Using Scraps: Toys

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I have a large amount of yarn scraps. They are seeping out of my craft storage closet, slightly organized by yarn weight and amount left. And, somehow, I keep collecting more. My scrap collection also depends on the charitable donation of friends and family who pass their unused balls of yarn off to me, certain I’ll find a use.

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When I first started knitting, and yarn was scarce, I almost exclusively knit with scraps. I would piece projects together, using multiple colors in different weights. But as I slowly collected yarns for specific projects, and knit those projects, my scrap collection grew and I knit from it less and less.

Until now! The onset of summer heat and the start of a new job shifted all my usual knitting habits. After I finished my latest sweater, I didn’t rush to cast on the next garment in my queue, rather I picked up some leftovers and imagined what kind of magic they could become.

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I ultimately decided that the best use of these colorful scraps would be toys. Not for me, no, I don’t really need toys, but for the many many babies that are suddenly popping up amongst my friends. They need toys. More specifically, they need butterflies. I love the Butterfly & Cocoon pattern by Susan B Anderson. I love this pattern so much that I knit four butterflies and corresponding cocoons with my worsted weight scraps. These butterflies will all travel to their intended homes soon, but for now I love how they all inhabit a space together – like a little butterfly family.

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I experimented with different ways to stuff these toys. I tried using only waste yarn and tiny yarn scraps, which produced a stuffing similar to poly-fill. Then I tried shredding knit fabric with my rotary cutter, which produced a more solid and dense stuffing. Finally, I tried shredding woven fabric with my rotary cutter, this method created the most stiff and dense stuffing, which packed down quite hard inside the toy. Of these three methods, using yarn scraps is my preferred way to stuff a toy as the filling is soft and holds its shape well, while shredded fabrics (knit or woven) tend to shift out of place simply by touching the toy, which leaves the toys lopsided.

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After seeing these four adorable toys, I decided that I needed my own little knit toy, after all. I chose to make the Black Sheep, White Sheep, a reversible toy also by Susan B Anderson. It was a fiddly little project with its tiny legs and tiny ears and tiny head, but I love the overall look of the toy. This little sheep might make it’s way to my sewing pod at work (more on this later), or maybe live in my car, somewhere where it will bring a little joy to my day.

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I’ve knit toys for the past two months, and I’m happy with the amount of scraps I’ve used! But I think it’s time to put the toy knitting to rest for a bit. Or, possibly, change up the pattern and try something new. That’s the best thing about this hobby, the possibilities are endless and I can do whatever I want.

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Things I Made in March and April

I really picked up the sewing bug this Spring. But I lost the blogging mojo… Can’t have it all.

This Spring was a robust season for sewing. I made three pairs of pants and a top that now qualify me as a trendy insa-sewist. What patterns am I talking about? None other than the Persephone Pants by Anna Allen and the Ogden Cami from True Bias.

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In chronological order, the pants came first – I started with a pair of Pink Persephone Pants made from secondhand fabric scavenged from Scrap It Up in Cincinnati. The fabric is a soft(ish) cotton with visible creases from the dye. It’s unclear if the burnout effect was intentional, but it looks good. These are the lightest weight pair of Persephone pants in my Persephone trio. Plus I love the shiny pink button at the center.

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Second, my striped Persephone’s made from mattress ticking. My mom bought this fabric about 20 years ago, held onto for no reason, moved with it twice, and finally gave it to me back in February. I saw it and immediately said “This must be PANTS” and so it was. I stretched myself with stripe matching for the first time and it turned out absolutely perfect. These pants are really something special.

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My final pair of Persephone pants are made from this mystery raw denim. I’ve worn these the most as they’re a perfect basic. I wore them teaching, out on the town, and even just hanging around the house. They’re a bit stiff, but I expect them to soften eventually with washing. These were a true struggle to sew, my thread kept snapping, and finally I realized the thread itself was too weak. Once I changed the thread the process was a breeze.

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And to make these pants a true Instagram worthy top, I chose the Ogden Cami, that perennial classic of home-sewist tops. Everyone has one, everyone loves it, me too. I made me from this wonderful 100% linen duvet cover which I scored for $12. The total duvet cover created about 8-10 yards of fabric. This cami took about 1.5 yards… I used french seams on the inside. This top is a floating miracle of fabric.

