Monthly Archives: May 2021

Patchwork Jacket with Knitted Sleeves

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One of my favorite makes ever.

When I was living in the Dallas suburbs, I belong to a vibrant and active chapter of the American Sewing Guild. The ladies in it were so talented and inspiring and it was just the thing to keep my creative juices flowing. One month we had a presentation on creating a jacket from a sweatshirt.

These types of projects are just up my alley. I don’t know why, but I love repurposing things. I see thrift stores as one big treasure chest of possibilities – diamonds in the rough just waiting to be polished to show their beauty. By comparison, craft stores feel cold and sterile to me. I prefer worn in things. Mass produced products these days just don’t have the quality, history or character of older items. Also, I seem to have this weird aversion for new things. I find their pristine condition a bit intimidating. I don’t want to ruin them so when I buy something, particularly clothes, I avoid wearing them, which is ridiculous and something I’m working on. Why I make things more precious than they are is beyond me. But then again, why fight my preferences and just accept that shabby is part of my aesthetic.

After that meeting I went straight to my favorite thrift store and found a couple of men’s sweatshirts and set to work on my jacket. Let’s be honest, this was the late 90’s, not a decade known for its style and the trend of creating a cardigan out of a sweatshirt turned up some questionable designs, most a bit “old lady”.

A typical sweatshirt-turned-jacket pattern. This one is on on FreePatterns.com

I am not here to judge anyone’s choices, this just wasn’t (and still isn’t) my style (I respect and applaud you to do you, with no apologies.) The idea though set my creative gears in motion and I made my version of the sweatshirt jacket. And by the time I was done, there was no evidence that it was ever a sweatshirt.

In the workshop, the presenter took a sweatshirt and used it as a base, covering it with strips of quilting cotton. I used a roll of batiks I had in my stash and sewed them on. Instead of sewing the strips right sides together to hide the raw edges, I just overlapped them using a zig-zag stitch. Then I did some freeform topstitching to give it a quilted look. That’s about all I took from the workshop because I decided to actually make a fitted jacket using a commercial pattern I had as a starting point (sorry, I don’t remember what pattern it was but any jacket pattern would do). Before I sewed on my strips, I removed the collar, cuffs and waistband, cutting the shirt up into raw yardage. I ended up using two sweatshirts.

I only needed enough fabric to do the front, back and the collar. After I had sewn on my batik strips, I cut out the jacket pattern pieces and sewed the fronts and backs together, serging the seams. I did need to adjust the darts to get a better fit but that wasn’t a big deal.

The collar was a bit of an afterthought and as the jacket progressed I thought a shawl collar would be a nice touch. The pattern only had a notched collar so I had to draft my own. I did this by putting the shell of the jacket on my dress form and draped muslin over it, drawing out the shape I wanted.

I used bias binding to finish off the edges that showed – the hem, front and collar.

I took a different approach on the sleeves. I’d been combining thrift store denim vests with hand knitted sleeves for awhile- directions here – so knitting sleeves for this project wasn’t anything new for me. I had a sport weight brown yarn that matched perfectly and decided to use the sleeves from the Double Leaves & Twist Duster in Shirley Paden’s Knitwear Design Workshop. I did find a flaw with the sleeve pattern. If I recall correctly, you need to make a mirror image of them as the design is not symmetrical but the pattern does not mention it (at least not in my version).

Also, as I was knitting along I came across this:

Mistakes happen

I’m sure you’ve never made such a silly mistake but it is so frustrating to be well into a garment and notice that you miscounted and now have a little jog where there should just be straight lines of rib. And once I see it, I can’t unsee it so I had to rip it back and fix it. But the pattern is gorgeous so it was worth doing right. When I finished the sleeves I just sewed them into the armhole and amazingly they fit without needing any adjustments (yay for stretchy knit fabric!)

A close up of the sleeve pattern

At the next meeting I presented my jacket in show-and-tell and it was a hit. While I love the process of creating, I think my favorite part is showing it off. It’s kind of embarrassing but when I finish a project, I’ll put it on my dress form and admire it. I don’t drink or do drugs – my buzz comes from the sense of accomplishment when a project (done right) is completed. Funny thing is, I think I wore this jacket once. It came with me to all of my craft shows as a display and always got lots of attention. One year I finally sold it and I can only hope it was loved and appreciated as much as I loved making it. I’ve been thinking about doing another version of this, making it into a trench coat. I’ll let that idea percolate for awhile.

Crochet Sweaters CAN be Pretty

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I love it when an idea comes out even better than you imagined it.

