A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Tag Archives: upcycle

Last week I went to Wilderness festival. I have been mostly blissfully ignorant of the rubbish problem when I have attended festivals before. I’m sure I felt a little bothered by the bins full of disposable cups and plates, and the massive piles of perfectly good items that attendees leave behind. But now my eyes are much more open to the problem.

I armed myself with my vacuum flask, water bottle, keep cup, metal straw and cutlery.  This was quite a lot of equipment to have with me at all times, but I brought my beloved yellow backpack along largely for the purpose of carrying these items. Aaaaand…. like the best laid plans of mice and men, it went completely out of the window.

Delicious food that I felt a little bad eating

I learnt that I actually find it very difficult to make a special request for myself when the infrastructure is not set up to deal with it. All of the plating was set up and I just felt bad asking the vendors to change it so that it would fit in my containers. Wilderness has a lot of ego-massaging placatory messages, such as the dishes being compostable, but of course there is a lot of upstream waste associated with making the disposable items.

Because I am extra af and dangerously addicted to espresso, I took my stovetop coffee maker and milk frother for my morning flat white. So I at least didn’t use any coffee cups during the weekend.

One thing that the zero waste mindset helped me with was with making purchases. Wilderness is a festival where people feel very free to dress outlandishly, which I am very much on board with. This year was one of my first festival experiences where I had some disposable income available. It would have been very easy to spend a lot of money on items that are just not wearable in any other context. I was very much enamoured of this pompom headdress.

In the end, I bought a vintage beaded jacket that was actually very restrained for the festival, but just about straddles the line between jazzy and useful in my real life.

I also bought some little sparkly jewels to wear on my forehead because I couldn’t resist getting a little something.

The festival did allow me to get out some much-loved but seldom-worn items. I wore my rocket Southport dress for just the second time and it was perfect for this event.

I brought the circuit sentiments kit I have had at home for years and used it to fashion my own light-up headdress using a flower crown I bought a few years ago on eBay. The LED kits are the kind of impulse craft purchase that I would like to stop making as much. I used a few of the items to make my Port Charlotte jumper light up when I was pretending it was a Christmas jumper.

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Not long after writing my last blog post, I tried on my Humboldt sweater and realised that I wasn’t happy with how the gradient was looking. When I calculated how long I wanted each section of colour to be, I didn’t know that I had made a mistake when measuring my Port Charlotte sweater and therefore the dimensions were out. Also, the ribbing section is much more navy than turquoise, meaning that the turquoise section looked way too narrow.

The only viable solution was to rip back to where I finished the turquoise part.

This marl is pretty difficult to photograph! When I was looking yesterday, I couldn’t see much of a difference but now I can. I spent quite a bit of time examining the pattern schematic to try and think about the look of the gradient rather than just calculating it and I’m hoping this way will work out nicely. I will also have to think about how to do the sleeves, which will be much longer than the body.

I’ve managed to finish knitting the body and I think the length is looking as I want it. It feels so weird to be deliberately making a jumper too short!

I managed to cast on my first sleeve so that I could work on it on a flight. Despite the current heatwave in London, I’ve been making decent progress.

Now having a bit of a dilemma about how I want the gradient to look on the sleeves! Maybe it’s time for another lifeline…

Pattern: Humboldt by Anna Maltz

Yarn: Recycled Malabrigo sock and Kidsilk Haze

Ravelry project page


When I was planning going support some friends at the Quidditch World Cup in Florence, I thought it would be fun to make some supporters’ stash. One of our friends is famous for sharking (flirting/trying to get people into the sport) so I wanted a shark hat to wear in the crowd. I was going to crochet one until someone pointed out how hot that would be in the Italian summer.

Lots of brands sell shark baseball hats for babies, but finding something similar for adults was a struggle.

I managed to find this hat on eBay. I showed a selfie to a fellow supporter, who asked if I had made it. I do have a history of customising baseball caps. From looking at the hat, I thought that I could make something equally good or better, so I decided that I would make another one for her as a surprise. Within twenty-four hours, I had purchased the materials.

You will need

  • Plain baseball cap
  • Fabric paint in black and white
  • Paintbrushes
  • Felt/fabric that matches the baseball cap
  • A small amount of stuffing- you can use fabric scraps for this if you don’t want to buy
  • I also used some scrap red corduroy for the heart eyes

Choose your design

Because I’ll be wearing this hat to support a cute and loving shark, I thought it would be fun to give her heart eyes. I played around sketching some initial designs.

