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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.

Reweaving a Lace Knit Blanket, Part 2

Today I resume notes on my recent repair, a lace hobbyhorse blanket.  This is the second of the series detailing my thoughts as I worked through this reweaving and repair project.  You can see the first part here.

 

Base of the Hobby horse, stitches on locking stitch marker.

Base of the hobby horse, stitches on locking stitch marker.

When I last left off I’d gotten the piece reworked up to the lacework, and fixed a couple of runs that were below the hobbyhorse.  I’m ready to start working my way up the lace horse.

To review, this is what a whole hobbyhorse looks like (below). You’ll see I’m using stitch markers to visually mark my place – the green stitch marker represented the first line of stitches in a column that were whole and unraveled.

Reference hobbyhorse

Reference hobbyhorse

I got my stitches on a pair of needles and began “knitting” my way up the rows, following and mimicking the other lace horse.  I used a trick I often use with children and beginning knitters – the knitting needles are two different colors so I could easily remember which were right side rows and which were “wrong side” rows.  By that I mean the rows I was working with the lace (which would have been the right side of the pattern) and the rows I was just plain knitting (which would have been the wrong side, or the purl side).

Double pointed needles made it easy to not have to slip the stitches back and forth.

reknitting and reweaving the foot of the lace knit hobbyhorse

Reknitting and reweaving the foot of the lace knit hobbyhorse

At this point I was to the top of the horse’s foot and  began to notice a problem I hadn’t been sure about until that point.  I thought there was a jog in the line of decreases and yarnovers to the left, but I wasn’t quite sure.  As I began working the pattern up the leg of the horse, it became apparent that a couple of mistakes had been made by the origional knitter when knitting the horse.

Note: you’ll also notice that as I was making these repairs I wasn’t paying attention to gauge too much – both because I could go back and “adjust” areas, and also because this repair had a time budget – it was more important to get the repair to a place where it wouldn’t come unraveled.

reknitting and reweaving the leg of the lace knit hobbyhorse

Reknitting and reweaving the leg of the lace knit hobbyhorse

There were three apparent mistakes, but two of them affected the repair – circled below.  You can see the jog in the line of stitches on the bottom circle, and another jog at the line of stitches in the horse’s neck.  The third mistake, the one which may have led to the run in the first place, is right at the top of the dropped stitches.  The mysterious part of all of this was the fact that there wasn’t any broken yarn – the run must have resulted in a dropped stitch that couldn’t get fixed.

At this point I was also starting to suspect that there might have been an extra pair of stitches in the original pattern.  Looking at the horse I began to wonder if perhaps there was a fourth mistake that was lost when the stitches dropped down?  I’d been noticing that even accounting for differences in gauge, the stitches were really loose. This hypothetical fourth mistake would account for an extra row of stitches, and thus the extra yarn hanging out in each row.  I started to suspect that the drop might have resulted from the original knitter trying to fix those mistake; and perhaps losing a stitch in the process?

comparing how the hobbyhorse is supposed to look, vs the horse with the run in it

Comparing how the hobbyhorse is supposed to look, vs the horse with the run in it

By now I worked my way back to where the drop happened. I had to strategize how I was going to finish this repair off.  I had two different choices I could follow:

1.) Cut the yarn to reweave the affected area and then weave in those ends.

2.) Use additional yarn to sew the gap closed.

I discarded the first option for a couple of reasons: time and cost was a factor for this client. I also wouldn’t have much ends to work with when weaving things back together.  Since this is a child’s blanket, I wanted a sturdier option.

Instead, I went with option two.  I found some embroidery floss in as close of color as I could get, and cinched in the stitches.  I then sewed through the area several times, weaving in the ends afterward.

Getting ready to sew the run and hole in the hobbyhorse closed

Getting ready to sew the run and hole in the hobbyhorse closed

To get the stitches looking more even, and to test to make sure everything was locked in tight I decided to go with an unconventional approach for blocking. I wet the blanket, maneuvered the stitches so they looked as even as I could get them in a reasonable amount of time, and threw it in the dryer (since the yarn was dryer safe). This fluffed up the yarn, locked the stitches into place, and helped everything even out.

 

And there you have it!  This piece went off to its owner last week, back into the loving arms of a boy that will have it for years to come.

