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Unique Sweater Pillows Tutorial

Lately I’ve been able to dig my teeth into some interesting projects like the hobbyhorse blanket I repaired a couple of weeks ago. Today I wanted to share with you another project I’m working on.  I was approached by a client interested in having six sweaters turned into pillows.  A dear friend of hers had passed away, and she wanted to take her friend’s distinctive sweaters and turn them into pieces she could treasure.

I’ve worked a few times with commercial made sweaters; although more often I’m taking them apart for teaching purposes or using them to practice techniques I’d like to teach.  While this isn’t a tutorial per-se, it’s an outline of my process and some tips and tricks I’ve discovered after working on other smaller projects similar to this.

Stabilizer ironed onto the back of the sweater pieces

Stabilizer ironed onto the back of the sweater pieces

My first step was taking the sweaters apart.  All but one was chain-stitched together, which made disassembling them pretty easy once I got the hidden stitching undone. The last one was sewn together, which was a bit more of a pain to take apart. At least it was done in mattress stitch!

Next I ironed on stabilizer.  The stabilizer gave the knit fabric more woven qualities, which was needed for several reasons:

  1. It made sewing into the fabric infinitely easier.
  2. For colorwork or stranded knitting sweaters, it prevented unraveling.
  3. The stabilizer prevented the fabric from distorting by keeping lines straight and preventing stretching.
  4. For sweaters with button bands or zippers, it prevented them from accidentally opening.  It would allow some of the sweaters button bands to not be sewn, preserving some of the sweater-like qualities.
  5. It allowed the finished pillow to be sturdier.

On the very last piece of sweater I was just shy of covering the entire sweater.  Since I would be trimming most of the edges away, I pieced together a few extra scraps of stabilizer I had to finish it off (you can see this above).

Figuring out the size of the pillow, and making sure all the lines are straight

Figuring out the size of the pillow, and making sure all the lines are straight

After the stabilizer was on, I began to look at each sweater, determining the notable features of the sweater – what made it distinct?  How could I choose a shape that complimented the look of the piece?  Would the pillow look better as a square or rectangular pillow?

Cutting the pieces using a quilter's template and a fresh blade on my roller cutter

Cutting the pieces using a quilter’s template and a fresh blade on my roller cutter

This tall ice-skating Santa would have gotten cut off as a square pillow. I also loved the beading on the edge of this sweater and the beaded snowflakes.  I had to fudge cutting this pillow out to make sure that I caught all the elements that made it interesting.

I cut pieces to preserve the button bands, then had to make sure the button bands were in the center of the pillow

I cut pieces to preserve the button bands, then had to make sure the button bands were in the center of the pillow

I thought it was important to keep the qualities of the sweater above that made it interesting – button bands and ribbing at the edge. This pillow had a really thick button band that was nearly impossible to sew through, needing a lot of hand stitching.

After cutting out all the pieces and making sure I’d gotten them to the correct size, it was time to pin them together.  For most of the pillows I was able to use my sewing machine to sew at least three of the sides.  For two of them I was also able to machine sew part of a fourth side, saving on a lot of time.

A stack of sewed pillows, awaiting stuffing

A stack of sewn pillows, awaiting stuffing

The top pillow above, with the blues and greens, ended up being a favorite. I love the buttons on the button band!

 

Mattress stitch is almost always a perfect solution to having two fabrics come together invisibly

Mattress stitch is almost always a perfect solution to having two fabrics come together invisibly

Next I began hand-sewing the final edge of the pillows. I used #10 crochet thread instead of normal sewing thread. This was becasue I was having to yank at the pillows to get them to look the way I wanted them. This was doubly true when sewing through the button bands, and getting three layers of very thick knit fabric to come together.  Even still, sometimes I wasn’t careful and had the thread break.  Not fun!

Mattress stitch (aka ladder stitch) was my stitch of choice.

Pillow made out of old sweater, button band showing

Pillow made out of old sweater, button band showing

The pillows are coming together now! I wasn’t always able to get the ribbing to come together evenly on the bottom.  It’s a nitpicky detail, and probably something only I could notice. It couldn’t always be helped though. I love here how I could keep the button band unsewn, so it looks like the button band on a normal sweater, with that dimensionality! The thick stabilizer unerneath will prevent stuffing from escaping.

 

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Some close shots of the lovely beadwork on the bottom of the Santa sweater. I just had to keep a detail like this. I’m already wondering how to replicate this in a handknit design.