Decide how you want to apply your design

I bought fabric paint in black, white and red, but then I thought it might be fun to add some mixed media elements. In particular, to either applique or use buttons for the heart eyes. Another advantage of appliqueing the eyes was that they covered the vents in the hat.

Because I knew that corduroy frays, I tested out ways of finishing the edges. I decided to slap on a liberal coat of fray check and then use blanket stitch to apply the patches.

I very roughly sketched some lines on the hat with a pencil. I decided to eyeball most of the painting and I think that was the right decision- the texture of the hat affected my painting and it was easier to adjust on the fly.

I did the teeth first, building up layers of white paint until it was opaque.

I did the black next. I had to use a fine brush for all the parts near the teeth.

Again I did a second coat of black to make sure the paint was even.

Finally, I added the grey section. Once it dried, it looked a bit dark so I added a second coat of grey with more white in it.

Don’t forget to iron your design if you want it to be weather proof. Use a pressing cloth to protect your iron.

Next, I glued on my corduroy heart eyes with fabric adhesive. I then blanket-stitched around. I couldn’t find my embroidery thread so I just used ordinary sewing cotton.

For the fin, I cut out a rough fin shape on the fold.

I then stitched it right sides together and added some stuffing.

Finally, I hand stitched it onto the top of the hat. I tucked the raw edges of the fin under, pressed and then stitched along the pressed line. I was in a rush so I didn’t photograph this step.

And you’re done!

Here you can see the difference between using a snapback (with a flat brim) and a baseball cap (curved brim). For me, it’s a matter of preference.


Since first dreaming up the idea of this sweater over a month ago, I have finally managed to cast on!

I decided to use the finishing treatments from Paper Dolls, particularly the i-cord bindoff. I know it looks really good with corrugated rib and I think it will help with the overall effect I’m trying to achieve. I love the finish it gives so much that it’s worth the extra effort. I did a provisional cast-on with some yellow scrap yarn using this method. I will finish with i-cord once the sweater is all done.

It’s hard to knit marlisle quickly! I tried the method Anna suggests in the pattern but it didn’t work for me so I’ve been holding the main colour in my right hand as normal and the additional colour in my left as I would for fair isle. FYI I’m holding the Kidsilk Haze double.

I had decided to be lazy and knit the navy yarn without soaking it. However, you can see in the picture above that it looks really uneven. I mean, I guess it’s understandable given how curly the yarn is.

I wasn’t confident that the knitting would even out enough with blocking so I took the time to soak the yarn to stretch it back out. The knitting is looking much more even now.

I’m feeling a little uncertain about how the sweater is looking so far. The swatch was a little square of perfection but somehow I’m not sure how it’s translating onto a larger scale. The sweater also seems a little bit big but from both measuring and trying on I think I’m on track. I’m going to continue on and just hope for the best since I’ve already put so much work in.

On the plus side, I’m finding this project enjoyable and stimulating to work on. I just really hope that I will feel the final product was worth all the labour.

Pattern: Humboldt by Anna Maltz

Yarn: Recycled Malabrigo sock and Kidsilk Haze

Ravelry project page


There’s more work to do before I can even start my exciting mermaid Humboldt project. I was on a bit of a roll when I finished harvesting half of the yarn from an old sweater so it wasn’t long before I started trying to figure out how to unravel the second jumper I am upcyling, my blue ivy cardigan.

Unravelling is a bit like detective work. Since you can only unravel in one direction, you have to figure out (or remember) how the garment was constructed. I find it quite addictive. There are nice sections of long, uninterrupted mindless frogging. Then you get to something like an underarm or collar and you have to work a lot more carefully. I tend to sew up using yarn tails, which adds another layer of complexity. I see it as a challenge to have the yarn in as few sections as possible- that’s what prevents me from getting frustrated and cutting it!

I’m going to freeze this yarn before I work with it. My old house had moths, and I want to make sure that the final sweater is larva-free. I’m feeling quite laissez-faire towards soaking and winding the yarn before I use it. I’m currently leaning towards just giving it a thorough wash when I block it instead.

My She Loves Wool sweater is very much on the back burner at this time. I think mermaid Humboldt feels much more like my creation in comparison to making something from a kit. I feel quite up for creative challenge at the moment, whereas at other times I want mindless crafts to work on.

