Knitting With Cotton

Most of the clothes I sew are made from woven cotton.  I love it.  You can iron it into really sharp creases, pleats, hems and seam finishes.  It stays put while you sew it.  It behaves.  Cotton fabric does exactly what you ask it to.  Cotton yarn does not!

Yarn made from wool is just great to knit with.  It feels nice and soft.  Wool yarn seems to merge together hiding any joins and inconsistencies.  Cotton yarn does not.

I long ago learnt various ways to join wool yarn in my knitting and whichever method I choose (and I am always changing my mind as to which one is best) there are a few rules I always follow: never join in new yarn at the edge of my knitting, never ever knot my yarn and one of the most invisible ways to weave in ends is to use a duplicate stitch from the right side.  Each wool garment I make has fewer mistakes and looks more professional than the previous one but I was close to giving up with the cotton ones until I discovered that the rules I needed to follow were exactly opposite to the ones I use for wool: only join in new yarn at the edge, you need to knot the ends or it will unravel and don’t attempt to do duplicate stitches when weaving in ends because it will be very visible!

So, knowing the rules, I have now completed a couple of cardigans that I am really pleased with.  I still don’t really like knitting with cotton, it’s hard going and quite tough on your hands.  But it is nice to overcome problems and learn new skills and I refuse to be beaten by a ball of cotton.

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I was so pleased with the little shrug I knitted for my new niece that I decided to make one for myself.  The small version was from a pattern called Entrechat by Lisa Chemery that I found in One Skein Wonders For Babies and the adult sized one is called Madame Entrechat which you can find on Ravelry.  Rashly, I chose some purple cotton from my stash and it’s not turned out too badly, except for one minor hiccup.  It was knitting up really quickly and three quarters of the way down the back I tried it on for fit (perfect) and was quietly congratulating myself on creating such a lovely garment (mainly because I was following the simple, but essential rules for knitting with cotton) when I made an error in judgement and decided to play yarn chicken.  Why do I do these things?  I am normally very cautious and, frankly, it was obvious I did not have enough yarn left in the ball to get to the end of the row.  But I did it anyway and only got half way across.  So, obviously I undid that row…  No, I did not!  I decided that the reason the shrug was looking so good was because my knitting had miraculously just improved and that I could cope with a join in the middle and carried on knitting…  I can see the join, so everyone else can see the join!

The reason my recent cotton garments are successful is because I followed the rules.  The second I decide not to do that – disaster strikes.  I will not make that mistake again.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.  This post also contains links to other products, websites or patterns.  I do not receive any reward for mentioning them.  I only recommend books, patterns or products I use personally and believe will be of value to my readers.

Knitted Handspun

A few weeks ago I handspun a skein of Blue Faced Leicester and promptly forgot where I had stored it.  Consequently, when I spun another one this week it was a different weight entirely.  The first one, which later turned up, was definitely an aran weight and the second one a double knit, so when I come to knitting it into something I will have to be a bit creative!  Despite the difference in size, I am really pleased with how they turned out.  They are every bit as soft as merino, BFL is tougher, it has an incredible lustre that is missing from merino and it is British.  I still have plenty more breeds of sheep fleece to try but I know I will use BFL again.

I hand painted these two skeins in the same pale lilacs, blues and greens so that they can be used for the same project.   What project that will be, is yet to be decided.  At the moment I am just enjoying looking at them.  They are very pretty – and shiny.

Earlier I handspun some pre-dyed Corriedale fleece into a double knit in shades of pale pink, dark pink, salmon and cream.  Corriedale is very fine and soft (not quite as soft as merino) and these colours have worked well together. So I decided that this handspun wool would be knitted up into something for myself.  It was a bit of a dilemma deciding what to make from it and a curly scarf Rustic Potato Chip won out, but I will probably spin up more to make some gloves or a hat, or both.  Probably both!  (Assuming I ever finish the scarf.  It is really easy but really time consuming with lots of short rows.)  This was a free pattern from Ravelry.  I might have said it before, but I love Ravelry.

