Monday, 15 July 2019

The Pink Art School Jumper

Me at Shetland Wool Week, wearing the jacket - the only picture I have wearing the jacket from the week and then I wasn’t keeping still.

Each year I like to make a new garment for Shetland Wool Week which is at the end of September. Last year my intention was to dye shades of pink with cochineal as a natural dye. In previous years I had knitted a yoked jumper based on Meadowsweet as a dye (1) and a long  Fair isle cardigan using colours derived from ground elder (2). 

I was quite interested in trying Mosaic Knitting (sometimes called single jacquard) on the knitting machine. This involves using a colour changer and the back of the knitting has no floats, unlike Fair isle. I had heard Elaine Cater describe this some time ago at a Knitting Machine Show in Nottingham and had bought her booklet Mosaic Knitting.  There was a shape in the booklet that I liked. I knew I would need to modify this so took my basic knitwear bodice block and drafted out something similar. 

I liked the fact that the sleeves were fitted, ie. it was not a drop shoulder jacket. Based on my experience of my black and white cardigan (blog of 4 April 18 shows this) and the ground elder one I modified the sleeve head to ensure that any pattern would match for more of the sleeve. 

I made the pattern out of some stretch jersey fabric I had and after trying it on my  body duplicate and then on me, I was more than pleased with the result. 

I found a design for the yarn that I liked and tried this out with some black and  pink acrylic. At that time I owned a double bed colour changer but not a single bed one so did some head scratching and more reading, in particular Mosaic Floatless Fair Isle by Kathleen Kinder, and  came up with a plan. 


I would be using a punchcard for the patterning and the machine would knit two rows in pink and two rows in black, so getting the punchcard to do this demands  an understanding of that. Fortunately the courses I had taken at Metropolitan Knitting in Cheshire helped here. 

The knitting takes a lot of concentration and my DH knew not to interrupt me during this. Anyone who thinks machine knitting  is easy and ‘cheating’ at knitting needs to try this. 

I liked the sample a lot. Pink would be a good colour and I played with 2 shades of pink and tried different variations of the punchcard 

However, I liked the simplicity of the first design the most, with just one contrast colour. I had no desire to knit the cardigan in black wool and pink acrylic however and even if I did wish to use this pink there was only an oddment left on the cone. 

So I looked in my stash  and found some similar pink 4 ply cotton. The sample was washed and pressed and it looked very nice as the wool became denser as the oil was washed out and the cotton detail of the pattern stood out.  

Playing with different versions of the motifs.

Sample showing the back with no floats

At the same time  it was turning into  a VERY hot summer in East Anglia and the thoughts of not dyeing yarn became very attractive. I usually dye my yarn outside on the patio and for several days it became so hot that being outside was  not an option.

These were my initial samples with cochineal. I decided that the changed circumstances ie a heatwave, was going to work to my advantage. 

So the punchcard design was selected, the colours were selected and the sample was complete. 

Next I needed to work out the details, the start edge, the edges down the front and the neck edge and what order would I do the neck and front edges in. 

As I was experimenting with samples of these, I realised that it was going to be important just where the front edge fell compared to the pattern width. I would not want half a pattern showing at the fronts. Following this line of thought , how the side seams and the armhole and sleeve seam worked would need some thought too. 

The sample below shows a front edge- by sampling it was clear I did not want the real front to have just one vertical pink pattern line showing. More sums needed.

The front edges I would do in a similar way to the method I learnt on a course with the amazing and talented Australian Designer Tony Bennett. 

I would do a circular cast on for the fronts, back and sleeve edges as I did not need ribbing. The jacket did not need pulling in as with say a 2 x 2 rib 

I felt that the neck band needed a little more depth and modified the method and did a cut and sew version of that used by Elaine Cater in her pattern booklet. 

All these were individually trialled until I was entirely happy with the finish. 

So all that was left was to do the knitting. This was completed with no hiccups. (3) 

The construction of the main seams except for the edges of the pieces was, as usual for  me, completed using a sewing machine. I did try a sample using a linker but found the pieces parted and the overall effect was not so good as I can achieve with a sewing machine. Bottom and sleeve edges (at the equivalent of the ribbing)  were then finished by stitching from the outside to join back and fronts and underarm sleeves in an invisible stitch. 

