I’ve finally managed to get some pictures of my mermaid Humboldt sweater! I finished knitting it months ago, but it was far too warm to wear it for some modelled pictures. I took the sweater up to Edinburgh, where I was competing with my quidditch team in Highlander Cup VII (we won by the way) and managed to get some pictures.
All in all, I spent over a year working on this project. I consider that to be time very well spent. I was able to transform two garments that weren’t getting any love into a new sweater that I hope will bring me joy for many years to come.
When I first learnt to knit ten years ago, I was definitely more of an ‘item’ knitter than a ‘process’ knitter. I was desperate to finish projects, sometimes staying up all night to get them done. As the years have gone on, I’ve become aware of how important it is to plan a project. To swatch, to measure, to research yarn. As I’ve spent time on these preparatory stages, I’ve started to enjoy them for their own sake. I feel confident that all the work will pay dividends. And there is pleasure to be taken from the planning itself- from being meticulous, from experimenting and thinking deeply about what I am creating.
Fortunately, this fits in perfectly with my burgeoning anti-consumerist values. Just because you’re a maker doesn’t make you immune from the pernicious influence of fast fashion. It’s easy to feel like you need to churn out a certain number of projects each month, or that you need to compulsively buy yarn or fabric for your stash. I don’t want to become a Smaug enviously guarding a big pile of fibre. I want a carefully curated wardrobe full of items that I enjoy making and wearing.
This is probably the most alterations I have made to a pattern:
- Very different gauge
- Worked pattern with less ease than recommended
- Held yarn triple to incorporate ombre effect
- Provisional cast-on and tubular cast-off used throughout
- Altered neckline
I also did so much ripping that I have probably knit this sweater 1.5 times:
- Unravelled a load of the body because I wasn’t happy with the ombre
- Unravelled most of a sleeve to incorporate all of my remaining turquoise yarn
- Unravelled the neckline twice to get it to look the way I wanted
I’m glad that I am much more at peace with ripping and re-knitting these days. Again, it is part of the process.
Humboldt by Anna Maltz
3 skeins Malabrigo sock
4 balls Rowan Kidsilk Haze*
2 balls Rowan Kidsilk Haze Glamour*
I have nearly one ball of the lightest blue Kidsilk and a couple of small balls of the sock yarn remaining
*I held the Rowan yarn double, which is why I used so much
Original cost of materials
Sock yarn: £39
Kidsilk: £50-60 (six balls @8.95 = £53.70 but I can’t remember what I actually paid)
Cost of additional materials
Two balls of KidSilk haze @ 8.95 each = £17.90
Previous posts in this series
I’m so excited to start a new sewing project. I haven’t had any time to sew for ages. I bought this fabric at least 18 months ago. I was inspired when I saw a similar fabric on Instagram, made up into a very cute top. This is my favourite leaf shape- I have three pieces of jewellery and a shirt featuring it. When I saw this in the Sew Over It fabric e-mail, it caught my eye straightaway. I won a Sew Over It voucher wearing my monstera blouse, so why not use it to make another?
This is the fabric. I bought 1.5m, which cost just over the £25 my prize voucher covered.
This project initially got hijacked by another sleeveless top project. This provides yet more evidence that I need to start projects very soon after buying the materials, otherwise I risk losing motivation.
I was a little torn between making another version with sleeves or a breezy sleeveless top for summer. I decided to opt for sleeveless. I didn’t wear short-sleeved tops to work for a long time because I was self-conscious about my tattoo, but I’m getting over that. I think I will add buttons to the front opening- I love an excuse to find tiny cute buttons- but omit the patch pockets. I think they will interrupt the beautiful large-scale print. Also pockets like that are useless. I’m very practical when it comes to clothing, so any details like frills, ruffles and decorative pockets aren’t for me.
When I first resumed sewing, I was all about the FBAs (full bust adjustments). I made my first adjustment on one of the very first dresses I made- a Tilly and the Buttons Bettine. I was excited by the prospect of properly fitting tops. However, more recently I have felt… almost resentful of having to make them. It’s hard to say why. For some projects, it doesn’t matter, but it is pretty important in this top. The olive version (size 12) I made is a little gapey in the shoulder region, while the white version (linked above, size 10) is too tight across the chest. It is very clear that a FBA is needed and so I decided to bite the bullet.
I traced off the front pattern piece and followed this tutorial for a full bust adjustment. I made a 1″ FBA, which will give me 2″ of extra wiggle room.
I followed this tip from Karen at Did You Make That and split the bust dart since it’s over 8cm. I kind of just eyeballed the split so I hope it’s going to look nice.
