Archive for the ‘finished object’ Category

I Dye

April 25, 2009

*This post is a draft from a hundred years ago…but it may have some value for others that foolishly do not buy their yarn from a single dye lot*

Well, my friends, it’s finally finished, my Phildar meshy sweater, made with Rowan Purelife Organic  Cotton in Logwood.  I dyed it (using Logwood natural dye) and did not kill it.  It’s soul is hardened, but it is better for it.  Actually in reality, it’s not nearly as soft as it used to be.  But it kind of went through hell, so I can’t blame it.  I hope that it will soften with wearing and eventually trust me again as a loving owner.

So, I said I would report on the dyeing process and I will.

I had to do quite a bit of research and found some great online resources, mostly through Ravelry, and I also relied on some instruction sheets from the shop I bought my dyestuffs from, Griffin Dyeworks.

So I’ll try my best and share my process in using logwood to dye a cotton sweater–natural dyeing seems to have a different process than conventional dyeing and cellulose fibers (cotton, linen, hemp, etc) have different prep and requirements than protein fibers (wool, alpaca, anything from an animal).

There are three important steps in the natural dyeing process, which I’ll go over…

1. Scouring

This was not something I was aware would be necessary until I read on a Ravelry forum that cotton yarns are very particular.  If not dyed properly it can be difficult to get bright vibrant colors–especially with logwood (which apparently has been known to fade and rub off pretty quickly).   Apparently cotton yarns come to us with quite a bit of waxy residue, which was very clear to me when I dunked my sweater in some plain old water and soaked it for a bit (in a vain hope that the dye was crappy enough to even out if just soaked) and the water was completely brown.  So in order to remove the residue so the cotton can take dye better, it must be scoured.  I got this scour mess (powder detergenty stuff) from Hillcreek Fiber Studio and followed some simple directions using a big enamel pot on my stove: 5% scour to the weight of the fiber, simmer for half an hour, and then thoroughly rinse.

2. Pre-mordanting

The next step is this thing called mordanting, which *I think* is necessary for natural dyeing only (?) to prepare the fiber for taking the natural dye.  Different mordants are used for different dyes, different fibers and to get different colors with certain dyes (like using iron for darker colors).  There’s a good table here, showing the different outcomes with different dyes using different mordants.  It can also be done two different ways–mordanting before dyeing or mordanting and dyeing at the same time.  I did the former.

So of course, cotton also requires a different mordant than protein fibers: aluminum acetate.  There’s a great blog post on the different mordanting methods for cotton here.

This was also really easy, basically following some simple directions for the alum acetate method: using 5% mordant to the weight of the fiber (or 4 Tablespoons for 1 pound), dissolve the alum acetate in boiling water. Simmer for an hour (longer is fine, too), drain water and do not rinse (though some would argue that you should rinse…I did not).

3. Dyeing

The most exciting step is the actual dyeing.  I used logwood extract, which is a finely powdered dye concentrate.  Logwood is a bark that would require a more intensive preparation than I was willing to do and the extract seemed like a perfect lazyish solution.  I don’t remember exactly how much dye I used, but it was a very small amount–maybe a teaspoon of dye in total.  The kit I bought from Griffin Dyeworks came with an instruction book, and I would imagine any dye you bought would also come with specific instructions.  It followed the same general process of dissolving the dye in a bunch of boiling water and then soaking the fiber for a while.

One interesting thing was the addition of soda ash to the dye.  If you look at the first picture the dye is a reddish purple and in the second it’s a dark bluish purple…it was like magic–it just turned the instant the soda ash hit the dye bath.

The rest needs no explanation.

A 4th obvious step of Rinsing

And finally, Drying

I may have to find a good method of softening this up again…conditioner maybe?


Baby Boom

February 14, 2009

Is there one going on right now?

I feel like everyone is pregnant.  A few of my coworkers, a few of my friends, a few of all their friends, some folks on the television, some knitters whose blogs I read–EVERYONE.  I even had a dream I was pregnant.  I woke up relieved.

I heard an interesting theory that lots of babies are conceived/born during recessions.  Times is tough, so let’s just stay in…

Just goes to prove that long-term financial planning seems to be beyond the capabilities of many people or maybe they’d realize that dinner and a movie is probably way cheaper than a child.

