rather than thrown away or repurposed.  This towel had lots of pile left on it but the selvedges had given way and frayed.  A lot. That was good enough for me!  I happened to have some binding left over from a previous such project and it was just the right amount for the job.  And now–no more frayed edges… and quite a pretty edge.

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Small projects, big plans

A while ago I went to The Drapery to buy zippers, and The Drapery is far more tempting to me than the chain alternatives, so I came away with a fat quarter (or something like that) of Liberty lawn.  My Mother-Out-Law loves Liberty prints, so I tried to inhabit her aesthetic and chose this one.  She is a rather petite woman, so I made four small handkerchieves and I am reliably informed that she loves them! Naturally (in her case–the other gift she enjoys is stationery) she sent me a lovely card, and observed that only another sewer would recognise the rolled hems as a special achievement.  I feel so lucky to have out-laws who are so kind and lovely.

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Then there was the very last of these bags.

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This time I chose madder and indigo dyed threads.

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The madder dyed silk in the centre of this circle was dyed at my house, (the madder and indigo purple by Beautiful Silks), and it is SO red!

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There have been other small projects piling up, but there has also been a development.  We went to the Royal Show again this year and Suffolks were the featured sheep breed.  This beauty evidently didn’t stand still (or perhaps it was me who did the wriggling).

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I tried to speak with breeders in hopes of acquiring a fleece and discovered again that I’m really quite shy.  My beloved was much better at it.  We spoke to breeders from WA and Tasmania who did not bring fleece, and then found one from Kangaroo Island who was happy enough to sell me a fleece if I was sure I wanted to spin from a meat sheep and did I realise this is sold as carpet wool? It’s so sad to think that the long history of this breed as a source of wool for specific uses such as socks, has been all but lost even among lovers of the breed.

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Malcolm called me on the weekend and we had a chat.  We agreed on one fleece and a price that I thought was too low, and what do you know?  I put one and a half times the price in an envelope and he delivered two fleeces, or is it three?  He threw in a “black” fleece because these sell for even less than the $3 or $4 per kilo that Malcolm gets for white Suffolk fleece.  Last night I skirted it at the Guild Hall and it is grey and dark brown, cream and white (I suspect, under the dirt).  I can only confirm that I won’t need another delivery in October: this is a LOT of wool.  I’ve never raised a sheep, and it’s entirely possible Malcolm doesn’t know how long it takes to spin sock yarn!  However, the fleece I skirted last night is lovely. I’ve had little access to Suffolk to date and spun what I had suspected was poor quality fleece with a very short staple.  This has a high crimp staple of at least 8-10 cm in places, and while the coloration lowers its value for industrial processing, for me it is a real asset.  I washed a small quantity before work this morning, I’m so keen to get spinning…

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Bags… you know how this goes!

I had another breakout of bags recently.  You know how it is with me and bags–I start one and make more than you can imagine! Some were made from offcuts, some from eco prints.  An entire pair of RM Williams pants that had made it to the bargain rack at the op shop met their new destiny too.

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Here they are with bag bodies and bag linings in position (mmm–mismatched seams in evidence) and (RM Williams) straps cut and stitched and ready to be stitched on, waiting for another day.

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This one was made from the offcuts of a shirt I made last year, and it found a new home very quickly as such a fabulous print should.  Hence the hurried photo.  A rather striking E Scoparia print went to the same happy home, but my picture of it was so blurred I have decided to spare you.  And here are the rest: a bark cloth print that somehow found its way into my stash second hand and well loved which is also currently covering my ironing board–and–leaf prints on cotton and silk.

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Epic jeans mending

So my gardening jeans are many years old and have long since passed out of being suitable for  wear in polite company.  But my jeans do tend to wear through in places that I don’t really want to draw attention to. They have reached the point where I’m at risk of the fabric suddenly and dramatically parting company. But these are comfortable and fit for purpose otherwise. And won’t be easier to mend if they do rip dramatically.

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I kept thinking it might be time to let them go, but one night I decided against that.  What to do?  I made a paper pattern of the section I decided to try patching, so I could make the patch go all the way onto the seams. Then I cut patch pieces from the leg of another pair of jeans.

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I now hold my grandmother’s pinking shears, so I decided to pink the edges of the patching.

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I am a slacker so I pinned them on and then tacked by machine.  I know that hand stitched patching can be a lovely thing, but I have tried it in this part of a pair of jeans and the stitching wore off on the outside!  And, the less obtrusive the better.  This is not a situation for the visible mending programme, though I am in favour of it, in general.

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I did some early stitching to hold the patch in place and then stitched around the perimeter. This was followed by a lot of straight stitching up and back again in the most worn sections.

