Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Adventures in machine knitting, garter bar edition (part II)

 I had heard tell you could use a garter bar to make lace but I could not for the life of me figure it out. The garter bar has no moving parts, every prong fits on a needle and seemingly can only receive one stitch. But Diana Sullivan demonstrated how to manipulate your stitches to only give the GB access to the stitches on selected needles. It leaves the others alone. You can shift the selected stitches right or left and deposit them on a next-door needle, leaving one that's empty. It then makes a hole (the equivalent of K2tog, YO in hand knitting). 

I wouldn't need this technique for my standard gauge machines, which are Brothers (and have lace carriages that make transferring stitches sooooo much easier. However I got a new SK860 (a mid-gauge) and had some DK silk so....

Cullum is a hand knit pattern with a very simple lace chart. I probably had to recalculate the gauge for my yarn. Honestly, the silk would have knitted fine on my standard gauge but I wanted to try (a) the machine and (b) the technique. 

It's also a very simple pattern, just 2 pieces (probably hand knit in the round).

I like how the 3 rows of eyelets bias. This is generated by always shifting the stitches in the same direction for each lace row. If you shifted them in alternate directions they would zig and zag a bit. 

You can see my yarn is as stretched as can be on this machine. 

There was no way I could get the icord edging tight enough on the mid-gauge. I made it on a standard gauge machine. It makes a really nice, firm neckline.

I like the finished top quite a lot but the sunny yellow is a hard one to match. 

(The Sewing Lawyer with mid-summer pandemic hair...)

Adventures in machine knitting, garter bar edition (part I)

 Last summer I took a course with Diana Sullivan, machine knitting guru from Austin Texas. Of course I wasn't in the same room as she was, nor with any other attendees (and there were dozens). She offered it on Facebook through a private group. It ran over 4 weekends and each Saturday there was a live 3 hour class on the group. You could easily ask questions through the chat function if you were watching along, and Diana would stop and answer as she demoed various techniques.

The videos were recorded and could be reviewed at your leisure while the group page continued to exist. Unfortunately, Diana took it down after a few months. She is now selling edited videos of the entire seminar on her website.

My version of Le Mont Royal shrug
For me, the garter bar "extra" class was worth the entire cost of this seminar (which was modest). I've had a standard (4.5mm) garter bar set for a long time but have (still) never used it. At some point I decided I ought to have a garter bar for all my machines so I bought the mid-gauge (6.5mm) and bulky (9mm) ones from KrisKrafter. Like I used the one I had all the time so I was sure I'd use these too? (I'm not sure what gets into machine knitters but we have to have All.The.Things.)

Let me speak to you of garter stitch. It's the easiest stitch to knit by hand, and the most awkward on a machine. By hand, you turn your knitting, and every row is a knit row, knitted into the back of the knit row below it. By contrast, the machine holds the knitting with the same orientation all the time, knitting row after row back and forth. Stockinette is what results. You need to turn your knitting (or reform individual stitches) to get garter stitch. You use a garter bar to do this turning. 

Here is a YouTube video showing how it's done. I especially like her honesty when she says "you're going to swear at the machine a lot when you first start to try and use it" and also how, after turning the knitting over and hooking it back on the needles, she says that "with any luck" all the stitches will be on a needle.

Le Mont Royal

In a fit of inspiration (even before the Diana Sullivan class) I decided to make myself a simple thing on my bulky machine using a garter bar. A shrug, which is a rectangle of knitting with the ends closed to a tube (sleeves) and the middle left open (body). I used this free pattern - Le Mont Royal by Espace Tricot.

You'll notice that the sleeve ends are a good chunk of garter stitch rows, and that the edge of the shrug is also garter stitch. I used the garter bar to knit all of the edging rows, and reformed the edge stitches by hand, every second row, for the body of the shrug.

Test swatch with garter bar
I picked mohair yarn for this project, which conceals a multitude of mistakes, but is also "difficult" in that it has these hairy bits that like to get caught up in the gate pegs (knitting machines are spiky). 

Also, the base yarn is very skinny, and it turns out it was hard to make sure I had all the stitches (as opposed to the hairy halo only) on a needle after turning the knitting. But this yarn is such a glorious colour combo - basic teal but with flashing red and green and blue hairs when the light catches it. I think I had 10 skeins in total which is what was at the thrift shop the day my husband found it.  

Considering that the shrug was 66 stitches wide (meaning I had to stick the two half-bed width garter bars together to turn it) and that it was my first outing with this ornery tool, it worked quite well. I resorted to life lines just in case, but also got very adept at using this nifty tool (photo at left) to latch up when I dropped a stitch. I made a fascinating video of me knitting one row of this shrug. Lucky for you, I had had lots of practice by that point so there were no tears or bad words, and I only dropped one stitch which I was able to repair.

The pattern is knit in one piece from one end to the other. I couldn't figure out at the time how to start the knitting with garter stitch (I could have used waste yarn and ravel cord of course) so I knitted from the middle out and seamed the two halves together instead. This at least means my two ends are identical. 

The shrug has 4 buttons on each "sleeve" which means you also have to make 4 buttonholes in the garter stitch. 