The neck edge was completed by back stitching through live stitches. This has been very hard to photograph, I hope you can see enough detail! 

I hope the first photo of me wearing the jacket shows how the sleeves match the front and back horizontally and that the fit is good. 

Why the Art School Jacket? I  don’t know if it was inspired by the Glasgow School of Art building  or just fondly reminds me of this great place! Who knows but I call it the Art School Jacket. 

  1. The finished meadowsweet jumper can be seen on the post of 17 Aug 16.
  2. The finished ground elder cardigan can be seen on a post (there are two on that day) of 4 April 18 
  3. I do not sell my patterns but anyone who buys a pattern or a finished garment and complains about the cost of the pattern please take this planning into consideration. For me the planning and finishing take more time than the actual making, as you will understand from this. 
  4. Finally, this has been particularly difficult to photograph, apologies for the variable quality. 

Monday, 17 June 2019

Red Sunset Shawl

Buying knitwear is not something I do often as I prefer to make my own, either knitting by hand or machine, that  way I know it will fit and I won’t see anyone else wearing an identical or even similar item. I like  to hand knit only those textures that I can’t do with the knitting machine.

So to actually buy knitwear it has to be special and a couple of pieces took my eye last year. However, I have never found the right time to wear either and when I tried them on I recently I decided both were buying mistakes. One was rather like a poncho, I did wear it out to dinner one evening and got more and more frustrated. To me arms have sleeves for a reason, they are warmer in sleeves and basically it is easier to eat wearing sleeves than having them covered underneath a cape like structure. I decided this would be one of my items I donate to charity for my lent contribution (1). 

However, this has been a valuable experience and I thought more carefully about what I do like as an outer wrap around. I have 2 Liberty large square challis Shawls woven in wool and of the 60s/70s that I love and find both warm and functional. My other shawls  are knitted wool and I love those too. They are fine lace but very versatile, being useful in winter and summer. 

However, I decided to knit a thicker rectangular shawl - this would serve three functions:

Keep me awake as I knitted  and ‘ watched’ the TV in the evening (2) 

Use up some of my store of red yarns, I have several fancy ones that I have been tempted to buy but not found the right item for them

Produce a thicker shawl that could be thrown around the shoulders as I wished and be more of an outer garment. 

I worked out a suitable size and collected the yarns together. I had seen a pattern for a Sampler Shawl, I think on Ravelry and had downloaded the free pattern. (3) I tried to find the tension used so that I could work out if my yarns needed doubling or knitting treble. I looked up the yarn used, which turned out to be a variegated yarn. I was going to put together my, mainly, single colour yarns in I hoped a pleasing sequence. 

The pattern did not include the tension and the shawl was knit with 6mm needles. These seemed huge to me, my last knit item was a 1 ply shawl using 2.5mm needles. I tried to work backwards from the size given for the shawl with the row and stitch count but that did not prove useful either. I tried my yarns with the 6 mm needles and did not like the effect I was getting and did more sample pieces, finally deciding to use 5.5mm needles and doubling up my predominately  Shetland 2 ply  as 4 ply yarn as needed. I had a little moan to myself(4) and then decided to embrace the enforced creativity. After all this was a free pattern, it had given me some ideas to get going. So I worked a tension piece and this enabled me to get a size I was happy with for a shawl. I wanted it to be wider than the 12” the pattern suggested. 

I gathered together my yarns, many I had dyed, several hand spun too, fancy yarns and lots of Shetland yarn from Jamieson and Jamieson and Smiths. The yarns all had a warm undertone and several of the red I had were clearly not suitable for inclusion to my eye. 

The yarns

After the first inch or so it was clear I needed more yarn, but this provided a conundrum as I was trying to use up yarn not buy more. I ordered some by mail order using a shade card, but each of the three I had chosen were not suitable for this project to my supercritical eyes. Hence why I decided I would make my own yarn, based on Merino  tops. If I wasn’t going to diminish my yarn stock I could use up some of the Merino tops that I had had for felt making  when I did more of this. This would give me the change to blend in colours that would suit the warm tones of the bought yarns and also I could incorporate some of my hand dyed fleece. This hand dyed fleece was mainly naturally dyed but there were some acid dyed reds. 