IRregardless (use of that “word” both amuses me and makes me cringe), I have quite a few baby gifts to make use of my knitting skills for my first really good friend who is pregnant, including Knitty’s Op Art baby blanker.

But first, I made the Curly Purly Soaker for a friend/coworker who is also pregnant.  She’ll happily be using cloth diapers and these wool soakers are made for such a lovely eco-friendly practice.

I intentionally used nontraditional baby colors.  As I believe will be appreciated by the receiving mom-to-be.

This is really cute.  I’m not a huge baby person, but this is CUTE, for a cute little baby butt.

I used Cascade 220 in Italian Plum and Charcoal Grey, which I hope will make for a chic little baby of either sex (she’s waiting to find out).  I used short rows which messed up my stripes…but I don’t think the baby’s life will be ruined.  It has a “pleated” waistband made from strategically placed columns of purled stitches.  Simple detail, but I really love the effect.  The pattern was very clear and simple, and it was a fast one night knit…meaning this will be my baby gift of choice for some time to come.

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day…a day that might exacerbate this baby boom I think is occuring.

Day #11, Lucy, I’m home…

January 15, 2009

My favorite show in the whole world is I Love Lucy.  I’ve seen every episode a million times. Literally. One million times.

My friends are always a little surprised at my strong, unwavering love for the show.  I suppose it’s unusual for someone of my generation, but I always watched it as a child and it just never loses its appeal with me.  The affinity is so strong that it extends to others that feel the same way about the show…there’s a kinship.  Like I have some sort of understanding with other Lucy fans…

Really when it comes down to it, I just love Lucy.  Seriously.  She was funny, witty, beautiful, quirky, and (because I’m that kind of lady) I loved her style–the 50s style.

So here is my attempt at channeling Lucy, except with some patent pumps, which I’m not so sure Lucy would’ve been so into.

I found the pattern for this 50s-60s style Vogue dress on Ebay, a Vogue Couturier pattern by Belinda Bellville.  When you go back that far you’re really confronted with how sizes have changed to make women feel skinny and buy more clothes (the old conspiracy theory I’m so fond of).  I’m often shocked at the small size I am in today’s sizes, mainly because I’m not that small relative to many people I know so I’m not sure what sizes are left for them…do they go into the negatives?  Must they walk around in sack-like size 0s?  Perhaps they delve into kid sizes.  In any case, the old sizes, where I’m well into the double digits, make far more sense…even if it does hurt my ego for a short minute.

The fabric is a Japanese double cotton gauze by Nani Iro.  It’s quite nice–more substantial than normal gauze, but light.  The dress itself is very fitted on top with a satin charmeuse yoke and armbands, puffy sleeves, and a very gathered skirt (mostly gathered in the back). The front is pleated with a pocket tucked in one of the pleats.  I love the hidden pocket–nothing is more gratifying than when you buy something unaware that it has a pocket and then one day you just discover it…and the whole day is perfect from that point forward.

The shape I found to be very reminiscent of Lucy’s house dresses that were so adorable to me. She always seemed so lovely and dressed up at home.  Whenever I came home from school, my parents would make me change out of my good school clothes into “house clothes.”  Just having that rule in place (which makes complete sense and is one I abide by now on my own) made me want to dress nicely at home.  It makes no sense, really–but I wanted nice house clothes.

This will not be a house dress.  I really love this one.  I tried hard to finally make something where the inside looked just as neatly done as the outside.  So I used french seams, yoke facings (which in the past I’ve been too lazy to do–but should always be done!!), and (this will sound horrible to sewers that it isn’t something I always do) matching thread.  I’m actually relatively careless with a lot of sewing projects, but lately I’ve been really trying to exercise some patience.  It generally pays off…

See you tomorrow-ish for the final Day…

Day #5: Waves of Glory

January 1, 2009

This is my latest sewing endeavor that I think is the most detailed work I’ve done to date.