Plant Rooting Jars made with Crochet

I’ve set Rebecca’s sweater and sleeves aside until I have the space to give it more thought – hopefully this weekend when we’re going to be at the farm and have the inlaws around.  Instead I’ve embarked on another project that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while.  I’ve wanted a set of rooting jars to hang up in front of the window.  My sister has a model similar to this one from Vermont Nature Creations.  I’d intended to purchase one like it for a while, but always seem to have something better to spend my money on.  Meanwhile I don’t have anything to root my plants in that my cats can’t get to.

Well, that’s a lie. I have some winebottles held in socks that are hanging from a curtain rod, but they aren’t very sightly.

The beginnings of a crochet lace circleSo this weekend I’ve gotten busy with some crochet.

I started with a magic circle, size three crochet thread and a steel crochet hook (don’t ask me the size) and worked like this:

Round 1: 24 dc.

Round 2: V-stitch in every other stitch, 12 V stitches.

Round 3: 3 double crochets in each V stitch, with a chain in between each grouping.

Round 4, 5 and 6: Let’s rock the granny square pattern!

Round 7: Granny square pattern without the chains in between.  This is when i slip the bottle into the crochet piece, and the following rows are worked around the bottle… which is a pain, let me tell you.crochet lace around spice jar

Round 8: Only two double crochets in each of the spaces between the groups.

Round 9: a single crochet in each of the spaces between the clusters.

And then finally a chain to hang by: 60 chain stitches for the bottom two hanging, 100 chain stitches for the top one to hang off the railing.  Each of these little things takes me about 45 minutes – so they’re quite satisfying!

I decided that it was a good idea to only hang three in a row, since I don’t want them to hang too low… and I was concerned about how much weight a single row of chain stitches could take.  I mean, each of the jars doesn’t weigh that much… but I didn’t want to push my luck.

rooting jars before window

This is the final result – I love the way the sun streams through the stitches.  You can see in the background the original prototype of wine bottles in socks. The wine bottles in socks were nixed because the wine bottle with the water in it is quite heavy, and I’m not sure I want those hanging there long term.  I suppose I could have crocheted around a wine bottle, but that’s a lot of crocheting.

Tutorial: How to Unwind a Skein

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About a week ago I got a great question from Mary, one of my students and customers.  She wrote, “How do you unravel a twist of yarn? Made a mess and I am sure there is a correct way but I’m not privy it and I have three more to go….Mary.”  When Mary was talking about a twist of yarn, she was talking about a skein.  And this can be quite puzzling if you’ve never dealt with yarn stored this way.

I thought it was a great question, so I’ve put together a tutorial about it.  Since it’s a fairly picture-heavy post, I’ve put the rest of the post behind a cut so the photographs won’t slow down the loading time on the website.

But first, why is yarn stored in skeins, and not pre-wound for customers?  There are a couple of different reasons.  First, it’s generally agreed that keeping your yarn wound into balls for long periods of time can stretch out the yarn, especially if the yarn is wound up tightly. Keeping it in a skein allows the yarn to breathe a bit more.  Second, it’s easier for yarn companies to ship their yarn in skeins: they take up less space, squish better, and lie flatter in boxes.  Yarn that is in balls tends to be hard for LYS’s to store – I used to call a couple of different balled yarns “tribbles,” as they seemed to jump off the shelves whenever my back was turned.  Finally, for hand-dyed yarns, gradients and a few other yarns, skeins allow customers to see all the colors in the skein better, so they’re not surprised by a “mystery color.”

So that’s why you often may get your yarn in skeins from a Local Yarn Store.  Most stores offer balling services if you buy the yarn in the store or if you pay a small fee.  But do expect to wait – often sales clerks have to fit in the winding of yarn around their other duties!

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Repairing a Puppy-Destroyed Blanket

New Year brought a small, temporary break in the designing workload – thank goodness!  I took the time to catch-up on some of the repair work that’s big and cumbersome, including repairing a puppy-chewed blanket.

Over New Year’s I was able to work on repairing a family blanket that had been “savaged” by a puppy.  This is a tricksy repair, with lots of patterning.  I’ve been working my way through it, taking the time to trace out the pattern in waste yarn before making the final repairs.