Carding for the ‘designer yarn’

I also had some Colinette  yarn. Some years ago I was attracted to this, such as at early Woolfest events. However, I have never found a much use for it and I was very much hoping to incorporate some into this shawl. I found it too heavy to knit with and that the colours in the variations always contained at least one that I did not like when I started using it. So after much preparation I had enough yarn made to, I hoped, complete the shawl. 

The main yarn would be Shetland, there would also be merino, North Ronaldsay, mohair and some unknowns. 

I had to make a compromise that I was not happy with. The yarn was quite bulky and I needed a lot of stitches per row. So reluctantly I gave in and used a circular needle, when I would have much preferred to use double pointed needles and a knitting belt. 

The pattern is mainly In garter stitch , although some rows were in stocking stitch. This meant I would be careful on which rows I changed the yarns and the shawl would, to me at least, have a public and private side. 

In fact I misjudged just how much yarn was needed and in all it took 300g. This meany I had to have another designing yarn session, involving finding more suitable tops and fleece and more spinning during the project. This is very unlike me as I like to have everything prepared before the start.

I quite enjoyed the knitting, but not using a circular needle. However when finished I did not like the shawl at all. I decided it was too thick and I would finish it and donate it to a good cause. 

HoweverI carried on finishing it properly, washing and then blocking the shawl on my large board. I decided I was a fine yarn person and I would just have to not waste my time on this sort of idea again. 

But I was in for a nice surprise, once I unblocked it, it felt much better and I actually fell in love with it. It is a unique item, and most of the yarns have a story behind them. The whole shawl is a reminder I see from my house at certain times of the year. It has turned out to be a talking point when I have worn it out. 

I am now deciding whether I ought to knit another in blue possibly or purple. 



  1. I read somewhere (fb), rather than giving something up for lent, donating an item a day to charity would be a useful alternative. We are trying this in 2019. 
  2. If I just sit down to watch TV in the evening I just fall asleep, probably an age thing or the fact that I wake early each day. So I tend to knit or spin or sew or similar and that enables me to keep awake. 
  3. This was called ‘Stitch Sampler Shawl’. Unfortunately the pattern when downloaded does not have the designers name on it. 
  4. This was the second pattern in two days with either wrong or incomplete information, the other being a weaving draft. I must decide to check any pattern, with free or paid for, at least twice before I decide it is the next make for me! 

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

The Secret Hat Project - a Fair Isle Peaked Hat with an interesting development

Soon after we moved in to our current house a neighbour offered me a fleece, from the sheep he keeps on the field at the bottom of our garden. This was too good to refuse, although he noted he had sheared it himself. At that point he did not know what breed the sheep was. I washed the fleece by my favourite fermented suint method. (1)

In the late spring I dyed some  of the washed fleece with daffodil flowers and achieved ten colours. (2). I then spun each of the colours to produce yarn. The fleece was better than I thought possible from the  description by the neighbour and I was pleased with the colours I obtained. 

During the following three years I chatted to the neighbour about many things, and particularly  my natural dyeing and spinning. I detected that he would very much like a knitted hat, but this needed to have a peak. He always wore a baseball sort of hat with a peak. 

So I hatched a plan, which during the latter part of 2018 came to fruition. 

When I was in Shetland for Wool Week 2017, I saw the knitted hats in the Shetland  Museum that were part of the Theodora Coutts collection. 

These helped my ideas for the hat. Then when I went to the Shetland Teas on the last Sunday of Wool Week I saw that Ina Irvine had such a hat on display, she had hand spun and knitted the hat and called it a Sumburgh Bonnet. I bought this hat and  talked to her about it  and she arranged to send me a pattern and helped me understand the construction of the peak. 

So I now needed to spin the yarn, which I started, aiming to get close to the diameter of Shetland jumper weight yarn. 

However the fun was going to be dyeing the yarn to make the hat from. I wanted the neighbour to be able to wear the hat everyday doing his ‘smallholder duties’ so my use of colour would be important, including too much natural would not be practicable.

So, the yarn was spun and I did a calculation then added a good percentage to it, compared to the Mirrie Dancers hats I knitted for Shetland Wool Week 18 (3)  so I had some ideas on  how much yarn i needed in my dye colours. I choose to dye in six  different colours which with natural made 7 colours. 