The pattern comes from Burdastyle: the Jennifer Blouse.  It’s made of a peachish silk, which is crepe-like, but I think knit.  I loved this pattern for it’s nicely placed pintucks that add subtle, but feminine detail. The cuffs are also entirely pintucked, which does take quite a bit of time and patience, but looks quite nice and polished.

The inset is not part of the pattern, but was entirely inspired by the creation of another Burdastyle member, CarotteSauvage.  Her creations generally give me inspiration and a level of artistic quality that I hope to infuse into every future project.  This was a lesson in how the addition of simple shapes, placed in interesting, 3 dimensional ways can really make an otherwise plain pattern into something artful and beautiful.

The finished product came out a little big, though I do like the loose-fitting shape.  The inset and neckline could also use some little refining touch-ups, which I will get around to…someday. Overall this enters my list of favorites–it’s my masterpiece of the moment.

Ok, see you tomorrow for Day #6…I’m running out of things to share, so the format will have to change slightly.  I will also be out of town for the weekend, so some days off will also have to be had.

Happy New Year everybody!

Day #4, I come to suck your blood

December 31, 2008

My humor has never been particularly sophisticated.

This is Cape Dracula, a free pattern on Burdastyle, courtesy of Geri of Sewable.

It’s made with a beautiful heavy black Marc Jacobs wool that I got half off at a designer fabric store closing sale.  The belt buckle comes from Etsy, the buttons from the same aforementioned fabric store, and other than that all I used was a pretty dark blue thread (to add a tiny bit of subtle color) and some medium weight fusible interfacing I got very cheap on Ebay.

This was far easier than I ever would have thought.  Heavy, but smooth wools like this are actually very easy to sew on a machine, which often determines the level of swearing (and ultimate success) of a project.  It took me some time to get some strange bunching in the back to desist, but eventually it settled down.

The ease of making what looks like a pretty tailored piece really stems from the fact that the pattern was drawn, diagrammed and written very clearly and nicely.  For someone just doing this on her own time and for free (!!), it was really quite impressive–and very much appreciated.

The shape is no doubt unusual, but it’s actually very flattering and easy to wear.  It’ll be great when the weather here in DC is just a little warmer…and when I get around to putting in a lovely lining.  One thing I wish I hadn’t done is put interfacing around the hems of the sleeves–which resulted in a strong flared shape.  Without the interfacing, the wool draped very nicely on it’s own.  I may try and rip it out if the flare doesn’t begin to ease.

The result of constructing this was actually a huge boost in my confidence–I would normally shy away from making coats or anything with complicated/tailored construction.  This was simple enough, but tailored enough to get me started.

So onto Day #5!  See you tomorrow, hope you had a fantastic 2008, and Happy New Year!

Day #3, Come a little bit clocher

December 30, 2008

I couldn’t resist.

This is the Sideways Grande Cloche from Laura Irwin’s Boutique Knits.  The yarn is Berroco Cuzco in Hunter Green, which is a blend of superfine alpaca and Peruvian wool.

I felt I could use this yarn because of the origin of the wool: Peru.  This is important when considering the primary argument of organizations like PETA (one I generally appreciate on the whole) to not use wool, which is that the raising and shearing of sheep for wool is a cruel and inhumane process.  The problem with this argument is that is rests on a practice called “mulesing“, which “is the surgical removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the breech (buttocks) of a sheep.”  It’s done to prevent flystrike, which is very gross disease where a fly lays eggs in dirty, moist, protected living tissue (like the bum of a sheep), the eggs hatch, and then the larvae tear up the poor sheep’s tissue causing sores, lesions, bacterial infections and can lead to death.  Flystrike only affects merinos in Australia, since sheep are not naturally supposed to be in the relatively warm Australian environment.

The point is, if mulesing is one’s reason for not using wool (which is completely legitimate), there are ways to guarantee your wool did not come from a mulesed sheep–basically to not buy merino wool that comes from Australia, which is what I try and do. I do want to note that I believe that vegans do not wear wool for reasons beyond this (which are also completely legitimate).  I also want to note that mulesing is being phased out in Australia by 2010, which is right around the corner (!!).

I will fully admit that I don’t actually know if the Cuzco is a good animal-friendly yarn beyond the fact that mulesing did not occur.  The proper thing to have done would be to find a small fiber farm with a good reputation.  Next time.