I’ve had a prejudice against crochet sweaters for a long time. To be fair, I grew up in the 70’s and the ones I saw in the needlecraft magazines were made from worsted weight yarn and didn’t even flatter the model. The designs of my youth were stiff and bulky and I didn’t want to look like the Michelin Man, so I reserved crochet for things like blankets or scarves But after I crocheted a top down cardigan last year (here) with a smaller hook and drapey yarn, I had to rethink my position.

This idea’s been floating around in my head for awhile now – a sweater of floral motifs. I packed up some repurposed yarn (previously a man’s cotton sweater), a size E crochet hook and a couple of stitch dictionaries to play around with my idea while dog sitting for friends.

As a side note, using repurposed cotton is not only more environmentally-friendly and sustainable (and not to mention, cheaper), yarn from unraveled garments has the added benefit of multiple washings which means it is soft and won’t shrink.

There is one thing about working with motifs, especially small ones, that I don’t like. I’m not fond of sewing them up. You can connect them as you go and work in some of the ends but there’s always going to be some you have to deal with. Mostly, I don’t like the idea of cutting the yarn. If an idea doesn’t work and I want to unravel it, I’d be stuck with a million little balls. My solution is to work a series of chains between each one.

The back of the sweater, note the row of chain stitches between each motif. If things didn’t work out, I could unravel it and still have one ball of yarn instead of a hundred little balls.

Obviously if you decide to work with more than one color, this technique might not be efficient but I wanted to do my sweater all in one color and as you can see, it worked out perfectly.

Based on the size of each motif, which is 2.5″, and working in rounds, each row up until the sleeve was either 11 or 12 motifs because it is an offset repeat. When I got to where I wanted the armhole, I added 6 more motifs on each side for the sleeves, basically creating a T shape.

The sweater in progress before I noticed I joined a motif wrong and had to rip it back to the beginning of the sleeves. Here’s where working with individual motifs would have been more efficient. You can see the T-shape emerging.

To shape the front neckline, I eliminated some motifs in the middle meaning I couldn’t work straight across the row like in the back. The first side wasn’t a problem. When I got to the other side of the neck and was on my last motif, I noticed something weird about the hem of the sleeve. It didn’t look right, the motifs weren’t lining up correctly. I had to join the upper part of the bodice/sleeve to the body and I don’t think I had them lined up correctly. I ended up ripping it back (again!) and pinning the sides together. (I need to get in the habit of taking pictures of my progress so you could see what I mean.)

For the hem of the sweater I did half motifs to get a straight edge and then cast on stitches to knit a K2P2 ribbing which was originally 3 inches.

As I got closer to the finish, my yarn was running low. I kept my fingers crossed that I’d have enough to finish. I cut it pretty close. I did have enough to finish all the motifs and to get a couple of rows of ribbing for the neckband (I originally planned on doing a cowl but obviously that wasn’t going to happen). I ended up taking some yarn from the hem (more ripping back), so the final width of the waistband is 2.25″. (If I had run out, I would’ve unraveled it back to where I started the sleeves and made them shorter. I would have done it because I was already in love with this sweater but I wouldn’t have been happy about it.)

This was all I had left from this project. Crochet definitely eats up more yarn than knitting and I’m sure the added chain to connect the motifs didn’t help.

The motif itself is only five rows and was easy to memorize. It worked up quickly and the whole project took me about 2 weeks. It would have been less if I didn’t have to rip it back so many times. I am SO happy with the way it turned out and it’s already one of my favorites. I chose this yarn because it matched my red poppy skirt (which you can see here) but it also looks wonderful with jeans. I love the uneven hem of the sleeves and the length. I’ve suffered all my life trying to find sleeves that fit my long arms but I think this length works perfectly with a wider sleeve. And flowers are my favorite inspiration so having a whole sweater made up of them just makes me happy!

This project is the epitome of my design aesthetic. I am drawn to simpler shapes preferring to highlight color, texture or pattern, through the use of stitch patterns or embellishments. Having successfully completed it, I’m thinking about other ways can I use motifs or combine knitting and crochet or even sewing for that matter. It’s wonderful how one idea will spark a million more.

Irish Crochet Yoke Dress

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I was on this kick (years ago, this is an old project) to repurpose scarves. I found this one and loved the colors. Then I found some crochet thread in my stash and decided it was time to try Irish crochet.