Those are four sneeky things I made this spring. They’ve all received massive amounts of wear and bring me serious joy.

My Own Open Waters Shawl

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I made my first version of the Open Waters Shawl by Melanie Berg back in 2017 as a Christmas present for my Mom. She loves it – she wears it all the time and she brags about it.

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After make one for her, I felt an inkling that I, too, would like to have a version of this shawl. The openwork/lace was so intriguing. Even though I remember the first version of this shawl taking ages to knit, I knit it again.

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I used secondhand yarn – found on a cone – from the secondhand craft store Scrap It Up in Cincinnati. It’s woolen spun, most likely all wool, and a lovely blue color.

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I don’t have much to report about the second version of the Open Waters Shawl. It did take me a long time to knit (two months). And I also felt a little bored with it towards the end. I imagine it will be something I reach for often considering the amount of times I found myself wrapped in my Raina shawl this past winter. But the life of this shawl, though finished, is on hold for the moment as the weather has turned hot and humid.

Until shawl season.

 

70’s Beach Cover Up (Vintage McCalls 6091)

On a recent secondhand fabric + pattern score at The Create Exchange in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in May, I found this dreamy cotton gauze and vintage McCalls pattern (among other amazing things).

SO, I made a dress.

I had about 1 yard of fabric, and the pattern calls for 3 yards… But the lines are simple and the pieces are all cut on the straight grain of the fabric, so I thought I could eek out this dress with some creative cutting. And creative cutting there was… I was able to manage the two body pieces, but I had to divide the ruffle into four sections (rather than two). I also used leftover squares to make my bias tape, instead of cutting long sections from the original cut of fabric. Using continuous bias tape tutorials, I was able to make plenty of bias tape from two 8″x 8″ squares of scraps. Note to self: this is a huge fabric saver.

The sewing process was relatively straightforward… I stitched the pieces together, made it work, finished the seams.

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I did find that this pattern had much more ease than I was expecting. The pattern illustration shows a dress with a relatively fitted bust, and my first try on revealed about 6-8 inches of positive ease. I decided to take about 3 inches off each side seam at the bust, slowly angling the seam to meet the original side seam. I was a bit irked that I wasn’t able to identify the final bust measurement (especially consider how much it differs from the pattern illustration). Overall, the lack of finished measurements on the pattern envelope meant I used more fabric than needed… and I could have had a much simpler cutting layout with less fabric waste if those finished measurements were provided. The next time I use this pattern, I will remind myself to reduce the side seams by 3 inches (let this serve post as that reminder).

With reduced width at the bust, I love this dress. I absolutely love the style, the ruffle at the bottom, the bias tape tie straps, I love it all. I can see myself making this as a summer cami, and as a maxi dress. This white gauze is a bit transparent. I’ve decided this dress will do best as a beach cover-up. I can make it work solo, but only if I wear a slip (which creates a double strap situation that I’m not too fond of).

Cheers to new summer dresses from secondhand fabrics!

Me-Made-May 2019

Image via sozowhatdoyouknow.blogspot.com

I’m doing it. I’m all in. This May, 2019, will be my first committed me-made-may.

If you are not familiar with the Me-Made-May challenge, please check out this post on the SoZo blog. This the the tenth year of the challenge, how amazing is that? This year I’m taking the pledge.

My Me-Made-May pledge:

  • I pledge to wear one handmade item every day during the month of May.
  • I will document my outfits on instagram in my stories.

My hopes for Me-Made-May:

  • I hope to share a weekly roundup of outfits on my instagram feed.
  • I hope to create two categories of me-mades: often-worn and little-worn.
  • I hope to understand why I wear some me-mades over others. I’ll be searching for fit, silhouette, color, and fabric preference.
  • I hope to identify three items to make to fill the holes in my wardrobe

I’m excited for this challenge. While I wear me-made on a regular basis, most of my items are winter wear – sweaters, pants, long sleeve tops… If I had more warm weather me-mades I would try to challenge myself to wear two every day, but I just don’t think I can make that work this year.