In any case, I did really like the yarn–soft and beautiful.  And the pattern I thought was genius and very different than any hat pattern I had used in the past.  Knit flat and seamed up the side with a fake cable–I was actually surprised when I read through the pattern.  Not at all what I would have expected.  The shape is quite interesting as well, with a flat top and long body.  It’s surprisingly flattering and functional.

Laura Irwin’s entire book is full of interesting, innovative construction.  Some are things I would never think to make with materials I wouldn’t think to use.  Yet it’s all so much simpler than I would have expected.  Full of surprise, in other words.

Ok, once again, see you tomorrow for Day #4!

Day #2, Candy Canes of Silk

December 29, 2008

This is a simple little dress made from some red and white striped sandwashed silk, thin elastic for the waist, and FOE (fold-over elastic) for the armhole/neckline borders.  FOE is a magical material I discovered through a tutorial at one of most favorite blogs, Angry Chicken.  It made the polished look of the silk more playful and casual, which was exactly what I was looking for.  Using it as a border definitely took some practice to get the right tension, the right amount of gather in the silk, and to get it to just generally sit right.  But it was a nice alternative to having to tailor the dress with darts or princess seams, which can make pieces feel more dressy than was my intention in this case.

This dress was completely improvised as I went along.  I knew I wanted a racerback (which I will cut a little differently the next time around) and that I wanted it to be very simple and casual.    I’m also clearly still obsessed with the blouson shape, and so this is what transpired.

In terms of design, I basically just added an  inch or so to all of my measurements and cut accordingly.  I generally use a top that fits the way I want the new garment to fit as a guide for the armholes and collar.  The elastic was used for shaping and I really didn’t do much more than that.  Very simple and exactly what I wanted.

See you tomorrow for Day #3!

Twelve Days of Non-Denominational Hand Makery, Day 1.

December 28, 2008

In the long writing dry spell I found a considerable amount of time to make things, by hand.  I partook in hand-makery, if you will.  (This is not my high point in my long line of making up of words, but I felt like “crafting” wasn’t the right word anymore–and I couldn’t think of one singular noun that meant “artful making of clothing”–which is how I like to think of it.)

In honor of the holidays I am beginning a journey a la the Twelve Days of Christmas.  However, this will be non-denominational (like me) and will involve the making of things by hand (like I like to do).  The Twelve Days of things I have made and not yet shared.

I don’t think I actually have twelve things to share…but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

So here we go.

#1   The St. Tropez Pullover

The pattern comes from Wenlan Chia’s 3rd and rumored final knitting book, Twinkle’s Town and Country Knits.  (Though there are even better rumors about a Twinkle sewing book…hopefully soon…)

The yarn is Twinkle’s super big Soft Chunky in French Grey.

This was wholly successful.  I consider this my most eco-friendly creation because while the yarn is just plain old wool (made in China), it comes recycled from my Shopping Tunic, which I finally accepted made me look like a baby elephant.  So I frogged it to  make this sweater that is one of only two Twinkle creations that I wear with any real frequency.  It’s actually flattering.  The length is perfect, the pattern is simple but pretty, the color is lovely and versatile, and the shape somehow doesn’t add 30 pounds like most of the other Twinkle patterns I’ve made.  I only made one change to the pattern, which was to not add the button on the collar.  It seemed unnecessary.

See you tomorrow, for Day #2 of….

Twelve Days of Non-Denominational Hand-Makery!

It’s been a while…

October 12, 2008

but I’ve at least been busy constructing things that I can now share.

First, Wenlan Chia came out with her 3rd book, Twinkle Town & Country Knits, which led me to knit this:

(a couple of more pictures in the flickr gallery and on ravelry)

It’s the Belle du Jour Tunic made with 2 skeins of Blue Sky Alpacas Brushed Suri in French Roast on size 15 circular needles.  I had a really tough time finding yarn that fit in with my 2008 yarn goal (the eco/socially conscious thing).  The only one I found was Be Sweet’s mohair, but I couldn’t find the right color.  Knitch had it in black, but each skein was $24, which was not acceptable given that it was thin enough to require the double stranding recommended by the pattern.  I settled for this (which did not require double stranding), since it has bamboo as part of its core instead of acrylic or nylon.  Also, BSA is a company I respect given all of the organic products it sells.