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I also knitted some fingerless gloves this week, not with my own handspun but at least they have been finished.

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Disclosure:  This post contains links to products, websites or patterns.  I do not receive any reward for mentioning them.  I only recommend items I use personally and think will be of interest to my readers.

Fingerless Gloves

I like hand knitted fingerless gloves and, unable to find patterns I liked, I decided to make some of my own. I’ve made a few pairs of these recently.  They’re all made from aran weight wool and knitted in the round.  Some are knitted from a really soft merino and some are a mix of alpaca and merino.  I was going to keep them for myself as I like to have unique items that nobody else has, but I have now decided to put the patterns in  my shop.

They are really quick and easy to knit on a circular needle using the magic loop method, or they can be made with DPN’s and there is no sewing to do.   I have recommended the Old Norwegian cast on for them as it is stretchy and neat.  When I was taught to knit I only learnt one cast on method and it wasn’t until about two years ago that I found out there were other ways.  After a bit of research I found Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor.  54 ways to cast on and cast off.  It was a revelation.  This is actually one of the best books I have ever bought and I have quite a few.  It doesn’t have any pretty, colourful pictures. Well, it does have pictures but they are useful ones showing what you can achieve for the various methods; it’s not a pretty coffee table book.  But it covers so many options to cast on and off.  It is spiral bound, so lies flat when you have your hands full of wool and needles, and has really detailed instructions and diagrams for each method.  The only downside, and I’m pretty sure it is the only downside, is that some methods cover two pages so that when you have yarn in one hand, needles in the other, it is virtually impossible to also turn the page to see the next step.  I refer to this book all the time and every knitter should have one.

As with all my patterns, these have Cornish names; Delen meaning ‘leaf’, Kadon meaning ‘chain’ (a cable look without the cable needle), Todnow meaning ‘waves’, Nedha meaning ‘twist’ (another cable look without the cable needle), Mor meaning ‘sea’.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.  I only recommend books or products I use personally and believe will be of value to my readers.

Still a W.I.P.

Why can’t I finish this?  This is probably the most simple jumper I’ve ever knitted.  It’s knit in the round so it is nearly all plain knitting with just a few rounds of garter stitch, a small amount of I-cord around the keyhole and some increasing and decreasing to form the ruching.  I mentioned the Ruched Yoke Tee I was knitting several weeks ago.  It has progressed but is still nowhere near finished and I really don’t know why.  I have a few more cardigans lined up for when this is finished and usually that’s all the motivation I need to finish what I’m doing so that I can start the next one.  But not this time, apparently.

I usually have a few W.I.P. (work in progress) on the go but only one jumper or cardigan at a time.  (Several pairs of socks, gloves, hats and scarves, but only one cardigan.)  It is useful to have a W.I.P. or two to hand for different situations.  A small, easy pattern in your handbag for when you have five minutes waiting for something when you’re out, some intricate lace or cabled socks when you have the house to yourself (not that that happens that often) or a plain stockinette stitch jumper when you’re chatting in a knitting group.

But this one is just a chore and I have no idea why.  My other half asked why I didn’t just start my next cardigan before finishing this one.  That does seem like defeat and I’ve never done that before but that’s precisely what I am going to do.  I will come back to this one!  Really, I will, if only because I shall need the cables for another project.  Now I just need to decide between another Peasy in a rust coloured alpaca and merino or a second Acorns in a light olive coloured alpaca and merino.

 

 

 

Disclosure:  This post contains links to products, websites or patterns.  I do not receive any reward for mentioning them.  I only recommend items I use personally and think will be of interest to my readers.

A New Pink Top

This pink top has been sitting in my sewing room part made for about two weeks.  I used the upper bodice pattern piece for the sweetheart bodice dress from Yoshiko Tsukiori’s Sweet Dress Book: 23 Stylish Outfits from Six Simple Patterns and my own pattern for the rest which I made from a drape, just as I did for the cream one I made a while ago with the pretty bridal lace section at the top.