This has been a fun project and a unique way to honor a passed friend. In the next few days I’ll wrap up with the final touches – removing lint, straightening edges and getting ready to send these pieces back to my client.

Getting Cocky on a Sweater

Remember how yesterday I said I had everything left but the seaming?  Well, dear stitchers, that’s what I get for being over-confident.

Yesterday, oh yesterday, the future was looking bright.  I had a sweater nearly done, a window in which to finish it, and a baby that would look adorable in said sweater.  Turns out, not so much.

You see, the problem starts with the sleeves.  I’d worked on the sleeves over the weekend, when I was teaching at Fibre Space.  I’d mentioned before how I was winging it, a little, on the sweater?  I mean, I’d worked out some rough numbers, and I knew basically how a sweater was supposed to look and fit.  I figured I could go from there.

Since I had a limited amount of yarn left (I was rather committed to only using one skein, since I’d technically “stolen” it out of my business inventory), I decided to knit the sleeves two at a time.  That way, I wouldn’t have to remember the shaping decisions I made when I went to work the second sleeve.  Also, that way if I ran out of yarn, and the sleeves ended up a little short, I could just claim they were meant to be three-quarter sleeves.  Not a big deal.IMG_20170128_195444[1]

My first downfall would have probably been leaving the rough numbers and calculations I made at home.  My second downfall was deciding I’d just eyeball things.

And my third downfall was ignoring my little niggling feeling in the back of my mind when I looked at the sleeves two-thirds of the way through, and wondered if they would be wide enough.  Instead, I allowed myself to feel smug when I finished the sleeves with only a few yards left to go.  “Just enough to seam,” I thought.

I think you know where this is going.  The sleeves?  They’re really, really small.  See those sleeves?  Yes, they’re curling up, but even when they’re spread out, they’re still small.

Still, I was in enough denial (it’s the yarn fumes, I swear), that I managed to seam one of the sleeves together, and pin it to the body of the sweater.  And then, just to verify, I shoved my child’s arm down the sleeve to truly see if there was any hope of salvaging things.IMG_20170130_094404459[1]

If you can’t tell, that’s my child, with her arm out, rather puzzled as to why she can’t bend it.  Hint: the reason is the stitches are so stretched out in order to get her arm thru the sleeve that she can’t bend her arm.

So the sweater, is in timeout where I decide if I want to unravel and re-knit the sleeves or raid the business for another skein to finish things off.

And to look at my numbers to see where I went wrong.  Wish me luck.

Little Turtle’s Sweater

Kimono SweaterA while back I made a sweater for Rebecca that fit for all of two minutes, and I’ve been wanting to make another since then.

A spare skein of Dragonfly Fiber’s Traveller in Flannel Pajamas and a size 6 needle, and I was on my way.  Stacey Trock had made her daughter a sweater using a kimono type sweater pattern, and I remember how she loved it because it only had two fastenings.  I looked around at a couple of different styles, decided I really didn’t like anything (mostly because a lot of them tie up, and Rebecca would untie things as quick as fastened them).  So I played around with the numbers and started knitting.

You know when everything in knitting goes well?  It’s a simple pattern, minimal shaping, and the yarn is a joy to work with?  Well, this is that sort of project.  I love Dragonfly Fiber’s Traveller base, I love the colors, and I like anticipating how cute this sweater is going to look on Rebecca.  I’ve got great needles to work on (nice a pointy, how I like them), and it’s nice to be working on something that well, isn’t for work.   A little bit of a break, you could say.  I’m going to have this done this week, and Rebecca will be able to wear it for the rest of the season, and it’s going to be wonderful.

I’ve got the body done, and I’ve got the sleeves done too.  All that remains is the final bit of seaming.  I can’t wait to have Little Turtle in the sweater, ready to wear.  As it is, it makes a cute vest.

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I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

PPS: also, appreciate this photo, above.  It’s really hard to get a picture of my daughter when she wants to wiggle.

Stitch Adventure Sale at Dances with Wool

jennifer+Raymond+teachingI’ve talked a little bit about my new partnership with Dances With Wool, a yarn store just outside of Richmond, VA.  I’m super excited to be able to teach at this wonderful, vibrant new store.  It’s been a while since I’ve been able to teach weekly classes, and to develop many of the relationships that I loved when I taught at Woolwinders.

This week we’re running a sale on a particular type of class – our inaugural Stitch Adventure class.  What is Stitch Adventure?  It’s a class that gives you the benefits of a private lesson – flexibility and ability to cover a variety of topics, with the community aspect of a class.