One slightly odd note is that when I marked my bust apex, it was higher than the original point in the pattern- you might be able to make out two small pink ‘x’s in the image above. However, a larger bosom is more subject to the effects of gravity, so normally the bust point would be lower. This theory is borne out in the fact that the darts on my two previous TC1617s are too high.
Even though I tried remeasuring a few times, I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong and just moved the bust point down by an inch or two. Again it was an eyeball job.
I’m hoping to get the fabric cut out before I go on holiday. I have to decide whether to try and sort a workaround for my lack of table at home (the only thing I think would work is sewing on the bench in the garden, but I don’t have a long enough extension cord) or avail myself of the sewing café at Sew Over It one Friday afternoon. I’m currently leaning towards the latter, though I am rapidly running out of free Fridays.
I really hope this blouse turns out nicely, since I would like to make another one from this beautiful fabric I couldn’t resist buying a couple of weeks ago.
I have now unsubscribed from the Fabric Godmother mailing list. I am too weak.
Pattern: Third use, original cost £3.22
Notions: Around £5
Total: Under £10!
Without tempting fate, this should be my last WiP Wednesday about this project. I did quite a lot more work on this sweater after my most recent post about it, which I think is worthy of some blog space.
Finishing the sleeves was quite straightforward and I joined the sleeves and body for the yoke. It was quite fun to work the marlisle pattern again, which was just as well because the first few rounds of the yoke feel incredibly long after the relative speed of the sleeves.
Checking the finished projects on Ravelry, I saw that there was a lot of variability in the necklines. Some knitters (including me) write quite detailed notes on their projects, while others don’t add anything. It was hard to tell how my project was going to turn out. I added a lifeline before working the neck shaping and I’m glad that I did.
A few rows into the neck shaping as written, it became obvious that the pattern is for a boat neck. Boat is one of my least favourite necklines- I just don’t think it suits me. I ripped back to my lifeline before going on holiday.
In the end I decided to tackle changing the neckline in two ways. I added more increases (every other row rather than once every three rows) along the raglan seams in the body on both the front and back. Since I have quite broad shoulders, I don’t like excess fabric to accentuate that part of my body. I also changed the short-row shaping on the front neckline.
I had to do some more ripping when I accidentally knit the additional raglan decreases before I had calculated the changes to the neckline shaping. I used a combination of eyeballing and maths to work out how I wanted it to look. I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my pet peeves is having a t-shirt showing when I am wearing a sweater. I just think it looks messy. So my aim was a close neck that should cover the layer beneath.
I took some pictures of the notebook pages where I did my quick maths. Kate Davies wrote a recent blog post about knitting and creativity. It discusses the idea that knitting is ‘relaxing’ at the expense of allowing knitting to be creative, engaging and absorbing. This relates to the idea that ‘women’s work’ is something straightforward and mindless, or even frivolous.
Even when following a pattern, knitting can involve a lot of processes that are not remotely relaxing. Undoing work can be frustrating. Figuring out how to change a design is a highly creative problem-solving endeavour, bringing to bear all the knowledge one gains through years of practice. It is an engineering project. Part of the reason I write all of these WiP posts is to give an impression of the work that goes on behind the scenes. When you say, “I made it,” most people have no idea of what that actually means.
In the end, I didn’t have quite enough of the light blue kidsilk to finish the sweater, so I had to buy one more ball. Somehow I hadn’t noticed that the balls are £8.95 each last time I went to John Lewis! I will have most of a ball left over.
The neck ribbing is virtually done now, so the final stage will be the finishing. I am using I-cord edging throughout, which I hope will give a very clean finish. It’s currently a bit warm for a sweater, but knowing English weather I imagine I will find an opportunity to get some pics once this garment is ready to wear.
Previous posts in this series
This sweater has been in my WiP basket for several months now. Shortly after my last blog post (and taking this photo), I ran out of turquoise yarn.
I was also a bit uncertain about how to do the ombre on the sleeves. All in all, I was not feeling so inspired by this project, but fortunately that gave me the impetus to finish my She Loves Wool sweater that had been similarly languishing.
Looking at this photo with fresh eyes, I felt that it probably was time to start changing colours soon. I think it will make sense visually to have the colour change over my elbow.
Another complicating factor was the yarn. I had hoped that I had salvaged enough from my Bay sweater for this whole project but, alas, that was not the case. Even worse, I wasn’t sure which colourways of Kidsilk Haze I was working with.
I’m sure Stitch’n’Bitch, my bible in my early years as a knitter, recommends that you never throw ball bands away and thus avoid these problems. I know I followed that advice for quite some time, but old ball bands are a super annoying thing to have lying around the house. I’ve discarded them all in various house moves.
