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Mistakes, and how to fix them (or not)…

Mistakes, and how to fix them (or not)…

Usually, when we share work with others, we tend to show the things that we’re proud of, or very happy with. Seldom do we talk about what didn’t go well. Today I’m doing just that (again! Remember my waistcoat? It’s still lingering in my Unfinished pile). Get ready for a couple of mistakes and some possible solutions, maybe…

One: The mannequin

A few months ago, I stumbled upon a website that creates a personalised sewing pattern to make a mannequin after your own body measurements. Since the one I had at the time wasn’t true to my figure, I went ahead and splurged on this.

I sewed the thing and followed the instructions. I was very excited! A true-to-form mannequin would mean I could make sure my patterns would fit me perfectly. In theory, at least.
Well… I stuffed it. Literally and figuratively! I had to add stuffing to the thing, and discovered there’s an art to adding fluff and moulding a 3D object in order for it to conform to what you want. Let’s just say my efforts were less than stellar. Attest for yourself!

Not to put a too fine point over the issue, but I’m really not that er, wavy? I think I made a couple of sewing mistakes (note the lower belly, there’s definitely a stitch or two that’s bunched up), but my capital crime was definitely not stuffing the mannequin as instructed, which was to add little bits of fluff at a time. I should know better.
Also, there’s another *ahem* area that definitely didn’t get stuffed as needed, don’t ask me why. That pair would not get a job in a Las Vegas show…

The solution

I can either remove all the stuffing and do it all over again, or I can admit defeat and start another mannequin and also correct the sewing mistakes. Removing the stuffing will be an interesting feat, I have this nightmarish idea that it’ll all bounce back in my face and I’ll drown in fluff.

Which one do you vote for: redoing it or re-stuffing it?

Two: The knitted jumper

Remember the cardigan I knit a while back, and hand dyed afterwards? (Sorry for the lack of link, I couldn’t find it). I had liked the pattern so much, I made a few more, then decided to adapt it to create a jumper (that’s a “sweater” for you American folk, although I promise I don’t intend to do much sweating in it! Then again, I don’t intend to do much jumping either.)

Well… I’m a huge proponent of test swatching everything beforehand to make sure it fit, but I’d knit this before in another format, how much different could this new version be? Turns out, quite a bit.

Even though we know the mannequin didn’t quite come out as expected, the measurements are quite correct. See all that extra “fabric” in the chest area? It’s like that on both sides. Argh.

The solution

I can’t really take this apart and re-knit it. Let me rephrase that: because I don’t want to lose the will to live, I’m not going to take this apart and re-knit it. What I can do, however, is take the excess volume away by either steeking (a technique that involves cutting the yarn and putting it back together, it’s very nerve racking!) or I can go the easier way and, using the sewing machine, simply sew it tighter on both sides.

Steeking would afford me the opportunity to learn a new-to-me technique, but it could go horribly wrong and I’d end up with no jumper and a lot of grief. Sewing it would definitely work, but you’d see a line on the upper sides that might look a bit terrible.
Which would you choose?

Three: the shawl

Finally, my favourite. This shawl was hand knit during a couple of weeks and I love it. This was a commission, so it’ll be heading off to its new home soon.

If you think beading a shawl is hard work, you’re absolutely right! The edging you see here, with those cute little scallops, was also a very time-consuming affair. The end result is glorious, though.

The problem and the solution

The problem I had with it was, I dropped a stitch and didn’t notice until I was all done binding off, washing and blocking it! Facepalm moment.
I immediately put a stitch marker to stop it unravelling and promptly went to work to fix this mistake.

I put the stitch marker over the stitches the dropped one should have connected with so I didn’t lose my place. I then took out my crochet hook and went to work.

After I got the stitches together correctly, I added a tiny string of the same yarn to close it off. I’m sure there are “better” ways to do this out there, but this worked for me. Once I was done, I don’t think you can see where the dropped stitch was. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Here is this beauty in all its glory, ready to become an heirloom in another country very soon.

There you have it, the ups and downs of a maker. I hope you enjoyed going through these with me, and thank you in advance for your suggestions on what to do with the first two.

As ever, here’s a photo of a cute feline to finish the post. Marshmallow was looking all regal and dainty whilst enjoying the sun, but of course once I pointed the camera this happened…

“The paparazzi never leave me alone!”

Enjoy your weekend, and “see” you in my next blog post!

The magic of blocking your hand knits

The magic of blocking your hand knits

Hello, Leonor here guest-writing for this week’s post.

After reading the title, if you’re not a knitter, you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. What on earth is blocking and why am I writing about it?

Simply put, blocking refers to the act of stretching a knitted item with the aid of specialised wires and pins, with the intention of making it look a certain way. Think of all those airy, lacy shawls you’ve seen people wear – those have been carefully and mercilessly blocked into submission.

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Above is my latest project, the Banana Leaf Shawl. It looks nice-ish, but it lacks that finesse that one usually finds in store-bought shawls. The stitches look limp and you can see the differences in my gauge. Let’s make it right.

Firstly, soak the item in room-temperature water (add a nice wool wash if you want; I used Eucalan, a no-rinse Grapefruit-scented one). Let it sit for about 15 minutes and then carefully extract the excess water. Your knit needs to be damp but not dripping.

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Now comes the fiddly part. Using blocking wires, you’ll need to catch the edges of your project so it’ll keep the shape you want (in my case, everything’s a straight line, but it can be crescent-shaped, for example).
I decided to do this just before going to bed, thinking it wouldn’t take me long – how wrong I was. After one hour, I was losing the will to live. I’d need another hour to finish getting the wire through all the edges.

Next, you’ll need to pin the wires to a surface. There are special fancy mats you can buy for that, but I got some for home gyms that are a fraction of the price and do the job nicely.

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Because I have cats, I couldn’t risk them getting hurt on the blocking pins, so I had to move my blocks vertically for the night. I then used my desk chair to keep everything upright.

Once your finished object is dry, you can take the pins out and because fibre has memory (like the mohair and silk of this shawl), it’ll keep its shape… until you wash it again. Yes, blocking needs redoing every time a knit gets wet! Don’t you have a newfound respect for all the people who knit delicate lacy shawls?

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And here’s the finished product. I hope you can see how different my Banana Leaf now looks, comparing it to the first photo – from a slightly misshapen piece to one with sharp, well-defined edges. It’s grown quite a bit, too.

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The stitches look so much better, too, neater. They’re suddenly really well defined. This shawl now looks like something one would see in a shop front, if I do say so myself.

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Even if you’re not a knitter, I hope you’ve marvelled, like I do every time, over the magic of blocking knitwear. If you fancy reading the technical bits about this particular project, head on over to my Ravelry page.

Have you ever done blocking? Can you think of any ways this technique could be used for other fibre endeavours? I’d love to read (and steal) your good ideas.

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