 

Take a look at some of my progress:

 

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Here I’ve got the tools of my trade: good solid waste yarn that’s smooth and not prone to breaking.  I’ve got a bent-tip needle, locking stitch markers, a crochet hook, and the project.  You can see the hole closed up now, with the yarn ready to be traced over.

 

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And here we have the final repair, the new yarn nearly invisible.  You can find the fixed area by looking at where the orange marker is poking through.

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Another hole, this one near the edge.  The repairs are made a bit more difficult because every other row the knitter worked is twisted.  Twisted stitches are NO FUN to repair because the top unraveled bit looks like a backwards loop cast on.  Every other row has to be manually detangled instead of just dropping things back to a good starting point.

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Here, working the pattern using a crochet hook.
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And now, the hole ready to be traced over with the new yarn!  Halfway finished!

Stay tuned, as this blanket has several more tricky holes that I’ll be tackling.

A Perfect Sweater Repair

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’ve been hopping, trying to wrap up finishing projects before Christmas is truly upon us.  I’ve nearly pushed through the projects that are due in the next two weeks (and then the rest aren’t due until the New Year!).  I had one repair in particular that I wanted to share – a sweater repair in the Irish Knit Style.  The owner, AM, discovered me through the Washington Post article, and got in contact with me shortly thereafter.  She had a hole right in the front of the sweater, and could I please repair it?

As always, I told her I’d do the best I was able, but I was concerned – the yarn she had, a cream flecked with bits of brown, looked to be tricky to match.

This week I sat down to start on her repair, and when I pulled her sweater out of my bag, I couldn’t help wincing – this yarn was going to be really tricky to match.  I have a number of different creams on hand, but all of them were too light, and with too much “yellow” undertone.  AM’s sweater was a cream with an almost grey undertone.  And again, it had flecks of brown it it – tricky to match.  I checked the sweater – there wasn’t a good place to “harvest” yarn without going to a lot of effort, and I knew AM wanted to keep the costs down.  So matching the yarn from somewhere else would be a better option.

The hole itself was a lucky one: a row higher and it would be in the middle of a cable – a repair that’s much more finicky and tedious to do.  Two rows down there was the same problem.  This hole happened in exactly the right place – the few rows between two cables.

Well, it’d been a while since I’d been to one of the local yarn stores.  I figured it was time for a visit.

The Knitting B is a local yarn store about 25 minutes from where I live.  It’s the longest drive to a LYS I’ve had since I left my parents’ house.  So I don’t get there as often as I feel I should, and it’s too bad.  It’s a great store with lots of natural light, a solid selection of yarns, and a good parking area (always a plus!). Elizabeth, the owner, had an LYS in Charlottesville, VA for 25 years.  She’s a savvy businesswoman who knows here stuff.

When I got to the Knitting B one of the employees began helping me out trying to get a match.  Everything we pulled was not right.  Many of my go-to’s weren’t working.  And then, I remembered a trick I’d used before to get a good match.  Color changing yarns often will have sections that shift between colors, which means you get a lot of “bang” for your buck – and in this case, a couple of yards of yarn that match a hard to match yarn.  In this case, Noro Silk Garden came to the rescue.

The repair was pretty standard after that.

Because the yarn was awfully fuzzy, and hard to see what I was doing, I did a step I sometimes skip.  I ran guidelines: a different color of crochet thread for each row.  Because it’s the holidays, I decided to go with red and green.  I then unpicked the old yarn, pulling it out of the way.

Sweater repair with guidelines.

Sweater repair with guidelines.

I began tracing the yarn with the Noro Silk Garden.  My only complaint about Noro is that it’s really easy to pull apart, being a single-ply.  It was also a fraction less lofty than the original yarn, but the color matching was so perfect I didn’t care, as the repair was only 4 stitches across.  I ran the first row of yarn, adjusting the stitches to make sure they matched the gauge of the stitches around them.  Then I pulled out the green guideline.  It’s one of the reasons I love crochet cotton: it pulls out REALLY easily, and is nearly unbreakable without scissors.

Sweater repair half done, only red guidelines remain.

Sweater repair half done, only red guidelines remain.

I then ran the second set of yarn, and pulled out the red yarn.

Sweater repair, needing ends woven in.

Sweater repair, needing ends woven in.

