Saturday, March 29, 2008


Just kidding. I haven't vanished, I've just been swamped by a project. Which is kind of fun and kind of overwhelming -- I'm sure you are all familiar with the feeling.

Next weekend is Norman's Medieval Faire, which is one of the high points of my year. I just love it. And for the five or so years that I've been going, I have wanted to dress up. Every year I chicken out, or I leave it too late. Last year I wore some odd combination of garments scrounged from my closet; this year I was determined to do it right.

Unfortunately my research has been kind of haphazard, and has led me to select the name Ford Prefect .... I mean, to select Butterick 6196 as an appropriate outfit for a nice middle class lady (view on left) except I know there weren't middle classes but still ... I don't want to be a princess. That's Charlotte's job. I'd like to imagine myself a cloth merchant's wife, or maybe the wife of some small-time knight, running a little estate in the country.

As it turns out, I'm going to look like a nice, middle aged barmaid. I was dismayed by this at first, but what the heck. It helps that I have a pirate-themed banquet to attend a week later, and I figure I can use the blouse and the bodice over again. Next year -- who knows?

So far I have made the blouse and the skirt. This afternoon I am going to tackle the bodice which looks complicated but do-able, even by a sewer of limited skills (me). It helps that it doesn't have to fit perfectly due to the lacing. I am hoping to finish it by tomorrow night, which would give me four days to make an apron, a coif, and what I really want to work on right now -- a pocket. A tie-on pocket with crewel embroidery. I probably don't have time, and they're 18th century anyways .... but I really want one.

Oh, and I might need to help the kids with outfits, too.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sweater in a week

About two weeks ago I read an appeal from afghans for Afghans. They had an unexpected opportunity to send a load of clothing for children to Afghanistan with Roots of Peace. The kicker was that the items had to be in California by March 18th. Could we help?

Really, the answer was no. I was busy, we had plans for the weekend, it was my birthday (which now involves a surprising amount of planning on my part, so that there's a cake for the kids to decorate and time for them to make me a present, and so forth), and we were leaving town on the 13th. I'd have to let this one pass me by.

But somehow I couldn't. What if Roots of Peace told these kids they could expect warm clothes, and then there weren't any? So I decided I could just whip up a sweater on the Bond, no problem.

Well, it isn't as simple as that. It has been a couple of years since I used the sweater machine, so I had to remind myself how certain operations work. And the calculations for sleeve decreasing were rendered extremely complex by the relationship of my expected gauge (ball band) compared to the actual gauge I was getting. Since I wasn't knitting for anyone in particular, I didn't do a gauge swatch, but I did want the finished sweater to have a good chance of fitting someone.

And actually, I wanted it to fit a big someone. The call was for clothes to fit kids up to 14 years old, and I figured that more people would make small sweaters than large ones, especially given the quick turnaround time. Knitting a bigger sweater on the machine takes very little more time than knitting a small one -- most of the time is in the setup, at least for a plain stockinette sweater. So I planned a largish sweater.

Because we had several hours in the car (on March 9th) I started by casting on for the bottom ribbing. I knit all of the back ribbing and half of the front, planning to hang the ribbing on the machine and continue on from there. (Usually I do the ribbing last, but I wanted to get started that day.) It was a great idea, but I cast on as many stitches as I wanted for the body, and also used the size needle I'd use for the body if I were knitting by hand. So then in order not to end up with flaring ribbing I had to make the body even bigger.

But that was okay. I had 5 skeins of Patons Classic Wool Merino in a very pretty pumpkin shade, and Ravelry shows several adult sweaters made with 3 1/2 skeins, so I didn't worry about running out. I just made a bigger sweater; some 14 year old boy will fit into it.

I knit the back Monday morning, finished the ribbing for the front Monday afternoon, and knit the front Monday night after the kids went to bed, and connected the shoulders with a three needle bindoff. Tuesday (my birthday) all I could manage was one sleeve. Wednesday I knit the second sleeve. I had picked up the sleeve stitches from the sides, so all four pieces were attached to each other. We would be traveling all day Thursday, so I could sew the side and sleeve seams and knit the neck & wrist ribbings on the plane, and mail it from Florida on Friday.

Hah! I always forget how long finishing can take. I did sew the seams on the plane, but that was all I managed to do. And knitting the wrist ribbings and the enormously long turtleneck that I really wanted to make took quite a bit of time, too. I wasn't willing to ignore the parents I'd traveled to see (or the pool in their backyard), so I didn't finish until after the post office closed on Saturday.

Oh, and those 3 1/2 skein adult sweaters? They must have been for some pretty small women. I might have had enough to finish the ribbings, but probably not enough for a turtleneck. I had noticed, though, that the wine-colored waste yarn I was using looked very nice with the pumpkin, so I striped the ribbings with that.

I mailed it out on Monday the 17th. I hope it got to California in time; if not, I'm sure it will get to Afghanistan sooner or later. And on the way back from the post office ..... I realized I had forgotten to take a picture. So imagine here that you see a pumpkin colored stockinette sweater, with square set-in sleeves, short-rowed shoulders & back neck, and a wine & pumpkin striped turtleneck.

Cozy, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Woven, but not finished.

The cloth is off the loom! Here is all four yards of it, stretched across the overgrown bushes in our raggedy front yard (nothing like photography to make things obvious, is there?):

Here is a closer look at the fabric:

The 3" edge sections are dyed the same color as the weft. Then there are warp stripes: 2" A, 2" B, 6" A, 2" B, 2" A, and then another 3" of edge.

The central stripes were supposed to have distinct stripe patterns, but as you may recall, things didn't quite work out that way. I like the shifts in color, though I wish the grayish patches weren't there. Those areas are almost the original color of the warp yarn, which is mysterious considering the quarts of excess dye we used. Perhaps I didn't mist those sections with vinegar? Next time maybe I'll mix the acid with the dye.

But that's okay. The fabric is destined to become cushions for this rocking chair, and I can use the less-spectacular bits for the backs of the cushions:
My brother bought it, broken and battered, and repaired and refinished it as a graduation present when I got my master's. My now-sister-in-law took a class to learn how to weave the seat. It is lovely ... but the back is a little uncomfortable. I've been looking around for cushions for a while (19 years). (Actually I made one once before, from commercial fabric, but it didn't age well.)

The cluttered photo includes a corner of a stand for a fish tank, painted the same red as the walls. Eventually there will be doors on the stand, painted the same red. I hope (and expect) that the brownish red fabric will go well with this color, which matches the wall that you can dimly see behind the chair, between the fish tank and the piano, the bench of which his holding some weaving tools (yes, the house is full!).

The fabric is not done. Here's a close up of what I guess is called the web:

You can see spaces between the threads; they are interwoven but not yet locked together. I need to wet-finish this. I am currently reading and asking questions and trying to figure out how to do this. I wove extra to allow for some sampling, but I'm not sure a little bit will react the same way as a big long piece. Stay tuned.