So by this time it was August 18 and a friend and I were planning to dye yarn in preparation for Apple Day at Lopham and Redgrave Fen (4). Sue B was going to weave apple dyed yarn on her Saori Loom and I was going to knit more of the Secret Hat Project. For the weaving we bought Aran weight 100% Wool form the wool shop in Diss and in all dyed 200g. I would repeat this but with hand spun  yarn. We choose to use apple leaves to give us the base colour (yellow). The apple leaves were from a tree in the neighbours garden, and some of the branches draped into our garden. We had the apples identified at the Apple Day and they were named as Crispin.

The  dyed yarn for knitting. 

Once the yarn for the hat was dyed, samples were knitted to check the tension and hence the  size of the hat. 

This took us up to September 18 when  I took the pattern with me to Shetland as my ‘easy’ knitting as opposed to my fine lace knitting project. 

I would cast on in waste knitting, knit the body of the hat and then the crown and when complete would knit the ribs section downwards as I did the  Mirrie Dancers hats.  I  completed quite a bit of the body  of the hat but was not loving how the design was coming out. In my heart of hearts I knew it was not my own design.   So this was taken out and I decided to redraft the pattern to use my tried and tested favourite Fair isle design. This had the added bonus in that I could insert a row of ‘peerie’ motifs that include the owners initials- I like to do this in Fair isle knitwear that is to be worn.

As soon as I started knitting this hat again I fell in love with it.

I used the crown pattern of Ina’s hat pattern and used the colours to move through the values. I love how this part turned out. 

All went well and the majority d the hat was complete. 

The body of the hat                                                   The crown 


I decided to knit the rib as I had done the Mirrie Dancers pattern, downwards from my initial cast on in waste yarn. However, as I completed more of this I decided it was not going to stretch enough to stretch over the peak. It was just coming up too thick. 

So there was another rethink - I would do the rib in stripes in 2x 2 rib and make what was to be the underneath of the peak mirror the top. 

Eventually the knitting was complete, as I thought. 

As I had knitted the hat in the round, there was very little finishing off- just ends to darn in invisibly. I try and make the inside of my garments as good as the outside. The I needed to block the hat, I used the cold blocking method over a hat former. Then it was time to insert the peak, stitch the inner ribbing in place and add an invisible anchor stitch or two to ensure the peak stayed at the front of the hat. As I inserted the peak I realised the rib was far too thick. I was not happy with it. 

A third major rethink was needed. I would dye some more yarn and just use one colour, this would reduce the thickness considerably. So I dyed more yarn. I tried logwood to give me grey. However, I did not like how this went with the predominant browns of the hat, so I gave up in this and dyed some fresh yarn with madder and iron which gave a colour I was happy with. 

Eventually the hat was finished. 

Completed hat 

This has been a fun project and It will be going to its rightful home , the owner of the sheep (5) and the owner of the dyes for the colouring. It was a great pleasure to produce this unique hat from materials so close to my home. 

I managed to arrange so the hat was just another present under the Christmas Tree for my neighbour. 

I was aware I had based the hat on the head size of my husband and included a note with the hat, explaining its history and saying if it was too big or too small I could fix it. 

Chatting after Christmas the neighbour was clearly delighted with the hat and it had been quite a talking point  with his family over a Christmas. However, there was a ‘but’! It was too big. Eventually after many weeks I managed to extract the hat from the neighbour and got him to try it on. It was much, much too big in diameter and height. This was entirely my fault for not finding out his had size first. (how would it then have been a secret?). 

When I got this indoors I realised that I could not shrink it and there was only one thing to do, take it out and knit it again. I am very particular about finishing off my knitwear and aim to have it as good on the inside as the outside. So eventually I found all the ends and took out the yarn, re skeined  it, washed and re balled it again ready for knitting. This time I knew if it fitted me it would fit the neighbour. I decided to remove one complete set of patterning, 24 stitches and one of the sets of peerie patterns. One of the points  of the crown star was removed  too. I was surprised how easy the knitting was. I decided I needed a smaller peak too so had to recut a new peak former. 

So these are the pictures of the second finished hat. 

The hat

And the crown! 

There are many lessons from this hat, too many to list here! 

I have enjoyed knitting it and really like the peak. Perhaps this year my wool week hat will have a peak! 