See how nice the color match is?  Just let me be geeky for a moment – the under-color is SO close, and the flecks of brown is SOOO close too.  You’d really have to be looking to notice this.

Then got down to the tedious part: weaving in the old ends and the new ends, tweaking things as I go.

Sweater Repair, finished.

Sweater Repair, finished.

Can you spot the repair?  Yes?  Well then, I ask you.

How about now?

Sweater Repair, big view

Sweater Repair, big view

As always, if you’re looking to have a knit piece repaired, get in touch with me on my Finishing Page.  Got questions?  I’d love to hear from you.  Comment, or drop me a note!

Repair and Restoration: Behind the Scenes

Last Thursday I had a lovely surprise: Jeanne Huber, a reporter in the Washington Post, quoted me heavily in answer to a question about repairing an afghan.  She had been asked a question: was there a way to get the holes in her afghan repaired?  Huber called Fibre Space (one of the yarn stores I often teach at), who in turn recommended her to me.  Huber had gotten in touch with me on a Friday afternoon, and between packing up to leave for a long weekend, I chatted to her on the phone about how I do repair.

Huber did a lovely job with the article, taking my rambling replies and distilling them into the pertinent information.  As a result, I’ve been able to chat with a number of people looking to have family pieces repaired.

Still, it left me realizing that there’s a bit of mystery to what I do, and I wanted to expand a little upon the article.

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Blanket in the process of being repaired

How I Approach Repair Work

When someone gets in touch with me looking to get an item fixed, I try and have a dialogue with the customer about their goals.  What is it they want from the repair?  What would be the ideal results for them?  Are they looking to have an item repaired so they can use it further or are they looking to have the holes fixed so that the problem doesn’t get worse?  Are they on a budget?   Are they looking for the item to look pristine or are they willing to allow the repair to become part of the character of the object?

Each person has a different idea of what “fixed” means.

21831892331_7742a4b943_bMeanwhile, I’m also looking at the practical part of the project.  How damaged is the item?  How widespread is the wear?  Would attempting to fix the item hurt things further?  When I’m looking into this I’m often learning about the history of the item: if it was stored in a place where a lot of sunlight, heat or humidity could get to it, the fibers may be damaged.  Are the places where wear is showing from use – such as worn out fingers on mittens, or a handle on a bag becoming worn, or because of a different factor?  Often the answers form the type of repairs I can do – mittens that are going to get further wear over each winter are going to receive different treatment than a Christmas stocking that’s taken out once a year.

Based on the customer’s feedback, I come back with a number of options.

Sometimes this means the repairs are visible repairs: so that the owners can show where the original piece is, and where the repairs are.  Sometimes this means we transform a piece: adding a cute embroidered kitten over an elbow patch.  Other times the repairs are nearly invisible as I splice new yarn into the old.

Just as I put time and thought into repairing damaged items, so can you put the time and thought into what you want from your repair.  Worried that a piece of yours might need help?  Check out my post on what to look for.  Already decided to have your piece fixed?  Get in touch with me through my finishing form– I’d love to start our conversation!

New Online Learning Videos with Interweave

You may remember that over the summer, I went to Interweave in Fort Collins, CO to film four classes. This was part of Interweave’s Online Learning video program.  The first one, based off of Stained Glass Rug, was released a couple of months ago.  The others, I’m happy to report, have just come out!  Let me tell you about them!


Short Rows in Crochet: Learn Shaping and Texture Techniques for a Great FitEP12640

This class is based on a method of working short rows that I uninvented.  I’ve been using this technique for a while now, as I love the texture and look it gives crochet fabric.  I also love how shaping can be achieved to create projects that imitate ribbing in knitting, or allow you to play with color.

This class has two free patterns that come with the download or video: Riverbend Skirt and Ski Slope Hat.

In addition to teaching you about short rows, this class also has a great tutorial about using the mattress stitch to seam together crochet stitches.  I think you’ll love it.

You can purchase the class here, for $19.99.

 


Quick Crochet VestQuick Crochet Vest: Learn Broomstick Lace, Short-Rows, Back Loop Stitches & More

I love my Pattern Crossed Arrow Vest, and I think it’s the perfect project for beginners looking to challenge themselves!  Going into the class, the only skills you need to know are how to chain and single crochet.  I take you through the rest.