What would make sense in the modern world would be to record this information on Ravelry. Now-me generally does that (I would like to be more fastidious about including all info, including dye lots), but unfortunately the Monique of 2013 did not. I have the colour recorded as ‘blue-green.’ I was fairly sure that the colour was ‘peacock’ but when I checked the Rowan website, there are two other shades that fit the bill. I had hoped to buy the extra yarn on eBay, but in the end I made the pilgrimage to John Lewis, praying that they had the right colours in stock. I took my swatch with me to compare.
Not an exact match, but perhaps it is unreasonable to expect the colours to be a super close match when you buy extra yarn over six years later.
I wasn’t sure whether I would have enough of the lighter colour either, but I decided not to buy more at this stage. What I will do to try and circumvent that problem is make the section with the sequins longer than originally planned. I also wanted to use up the Kidsilk Haze Glamour.
I spent quite a bit of time knitting over the May bank holiday weekend. I was coming off an incredibly stressful week, and I needed the time to myself.
I finished the second sleeve and realised it made more sense to use up all of the turquoise yarn in the sleeves. Hopefully this will mean I have enough of the pale blue to finish the yoke without having to purchase any additional yarn.
I tried my best to make the sleeves match by weighing the yarn as I went along. Unfortunately I only have digital food scales that measure to the closest gram. Not especially helpful with mohair, which is incredibly light. Hopefully a local drug dealer will donate a more precise scale to one of the charity shops I frequent.
I have now ripped the first sleeve back to the turquoise area to insert the remaining yarn. The sleeves are lovely and quick to work so should be on to the yoke soon.
I really really hope I am going to come out with a sweater that I am happy with. I have put a lot of work into recycling two old garments into this piece so I will be quite heartbroken if I don’t like the way it turns out. That being said, I am having a cropped sweater moment so it should slide seamlessly into my wardrobe as long as all goes to plan.
Previous posts in this series
I get quite a lot of wear out of my League sweater. I like to throw it on with jeans for work when I’m doing paperwork in the office. It’s great to wear under my raincoat in winter (and autumn and spring, let’s be real). The wool means that it’s nice and warm on chilly days, but I don’t overheat too much on the tube because it’s breathable.
However, I’ve never been thrilled with the fit. The length and shape of the sweater can make me look a bit boxy. I realised (18 months after finishing it) that I might be able to improve the fit by simply shortening the sweater- it’s kind of A-line and the pattern encourages blocking the hell out of the bottom ribbing so that it doesn’t cinch in.
The ribbing measures 4.5cm and I planned to shorten by 10cm, starting the new ribbing around 20cm below point of white.
I already wrote a post about my work on this sweater. I got held up for a while because I was worried I had made the front too short. I left it on the naughty step for a few months while I worked on my She Loves Wool sweater.
Unpick one side seam below the waist
Pick up all stitches on a needle at the level you want the ribbing to start. Use separate needles for the front and back
Unpick the other side seam
Cut off the bottom part of the sweater
You might want to do this step for the front and the back at the same time so that you can skein, wash and ball both sections of yarn at the same time (I didn’t do this).
If your harvested yarn is very kinky, you may want to skein, wash and hang it up to make your knitting more even. See this blog post for more details about this step.
Attach the yarn you harvested and knit the ribbing
Remember to count your stitches! Many patterns have some decreases after the ribbing so be sure your numbers match those in the pattern before you start knitting.
Tubular cast off
After trying my sweater on once I’d shortened the front, I realised I wanted a split hem and to have the back a little longer. I had forgotten how fine the yarn and needles were for this project and the front running had taken a long time. So I used a different method for the back.
Insert a long needle a couple of inches above the ribbing. Cut the sweater below the needle. Unravel down towards the ribbing until the sweater is your desired length. Pick up the stitches on another long needle.
Count the stitches on each needle and ensure you have exactly the same number. Adjust if needed.
Attach the two sections using Kitchener stitch.
I blocked at this stage because the grafting was a little uneven.
Re-do the side seams
Block, if desired
Overall I am happier with my sweater now than I was before. However, I am a bit worried that the front is too short and the back is too long. I will wear a few more times before making my final decision, but this may not be my final post about altering this sweater.
I bought this fabric just over a year ago, planning to make a third Day Dress (previous version 1, 2). I saw someone else using it at my disastrous silk cami workshop (Sew Over It were stocking it at the time) and fell in love. Although I like the Day Dress, my pink Macaron is probably the most flattering dress I have for day wear. I decided to have a go at making a version without the contrast bodice, which no one else seems to have previously attempted. I certainly could not find any blog posts about doing this even after extensive searching.