I get a lot of comments on this one and have wanted to make another but took my time thinking about which fabric would be best.  I really like it in the cream and was tempted to make one in a similar colour.  I think the pale pink was a good choice, though, as I did not have a pink top.  I have some more fabric to make another one when I can find the time.  It is a pale coffee coloured cotton and a mesh fabric with coffee coloured spots on.

The pink top has turned out better than I thought.  Rashly, I decided to do a hand sewn scallop hem because they’re so delicate and pretty.  It took so long and it doesn’t even show up in the photographs!  I love the pink shell button I chose.  It really needed a more lightweight one so that the delicate chiffon wasn’t weighed down.  But my heart won out and I used the one I liked (again it doesn’t show up in the photographs).  It is a pink disc made from shell with a metal shank which ends in a square of metal in the centre at the front.

 

 

 

 

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.  I only recommend books or products I use personally and believe will be of value to my readers.

Basic Black Japanese Pattern Book Review

I didn’t expect to be reviewing another Japanese pattern book so soon, but I found this green top which was made using a pattern from one of my newer books Basic Black: 26 Edgy Essentials for the Modern Wardrobe by Sato Watanabe.  I’ve had this book for quite a while but did not notice the detailing on this dress pattern probably because all the designs are in black, hence the name.  That is really the only negative I can find with this book.  It is one of my two favourite Japanese pattern books.  It describes itself as being edgy and I suppose it is when compared to other Japanese pattern books.  I just think it is more stylish and  definitely more to my taste.  The patterns are slightly more confusing than those in other Japanese pattern books due to them being all squashed onto (both sides) of just one sheet.  But I quite like the challenge.

So, here’s my version of this pattern:

This is not at all what I intended.  I had a beautiful piece of fabric lined up.  It was a silk cotton mix in a very pale peach with a slight gold shimmer to it.  (The darts would have shown up beautifully on this fabric, unlike the patterned fabric I ended up using.).  This fabric was tricky.  It did not even like being cut.  I spent ages getting it cut out, measuring and pinning the darts (all six of them).  I was just about to start sewing when I noticed the fabric looked almost transparent in places and when I investigated, it just started falling to pieces.  Hence the change of fabric.  This one is a cotton poplin which might not drape as well as the silk mix but I knew it would stay put while I cut it and I could iron it into nice sharp darts.  Good old cotton.  I did like that other fabric though.

So, when measuring the pattern I thought the boat neck might be a bit too wide, but decided to make it as the designer intended except that I was making a top and not a dress.  The neck is a bit too wide, but still wearable.  I should have made a smaller size and will probably have to do a few alterations to rectify that at some point.  The only other modifications I made were to sew a seam up the back with a small opening and a hand sewn button fastening instead of a zip, to hand sew a rolled hem and to hand sew much thinner bias binding as I prefer a daintier look.

I want to make quite a few of the patterns in this book.

I particularly like ‘a’ the Lace Shirred Blouse, and ‘g’ and ‘h’ both versions of the Whimsical Vest.  I find the names given to the garments amusing as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Rolled Hems

Knowing how to sew rolled hems either by hand or using a sewing machine are really useful techniques to learn.  In this tutorial I have included a machine sewing method and two hand sewn versions.

I finish the majority of my blouses, and skirt and dress linings with machine rolled hems.  This method produces a strong, even (but flat) hem.  You need a rolled hems presser foot attachment (you could always just double fold the very edge of your fabric and top sew it using an ordinary foot but this would be fiddly).

This works best on fairly thin material.  First, especially if you have used french seams like me, cut out some of the bulk from the bottom of each seam to enable it to fit into the rolled hems foot.  To get going, double fold a small section of very tiny hem, begin sewing a small straight stitch and then lift your fabric into the trumpet shaped part of your rolled hems foot.  Keep feeding it in as you sew and the machine will automatically fold and hem at the same time.  This is so quick and easy to do.  If you want a rounder machine rolled hem try using a zigzag stitch.  I haven’t used this method because I feel the stitches would be too visible for me.  (That’s just me.)