Stitch Adventure classes can be a great way to tackle a new project that you need a little help on.  If you want to be held accountable to finishing a project up, we can do that.  And if you need help picking a project and finding the right yarn, the instructor is right there for you.  Each class you can bring in a new project – it doesn’t matter if it is knitting or crochet, since I can help you with both!

Right now the Stitch Adventure class is discounted 25% off – so sign up before we start on February 1st.  The class with run Wednesdays, Feb 1, 8, 15, 22  7-8 PM.

I’ll see you there!

News about Upcoming Classes & a Sale

Hairpin lace against a table

Fibre Space Classes

This weekend on Saturday the 28th I’ll be at Fibre Space in Old Town Alexandria, VA to be teaching two different classes:

Ooops: Fixing Mistakes: If the sight of a dropped stitch, a mixed up cable, or a problem in your lace sends you scrambling for the LYS, this class if for you. Learn to fix your mistakes!

Hairpin Lace Scarf: This highlights a fun riff on Hairpin Lace by making a quick project that will teach you the basics of this stunning technique!

I also am trying out something a little new: I’m scheduling a few Private Lessons for students that miss the one-on-one attention or would like to discuss a topic outside of my normal class offerings!  I’d love to meet with you then!

 


Dances With Wool Classes

I’ve also been fostering a new relationship with Dances With Wool, in Midlothian, VA, just outside of Richmond.  I’ve got a number of classes coming up with them.sugar+maple+hat

Sugar Maple Hat is a great class for learning how to work in the round, working cables, and reading a knitting pattern with cables.  The class will run February 1, 8th and 15th.

If you want to learn how to work  socks, this next class is for you.  Toe-up socks: Time Traveler covers how to cast on for a toe-up sock, how to work a riverbed heel, a primer on intermediate lace (just enough to keep your interest!), and a folded over brim.  Classes are spaced out so that students have the time to work on the pattern before getting to the next place.  Dates are February 22, March 8th and March 22!

I’ve also got a new sort of class that I’m running at DWW, called Stitch Adventure.  Got a project that you want to work but want a bit of handholding along the way?  Need help on choosing yarns or tackling a new skill?  Want to be held accountable to get those projects done?  This is the type of class for you! And this week, we’re running a sale of the class – 25% off.  Signup here!

 


Classes at the Ashland Library

And now, finally one last opportunity I want to call your way.  If you live in Ashland, VA, I’ll be teaching a Beginning Knitting and Beginning Crochet class this month.  Volunteering and making needlework accessible to everyone is an important cornerstone of my personal values.  At the same time, I don’t often give my instruction away for free, as it’s one of my primary methods of income.  Still, sometimes I feel it is important to give back to my community.

Thus, I’ll be teaching two different events at the Ashland Library this month:

Beginning Knitting Workshop
Wednesday, February 1, Noon – 1:00 p.m.
Jennifer Raymond, owner of Tinking Turtle Designs will show you how to get started with your first knitting project. No experience necessary. Supplies provided. Call or visit the library to sign up.

Beginning Crochet Workshop
Wednesday, February 15, Noon – 1:00 p.m.
Jennifer Raymond, owner of Tinking Turtle Designs will show you how to get started with your first crochet project. No experience necessary. Supplies provided. Call or visit the library to sign up.

Bang out a Baby Sweater

Three months into becoming a mama, and I’m just starting to rediscover life outside of our immediate family.  I was talking to a close girlfriend the other day, and I was marveling at how everything changes and nothing changes.  It seems like each day the changes are so gradual that I don’t notice a difference, and then I look at pictures from a month or two months ago, and I realize just how far we’ve come.

The last time I talked about Little Turtle she was 5 weeks old and just growing out of the newborn clothing.  Now she’s solidly filling out 3 month old clothing, and a few of the smaller onesies are starting to get tight.  Her head control is pretty good now – she likes to follow people’s faces as they move around a room, and her eyes will flick back and forth as she listens to her parents speaking.

She likes to play the “reach and grab” game when you hold a toy in her arm range.  After she grabs things she hasn’t quite managed to figure out how to let go, so she’ll look pretty confused as she waves her prize around.  Last week she rolled over for the first, second, and third time from belly to back.  She hasn’t repeated the feat again.


My stitching mojo is slowly starting to come back.  Last month I taught two camps fiberarts camps, each a week long.  As the campers were working on their projects, I began to just work some simple garter stitch.  Didn’t do anything with it – just working on a swatch to demonstrate to my students.

