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Posts Tagged ‘WOVEMBER’

Wovember 2013 is here!

Dear readers, Wovember 2013 has arrived! Another round of Woolly Wonders to be shared with the world. Like last year, I will be working hard, together with Kate Davies and Felicity Ford, to celebrate wool in all its myriad aspects. This means I will be a bit quiet on my own blog. You can join in with the fun over at WOVEMBER!

That said, I’m planning to track my WAL progress here. What is WAL? A WAL is a Wool-Along, where we invite Wovember blog readers to join in on a woolly project of your own choice, for the month of Wovember. More details on the Wovember blog.

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I’m going to work on a new pair of woollen trousers, using a herringbone tweed I bought at the Jamieson’s of Shetland mill in Sandness, my first ever machine-knit cardigan, also in Shetland wool, and last but not least, I’m already working on a Fair Isle cardigan in Foula Wool. Come join us in a woolly project. What will you be working on?

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When I joined Team Wovember, I was introduced to the Wovember readers in a Q&A post, in which I mentioned that the only thing lacking in my wardrobe, was a pair of woollen trousers. I curated all the Wovember Words, and as this took up more time than anticipated – there were so many interesting quotes, I posted one every day – I never got round to the trousers. Or, to be more precise, I never got round to writing about them. As I did make myself a pair, shown here in a completely natural pose:

WTGreenPea

Woollen Outfit: Woollen Socks, Woollen Trousers, Woollen Jacket, Woollen Jumper, Woollen Gloves, Woollen Hat – I left my Woollen Scarf at home, as quite frankly, it was rather hot!

The gloves and the hat will get their own separate posts in due course, as today I want to tell you all about my trousers. For a long time now, I  wanted to make myself a pair of trousers, and indeed, two winters ago, I bought some lovely charcoal woollen fabric from Dïtto. I bought some calico. I bought a pattern. I bought a zip and buttons and thread. And I traced the pattern in one size too small. And I made a toile from the calico. And I found out I my mistake. I traced again;  I made a second toile. And I found it had the right size, but had an ugly fit.

And that’s when I gave up.

But, the fabric always looked at me reproachfully every time I opened the drawer in which I had hidden it from sight, so WOVEMBER2012 seemed to be the right time to try again. I was lucky that in the meantime I had made friends with Zoe, who knows a thing or two about sewing, and we agreed on a skill-swap: I would teach her how to darn, she would teach me about sewing. She gave me some tips on altering the pattern and this time, the toile fitted very well, and confidently I took my shears to the woollen fabric:

WOV12TrousersPattern

As, however, I’m not a confident sewer, and my Singer treadle sewing machine doesn’t have any seam guides on the cover plate, I basted every single seam before taking it to the sewing machine. It meant that I could pay attention to the needle, rather than the side of the seam, and I didn’t have to worry about navigating over pins: the fabric is quite heavy, so a pin, even if inserted perpendicular to the stitch line, was a slight distraction. It may come as no surprise to you, that I tried to make these trousers to the best of my abilities I currently have.

So, let me take you through my trousers, so to speak!

I hand-picked the fly and zipper for two reasons: 1) I just really love the look of it; 2) I do know how to wield a needle and thread, but I still struggle a bit with making a nicely curved stitch line.

WOV12TFly

I’m a big fan of tailored button-holes, and I once spent an afternoon perfecting my button-hole stitch, so I finally got to use it on a garment, even if my Singer has a buttonhole attachment that famously makes the most gorgeous buttonholes in the whole wide world. For a sewing machine. The vintage button was sewn on with a “woven shank”, which means that you go around and through the threads of the shank in a figure-of-eight:

WOV12TButton

I’m particularly proud of my welted pockets. I approached them very carefully, spent a lot of time pressing and basting, because a heavy woollen fabric really needs to be put into place with a lot of pressing, making fiddly folding of strips of fabric a bit of a challenge:

WOV12TPocket

The cuffs also have a special finish. There used to be a time that I thought that spending £250 or more on a pair of designer trousers, was money well spent (oh how I have changed), and when you buy these kind of trousers, their cuffs haven’t been finished yet, so that they can be made to measure. One shop I used to frequent, used a seamstress who always put this sturdy ribbon in. It protects the cuff from fraying, and it also made the trousers fall very nicely over your shoes – grosgrain ribbon is the nearest I could find, although I remember the ribbon in those expensive trousers to be a bit sturdier. If anybody knows what this is called in English, I would love to hear from you. In Dutch, they are called a ‘stootband’ which roughly translates into bumper.

WOV12TStootband

There is one drawback on using my Singer treadle machine. It’s a straight-stitch-only machine. I do have the zigzag attachment (it attaches in a similar fashion as the buttonholer, but instead it makes the fabric zigzag under the needle) and every time I try this out, I have less than satisfactory results. So I blanket stitched all seams by hand. I also sewed down the waistband by hand, as I wanted a very neat finish. Last but not least, I read somewhere (I can’t remember the source), that back-stitching the centre seam makes for a very strong seam, which also has a little bit of give. Which is good, as I wear these trousers on my bicycle, too, so I also back-stitched the centre seam.

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I have been told by sewers that all that hand-finishing would completely put them off. But I feel differently about this: apart from actually enjoying handstitching, I’m not put off by something taking its time. I’m a handknitter, and I’m used to it. Yes, it did add an additional day before these trousers were ready, but I enjoy getting into the rhythm. I put some music on and soon I’m completely absorbed by the task at hand, making stitch after stitch, feeling at one with the object I’m making.