What I love about this pattern is how, with very little shaping, you create a very flattering vest that works as a great layer piece.  And the best part is, with a bulkier weight yarn, this project just flies by.  With the video you get a free copy of Crossed Arrow, plus my instruction as I walk you through each of the steps to complete this project.

And if you’ve never tried broomstick, this is a great project to start on.  You’ll get the hang of it in no time.

You can purchase the class here, for $19.99.


 

Crochet Barber Pole Cowl: Stranded Colorwork Techniques and MoreCrochet Barber Pole Cowl

My Barber Pole Cowl has been featured in several of my classes, and I’m now glad to bring it to video with Interweave.  Like Crossed Arrow, this is a pattern that’s completely accessible to beginners: if you can single crochet and chain, I can teach you how to make this project!

With a lot of color options, this project is always popular around fall – a perfect pattern for working up in school or team colors, just as the air is getting nippy.

Here, I take you through learning how to crochet through the back loop (can you tell it’s one of my favorite techniques?) and also how to work stranded crochet – which is different than tapestry crochet!  Stranded crochet creates a fabric that is warmer (because of the two layers of yarn) and much stretchier than tapestry crochet.  It’s a fun and helpful skill to have in your arsenal.  In the process of learning this technique, you also learn how to change colors in crochet without making a jog.

If you like the pattern and love my classes, I think you’ll get a lot from this one.  You can purchase the class here, for $19.99.


Got questions about the videos?  I’d love to answer them!  And if you have bought the videos, how did you like them?

 

Spinning Resources for Children

Recently I’ve had a number of individuals get in touch with me about spinning supplies for their children.  It can be hard for parents or guardians to know what to get their children when they have no knowledge of the craft itself.  Says one parent,

My daughter took your class over the summer and I wanted to get her craft supplies for the wool felting and the other crafts (except for crochet). What do you recommend and where can I get them?

I’ve created a list of supplies, resources and tools to help you get your child on their way to spinning!

Tools
Generally children first learn how to spin on a drop spindle.  These are either made from wood or plastic and are a dowel with a weight around it to enable the drop spindle to spin.  Think of them like tops – they look very similar!

Camper using TurtleMade Turkish Drop Spindle

Camper using TurtleMade Turkish Drop Spindle

  • TurtleMade ($25): Hands down my very favorite drop spindles to use with children.  I’ve used their Turkish Spindles – the advantage being that, when used correctly, the spindle creates a ball of yarn when done.  It’s much easier to ply from when first working with spinning.  Get the Standard size spindle – sometimes the smaller sizes are harder to use for children, as there’s less to grab onto.  I love that TurtleMade has different colors, and does special holiday themed spindles – there’s some really cool halloween printed ones.  TurtleMade’s plastic spindles have never broken on me, and even if they do, they sell replacement parts.
  • Knit Picks ($14.99): Wooden Drop spindle, heavier than TurtleMade’s, and is a solid option.  I don’t find these as sturdy.
  • There are a variety of other spindles out there, mostly in wood.  They range in prices from $39 to $50, and are really only worth acquiring if your child really gets into spinning.  Same thing with spinning wheels (which range from $150-1,000) – only get one if your child is serious about the craft.

Supplies
When children first learn how to spin there’s quite a bit of waste.  Normally it’s best to get a good amount of something affordable, and a little, “special” bit for when they’re further along.  A 4-8 oz amount of wool normally spins up to make something, depending on the thickness of the yarn.  Your child may be able to spin enough to make an accessory, such as gloves, a hat, or fingerless mitts.

  • Neutral colored wool ($1.49/oz):  Wool is generally a good fiber to begin spinning, as it tends to be the most cooperative for beginners.  Order anywhere from 4 – 8 oz to start – and don’t be surprised if your child goes through the amount quickly!  When you’re first learning, there’ll be a fair amount of waste.  If your child is interested in having colored yarn, after the yarn is spun you can experiment with food dyes.
  • After your child has mastered spinning, they may want to venture into other fibers or colors.  A few hints: DO not, until you know what you’re getting into, get anything called “Raw wool” – it’ll be tempting because it’s a lot cheaper, but that means the wool has not been cleaned (IE: has grass and oils from the sheep in it), and has not been carded.  Instead, look for words like, “Combed Top,” “Roving” or “Carded Batts.”