Harvested yarn

Malabrigo Yarn Sock in Cot D’Azure

Total amount: a little over 300g

Original cost: £38.97


I was so excited about my latest knitting idea that I started to unravel my Bay sweater pretty quickly.

Just taking the pieces of the jumper apart was several hours’ work. Mohair is very sticky and I quickly realised that seaming using sequinned yarn had been rather stupid. Oh, past me who didn’t know I would one day rip this sweater out! I started to wonder whether this had been such a good idea after all. I worried that separating the sections where two strands of yarn are held together (the light blue) would prove impossible.

Fortunately, things got a bit easier once the sweater was back in its constituent pieces. Unravelling just takes quite a lot of patience. I had to undo each stripe, separating the strands on every other one, and then carefully wind. The yarn isn’t too kinky (quiet at the back, please) so I’m thinking I probably won’t bother with soaking it before I reuse it.

Light blue Kidsilk Haze: 16 balls, 44g

Kidsilk Haze Glamour: 8 balls, 50g

Turquoise Kidsilk Haze: 14 balls, 44g

Ravelry project page


Finally ripping out my black cabled sweater opened my mind to the idea of turning disaster into triumph. Making is one of my passions in life and I believe it’s okay to spend money on the things you love. However, I’m also aware that I have a lot of cash tied up in unloved handmade items; wasteful both financially and in terms of the raw materials. I feel ready to stop carrying around an archive of mediocre knits and start ripping and reusing.

This change in my attitude got me thinking again about how my creative life might reflect what’s going on for me internally. I hope it means I’m getting ready to let go of emotional habits that do not serve me, changing to something more positive.

Sketch in my bullet journal

One thing that put me off making the Humboldt sweater when I first considered it two years ago was the cost of the yarn. Even using some recycled yarn, I would have to buy at least two skeins of speckled yarn (around £20 each) as the contrast colour.

As well as harvesting some yarn, unravelling took me on a trip down memory lane. I looked back on some of my old blog posts and tried to track when I started documenting projects here and on Ravelry. Seeing my Bay and Blue Ivy sweaters side-by-side on Ravelry got me thinking.

I remember spending a small fortune on the Rowan yarn during my first trip to Liberty of London when I was doing my doctorate. Though I loved the raw materials, the finished sweater was never me. I’ve probably worn it twice.

The navy cardigan got a lot more wear when I first made it. However, it was never quite the garment I hoped it would be. When I was younger, I was obsessed with designing things myself. I think I got this from my mother, who cannot even stand following a recipe. Now, I prefer to leave the hard work of designing to someone else, adding my own twist in smaller ways.

I think this cardigan was the fourth or fifth knitted garment I ever made and I managed to convince myself I was ready to take on a design project. Although the cardigan is okay, it has been unworn for the past couple of years. One of my quirks as a knitter is that I hate semi-solid yarns. I like things to be a uniform, saturated colour.

The juxtaposition had me. What about making a marl with the navy blue and a faded effect created with the kidsilk haze? I had a slight reservation about how the sequinned yarn would fit in, but I loved the idea.

As well as being less wasteful, I have been thinking recently about how I can downsize my stash. I am moving house soon and, as always, I have too much stuff. However, when I was planning this project, a massive advantage was the fact that I keep all my scraps. I had enough leftover yarn from both sweaters to make a gauge swatch and play a little bit with effects.

When I was working on the swatch, I initially preferred the stocking section (a happy accident). However, looking at it now, I think the garter stitch adds to the soft, dreamy effect of the mohair. I’m so happy with this swatch! The fade looks beautiful. The camera doesn’t really capture it, but there’s a lovely lustre to the yarn too.

Unblocked gauge (5mm)

20sts x 31rows = 10cm

Blocked

18sts x 29 rows = 10cm

Even though my gauge is off, I don’t think it makes sense to go up a needle size. I want a slightly more fitted version of this sweater anyway, so I will just be very careful when calculating the size I am going to make.

I’m thinking that my mermaid Humboldt could be the perfect project for the Upcycle challenge being hosted by #craftblogclub on Twitter. I think the deadline of 25th June is a little ambitious but it still gives me something to work towards. I took part a couple of years ago and made my Cateralls, so I like the idea of doing something very different.

Original cost of navy yarn: £39

Original cost of Kidsilk: £50-60

Pattern: Humboldt by Anna Maltz

Ravelry project page