take a deep breath

I finished the strip to widen the mushroom dyed vest that I knit too narrow. But the strip is too narrow to sew first and steek second.

So I steeked it without securing the stitches!

Too small to fit the sewing machine:

I rubbed the 2ply Shetland type yarn a bit before cutting, to make the stitches grab onto each other. And then I cut!

Not moving the cut fabric too much I then put it under the sewing machine to secure the edge:

I started with a straight stitch, as you would normally do for a steek, but after a few centimeters/inches I decided to go with a zig zag, which can be used instead of a locking machine in sewing. It secures fraying edges:

After the zig zag I added a straight stitch:

Back side. Almost all strands are caught. Now I can handle this knitted fabric a bit without worrying it will fall apart.

I added a proper steek in the middle of my strip, sewing first, cutting second. With this I made my one wide strip into two strips, one for each side seam. Now it’s time to attach them to the sideseams of my vest (which were also steeked):

Attaching with a straight stitch:

Making sure all the strands are caught by the stitch. There are still a few loose ones:

After that a zigzag to lock the fraying edge. And done:

Not particular beautiful but acceptable and functional:

And so much better then before:

Now I can wear this vest and breathe.

Now add neckband and sleeve band and lower band before Thursday.


Mushroom steek repaired

The end result:

the two vertical needles indicate the part I frogged and rebuilt. Everything between those needles has been frogged, down to the acorn marker that marks the centre of the steek.

This is where I started:

The steek is positioned 10 stitched too much on the right. And I forgot to do the decreases in the first couple of rows above the marker.

Here’s everything frogged and the marker positioned at the stitch that has to be the new middle of the steek. Steek will be 8 st wide total, 4 st to each side of the marker. Decreases will be 2 stitches away from the steek.

Having determined what goes where I now have to sort out which yarn goes in which row and in what colour sequence. That spaghetti is daunting…

Figuring out which two colours belonged to which row was best done from the Wrong Side of the work. For the first six rows I parked them and marked them. The red pin on the bottom left holds the two yarn for the first row. One yarn I found at the edge of the frogged work, the other I found by “walking” along that row until I found a dangling colour:

I then took the first two colours, tried to read the colour pattern of the existing row, and knitted the live stitches in that pattern, except the stitch with the marker on on top of which I cast on 8 stitches.

Having knit from right to left I met the existing knitting on the left and found out I had knitted way and way tighter than the existing gauge. There was still length  of yarns left but no more stitches needed:

I don’t know what went wrong. Gauge for sure, I’m nervous doing this and yanking the yarn. I also do not remember whit what colours I casted on those extra 8 stitches the first time around. I probably used more green then yellow then, seeing as I now have more green than yellow left.

I undid the row and knitted it again, trying to have a looser gauge and trying to use equal amounts of colour for the 8 cast on stitches. It didn’t work. I tried again. I tried loosening every stitch after I knit the whole row, to make the yarn more equally distributed. Didn’t work.

Then I gave up. Then I decided to knit the right half of the row from the right side and the left half from the left side. The extra yarn would end up in the middle (of the steek) and that would be alright because eventually this is where the steek will be cut so these extra ends won’t matter. I am at peace with my gauge for now being tighter than the rest of the vest. It’s only a detail.

Here’s how that first row looks after this approach (not all steek stitches have been cast on yet):

That’s ok. That’ll do.

So that’s how I worked it. Pick the two yarns appropriate for the row. Figure out the stitch pattern for that row. Work one half from the left. Work the other half from the right. Remember to do a decrease every third row. Leave extra length in the middle of the steek and be cool with that.

Here I am half way. Not trying to panic over looks and the yarn spaghetti:

Still so much yarn spaghetti!

Don’t panic. Just keep working, one row at the time.

Eventually I reached the top. The spaghetti sorted itself out, two strands at a time. The middle looks weird and messy but it is correct technically. If I pull on the loose parts the neighbouring stitches will tighten and it will look better.

The sides of the steek look good too. Patterns continue. There are decreases. I think I’m alright.

It took 5 hours, over the course of a couple of days.

Preparing to show off chopped mushrooms.

Tomorrow is the knitters’ festival in one of the tiniest an oldest cities in the country: Nieuwpoort. (yes, it means “new port” and it was a new port on the river Lek (“which means “leak” (we have no fantasy when it comes to naming places))).