Resources
There are a number of resources for adults looking to spin, however, not all of these are particularly accessible to children, depending on the age.  The books/resources I’ve listed below are the best ones I’ve found for children, and contain lots of pictures!

  • Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning ($14.99): Plenty of pictures, this is one of the books that got me started.
  • Craftsy ($20 – $30): Craftsy has some great resources, if you don’t have access to local teachers.

How to Set a Zipper in a Sweater

The rights have reverted back to me for a number of blog posts I did for Jordana Paige’s blog a few years ago, and I’ve begun re-posting them on occasion to have them on my own website, and so students can reference them.  This particular tutorial about setting a zipper into a sweater, I’ve updated and refreshed, but much of the technique remains the same.

 

Setting in a zipper is a process that takes time, patience, and a certain amount of willingness to fiddle.  Not everyone likes to do that, which is why so many of the finishing projects I do involve setting in zippers.  But if you’re willing to take the time, setting in a zipper can be very satisfying!

To set in a zipper you will need: a zipper, yarn to match the garment, yarn (or embroidery floss) in a contrasting color, a sewing needle (with a sharp point!), pins, and the 2 sides that you are attaching to the zipper.

a sweater, matching yarn, a zipper, needle and red embroidery floss are shown on a white background.

It’s helpful to have all your materials available!

Please note: When purchasing a zipper, make sure you get the correct type!  You don’t want a zipper for a bag, as it is attached together at both ends – you’d never be able to get your garment off!  Same thing with double ended zippers.  Take time to read the package and know what you are getting.  Also pay attention to length.  As I explain below, get the right size zipper, or a little longer.

The first thing I do is block the two fronts to the garment I’m attaching the zipper to.  Make sure the front is blocked to the correct measurements, and that your zipper will match those measurements, or be slightly longer.  If you need to, you can trim the top of the zipper to the length you want.  Make sure you use a file to eliminate any rough edges, and sew a new stopper so your zipper tab doesn’t come off.

Next, pin the zipper into place on the inside of the garment.  Make sure that you are not pulling or distorting the knit fabric – at all.  If you pull the fabric to stretch to the zipper, it can cause the zipper to pucker or wave.  After you’ve gotten things in place, I like to run a basting stitch along the zipper, as I don’t like to get poked with pins.  It also makes super-sure your zipper doesn’t shift around.

To do a basting stitch, take some waste yarn or thread, and use a running stitch, sewing the zipper to the fabric with big stitches.  When you’re done attaching the zipper, you can remove the basting stitch, so don’t worry if the basting stitch isn’t perfect.

Using a running stitch to baste the zipper to the fabric.

 

After I’ve finished basting (and this is another good reason to baste your work, because you can’t do this if the zipper is pinned), I check to make sure that the zipper can zip up and down without catching on any fabric.  Better to find this out now than after I’ve sewed everything together!  This is your opportunity to make any adjustments.

The basting stitch on the wrong side of your work.

Finally, you can sew the zipper to the piece.  Depending on the piece, sometimes I use the yarn the sweater was worked in.  Other times, if the yarn is delicate, loosely plied, or extremely fuzzy, I’ll use sewing thread in a color that is close to the color of the yarn.  Either way, I use the same technique.

Working from the back, I secure the yarn.  When I sew, I make sure that each time I’m going over only a single strand of yarn between two stitches.  Basically go into the purl bump if viewing from the back.  Mostly, I choose the space between the first and second stitches against the edge.

Working very slowly, I sew my way up one side, then up the other.  Be patient. Take your time. Check your work often.  Use small stitches.  Because the zipper is located at the front of the sweater, I’m super careful to make sure that my sewing doesn’t show.  Sometimes, if the fabric is wide, I’ll run a second set of stitches further out along the zipper band, so it doesn’t flop and lies nicely down.  You can see I did this from the picture below.

The zipper, sewn to the sweater with two rows of stitches.

 

When you’ve finished attaching the zipper to both sides of the fabric, I check my work.  Check again to make sure the zipper moves smoothly along the track.  Then, and only then, if I’m happy with what I’ve done do I remove the basting stitches.  Finally, weave in your ends.

Zipper in sweater