  1. A description of my method of doing this can be found at blog posts of 1 Sept 13 and 8 Feb 14 
  2. Dyeing with daffodil blog post of 8 May 16
  3. Two posts  about Mirrie Dancers hats on 13 Sept 18 
  4. A local Fen in Suffolk, Redgrave and Lopham Fen as part of Suffolk Wildlife Trust,  has an apple day in October where I have volunteered showing my natural dyeing (and spinning and fine lace knitting etc)  
  5. When the shearer came this year, he identified the Sheep as Dorset. On looking up more about these I believe the sheep was a Dorset Down. 

Sunday, 14 April 2019

The Dunella Fine Lace Scarf

This has been finished for some time now and it has been waiting and waiting for there to be a still day. I wanted to take it down our lane and hold it so the background of ploughed fields and fresh green crops of spring could  shine through. We have had some glorious weather over the past few weeks. However, in East Anglia where I live, in the middle of the country I have found it is always windy - if you use this scarf as a guide to wind. In that respect it is like Shetland but less windy. Always there was a breeze and the scarf wafted horizontally. 

So I have given up on that and just draped it over my body duplicate and taken the photos inside. 

This scarf is special to me for many reasons, but for two which I will share here. 

The first is because it was designed by Kathleen Anderson. I have been fortunate to take a lace class with her in a Shetland Wool Week. I learnt  things that I didn’t even know were possible and I so admire her skilled lace knitting and am in awe of the prizes she wins for this.  The other is that this is the first scarf since I had eye ‘surgery’ in both eyes (1). I was not sure I could manage to knit fine thread and so choose this as it is slightly thicker than the yarn I spin. (2). I could only knit this for an hour or so a day, before my eyes complained. But that was fine. Our lounge has a large picture window where the light is particularly good for this sort of knitting. 

I thought the repeats would be good for me, I love the lozenge columns of stitches separating the main repeats. 

The pattern calls for 11 repeats, so 12 in all. Each repeat is a set of 56 rows, I only did 10 repeats. 2 x 25g balls of Shetland Supreme 1 ply were needed and I had one and a bit, so thought I would  stop when I thought I was running out of yarn. (3) 

I also used a knitting belt and raepin string throughout and know that both contributed to my good tension. On average I was able to knit 14 rows in my allotted time period and I averaged 9 rows an hour. 

In all there was a bottom border of 11 rows, a centre of 11 x 56 rows and a final border of 10 rows. You can work out the total and see how many hours I took over knitting this scarf. However two further time frames need adding - taking back rows when I made a mistake and blocking after it was finished. 

A close up of the scarf

To help myself I copied the page with the stitch chart on so I could blow it up and help my eyes. I also added the number of plain knit stitches between decrease, yarn overs etc onto the pattern. I placed this chart  on a metal board and moved a strip magnet up each time I completed a row. I like to see the rows I have completed so I can check the pattern is working correctly. Yarn markers were used at each side edge and to mark 2 key stitches across the row. (4) 

I am a firm believer in using elastic bands with double pointed needles and kept one on each end of the free needle (so no stitches can slip off) and when I leave my knitting I ensure that the ends are either held in rubber bands (5) or a stitch holder. I also kept a couple  of finer dpns needles with me at all times, in case they were needed in ‘taking out’. I found they were like an insurance policy. If I could reach them I would not need them, if I had left them in the bag out of reach I would need them!!

This is the stitch holder used, this was bought at The Bod in Lerwick, home of the Shetland Textile Museum. I believe it was made by Britta’s husband. Britta is frequently found on the reception desk of the Bod. 

Facts and Figures

Size 2.5mm needles dpns used, length 30 cm

Size during blocking 26cm x 141cm

Size when relaxed after blocking 24cm x 124 cm 

Mass 26g (no wonder it finds any slight breeze)

It easily goes through a wedding ring, but that is only to be expected given its small size in Shetland Scarf/Shawl terms. 

This is the linen project bag I made to keep it in during the knitting. I have lined, what was an embroidered linen chair back (unused) of my aunt’s with blackout lining to stop any stray needle ends poking though. The bag was large enough to also hold my magnetic board and the pattern. 

I love this scarf  and will wear it often. The next on  my list is the Hinnywaar scarf, designed I think by Unst’s Hazel Laurenson. (post of 15Oct18). I treated myself to this when in Unst last wool week and have 2 balls of J and S cobweb yarn which have been sitting around for a time and so I am going to use them for this.