Overall, I hope to gain a better knowledge of my me-made warm weather clothes, of what I have and what I need. I will be spending this May in St. Louis, Nashville, and about a week in Charleston, South Carolina. The weather could span from 50 – 90 degrees! But most likely the temperature will sit in the 75 – 85 degree range with a high chance of humidity and rain. In these temps I feel most comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt or tank top, maybe a light layer for night time. A lot of my tanks and tees are towards the end of their life; this May might be the time to make some new ones.

I’m hoping I can last the entire month! I expect that 31 days of documentation will feel a bit exhausting. I’m planning to avert documentation burn-out by using my stories in instagram to take a quick unpolished photo of what I’m wearing. I’m also excusing myself from perfection and aesthetics, focusing mostly on documentation for my own sake. At the end I hope to tally up what I wore to better understand my summer wardrobe.

Finally, I am excited to see all of my reclaimed and recycled pieces come together to form a cohesive summer wardrobe. All of my sewing materials come from secondhand sources, and this Me-Made-May I hope to champion the cause of used materials!

Here’s to the challenge of Me-Made-May!!!

Felted and Faded: two years of winter outerwear

I’ve worn the same hat and mittens for the last two winters. After two years of wear, they’ve changed a lot.

My Whissel Hat (pattern by Liesl of Buckalooview) has lasted two full winters. I knit this hat in white alpaca and dip dyed it following a pokeberry dye recipe from Rebecca Burgess’ book natural color

Pokeberry does not have a good reputation as a dye plant. While the recipe claims that the addition of vinegar will create a lightfast dye, this hat shows otherwise. The dye has faded significantly. It’s most noticeable on the folded portion of the brim, where the hat was once a vibrant fuschia and has now become a peachy pink. I’m not opposed to this peachy pink color, on the contrary, I love it! But it’s striking to see how much vibrancy has been lost from exposure to uv and light. Conclusion, while pokeberries are colorfast, they are not lightfast and will fade.

The Flora Mittens from the first Shelby Mitten Club by Skeindeer were the first pair of colorwork mittens I ever knit. They were an absolute joy to make. After binding off in January 2018, I still had time to wear them during the second half of winter. I took them out of storage around October and found them in good condition, maybe a little dirty. I wore them constantly this winter, but their biggest test came during my family cross country ski trip over Christmas. I wore these mittens to protect my hands in relatively warm ski conditions (10-15*F). It was cold enough to need some sort of layer but warm enough that my hands would start sweating after a few kilometers on the trail. I didn’t realize it until the last day, but the combination of sweaty hands and friction from grasping ski poles had felted about two inches of the mitten palm. I’ve never felted anything on accident before, of course I knew felting was a risk of moisture and friction on wool, but to see it actually happen was fascinating. After the felting at Christmas, I still wore these mittens through the coldest days of January. I’m proud of the felting as it shows these mittens have been out and about. They have done their job and kept me warm.

Looking at the wear on my winter accessories from the past two years, I’m surprised to see my handknits holding up so well. I was imagining I would have to knit another winter hat and pair of mittens for next winter, but I’ll let these ones live a full life before I officially replace them. However, I am thinking of adding more professional winter accessories to my wardrobe, I’ll be in the lookout for some classy mitten and hat patterns that fit my teaching wardrobe.

Reclaimed March Mayhem: Patterns from the 2019 MDK March Mayhem Bracket for Reclaimed Yarn

Ah, March. It’s the time of cherry blossoms, daffodils, spring break, and the MDK Knitting Bracket. I love the MDK March Mayhem bracket- voting for a pattern in each category to take the knitters choice award brings me true satisfaction. But the biggest joy is shuffling through the pool, finding new designers to add to my inner circle of designer bffs (yes I have a ravelry bundle for that), and new patterns that make my very selective queue.

There are some wonderful designs featured in this years bracket, and I wanted to highlight ones that would be perfect for reclaimed yarns.

What makes a good pattern for reclaimed yarn?

It can be tricky, a bit of an art, to match a good pattern with reclaimed yarn sources. It takes practice and even the most experienced of us fail from time to time. I find that a good pattern for reclaimed yarn must have a few qualifications.