At school I was taught how to sew rolled hems by hand.  This is my preferred method to use on garments that have visible hems such as a blouse.  This produces a very neat, polished hem.  You could use a whip stitch with this one but the stitches would show.

(Working from right to left.)  Double fold a tiny hem.  Insert your needle into this (with a knot in your thread), pick up a thread or two under the hem and take a stitch from the hem itself.  Repeat this stitch whilst rolling the hem with your thumb.  This really is a very effective technique.  Apparently, my old sewing teacher knew her stuff.

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This is the second technique that I discovered a couple of years ago.  This is the method to use on a scarf or hanky.  It creates an extremely tiny, ’round’ hem.  I don’t feel it is suitable for use on a top due to the distance between the stitches leaving it a less strong, less even hem.  However, that does also make it more decorative for a scarf or hanky.

(Working from right to left.)  Fold a tiny hem (just once, not a double fold) and insert your needle and knotted thread into it.  Pick up a thread or two at the base of the (single) fold, put your needle into the top of the fold next to the previous stitch and bring it out about 1 cm along the fold.  Pick up a thread or two at the base of your hem, insert back into the top of the fold next to the previous stitch and bring it out about 1 cm further along the fold.  Repeat for about five stitches, then pull the thread tight.  This pulls the hem into a small round roll.

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This method does make an impressively tiny, neat hem.

Tea Leaves Cardigan

I have knitted quite a few cardigans recently. I made this cardigan a few months ago from a beautiful pale pink soft merino which has a reputation for stretching in the wash.  I actually put this cardigan in the washing machine and I’ve not had any problems.  My alpaca and merino mix cardigans get hand washed, but the merino is fine in the machine as long as you put it in a net bag to keep it confined.

Melissa LaBarre’s Tea Leaves Cardigan is a really simple pattern suitable for a beginner knitter.  You do have a lot of stitches on the needle when doing the yoke but you only need to know a few basic stitches and techniques.  I could happily knit this one with lots going on around me without the worry of losing concentration and going wrong (I usually need complete silence when I’m knitting).  This could be my go to cardigan pattern when I don’t want anything too involved!  A lot of other people feel the same way.  More than two and a half thousand people have posted their copies of this cardigan on Ravelry.

There was a similar pattern on Ravelry for a short sleeved jumper called Ruched Yoke Tee by AnneLena Mattison which is knitted in a double knit yarn.  I really liked the keyhole at the neckline but I didn’t want a short sleeved version as I have lots of T-shirts and can’t be bothered to knit one.  But I really like that keyhole and this pattern is easy to knit like the Tea Leaves Cardigan so I have started knitting one in a pale pink cotton merino, but with three quarter length sleeves.  I usually only knit cardigans; I can’t remember the last time I knitted a jumper.  It is taking forever.  It shouldn’t be.  It is knitted in the round using stockinette stitch, so I just have to keep knitting.  No purling.  But it’s still very slow going (I do realize that’s only me as nearly everyone else on Ravelry has said it was a quick knit for them) and I keep getting side tracked with other projects like darted tops and baby booties patterns.  I really have to finish it.  Just one more waist decrease, then increasing again for the hips.  The worrying thing is that my next planned project is in 4 ply.  Perhaps I should put that off for a while and do a quick aran knit first.  Or perhaps I should stop thinking about what else I want to knit and just finish this one!

Disclosure:  This post contains links to products, websites or patterns.  I do not receive any reward for mentioning them.  I only recommend items I use personally and think will be of interest to my readers.

Acorns Cardigan

Another completed cardigan and in blue.  I’m not sure what’s come over me; prolific cardigan knitting and using the colour blue!  This wool reminded me of the sea on a stormy day.  (Although yesterday, when we were walking around the cliffs the sea was a brilliant turquoise blue, I am on the lookout for a yarn in just that colour.)  I knitted this from aran weight merino so it’s more of a winter garment, but you never can tell in Cornwall it will probably come in handy in July.