It is designed to be worn as a shrug or unbuttoned like a shawl. 

I didn't think this through and made my two halves mirror images so that the buttonholes would be on the top on both sides (symmetrical). This means that when I wear it like a shawl (which to be honest only happened for this photo) I have two buttonhole edges meeting rather than one buttonhole edge and one button edge. So I made a toggle out of two pieces of horn. 

Mohair is toasty warm!

I have another garter bar project, inspired directly by the Diana Sullivan seminar, but it'll have its own post.


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Made any masks lately?

Oh I held out for a while. Non-sewers were all getting their ancient machines out from the back of the closet and firing them up. I was in denial.

Yeah, it didn't last. 

Dhurata Davies Mask
(early in pandemic)
(yes I did cut my own bangs)
It turns out I have a lot of stashed cotton bits left over from various projects. And old sheets. And now I have special ear elastic and silicone cord locks.

In the early days I was making this one by Dhurata Davies (but with ear elastics instead of the long ties). 

I made SO MANY of them! (See left). Gotta keep the family safe!

Later I tested Jalie's mask pattern. Four styles with headband and bag for your spares!

Jalie View A
(later in pandemic) 
(lots more hair)
My favourite is view B which has a similar shape to the Dhurata Davies pattern but is a bit more sophisticated. 3 layers! 

So do I have a photo of me wearing view B? Of course not. Enjoy this pic of my most sober/serious mask. This one is view A. It is a bit more complicated in structure. (Whenever I have to go to an in-person meeting for work I gravitate towards this one instead of the crazy African prints. Almost everyone else wears boring black or a disposable one...)

I never thought I could get used to wearing a mask. But it turns out you can get used to a lot of weirdness. 

I'm back ... but I didn't really go anywhere (like the rest of the world)

Yikes, what a year 2020 was.

My last few posts almost 12 months ago were written in a state of denial; recalling what had been normal. I reread how I expected to be working from home for a few weeks or months "at most" and chuckled ruefully. That silk shirt? Worn (maybe) once. Those wool trousers? More often, but fewer than 10 times (they are very comfortable). In the fall, I went through the formality of moving my winter clothes out of the storage closet for ready access, but most of my jackets and dresses languish unworn. Even that nice wool knit dress I made a year ago isn't getting much love, although I do love it. I'm now living in jeans and comfy stretchy clothes like everyone else, and wonder if I will be OK going back to my structured professional wardrobe. 

I previously mentioned how my work exploded with COVID. It calmed down (somewhat) but I'm still working from my sewing room so the space is tainted by too much time spent there not sewing.  Too much inactivity (still standing at my ironing board standing desk, though it is now augmented with a gas lift table top for better ergonomics). Too many screens. Too little time.

But I've been a bit more creative lately and was feeling bad about my neglected blog.

So here is a project I completed recently. I have a pair of MEC pants (lightweight nylon, 0 stretch, many pockets) and for a few years have been musing to myself that I should clone them. They are very comfortable (see above re comfy clothes). I found an article in (I think) Threads Magazine on how to make a pattern from an existing garment. Now that I'm looking for it again of course I can't find it. But here's the gist. 

EDITED - I still can't find it but there is a YouTube video by David Page Coffin that more or less illustrates the method.

Use foam mats as a base (I have some that I use for blocking knits), cover with paper. Use pins to pierce the paper along the seam lines of the garment. Obviously you have to keep it as flat as possible. Once you have put enough holes in the paper to see the lines, use a pencil and ruler/curve to mark the seam lines. Repeat for all pieces. Check dimensions. Guesstimate grain lines. Sew a trial muslin to see if it worked.

It was ridiculously easy and surprisingly I got a quite accurate pattern on my first attempt. 

Here are my finished pants. The fabric is a woven cotton with no stretch, but it has more give than the original nylon. The pants are very much the shape of the original. I have already modified the front to be higher at the waist for my next version. 

(Notice The Sewing Lawyer's longer hair "style"...)

The most interesting features of these pants are impossible to see in these photos. 

They have a gigantic crotch gusset. It's completely invisible when the pants are being worn, however it is so deep that it's practically the entire lower part of the crotch curve. To the right is a photo showing the resulting shape. It reminds me of the talk about square crotch curves a few years ago and how they fit a flatter bottomed person very well. 

The pants also have lots of pockets. The two hip pockets are standard construction, but very deep and anchored in the fly front. 

The back pocket has a zipper that's inserted in a separate strip of fabric separating the lower pants back from the yoke. 

A zippered side leg pocket is similarly inserted into a strip of fabric sewn in between the front and back side seams. 

I go back and forth on whether to copy all these features in my next version (winter outdoor pants) but on balance think I will take the trouble, just because. 

Back zipper pocket, left.

The waistband, very fortuitously, matches vertically at the front very well. It's curved as you can see. 

The zipper tape fills in the width of the strip of fabric (approximately 1/2"). I just used cheap skirt zippers from Fabricland. 

Here's an inside shot. I made the pocket bags from an athletic knit. Obviously, the colour is all wrong but it does make the detail easier to see in these photos. 

The original pants had mesh knit pockets. 

I've been doing some machine knitting too, so stay tuned.