I also sewed the dress underneath on the fly, which is made of a paper silk I bought a few years ago in Bhopal, India.  It’s a simple cami dress with gathering at the back waist and a grey chiffon lining, which extends out on the bottom.  Both were worn together on top of a flowy black silk skirt to the opera the other night.  It all turned out pretty well I think.  Although to be completely honest, this was my second version of this.  The first I made a little too long and big, but the hairiness of the yarn doesn’t really allow for frogging.  So in literally 5 hours or so, I made a new smaller, shorter version.  I like both for different purposes/occasions and overall it wasn’t a huge splurge for the yarn given that it only takes 2 (or 3 at the most) skeins of the yarn.

I’ve also been sewing more since I’m absolutely in love with my sewing machine.

This skirt is a modified version of the Sidonie skirt from Burdastyle.  It uses a beautiful heavy silk, kind of almost like canvas.  I’m not sure what the type of fabric is called.  It’s woven I think.  The buttons are gorgeous glass vintage ones I found for like $3 on Ebay.  It turned out pretty well…just needs a little ironing maybe.

As does this creation:

This is a wool suiting fabric and a lovely plastic button I got at Mood a couple of years ago.  I used the Alexis pattern from Burdastyle.  It’s a good office skirt, but the fabric isn’t my favorite.  I’ll probably make this skirt again out of a nicer fabric.

I’ve strangely not felt the urge to blog lately…I honestly care about this election to the point where I feel like I won’t have my normal perspective back until this is all over.  And I can’t wait.

election year calls for a new dress.

September 13, 2008

I have been obsessed with politics lately.  In a very bad way.  In a way that during one of the party conventions which will remain nameless I found myself screaming out my window how miserable of a human being a former mayor of New York City is.

Seriously insane.  And then a later development in the election really almost killed me…and I rediscovered the meditative, calming wonder that is knitting.  I had known that in preparation for winter I would need some mittens and so I had already decided on Norah Gaughan’s Target Wave mittens from her beautiful Knitting Nature book and some Frog Tree Merino Melange that I ordered from The Yarn Tree in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  I love Norah’s book because it speaks to the same dichotomy I have in my own life–love of science (traditionally masculine) and a love of some things VERY domestic (traditionally female), and it blends the two seamlessly (pun completely intended).

The Target Wave mittens “were inspired by the look of traveling chemical waves”.

This was the first time I used Frog Tree yarn, which I decided was more than suitable to use given my social/eco conscious goal since the mission of the company is “to supply meaningful and continuous work to various artisans and non-profit groups. Purchases Made by T & C Imports helps by supporting families and their communities.  Funds from our project are used to support worthy educational causes.”  I mostly like it because they’re a non-profit cooperative.  I used the Merino Melange, which is very soft and lovely and will definitely be using it again (it’s also relatively inexpensive).

After a few days, my insanity over the political goings-on of today (which is hard to escape when you live in Washington, DC) started to thankfully dissipate.  And so the knitting frenzy subsided and I returned to sewing and accomplished an FO that I’m extremely proud of.

I’ll be wearing this to a more casual wedding I’m going to next week.  I’m very excited about it.  It’s a gorgeous, almost silk-like cotton lawn.  I’ve only started using patterns and this was my first time making my own pattern, which I modeled after some clothes I currently own.  The collar was shaped off of a shirt I own with a somewhat similar collar and the shape of the dress from another dress.   I just recently discovered the wonders of elastic and have been really into blouson shapes, so I was excited to try that out, which I think went relatively well.  I also have never done the fabric covered button thing before which I may be overly obsessed with from this point forward. It’s also got other fun details like my first try at faced hems.

The whole idea came from this J.Crew shirt.  But I wasn’t about to pay no $88 for a shirt that I can clearly make for less than $20. And even better, it’s a whole dress. I did use their pictures to guide my own creation…their zoom tool is quite handy.

There’s nothing like that feeling when you realize that there’s so much you can do for yourself…like make your own pretty dresses.