I really enjoyed knitting this cardigan with the acorns around the yoke.  Carol Sunday’s Acorns Cardigan is not a beginner’s knit, not that it is difficult, it just requires a lot of concentration due to the huge variety of stitches and the use of different increases and decreases.  This is my kind of pattern, I loved knitting it.   The yoke did take ages.  It seemed like I had been knitting it for weeks and had very little to show for it.  But once I got onto the body it took no time at all, probably because I could concentrate on the number of rows between increases and decreases which is much better than the usual ‘continue working in stockinette stitch until it measures…’.

I did miss off some of the acorns on the front of the cardigan because I thought it might look better with them just around the yoke, and I think that was a good choice.

A few people on Ravelry have mentioned the confusion with the cuff chart and when I got to that point I realized why.  The designer has been very helpful in converting the chart for working on the wrong side but has reversed the purl and knit symbols, so you have to pretend you are working on the right side, i.e. the empty square is always a knit and the square with a spot in is always a purl.

A lot of people have changed the neckline but I liked that part of the design so I knitted it just as the pattern said.  I probably should have taken more notice of their comments on the button band.  Even before I put it on I could see that it would gap and it does (although not so much when I put it on my tailor’s dummy because she doesn’t move) so next time I will possibly alter the number of stitches I pick up, and use extra buttons.  (I have already bought some extra olive coloured buttons for that purpose.  But that is several projects away.)

 

Disclosure:  This post contains links to products, websites or patterns.  I do not receive any reward for mentioning them.  I only recommend items I use personally and think will be of interest to my readers.

Sweet Dress Japanese Patterns

I absolutely love Japanese pattern books.  A lot of people have had a meltdown when they’ve unfolded the patterns in some of these books and found that; a) there are about a million patterns on each page, b) you have to trace off all the lines for your garment, c) there are no seam allowances, you have to add these yourself.  For me, these are all bonuses.  I like the fact that I get a whole pile of patterns for very little money.  I prefer to trace off the patterns, so that I can still use the original in another size, and it is far easier to alter a pattern to fit me if it has no seam allowances to take into consideration.  Also, I can then choose the size for my seam allowances without having to work around what’s already there.

These Japanese pattern books are quite brilliant.

The Japanese pattern book I am going to share with you today is Sweet Dress Book by Yoshiko Tsukiori.  Sweet Dress Book: 23 Stylish Outfits from Six Simple Patterns  OK, so most of the models do look really sad and motionless and like they’re wearing clothes belonging to someone far larger than themselves.  (Although this is not the case with my two latest purchases of Japanese pattern books)  I’m not sure if this is just the style they favour or whether they do this so as to provide less distractions from the shape and lines of the garments.  Size-wise I assume they’ve just taken the patterns directly from the books which have been created for the larger western body, so wouldn’t fit the petite Japanese frame.

Each of these books contains a wide range of very usable patterns.  Personally, I can’t imagine making many of these patterns exactly as the designer intended, but they are very adaptable.  (Again, my two new Japanese pattern books are very different from any other in that I want to make a lot of the patterns exactly as the designers intended and I will be sharing these with you when I have made some, my dilemma is which to start with!)  Some of the Japanese patterns generally are very unfitted and would benefit from a dart or two, and sometimes I have to add more width and darts for the bust.  (They are designed for the flat chested.)  But this book has a good variety of patterns with raglan sleeves, set in sleeves, puff sleeves, bishop sleeves, french sleeves, sleeveless and straps.  It has patterns for dresses, coat dresses, blouses, tunics, trousers and playsuits.  Even a cupcake recipe!

So far I’ve used pattern ‘R’ sweetheart-bodice dress to make a top for me, but I didn’t want the gathers so I combined the top of the Japanese pattern with the pattern I made from draping my tailor’s dummy.

I really like this top and have bought more fabric to make another one.  Another of the patterns I will be using is pattern ‘W’ bell-sleeve coat dress.

I haven’t decided yet whether to make it as a short jacket or the length it is in the book, but I will line it and probably change it from a V-neck into a round neck.

Next week I will be quilting and I will be showing you how to make a very simple quilt with no piecing, applique or added bias bindings!