The festival is organized by The Schapekop, the LYS where I did the workshop dyeing with mushrooms back in February:

I was so going to knit a stranded vest with the yarn and bring it to the festival tomorrow and be all glorious and marvelous!

But of course I spend weeks fiddling with the chart and never getting it exactly right so there’s no vest to show. I do have one wristwarmer though:

The colours are beautiful and exactly as I want them for a cool, February-kind of vest I have in mind. It’s a good swatch telling me about gauge, colours and contrast. Especially that last one needs a lot more chart fiddling in StitchFiddle.com!

The past two weeks I felt bad about bragging about a vest to the people who organized the workshop and then knowing I’ll show up tomorrow with nothing or just that one meager wristwarmer… Yes I felt so bad that I contemplated not going at all and spare myself the embarrassment. Which is ridiculous!

In fact, so ridiculous that I snapped right out of it and casted on for a stranded vest in totally different colours last Tuesday. Look at these colours!

So happy 🙂 So sunny 🙂

They are all dyed with mushrooms, apart from the blue which is a commercial colour and the white.

This vest and these colours I don’t need to get precisely right. It’s just bands and bands of motives, some borrowed and some made up as I go along. There’s a little bit of teeth gnashing when I get my contrasts imperfect but I give myself a pass for that. Overall I’m just knitting happy colours, straight under the radar of my perfectionism, and I’m just making metres and I already have something nice to show tomorrow.

Just now I had to stop knitting for a bit and learn about shaping and steeks. It seems you cannot just knit a tube and then cut holes in it for arms and head. Or can you?
I don’t know, I’ve never done a stranded, shaped garment nor have I ever intentionally steeked.

For this vest I did a provisional cast on (to bypass the ribbing at the bottom because I didn’t have much time to get to the good part and I don’t know yet which colours I’ll have left for the borders). Then I knitted a tube that fits my stomach.

At the level where my bossom starts I now have to decide whether to increase (how would that go in a chart?) or to insert a steek (cast on about 8 stitched which will be cut later on). Also there needs to given some consideration to arm holes I guess. I don’t know yet if they need decreases and a steek, I’ll be reading the pattern Great Horn-Rimmed by Mary Scott Huff for that:

pic by Mary Scott Huff  pic by Interweave Knits

I’m using various patterns. The stranded Ivy League Vest by Eunny Jang for looks and the Great Horn-Rimmed by Mary Scott Huff for shaping and steeking. That last vest is free, from Knitty, and I understand what it says 🙂

Ooh, setting up for a steek is easier than I thought. Just park one stitch, cast on 8 new ones using both yarns and knit those eight in stripes. Decreasing for the front panels occurs on the side of this steek-flap.

I’ve started the set up right away. Pretty soon I’ll add two at the sides too, for the arm holes. Must not forget to add shaping.

After I have completed the toppart I’ll undo the provisional cast on and knit down wards. My tube is not that high yet and there’s room to add waist decreases right at the bottom.

So that’s the plan! Now I have two nice things to show the mushroom guy tomorrow so he knows his first workshop ever was very much appreciated.

Straw into gold: a felted woven sewn vest

I often make things that end up not being what I hoped for. But still too pretty to throw away. In this project I combined three of them together and it turned into something I really like! An Elfish Spring vest:

I took a piece of pre-felt that was dyed by Adrian Salomé from A3an art and felted it and sewed it to a woven cloth that I wove myself, from my own handspun. The second thing I ever wove.
I sewed them together with the mohair I showed yesterday. This is De Voart mohair, from a small Dutch husband and wife company. It has a lovely sheen.

Using some of the things I’ve learned about body shaping, both in knitting and in sewing, I knew I could really draw things in in the small of my back and that I would do this by sewing it by hand.

To shape the collar I needed to cut into the felt. Here you see the cut for two armholes and the back of the neck. The woven cloth is positioned where will go in the middle. The smaller piece of felt is just there for show, it won’t be used in the vest (but undoubtably in something else. Purse perhaps?)

Later on I had to cut more felted fabric away but I followed the same shape. On the left you see one of my toile pieces, to determine the shape and depth of the armhole.