This post contains detailed notes about how I created a solid Macaron by combining the yoke and bodice pattern pieces. I will also describe how I lined this dress- I don’t think I did the best job, it’s more a case of notes for future learning.
I overlapped the bodice and yoke pattern pieces by 3cm and traced. On the front I also increased one of the darts by 5mm since some length seems to be taken out at the seam between the pieces. I probably should have done this on the waist dart but I took it out of the side dart- I don’t imagine this will make much difference. I just did the back straight and did not alter the shaping- I’m fairly confident this will work for my figure.
I also decided to make my life difficult by lining the dress. The neckline facing on my first Macaron is a travesty (partly my error, partly the pattern). At present I have only planned lining the bodice. I’ll see how I feel when I get to the skirt.
I easily got this dress out of 2m of fabric by book folding it. I nearly always do this and it saves loads of material. Pattern companies tend to massively overestimate the fabric requirements, as well as not having cutting diagrams that are as efficient as possible. It’s really wasteful and annoying. Bear mind that I also cut out two bodices.
I cut a size 10 with adjustments as described previously. I interfaced the waistband for extra stability. Since I had plenty of fabric, I decided to self-line the bodice so I don’t have to worry if the lining ever peeks out at the neck seam. I pinned and machine basted the darts as pleats in the lining pieces, trying to have the excess fabric fall in the opposite direction to the darts in the shell.
I made up the bodice as directed, following the same instructions for the lining. I joined the two pieces RS together at the neck. Note: do not finish the neckline edges before stitching.
I machined the bottom hem of the lining to the seam allowance between the bodice and waistband pieces at the front and back separately.
This is how the bodice looked just before I attached the sleeves. I’m very happy that I decided to line the bodice since the fabric is so delicate. It makes the dress feel much more classy and professional.
I attached the sleeves as in the pattern, to both layers of bodice and lining. I then finished the seam as one piece. I haven’t yet removed my hand-basting because I think it looks really cute.
I decided it would be silly to line the bodice but not the skirt. I cut out additional skirt pieces using the leftover lining from my coat. I shortened the pieces by about 3 inches and incorporated the selvedges at the bottom to save hemming (lazy sewing for the win!) I made up the skirt lining as directed, ironing the pleats in the opposite direction to those in the shell.
I had planned to attach the skirt and lining within the waistband seam allowance before I sewed the skirt to the bodice. However I wasn’t sure about having additional weight of the lining pulling down on the waistband piece. The fabric really is very delicate. Thank goodness I decided to interface it!
In the end I couldn’t think of another solution. Weirdly I had an issue with having a lot of extra length in my bodice compared to the skirt, but only at the front. I was able to ease it, but it took three attempts. When I tried the dress on, it looked weird. I tested the pockets and… they were on the back of the dress. I had seamed the wrong side of the skirt 🤦🏽♀️
My inability to tell left from right bites me again. I spent ages undoing the incorrect stitching and sewing the skirt together on the correct side. I then re-did the waist seam and it went together much more smoothly.
I tried on the dress and I’m really happy with the fit. I love the way this dress makes my figure look.
The last step was to insert the zip. That part was relatively pain-free. I hand-tacked the dress to the zip before stitching to ensure the waistband seams would line up- this definitely helped. I probably should have used a 1cm seam allowance rather than 1.5cm because the dress is a teeny bit tight at the waist. My makes normally give slightly with wear, so I don’t think it’s worth the bother of reinstalling. Now just the hem and a bit of finishing and this dress will be ready!
Fabric: 2m of viscose costing £18 (I paid £2.95 p&p for this and the fabric for my cloud tee). I also used less than a metre of viscose lining (a scrap so I will not cost this)
Pattern: £18 (second use)
Notions: All bought ages ago so no idea. Let’s provisionally say £5
Total: About £33
I’ve finally finished my She Loves Wool jumper and, mercifully, I am pretty happy with the result.
From my experience with this sweater, I will be a lot more reserved about choosing patterns where there is no documentary evidence of the making process online. I think I was quite lucky. The few projects linked to the pattern on Ravelry indicate that others have found making this sweater a frustrating process. This kit is a luxury product- it is very expensive- so I would have expected a little more to make the experience as pleasant as possible for the user.
I think also being a fairly experienced knitter was a big help. The fact that I put so much time into planning this sweater meant that I was able to think critically about possible issues such as the fit and sleeve length, which circumvented what could have been very painful problems. There are hundreds of hours of knitting in this project so the idea of ripping back was unbearable.
Needle: 3.5mm circular; 3.25 for the neckline ribbing