The woollen trousers are already a faithful addition to my wardrobe. They are comfortable, fit very well, and look rather smart. Although I chose the fabric two winters ago, having helped out with Wovember makes me even more happy that I used wool – and those of you who have followed Wovember know that there are plenty of reasons to use wool for your clothes: it’s natural, bio-degradable, hygroscopic, flame-resistant, breathable, warm, sustainable, versatile. But, ultimately, I’m just happy that all this validates what I already know: the look and feel of wool is unsurpassed.

WTEthel

me posing in my high wool-content outfit on Brighton beach.

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My Sanquhar socks.

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As you all know, I’m currently having a lot of fun over at WOVEMBER2012, celebrating wool for what it is. I’m curating the Wovember Words posts – woollen elevenses, if you like. Although WOVEMBER takes up a lot of time, I have found some time to make things with wool. I’m very pleased with all of them, and they will each get a separate in-depth post once WOVEMBER has finished. But as I’m too excited about each of them, I want to share some pictures with you:

First up, I made some Sanquhar gloves in the Prince of Wales pattern:

 

Of course, my name is knitted in the cuff:

Secondly, I finally managed to sew a pair of trousers! I bought the fabric two winters ago, made two (yes, TWO) toiles, and then wasn’t happy with the fit and didn’t know how to change it. But with a new pattern, and some encouragement from Zoe, I made this pair of trousers, which are perhaps more classic than fashionable in shape. Here some close-ups, as I will reveal the whole pair over at WOVEMBER later. A hand-picked fly with vintage button:

 

Welted back-pockets:

 

 

Last, but not least I’m finishing of this self-lined beany in the most amazing Wensleydale Longwool yarn:

 

The patterns are typically more often used on ganseys:

 

 

Come on over at WOVEMBER, there’s even a competition going on where you can win all sorts of prizes by sending in a woolly picture!

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WOVEMBER2012 is approaching fast, about which a bit more later. First, I want to tell you about a blanket I have just finished – just in time for Wovember! Having worked on a few projects which required a lot of thinking, I wanted to knit something from a pattern, so I didn’t have to think too much about what I was doing. Having ogled at Kate Davies’s beautiful Rams and Yowes Blanket ever since she released the pattern, the choice was quickly made. It’s knitted in nine, yes NINE! natural shades of Shetland wool. Just look at it:

Isn’t it just gorgeous? Kate has used this natural pallette to great effect in this very contemporary design. But there is more to this blanket than meets the eye. It juxtaposes modern design against traditional construction – although it also includes Kate’s very own ‘steek sandwich’, about which you can find more on her tutorial page.

The construction mostly follows that of a modern Shetland lace shawl (traditional Shetland lace shawls were knitted in pieces and made whole with a combination of picking up stitches and grafting together): first you knit the centre square, then you pick up stitches all around to start the border, lastly you finish it off by knitting on an edging. As Kate used a stranded colourwork technique, the centre square is actually knitted as a tube, as that makes that MUCH easier. The tube includes a few steek stitches. Once the tube is finished, the steek is cut, and you can open up the tube into a square.

Then you pick up stitches along all four edges of this square to start knitting the border in garter stitch; of course, as the border is knitted in the round, this means alternating knit rounds with purl rounds. In order for it to lie flat, the corners are mitred and I accentuated this by knitting the corner stitch on every round. It also neatly disguises the jog when you change colours.

Like a traditional lace shawl, this blanket also has an edging:

It may seem inconsequential, but this garter stitch border has an applied i-cord edging (difficult to see in this picture I’m afraid). As the border consists of a double layer (this hides the cut edges of the steek), it had a very soft rolling edge where it folds over from front to back. Adding an i-cord edge makes it look much sharper and finished. As each new colour is introduced on a purl row – often a no-no in colourwork knitting – they visually blend in really well. Genius! Here’s a shade card I made of all those gorgeous nine natural colours of Shetland fleece. The numbers refer to the Jamieson & Smith official shades:

I really like the steely grey of shaela and at some point I’d like a jumper knitted in just that colour. In the blanket, I particularly love the combination of sholmit against gaulmogot, although secretly the garter stitch border is my very favourite element. Although the design itself is not traditional, Kate has used some typical Fair Isle colour combination rules: both background and motif colour change within the pattern and these colour changes are usually mirrorred along the central axis.

Despite the appearance of the patterns, which shows highly stylised yowes (the Scottish word for ‘ewes’ or female sheep) and rams’ heads, this is not the easiest pattern to knit, due to the long floats at the back. I solved this by weaving in extra-long floats. Additionally, after washing the blanket, I ‘fulled the back’ by rubbing the back of the blanket with the palms of my hands. This starts the felting process, but you stop well before the knitted fabric turns into felt. This means that the floats start to integrate a bit with the knitted fabric, giving a neater finish.

I can’t think of a better blanket to celebrate Wovember2012 with! As I will be busy helping out over at Wovember, I will be spending less time on my own blog for the duration of it. In addition to all the admin side of getting blog posts together and scheduling them etc, I have also planned to sew a pair of woollen trousers, so I will be very busy indeed – come join me at WOVEMBER and share your love of WOOL with us!

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