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And–the finished item actually looks slightly better than the original did, with lots of machine stitching in grey–the colour that was the best match to the fabric at this stage in its decay. These jeans will never return to their prime and don’t need to look glorious.  That’s probably part of why I was prepared to do an epic mend: I love a low stakes project.

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And now, we see how that wears! They will be back in the garden on the weekend for sure.

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Standing here

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Last week I sent off a small collection of squares for the Standing Here public art installation.  I was just delighted (even if also saddened) to hear that the location for the installation–Tree Place–commemorates the place an ancient tree was felled.  I am glad others recognise this as something to be marked and responded to.

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This one is a patchwork of raw silk scraps I dyed at Summer Dye Camp.  The very last of a raw silk suit a friend bought me at an op shop.  I added one of the indigo dyed–bedsheet–napkins for good measure, and this piece, which is a piece of hemp/silk with borders of cotton, dyed with eucalyptus leaves in different ways.  Wishing Jenai Hooke and Anne Harris every success with this project!

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Simple, pleasurable embroidery

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I have been embroidering some small bags.  They came with crowd sourced underwear (organic, fair trade) in them, with all the good information about the product printed onto unbleached calico.  Seven bags in all!  I decided to convert them to loveliness and started with dyeing them in indigo.  They are all slightly different shades of blue, some having been dipped more times than others.

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I am not a sophisticated embroiderer.  But I keep being given cast off embroidery thread, so there was no shortage of thread and no shortage of portable canvases for stitching.

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So I tried several patterns and admit I still enjoy the spiral most of all.

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One of the bags went travelling with my Mum when she was looking for a simple project, so then there were six.

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And after all these adventures in stitching, there is yet one waiting to be embroidered.

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I learned some things about how to store embroidery thread from the heritage items that have come to me, some of them in tangles, some in the original skeins, and some wrapped on cardboard shapes that keep the thread neat without taking up a lot of space and using something that comes into the house all the time.  Thank you to those women whose hands have held these threads already and whose minds have touched mine however distantly in this way.

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In the middle of all this my mother-out-law sent me her stash of embroidery threads in pastel colours, so some of them have gone into the project too.  So much pleasure from running stitch…

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A little bag of cards

I have been very much enjoying adding to India Flint’s Wandercards.

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One of my beloved friends said something about them that made me think she might like a set of her own.  Well, they won’t be a set of India’s lovely cards, but nevertheless, a set of plant dyed cards with quotes that might help her to keep her heart full and her courage blazing through tough times.

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I wish I could make cards as beautiful as those India selected,–beautiful paper with rounded corners and such–but I decided to embrace the imperfection and do what I could.

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Then there was the question of a suitable bag.  I thought I’d make one, but then I realised I already had a perfect bag.  Here I am on a train, embroidering on it and listening to an audio book.  Audio books and podcasts make public transport so pleasurable!

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And so, a set of cards and a little bag for them to live in, packaged up and ready to send to their new home!  I know my friend will add quotes from her favourite poets and sources of inspiration.

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Making trousers

Over the holidays I decided to sort out a pair of shorts I made some time ago.  I copied a pattern from some shorts I had bought at the op shop and made the new pair very carefully.  And from an unsuitable fabric.  They parted way at the seams in crucial places almost immediately and I pouted and put them away.  I took them out in summer and realised I could easily mend them.  They were a great fit–I loved them and wore them all summer, and decided right away that I could use the pattern to make summer weight trousers.

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This appears to be the only in-progress shot.  Setting up for topstitching the fly on the ironing board, using a sticker from a campaign I spent a lot of time on, in the 1990s.  I was still not sure about letting that sticker go–but the stickiness doesn’t last forever.  The fabric is a silk that my mother-out-law gave me.  She keeps claiming to have given up her lifelong sewing career, but I don’t believe her.  I was intimidated by the gift and have never owned silk pants.  Suddenly I knew how to use it, and I now have silk pants!

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I regret that I don’t know how to make an image of trousers that looks any good, as they are so much more complex to create than anything else I make!  One pair was not enough.  I looked at some hemp fabric I bought years back and all of a sudden–I knew what to do with it.  I am sure I always planned something like this for the length of fabric I bought…

I used an old shirt (the apple print) for interfacing.  I used a sunny fabric I already had  for the inside waistband and the pockets.  My stash, as you must have realised, is far too large.  And I used a zip I already had rather than buy another one.  In doing that, I may have made a bad call–it does sometimes peek out  little! One less zip–yes–but this one is really not a match.  I also used thread on hand rather than buy more. It’s not a perfect match but it is just fine.

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The hems used some of my former tie bias binding.  I had to laugh when I went to look for that post–because ‘beguiling details’ is just what I did with the bias binding–using the yellow and black binding in the second-last photo.  I am really happy with these trousers.  The fabric is lovely and they are a pleasure to wear.

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