Then, I was pulling together classes for Fibre Space this fall, and was looking for a new pattern to teach intarsia.  I found one I liked, bought the pattern, and began working a sample.  And all of a sudden, things came back to me.  Before I knew it, I was motoring away on a second version of the project, and I’m contemplating a third.  It’s a simple project that probably works up in about 4-5 hours… perfect for my attention span!  The pattern, titled Totally, his here.

Still, I had no interest in working on anything of my own.

 

Then, over the weekend we were at the farm. It was one of the first times I had some real downtime.  While both of the grandparents had come and visited before, I was running camps, completing errands I couldn’t do with Rebecca, and going to doctor’s appointments.  At the farm someone else was holding Rebecca, and I didn’t have any work, and I decided I was going to “bang out a baby sweater.”  I wasn’t going to worry about math, or a pattern, or being able to replicate things.  I just went for it.  I used a shirt that was just a little big on her for a template.

Little Turtle's Sweater

It doesn’t have a button yet for the neck.  And I think it’ll fit her for all of two weeks (well, maybe a bit more than two weeks, she is wearing it over a shirt and overalls right now).  The sleeves are a smidge snug.  But it was done in just over 24 hours.

It’s yoked, with random yarnovers in the yoke to provide shaping.  Short sleeves because I just wanted it done, and I didn’t want to calculate sleeve length.

Sometimes you just have to go for things.

Also, see those overalls?  Notice the turtles?  My mama made those, G-ma Turtle.  I think they’re amazing.

What have you been just going for lately?

Easing back into the Business

Hello All!27200594310_5a0974d315

I guess it’s been a while, and I thank you all for your patience as I’ve been easing back into the business.

First, a couple of business notes: if you’ve contacted me about finishing or repair work in the last while, you were put on a waiting list.  I’ll be contacting people in the order they were put on the list starting next week.  If you haven’t heard from me by the end of the month, please reach out, as something may have happened.

I’m trying to get back to all the emails by the end of next week, too.  If you haven’t heard from me by then, reach out again, please!


And now onto what everyone really wants to know about: Little Turtle.

Rebecca Belle Raymond was born in our home on June 1st.  We had a smooth, if long labor.  In the following weeks we had family descend upon the household, acting as pinch-hitters so Mr. Turtle and I could catch up on sleep.  God bless 27821484376_3bab44c23dgrandparents!

Now, five weeks later Little Turtle is two pounds heavier.  She’s gone from swimming in our newborn outfits and diapers to busting at the seams.  On a good night we’ll get a four hour stretch of sleep – pure bliss.

When home more often than not she hangs out in one of the many cloth diapers my mother has made for her. I’m so fortunate that I have a seamstress that wants to sew for my child!  I’m beginning to have fun playing with her outfits as she grows out of the few newborn pieces we have and into the plethora of 3-month clothes we have.

As Mr. Turtle will note, right now she’s just beginning to ease out of the boring-potato stage.  Now she’s beginning to smile in response to things around her, and beginning to stay awake for longer periods of time during the day.  She pees like a racehorse, though!

As for the projects I’m working on… I’ve been taking a step to the side to make progress on a number of sewing things.  I have a surprise quilt for someone I can’t talk about yet, and a number of scrappy quilts that I’m hoping to make for beds in the house.  I haven’t touched my yarn in just over a month, and it seems like it was a much-needed break.  Part of it was because Rebecca seemed to suck up all the energy I had for really thinking.  Sewing, especially sewing straight seems like I was doing, was so much more straightforward!

Still, I’ve got a few projects coming up in the next few months, so stay tuned!

Rebecca Belle Raymond

Quick little note here!27441262225_23c7c6df7d_c

Rebecca Belle Raymond aka “Little Turtle” was born at home on June 1st at 5:58 pm.  She was 7 lbs even.  We are both doing well.  The last week has been filled with highs and lows as Mr. Turtle and I learned who Little Turtle is.  We’re settling into a rhythm!

I will be on maternity leave for the next month, and then will be gradually reclaiming my inbox and stepping back into the business after that.  For pressing issues, contact michael@tinkingturtle.com.

All the Handknits!

I’ve had a number of people asking me if I’ve knit a lot of things for Little Turtle, or if I was planning to.  Truth is, other than my Shamrock Dress, there hasn’t been much knitting on my behalf for the baby.