Irish crochet began in the 19th century and quickly gained momentum at the time of the potato famine. Lace making became a viable way for women to help support their families. Crochet lace was relatively new and the Irish were quick to pick up the skills and become some of the most renowned lace-makers in the world. Crochet was the perfect technique as it was quicker than other lace-making techniques and the fine thread and imaginative designs of the crocheter made it popular.

I was introduced to Irish crochet when I started exploring the freeform crochet world. Irish crochet is the epitome of freeform. I have an extensive stash of crochet thread and since doilies aren’t in fashion anymore I’d been looking for a way to use it up (I found some other ways but that post will be for another day…).

I started out by making a pattern for the yoke using some scrap fabric.

This was a good first effort. I think the dress turned out cute and I love the yoke pattern. I intend to use more crochet in my work since I have a lot of crochet thread to use up. I also just like the look the lace and texture adds to a garment. I find I prefer simpler silhouettes and embellishing them in some way to create interest or a focal point.

The one thing I realized while making this is there really wasn’t enough fabric in a scarf. While I was able to make a dress, I would have preferred it had a bit more volume but I was working with a limited piece of fabric. Maybe next time I should get a bunch of different scarves with coordinating prints and create a blouse out of that. Now I just have to find some cotton or silk scarves…

More Crafty YouTube Channels

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My week has been plagued with my tax return being rejected because of a pdf and my week old laptop, after spending 90 minutes on the phone with support, being returned to get fixed. I am trying to get posts scheduled since I won’t have access to a laptop for about a week. Also, I’m dog sitting and I only brought one knitting project which won’t be done for awhile so I had to think of something I could do quickly. Luckily there is no shortage of talent out there, so without further ado, here are some more YouTube creators whose channels I enjoy.

Fruity Knitting

I found Fruity Knitting when I wanted to make Dorset Buttons for a cardigan. Andrew and Andrea have put together a truly marvelous video knitting magazine (90 minutes!) It features their projects, pattern designers, bits of travel, history and interesting facts. Sadly, Andrew lost his battle with cancer recently and the community is still mourning his loss. I was watching this channel when I realized what I wanted in a relationship – a partner who not only loves me but shares a common vision. Their love, respect, support and admiration for each other is apparent in every episode. I do hope Andrea continues with the podcast but even if she doesn’t, we have over 100 videos of quality content to enjoy and while Andrew may not be here anymore in physical form, he is certainly with us in spirit in every episode.

Arne & Carlos

Arne and Carlos are designers for Rowan among other things. They started out in fashion design and when they noticed their knits were selling better than anything else, decided to focus on knitwear design full time. They are popular lecturers and pre-pandemic did a lot cruises. I recently learned Carlo’s sister lives in Austin! Their channel has a variety of content – from chatty, quirky stories about their past to Norwegian history and a variety of tutorials. They are an informative and amusing way to spend some time and full of inspiration.

Fleece and Harmony

Kim and Jennifer were guests on Fruity Knitting so when I ran out of options (i.e. I had binged all of the Fruity Knitting videos), I looked for others. This sister duo runs a sheep farm on Prince Edward Island and spins and dyes yarn. When we are able to travel again, I hope to spend some time on PEI and visit their shop.

Larisas Laces

If you like Irish Crochet, then check out this channel. Larisa has a variety of tutorials up and shows you how to do specific techniques step-by-step.

Christine McConnell

Christine is a multi-talented artist. She has a show on Netflix (unfortunately Netflix didn’t renew for a second season) called The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell which was done with Jim Henson Studios. Apparently she actually made all the stuff used in the show including a tea set made of chocolate and an amazing gingerbread house. Her vibe is definitely dark vintage (as in she loves Halloween and her videos are often spiced up with some cheeky horror). She calls her aesthetic “dead grandma” and she pulls it off wonderfully.

Malina GM Embroidery

You want to up your embroidery game? Well here you go. You’re welcome.

Creative Pep Talk

Andy J. Pizza is a teacher on Skillshare and I ended up taking a bunch of his classes. He doesn’t have a lot of videos but he does have a podcast of the same name that you can listen to here. Like the name suggests, his topics are more about the creative process than a specific medium. He’s smart but also entertaining so go check him out when you’ve hit a roadblock.

Bentley House Minis

I have a dream of making a dollhouse and Ara made a miniature reproduction of the Addam’s Family house. It took her 11 years (and I can only imagine how much $$$) and it is amazing. I love that she is also based in Texas. A little further north than me, but still in Texas. When the pandemic struck and we were in lockdown she was inspired to do a whole series about a dollhouse made of cardboard and materials we have lying around the house. It includes furniture, a doll, a dragon and she wrote a wonderful poem to go along with it.