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 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’ve been so busy writing about all my zero waste and cooking stuff that it could appear that I have not been doing any making. The truth is that I am working on a few things, but there isn’t much to post about. Sewing-wise, I am working on one project that I can’t write about yet and held up on another by a technology problem. I will have very little sewing time until September because I have a few trips planned. I can’t wait to get away, but I’m definitely a little frustrated by how little time I have been able to make for sewing.
Knitting wise, I am chugging away very slowly on my She Loves Wool. This project is probably the most suited to travel knitting, so hopefully I will make a bit more progress during August. I’m having a bit of time off from Mermaid Humboldt since I found it quite stressful to decide how I want the colours to look on the sleeves. I have also nearly run out of turquoise KidSilk Haze so I need to get some more.
ANOTHER unexpectedly time-consuming project has been shortening my League sweater. Although I wasn’t as ecstatically happy as I had hoped when I finished it, this sweater has turned into a great workhorse garment during the cooler months (i.e. pretty much all of them in London.) However, I have never been happy with the fit. I always finagle it for pictures so that it looks okay, but it is simply too long.
I don’t like the way that the combination of relaxed sizing and additional length works on my body. Somehow it took me nearly two years to realise that I could make it shorter (facepalm emoji).
Looking better already!
This project hit a bit of a roadblock after my Mermaid Humboldt made me realise that I could not re-knit the Titus yarn without washing and stretching it out first. I absolutely loathe winding yarn, so it took me about two months to get around to it.
I also wound the remaining yarn that I harvested from my blue ivy cardigan.
Very much regretting that I only cut the front of the sweater, which means I still have to unravel, wind, wash, hang and re-wind the yarn for the back.
On a more positive note, I have started re-knitting the ribbing on the front. I had to increase a few stitches because somehow my numbers didn’t add up. I’m fairly sure I haven’t dropped any stitches so no idea how that works.
I finished my latest summer top in short order after my last post, which meant that I met my target to wear it in Florence.
Fortunately the tight armholes are not too much of a problem.
However, I definitely need a full bust adjustment and possibly a back adjustment too. I see people talking about swayback adjustment quite a bit so maybe that?
For a top made in the wrong type of fabric, I’m fairly satisfied with it. I find the mandarin collar a little constricting around my throat, but I can’t really see myself wearing this buttoned all the way up so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
This picture was taken on the way to my first commentary spot at the 2018 quidditch world cup. Calling and analysing the matches was a lot of fun, and it was nice to realise how much my understanding of the game has increased in the past two years.
Pattern: Threadcount 1617 view B size 10
Fabric: 1.5m cotton lawn from Sew Over It
Notions: Around £8
Pattern: £3.22 (second use)
Total cost: Around £27.50
I’m so pleased with how my Threadcount 1617 shirt turned out! When I look at it, I can hardly believe I was capable of making it myself. This project is a surprise win. I wouldn’t have chosen this fabric if it hadn’t been on sale, but it’s fun to experiment with a colour and pattern slightly outside my comfort zone.
There are a lot of lovely finishing details in this shirt. Plenty of slip-stitching of facings to hide seams. Overall I am very happy with the finish even though I made quite a few mistakes. I tried not to be too perfectionistic about tiny details, but rather treat the process as a learning experience for my next make.
I have mostly used indie patterns up until now. There is a lot of hand-holding and the techniques have been quite simple. It was nice to take on a more complex pattern. The sparse instructions gave me a sense of being trusted to know how to interpret them. Making the collar was the part I found the most challenging. You have to press the curved seam allowance, which is incredibly fiddly. I then managed to sew the collar on backwards!
I was glad to have done the Ultimate Shirt class at Sew Over It because I was a bit more familiar with the couture techniques that were just casually mentioned in the instructions. I had to think quite hard at times to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. I found the process very engaging and twice looked at the clock to realise I had been sewing for several hours without noticing the passage of time.
I harvested these buttons from a RTW shirt that was worn out. Something so nice about making clothes is personalising to your unique body. The old shirt had such narrow cuffs that it was impossible for me to get them over my hands with the buttons done up. This made me feel like a huge-handed freak. I tested that the cuffs fit over my hands comfortably before placing the buttonholes and buttons.
I LOVE the button tab detail. So worth the extra effort.
I can’t wait to make my summery version of this shirt, though I think that will have to wait until after I have moved house. Something I will definitely need to consider is how to finish the seams. Even though I have become quite a fan of French seams , they weren’t suitable in many places. I didn’t realise until too late due to my bad habit of not reading through all of the instructions before starting out. It will probably make most sense to keep it simple and either use an overlocker or overcasting foot.
I think I will stick with the Size 12 next time. The fit is decent in the shoulders and I like the roominess for a breezy summer shirt. It’s also SO NICE to have a blouse that is the correct length and doesn’t pool around my hips.
- making a two-piece sleeve. The fit is great!
- making a curved hem that looks ok. I found this tutorial helpful. The secret seems to be just pressing it to death.
Changes not mentioned in last post
- shortened by 6cm
- added four press studs to fasten
Pattern: Threadcount 1617 View C size 12
Fabric: 169cm viscose remnant (140cm wide)
I think 1.5m of fabric would be sufficient for this size and view
Fabric: £10.89 (including delivery)
Notions: Around £5
Total: About £19
After all the effort that went into finishing my Macaron, I nearly destroyed the dress on its second outing. I was climbing over a fence to get out of a park and decided to show off by jumping down. I managed to catch the skirt on one of the spikes, popping most of the side seam (which looked great for the rest of the evening) and also tearing the fabric.
After deciding not to chuck the dress in the bin, I thought that a patch was the best solution. It wouldn’t interrupt the floral pattern and it would also serve as a permanent memorial to my ongoing foolishness.
I bought a few patches in India that I thought might do the job. However, when searching through my craft stash for something else, I found a patch that I bought from Hand Over Your Fairy Cakes. The colour palette complements my Macaron pretty well, and it was just big enough to cover the tear.
I started by loosely stitching up the rip.
I used my embroidery hoop because my aim was to make sure the fabric was hanging true before patching.
The fact that I had an iron-on patch made my job nice and easy. I could perfectly position the patch before securing with stitches.
I used the embroidery hoop again because the fabric is so light.
I didn’t do anything fancier than some small running stitches hidden in the white border. The patch is only just bigger than the hole in the fabric but I hope the glue will hold the fibres together. Also, the back of the skirt isn’t a high-stress area on the dress (unless you are doing questionable activities while wearing it.)
Overall, I found it surprisingly enjoyable to mend my dress. Even though I’m not totally in love with it, I think Macaron is a great pattern that looks really nice on, and I always get nice compliments when I wear it.
(Sorry not sorry for the cheesy pic)
As I often seem to, I made the rash decision to sew a garment for holiday about three days before going, when I really didn’t have sufficient time. As a result, I only got two hours of sleep the night before my flight and ended up cutting my airport arrival uncomfortably fine. However, I am pretty happy with these trousers so I will forgive myself.
Aside from the mishap with the missing pattern piece (I must have left it behind after the workshop), this was a lovely and straightforward make. Really the perfect counterpoint to the coat.
I made the elastic on my first Carries too tight. I think I had some kooky idea about wearing them high-waisted. These are a lot more comfy.
It’s been surprisingly chilly in India so very happy I took the time to complete this make.
Pattern: Carrie trousers by Sew Over It. Size 10 with extra length
Fabric: 1.5m Liberty tana lawn