(Just a refresher, when I’m talking about reclaimed yarn, I’m talking about yarn that is gathered from unraveled commercial machine knit sweaters)

First, it cannot be designed with unique or very specific yarn. Knitting with reclaimed yarn is all about yarn substitution – like basically only about this. It’s tricky to find mohair or self striping yarns in the machine knitting world, so if a pattern depends on a unique yarn to achieve that gorgeous look, it’s not the best match for reclaimed yarn. I save these specialty yarn patterns for my special occasion knitting projects that warrant a trip to my LYS. So count out any patterns that depend on mohair, handdyed speckles, or a unique fiber content.

Second, it fits typical machine knit yarn weights. I most often find light fingering or light worsted weight yarns used in machine knit sweaters. Lace weight yarn is also common, but not my favorite to unravel, so I tend to avoid this category of sweater. Bulky can be found, but its tricky and when I find it, it’s usually acrylic… so I avoid it.

Third, it could work with a marl. Knitting with reclaimed yarns and marl-ing go together like your favorite food pairing (avocado and toast… tortilla chips and salsa… banana and peanut butter… I could go on). It just works well together. This is the best way to achieve different weight (especially bulky) yarns using reclaimed sources.

Fourth, it’s simple. I love a good allover cable or colorwork sweater. But… they’re just not the best patterns for reclaimed yarns. Sure there are exceptions, like my Ushida Cardigan which was a destined match, but most machine knitting yarns aren’t right for cables (they have little to no ply) or colorwork (unless you find Shetland yarn jumpers!!!) Colorwork also depends on knitting with different colors of the same or incredibly similar wooly yarn, and that’s just hard to find when you’re working with scavenged sources. Plus, these patterns tend to use a lot of yarn, and machine knit sweater quantities tend to produce less yardage than a handknit sweater quantity would. Like I said, it can be done, but these are special and lucky circumstances. So count out all over cables, substantial colorwork, or projects that use a lot of yarn.

Okay so we’ve set the parameters for a great reclaimed yarn pattern, now let’s talk about MDK bracket!

Pullovers

Rainy Drops by eri. The simplicity of this sweater and makes it perfect for reclaimed yarn. Plus the two options for sleeves are key when you’re not totally sure of your total yardage. If you’re running short you can always knit the straight sleeves. But if you have enough I highly recommend that balloon sleeve shape.

Tuileries by Julie Knits in Paris is perfect for those luxury blend machine knit yarns. The simple shape and slightly cropped length are sure guarantees that you’ll be able to make this sweater out of one machine knit sweater quantity.

Pixham by Jimenez Joseph. It’s simple and it would work well in wool or cotton or any blend (and the blends in reclaimed yarn are plentiful).

Rockefeller center by Xandy Peters is short sleeved so you definitely won’t run out of yarn. Also another pattern that could work in a huge variety of yarn blends.

Tulip by Ririko is another many-optioned knit that would ease those yarn chicken worries. I would go for the hip length bell sleeve option.

Cardigans

Cardizen by Bayron Handmade. This sweater is bulky, but it would work beautifully with a marl. Two worsted weight sweaters would make one amazing marled Cardizen.

Rumor by Alice Caetano is in in simple garter stitch yet the interesting construction would keep me hooked, plus it’s fitted and on the shorter side – perfect for low yardage sweater quantities.

Mariage Soeurs by Kathleen Dames is a great match for those luxury fingering weight blends.

Natsu by Ambah OBrien is perfect for those cashmere blends all over the machine knit sweater landscape. Plus the low yardage requirements and loose gauge are a reclaimed yarn knitters dream.

Neck and shoulders

Lumens by Fiona Alice is a marl match made in reclaimed yarn heaven

Smilla by Christin Kimsey is simple, low yardage, and could work in a variety of yarn types and blends.

You could make two or three Eva Cowls by Noma Ndlovu with one reclaimed sweater… brilliant.

Hands and Head

Tredje by Irina Anikeeva are simple elegant fingerless mitts that fit all the above parameters.

Ephemeris by Hunter Hammerson is a fingering weight reclaimed yarns dream hat pattern.

Snap by Tin Can Knits. Easy hat for any yarn ever. Perfect for reclaimed yarns.

The beautiful lace/bobble combo in Magnolia by Camilla Vlad would level up any reclaimed yarn.

I think any of these patterns would be a fantastic match for that unraveled sweater yarn in your stash.