Here’s a close(r) up of how that was combined in the end:

The woven cloth was longer than the prefelt. When combined it looked like I had a tail. Or was just really scared of cutting into woven cloth. Which I was.
Here’s what I did: I sewed two lines into the fabric (stretching it while sewing). I then cut between the lines. Basically, I steeked:

I then hemmed it with the mohair. Lovely colours!

Look how the mohair is ‘talking’ to the colours in both the woven and the felted cloth.

I have some roving and chiffon in the same colours, also dyed by Adrian, which I’ll use to make some skirts to go with this top. It will be a Spring Elfish dress up!

The thing is: each and every component of this vest I managed to screw up when I prepared them. Most of them have been lying around my house for months or years even, because I could not think of a way to make them in something nice.

The list of disappointing components:

  1. a handspun in which I combined glorious silk top (which I cut -with scissors! a mortal sin to handspinners-)  into too short pieces to spin with a scratchy green (so dumb! Don’t mix these two, it made the yarn scratchy)
  2. a woven cloth I eventually made with the scratchy handspun. But I made it too narrow. All it could ever hope to be was a table runner, a scratchy table runner. For a very small table.
  3. a piece of prefelt I felted but then it became too small to become anything useful. Small pieces of prefelt are mostly used to make 3D shapes. A ready felted piece that’s rectangular… what you gonna do with that?
  4. the mohair yarn in lovely colours…. a little too scratchy to wear next to the skin. But the main problem is that this yarn changes colours quite rapidly. It knits up heathered. It looks awful in big pieces of knitting! And I bought three skeins! (one of which doesn’t match the other two.) What to do with yarn like that? There’s the linen stitch of course…but otherwise I’ve got nothing. I hate knitting linen stitch.  (this yarn is even too variegated to weave with)


The mohair yarn. I bought it when I had just learned to knit, back in 2008, on the very first Handwerkbeurs I visited in Zwolle. I just fell for the colours. I knew nothing of fibre content, yarn weight or drape.
It is the very first yarn in my stash page on Ravelry. I hadn’t even been on Ravelry for a month!

A3an’s prefelt, such lovely colour and so big. I honestly thought I could get a whole top out of this:

But prefelt shrinks. The endresult had shrunk to these dimensions, too small to spark my inventiveness, I was so set on a top of this felt:

The handspun I used for the weaving. It’s called Silk Spring and I spun it back in January 2010 , when I was so cheap I didn’t dare to buy or use good stuff. I had splurged on a silk brick from Mandacrafts, 6 months earlier, but had no idea how to spin it.

The silk hurt my hands so I decided to cut it into shorter pieces. As you do. When you have no clue. I also thought this a good idea because the colour repeats where longer than the silk fibres. I didn’t want to mix the colours while drafting, I wanted to preserve them. And I didn’t like the copper colour…

So I cut them. I cut out the various colours, left the copper to the side. I cut the silk with scissors. Which is stupid. Scissors leave sharp ends on the fibres and this will always show in the resulting yarn. You will get a halo. And when you’ve cut pieces as short as I did (2,5 cm/ 1 inch)(hey, I really had no idea back then) you can hardly card it with something and expect it to blend in nicely.

But I tried anyway. On my drumcarder I mixed the pieces of silk with green roving I had. Scratchy green roving.
Because I was cheap. I didn’t want to waste anything. I told myself this was an experiment. For which you use scraps. Forgetting that my experiments and prototypes tend to give the best results.

You can practically hear the yarn scratch your screen:

I did spin it into a colour gradient. And got to play with my drumcarder for the first time. Oh, such lovely colours…

I have knit with it a couple of times over the years. But it came to nothing. Too scratchy and the colour gradient hindered options in knitwear.

Earlier this year I wove it into a cloth. That worked for the gradient and I got to experiment with the weaving loom.

Lovely colour and texture! And you can see the bits of scissor cut silk trying to escape:

Someone liked it though:

But as a cloth is was quite scratchy and loosely woven.

When a couple of weeks months I thought about combining it with the felt I decided I better felt the woven cloth too. Otherwise it would not be sturdy enough to co-operate with the felt.

So I tried to felt the woven cloth.


It hardly shrunk. It’s still loosely woven. Not very sturdy at all. I must have done something wrong.

I just can’t get things to turn out how I want them to.
Which the cat predicted from the very beginning: