Saturday, May 09, 2015

Tight not loose,

Winter is coming, not in a GofT way but in an old house in Dunedin way. Over summer my felted slippers died, just wore through in a way that could not be mended. Previously I had extended their life by darning and embroidery - and knitting inner-soles but finally there was nothing left to hold the mending. So a few months ago I made new slippers - but because I only make felted slipper every few years , I forgot that the template resulted in slipper a little to big. So those slippers ended up fitting bear. This last week - we felt the need to put on the heater - during the day, so it was time to make slippers for me.

I started with this, a darky died halfbred wool from Heavenly wools, in the shade Landscape-charcoal. Her fiber is interesting, some of the colourways are over dyed naturally dark wool - making for interesting shades - maybe more interesting than is possible with standard white sheep a fleece.

I dug out the template from Machiko's felting class and drew a smaller shape to cut in bubble wrap as the resist. Then I did a bit of googling and found this tutorial - while I was intrigued by the shape I was to brave enough to try this time, after all I've already had one pair of slippers not work for my feet. Once I have slippers that fit me I am keen to hunt down some fiber and try that shape.



After the initial wrapping of the form, I began to wet felt by rolling the slippers in bubble wrap - but then I gave up and headed out to the garage. I dug out the detail sander and used to to finish the flat felting. I was amazed at how fast the process went using the sander. I placed the flat shapes on a layer of bubble wrap, then another layer over the top (bubble side out) and ran the sander sans sandpaper over the plastic repeatedly until the felt firmed up. Once it was firm I cut the foot opening, removed the bubble wrap resist and fitted the felted slippers over the polystyrene forms I've acquired. I bought these a few months ago from a seller in the west coast of NZ, but they were part of her clearance sale and so I can't direct you there, I suspect they are similar to the ones at Wingham Wool Works, which come in several sizes to match feet.

I continued to wet felt, rubbing, sometimes using the sander with a layer of bubble wrap, and sometimes rubbing with bubble wrap until I thought the slippers were done. Then I was brave - when I bought the foam resists there were kind of cheap - and came with instructions to finish the felting in a washing machine. I worried doing so would batter the foam - and thought I wouldn't risk them, after all they were brand new and I damaged. After a few hours I decided to risk the washing machine - and followed instructions to encase the foam and slipper inside a title tied pantyhose leg. I can't say the washing machine process changed the felt much - I ran the top loader on heavy 'soil' and hot but every time I lifted the lid the foam forms were floating and bobbing about on the top of the waves. I set the slippers on the foam forms aside to dry overnight.

This morning I realized the felt had puffed up and wasn't tight enough to make durable slippers, so I trimmed a nice neat opening and began to reflect the slippers. The previous opening tilted from front of foot to back - and wasn't a clean finish. I re-wetted the slippers, added soap and worked and worked the felt again, I focussed on the trimmed edge, and smoothing the heel close to the foot. I remembered to flip the slippers inside out so both surfaces were equally tightly felted. I rubbed and rubbed the sole, the toe, and the heel - as well as the cut edge - trying to make the felt as tight and firm as I could. I used the ridges on the stainless steel sink drainer as well as the ridged glass on the vintage washboard I have. This took another hour or so, I'd work one slipper then put it down and work the other until it felt the same. In the meantime the first slipper would seem to relax and pull away from the form so I would begin to work it again. I added in shocking the wool, so alternating very hot and very cold water, but as we only have one sink I cheated. I held the leg of the form as I ran it under hot tap water and then cold - several times. I have no idea if it tightened the felt but I thought it couldn't hurt. The forms made working the felt to a foot shape much easier than plastic bags over ones own feet, there is only so long that one can rub slippers whilst wearing them, and working 'feet' at sink height is much nicer than bending to work slippers at floor height. Plus I'd never shock my own feet from boiling to cold water.

Once these are dry - I will blanket stitch the top edge and add a leather sole ... Then I won't care if winter comes because my feet will be warm.

Na Stella







Sunday, May 03, 2015

Camp 2015

Every year a small group of U.S. local knitters head off to knit camp. We rough it at a girl guide camp about an hour out of town, rough it being sleeping bags and no ensuites, the upside is the food is amazing and pretty much all catered by the organizer -veggies from her garden, home made breads, vegan, vegetarian, dairy free, gluten free ... This year the pastry was made with ground cashew nuts.

Any way, the project was sewing in zips, so a small group of us knit Tom of Hollands Sanquar pencil case. Before camp I asked Tom if we could use the pattern and he had a group rate for his pattern. Tom was lovely and said given I had asked and that so many wouldn't - he would give persmisson for the group to use the pattern at a really discounted price. There were thirteen at camp - two had it erupted progress - and one didn't make the photo (two of these are mine - the rest camp knitters). Aren't the colour amazing? And the words too. The pencil case has a name plate, two of us went for 'CAMP 2015', several for names, one for a family ancestral home, and one for some thing more contemporary.