  1. Completely out of the blue the optician noticed from the eye pressures test that I was in danger of suffering from acute angle glaucoma, which I understand can happen suddenly. This can usually be prevented by a laser punching a small hole in the iris! I had this procedure in both eyes but unfortunately it did not solve the problem. However, with another attempt, which was more extensive it worked. Unfortunately the advice from the optician was not to get new glasses until the procedure was over. Even more unfortunately I had not gone to the optician even though I knew my vision had worsened. There is a moral here which I hope if you wear glasses and are a fine lace knitter in particular you have worked out!!
  2. Post of 26 Aug 17 shows some of my fine spun yarn
  3. J and S Shetland Supreme 1 ply yarn is 400m/25g
  4. As yarn markers I use a contrasting thread, made into a loop. This weighs very little and does not interfere with my knitting as some commercial yarn markers do. 
  5. I find the rubber bands that come in packs of jam pot covers are an ideal size, and by twisting them I can get a permanent loop to move from one needle to another without having to do lots of twisting all the time.  

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

An alternative way to draft a sewing pattern-the Lutterloh system

Some time ago I bought a Lutterloh system of Pattern Making (1) on the recommendation of a friend I really respect. I then joined the facebook page Lutterloh system and the posts are both inspiring and helpful. 

From the fb page it was recommended  that I get a waistcoat pattern from Lutterloch and that by making this I would be able to see how the patterns would work for me. 

I have now drawn out my pattern from the scale waistcoat pattern.  pattern. I used some lining  paper I had. I thought the pattern looked far too big for me but carried on. 

I used some fairly thick old curtain fabric for  this as I thought the weight would be good. The fabric had ‘structure’. 

I didn’t bother to match the pieces, match the thread or line it. 

Image completed pattern 

I was amazed and pleasantly surprised at how well it fitted. This is a poor photo but I hope shows the good fit. 

The trial garment on my body duplicate 

The idea is that you use your bust measurement for pattern measurements above the waist and hip measurement for the measurements below the waist when you are drawing out the pattern. 

I only made a couple of modifications at the fitting stage:

On the front I joined up the top shoulder dart and diamond waist dart together to shape it more closely over the bust and took in the bottom side seams which flared out too much above the hips. 

I have quite a curved back at the shoulders and the pattern somehow coped with that, even though the fabric had no stretch in it and the armholes don’t bulge out at the back as I was expecting. 

The set I bought has 280 patterns in it, so I feel motivated to try a pattern for real now. The real challenge is which one as there are so many that are great shapes. 


1. The Luterloch system was developed in 1935. It is based on the ‘Golden Rule’, ie that the human body is in perfect         mathematical proportion within itself.  4 pattern supplements are available each year. 

Saturday, 30 March 2019

My first complete weave of 2019

Last September our son had a significant birthday and I decided it was a significant event in my life too! Thus I decided to treat myself to Janet Phillip’s (1) book ‘Designing Woven Fabrics’ and that weaving the sample blanket from Part One of the book would be my winter project. 

This would be a good reason to get another warp on my Schadt Might Wolf 8 shaft floor loom. 

The aim being to weave a multi- sectioned sample blanket based on 2/2 Twill with 10 different threadings across the width and then 50 sets of 2” deep different treadling  variations  to give 500 patterns on the side I was looking at and virtually the same number on the reverse. ( I believe one horizontal  pattern is woven and then repeated by weaving  the ‘backside’ so to speak. So I would have 980 patterns). 

The suggested yarn in the book is 2/6 cotton but as I prefer to weave in wool I decided I would do the blanket in wool too. However, as it was suggested that the warp would be at 20 ends per inch I would clearly need finer wool than I would normally weave with. I needed 3 colours that I liked and where the warp and weft would have a good contrast so that I could see the pattern definition well. Fortunately I have a good stash of cones of wool so that was not a problem. My yarns 

I set up a narrow, short warp but used the 20 dent reed, which I had not used before and did a couple of trials to check that that all would work. Chiefly I was checking that  the yarn would not break and that when washed and pressed I could see the patterns well. This was useful but it would have been better with a wider warp. 


I was nervous about doing this blanket as it seemed complicated, but fortunately I had a friend who had finished her sample blanket and she lent it to me until I had got going with mine, it was a great confidence boost. 

I did seemingly endless calculations to check I had enough heddles on each half of each of the 4 shafts and  this involved adding more, borrowed from the 4 shafts not being used. 