I’m fortunate, though, in that I have a community around me of crafty people who do knit and crochet, and have made our future child some lovely gifts.  I thought I’d share a few of them!

The first one has a bit of a story – I’m part of a stitching group that meets in Ashland every Monday night.  They’re a great group of ladies, and it’s always one of the highlights of my week getting to meet and catch up with them.  On Monday evening I walked into the room, running slightly late, to a big surprise.

There was cake and decorations, and , much to my unexpected joy, was a gift beyond words.  The ladies of the group had made Little Turtle a blanket – squares filled with elephants and bunnies, trains and boats, flowers and butterflies.  It was an amazing show of joy and anticipation and love.

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I’m finding that it is more than a little humbling to have someone craft for you.  When someone makes you a blanket or a community makes you an object, I know how much it means.  I know how much time goes into working on something, I know how much thought and work goes into each motion.  The person carries that item around with them for weeks, snatching time between other tasks, in the evening before bed or while waiting in the car.  There’s a message that you’re worth that time to them – you’re worth the effort of setting aside those minutes to make something for you.

I have another friend, who’ll I just call L (since I don’t have permission to use her full name), who I’ve known for the last 5 years.  We struggle with some of the same faults in our personalities – we can both sometimes have trouble with boundaries and we’ve struggled with our weight.  She’s a big spinner and knitter, and when we get together it’s like we’re both 5 years old again.  She also knit a blanket for Little Turtle.

Her blanket is different than the first blanket as night and day.  For one, this is made by one knitter’s hands.  It’s a wool and cashmere blend, as light as a feather and softer than my cats.  I’ve picked it up and held it to my face multiple times.  It’s knit in fine, fine yarn.  It’s also one of the reasons I tell people not to discount garter as being elegant.  Many people associate garter stitch as being more rustic, and perhaps even a little basic.  I can understand why as it’s often used in sturdy garments and in baby wear.

But here the lace is as fine as the yarn, subtle and stunning.  The yarn actually shares a name with L’s dog, Gracie.  The colors are subtle and more mature.  This blanket isn’t in a yarn that’s superwash, that’s meant to be thrown in the laundry when it has spit-up on it.  This is a christening blanket, that then becomes the nursing blanket you bring to church or synagog.  Later it may become a shawl or a treasured heirloom for the child.  Still, the message is the same: I thought of you and your child.  Here are my prayers and well wishes, my hope for the new life to come.

Again, so humbling.

The next two blankets are also from close friends.

This blanket was made by my workout buddy and altogether closest friend in the Richmond area, Krista.  It’s made as a nod to Little Turtle’s nickname before we decided on her real name.  Mr. Turtle and I called the babe Kiwi, after one of the fruits she was the size of in the first trimester, and somehow it stuck. (It may well also be because of how many kiwi’s I’ve eaten over the course of this pregnancy).  This is a rough-and-tumble blanket, made from a sturdy knit stitch with a fun little border.  It’s cotton, easily washable and it holds up to wear and tear.  This is the blanket for taking outside (grass stains will blend in!) and throwing into the car.  Krista, working with kids, knows the type of blanket needed for an active child, which is what I’m sure Little Turtle will be!

The last one is from my high-school friend Jess, who is also expecting a baby.  Her knit ripple blanket seems like the end of a perfect quintet – this is a blanket meant for snuggling under on cold winter day, the ripples and texture providing extra warmth.  Almost the same size as the blanket from my knitting group, it’s knitted in a worsted yarn, so is a little thicker and sturdier – the difference between spring and true winter.  I love the vibrant purples!

 

Unwind in Blowing Rock, NC

A little later this morning Mr. Turtle and I are jumping into the Subaru and heading to his birth state, North Carolina.  There we’ll be turning and heading west, across the state to the town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina.  There, a number of other knitters will converge for Unwind Getaway, run by the amazing Nancy Schroyer.  I’m one of four instructors who will be running a stellar lineup of classes, and I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ve spent the last two days unpacking and re-packing my teaching supplies.  Unpacking, because my office has been one of the last bastions of the move, and there were a bunch of boxes I hadn’t even opened yet.  Repacking, as I pulled together my supplies, materials, swatches and samples for the classes.

There was a run to the library to print off copies of patterns and worksheets, since our printer is only printing black ink, and then only badly.  There was the evening scramble and I tripled-checked: yes I really do have everything. Sleeping the night before I travel for classes is always interesting!

Peake decided we really, really didn’t need to leave. And if we insisted, then he was coming with us.

I’m so excited to head out!