We arrived Friday night, hung out with take always, and started knitting Saturday, by Saturday evening most were cast off and blocking by the camp side fire. The dish rack was the perfect holder to provide airflow.

Sunday we lined the cases, starting with a tissue paper pattern made while the cases were still on the blocking forms.

It was fun, lots of fun, There is something about hanging out with knitters for a weekend that makes the world a better place.



Monday, April 27, 2015

A kind of lull

Lull, the space between two busy times, today marks a kind of lull. Last week was iD fashion week in Dunedin, so lots to do with school, and shows and talks. At the same time both cubs schools held parent teacher nights, and at the same time I had a conference to attend. Next weekend is knit camp, at which i am teaching. Today feels like a lull, the quiet between.

I decided at the beginning of last week I needed a simple project, a sock or such a that I could just knit round and round. Squircle - was on my radar, and whilst it is meant to be knit in clear bold stripes - I'm working it in shopplwool. I've knit socks by this designer before, and have several on my to knit list, but squircle - where a square meets a circle - just seems the right sock for now.



For camp I thought it best to have a sample made and one half made. Lorna asked me to teach a weekend on sewing in zips to hand knits and suggested that the pencil case I had made some years back would be ideal as a project. I wrote the designer, Tom of Holland, via ravelry, and asked if there was a bulk discount for buying several copies for teaching - and he generously offered a very reasonable deal, which works out fantastic for the class.

Meanwhile in the background a black hat was knit, to match the school uniform of little cub. Accessories must be black, and she wanted a black thick hat with a deep turn up and a Pom Pom. I knit most of the hat, the deal was to be I would do the rib and she the hat - but some how most of it got knit after she went to bed. The yarn is Cleckheaton Country, and the pattern was inside the ball band - except we knit it in the round not flat. Little cub was horrified any one would knit a hat and seam it. Maybe my work there is done.

Anyway - I'm off to sort the evening meal and then curl up somewhere warm with the rest of my knitting. The conference was this one, and I really enjoyed it, the papers feed my intellect, I gave a paper on repair having looked at repairs in the textile collection of the local museum, including three darning samplers. The best of the fashion shows is IMO the ID emerging markets which is less commercial and more dramatic, video can be found here - for the curious. Details about the entrants and their collections here (scroll down to the ID international emerging designers section). My favorite was Donald Chung, winner was Steeve Hall - and the judges would have had a hard time deciding - it was universally exciting.

More soon, na stella


Friday, April 10, 2015


One of my growing research interests is repair, specifically mending of textiles, darning, patching, and other methods. Over the past few years I have sourced and read many books, articles and published research papers on mending, I find the most informative the instruction books from the early 20th century and back into the 19th century. Almost all of them advise that preventative measures, reinforcing worn areas before holes appear is the best method. Today I followed that advice. I have a pair of socks that do duty around house, and this morning I noticed a thin spot in the heel.

It was thin, but not yet a hole. There were thin threads marking each worn knit stitch - this meant I could use Swiss darning as the method of mending. When the knit fabric has worn through - other methods are required to replace the missing area.


I fetched my darning mushroom, this is a formal one, with a spring loaded metal clip to hold the fabric while the mend is made. Stretched over the darning mushroom the worn area is even more noticeable. And the felting of the fabric, this is superwash - and whist it won't felt when washing - the rubbing of wearing will cause the fabric to felt a little, unlike the felting that happens in the wash - this kind of felting happens with feet inside so the socks do t get any smaller. I think in some way the felting probably makes for a sturdier fabric - all those fibers tangled together must be more durable.

There is theory, the idea of what should be done, and there is practice, the doing. When. Worked together - theory informing practice the term praxis is used. My praxis was informed by theory - but I do need practice. Swiss darning over thin felted threads at a sock gauge (8 or so stitches per inch) is not as easy to do neatly as theory implies. Once this kind of sewing was part of many school curriculum, students were breaded on their mending, mine might not pass.

Still, the socks are mended, ready for a few more years of wear. I suspect the darn will feel like a soft lump under my heal but in time will soften and flatten till I no longer notice it. While my darning wouldn't win me any school prizes - it is serviceable, I finished the work by weaving the yarns back through the darned area as further reinforcing, and turned the sock inside out to see the inside, again the mend is visible, but I think neat. My Ravelry notes tell me these socks date from January of 2010, four years of near constant rotation in my sock drawer is a good lifespan, I will be interested to see how the repair performs.

Na stella