For the weaving I used the following yarns: 

Knoll supersoft Wool 11.5/2 in natural, blue, green

The thinner natural used on the left of the warp -2/16 John Woodhead, Holmfirth- I have had this some time. 

I started making the warp at the end of November, but Christmas got in the way. I decided that I would wind each section (A-J ) separately and label them as this would make getting the warp onto the loom easier as there were a different number of warp threads in each section. On 27th December I was up to threading the reed. With this loom I thread the reed sitting at a table using a wonderful device my DH has made. I then add the reed to the loom  turning the reed 180 degrees and then tie the warp to the front beam. Threading the reed took a day- half before lunch and half after. 

I love this loom for lots of reasons, but one of them is the fact that I can remove the back beam and sit very close to the heddles. So with the warp through the reed, I can thread the heddles in the correct order without the need for a raddle or back cross. I have the loom arranged so I have a large window behind me, as I do this, and the daylight really helped. I had to spread this over a couple of days - I estimate 7 hours in total. 

The next job was relatively easy, it was tying the warp threads onto the back beam and then winding the warp on evenly. I am a big fan of Madelyn van dear Hooghly method given in her ‘Warping your looom’ dvd. I used lots of sticks to separate the long warp (5 m) and we had to stop, visit B and Q and wait for DH to make more. I think we had used some for tying  up plants in the garden. 

Once I was happy with this,  all that was left was to tie on to the front beam and get started with the actual weaving. Tying  on worked well although I did the final knots too soon! 

Janet P has more trial weaving before starting than I would normally do. I thought I had found the 2 or 3 crossed threads I had while doing plain weave but this was not the case and doing a sample of one of the repeats found some more, hence I should have not done the final tightening and knotting  of the warps until after that. I also liked the idea of putting in a different coloured thread across this sampling area,  I choose one of my hand dyed scarlet yarns. 

For the tie up I used  the 4 treadles on the left for the patterning and the 2 most on the right for plain weave. Later during the weaving I used the remaining 4 treadles too for the individual  shafts as this meant I did not have to change any of the  tie ups during the weaving. 

I tried to weave a couple of the horizontal pattern sections each day when I could.... we were trying to do some decorating during January too ! 

It was a lovely project to do as each horizontal pattern section presented me with 10 patterns and some were very unexpected. I kept detailed notes and made each horizontal section at least 2” deep, some were much deeper. If the pattern had a lot of picks then I did at least two repeats. 

So on 4 Feb I took the blanket of the loom. When washed and pressed the final piece  was 21 “ by about 9 ft. 

I am VERY pleased with it and have now photographed both sides so I can have all the patterns on my iPad. Janet herself says that she uses this all the time and spends much  time examining individual patterns. I am also doing this and lots of ‘what ifs’ keep filling my head. 

I have quite a bit of warp left and have decided to just play with changing weft colours and pattern combinations, although the book contains instructions for changing warp colours in this ‘spare’ warp. After this I am keen to do another fresh warp sample exploring different colour combinations and am having many ‘ what if’ thoughts along those lines. 

What I learnt that was unexpected:

A wide selvedge works well....I usually cut the cloth that I weave so, although I like neat edges, these are not my priority 

The wool I used made a very nice finished cloth

Spending weave time and warp (about 6 “) at the start before finally tying the front knots and before the weaving starts pays real dividends 

The usefulness of the ‘face mark’ thread

If you are wondering about trying this I would definitely suggest doing it, it has been a great first weaving project for the New Year. 

  1. Janet Phillips is a weaver based in Somerset. She has been designing and weaving handwoven fabrics for over 30 years. She tutors a number of weaving courses, unfortunately I have not attended any of these but I do know people who have. They have found them inspirational and transformational for their weaving.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Revamping a Sixties Suit- Lessons Learnt

The March 2019 meeting of the wonderful Costume and Textile Association in Norwich (1) was advertised as a presentation by Meredith Towne (2), where we would be transported back to 60’s fashion and sewing clothes of the era in ‘Sewing the Sixties’. 

To me that meant Crimplene ! (3) I had several years previously bought a royal blue and a white Crimplene suit from a Vintage Shop for £10 as I loved the texture. It was a size 20 and so needed some adjustment to fit my size 10/12 frame.(4) 

I had previously tweaked a blue faux suede belt and changed the buckle to a vintage white plastic to match the suit. I knew I needed to reduce the width of the white lapels. Then it languished in the drawer for a couple of years until I saw the presentation advertised when I decided I would complete the transformation and  wear this for the afternoon. 

I took the sides of the skirt in, this was not as easy as it sounds as I needed to match the horizontal ‘stripes’. 

The best part of it was the fact that no neatening was needed as it was Crimplene. Once the skirted fitted, rather than fall down, the length was good. 

Then I came to the jacket. The Crimplene is quite thin and so my way of making it fit my top half, was to pleat/ gather round the waist with the belt. This gave a nice profile and a sort of peplum effect. It gave shape where non existed before. 

The lapels were massive, projecting 4.5 inches (using inches as it was the Sixties) more than can be seen  on the finished suit. This area needed some seam unpicking, careful tacking and then stitching. I used  a slight zigzag stitch as this would avoid puckering in the finished seam. 

The jacket looked good when on my body duplicate. I discussed the suit with a friend and she immediately suggested that we swap the navy buttons down the front for white ones. This was a great  idea and we spent about  an hour searching through my button tins (note the ‘s’) and the buttons I liked best were 3 square ones which seemed more suitable than the ones there originally. 

The left buttons are the original ones, the white were their replacement. 

Then we needed to find a matching pair of buttons for the sleeve cuffs. 

The sleeves were designed to turn back and be buttoned, but the overlocking at the base of the cuff showed. I decided that I would have the cuff ‘normal’ and not turned back. I could leave the buttons as navy or use the smaller black ones on the right of the picture above. I liked these as they had more character but were not perfect. 

I decided to be bold and go for red for cuff buttons, I loved the detail of the surface of the button as this complimented the texture of the suit. I would then wear red patent shoes and take a red handbag. 

I thought the jacket was finished before Sue and I met but now this was looking so much better.

However, there was a potential disaster, I noticed that there were 4 buttons on the front not 3  as I had thought. I only had 3 white ones. We had spent over an hour finding these and there certainly wasn’t another one. In a strange way I like these sort of challenges. The bottom line was I could take  off the three white buttons and replace them with the navy ones again. I was not keen to do this as the white buttons were just right. I decided to make a bold move. I had another related red button, slightly larger, and I would put this on the front of the jacket as the first button, in pride of place and leave the 3 square white ones which I liked a lot. 

However, after a couple of hours reflection this did not look quite right. I had 3 other red buttons so the obvious thing to do was add red buttons down the front, but two of these had been stitched on the cuffs with super strong good stitching! 

I had seen a couple of lovely glass black buttons whilst searching for white ones, now I needed to look for these again as they would work on the cuffs, I hoped. I managed to find them.  (Note to self, sort out all the buttons into colour coded containers, just as my yarn stash is sorted and it is easy to find what I want.) 

Then it was time to remove the cuff buttons, which seemed to take an age; then to stitch on 5 more buttons.  in all another hour did the trick. 

This is the result. 

I found some navy gloves of the period in my glove box and really felt great as I went to the meeting. 

I will definitely wear this outfit again, complete with knitted red wool ear rings! 

I learnt a lot, the main things are:

Be bold

Don’t stop the revamping until you are ‘in love’ with the result

Organise the button collection by colour- it will save time in the future

...and I won’t include the obvious....concentrate on the this is probably rule one for me in sewing. 


  1. The Costume and Textile Association ( promotes the unique costumes and textiles of our city, Norwich. It organises a  great programme of talks, workshops and visits and it is a great place to meet fellow textile enthusiasts. 
  2. Meredith Towne ( is a dressmaker and costume historian who does brilliant talks accompanied by costumes and other related items of the period. 
  3. Crimplene is a type of bulked polyester fibre, it could look thick but weighs little. It was patented in 1959 by a Cheshire Firm and mainly produced in Leek. The fabric was very popular in the 1960’s as at first it seemed the ideal synthetic fabric - no fraying when sewing, drip dry, no ironing, no creases. It was mainly a knit rather than woven fabric. It was popular for the decade and was replaced by lighter (still polyester) fabrics which had more breathability. Some of us still have Crimplene fabric from that period. 
  4. A 1960’s size 20 suit which measured 39” across the bust and 44” across the hips. I am size 10 with hips perhaps a little larger!