Additions to the Herd

I haven’t talked about my vintage sewing machines for a while, but there are two new girls in the herd, and I thought I’d show them off today.

First, there’s a Singer Stylist 457:

Singer Stylist 457

This one was quite clean, although I want to refinish its box. It was made in St. John’s, Quebec, in 1961. Here’s a bit on that plant, which opened in 1904 and was closed in 1986. The Stylist isn’t a machine with a fabulous reputation, because its gears are plastic, as you can see on this page on the Singer UK site. Since it was in good shape, though, and a zigzag machine, and just $10, home it came to join the herd. That button in front is to drop the feed dogs, which is cool, too.

Then, I found this Pfaff 360:
This picture is from its arrival here, and you can see that it was pretty dirty. I think someone was a smoker. It ran well, though, and is very clean inside, as if it was well maintained. I like that it has a similar free arm design to my old Elnas. The serial number indicates that it was built in 1959.

This one didn’t have all the goodies with it – in fact, it needed a new bobbin case – but it ran beautifully and was only $20 so it joined the herd, too. I have another Pfaff, a Pfaff 30, which is in a wooden cabinet. It’s a sturdy machine that sews a straight stitch.

I haven’t shown you the herd for a while, so here are (most of) the girls.

First, my Elnas. The first green one is called a Grasshopper. This was the first Elna design and was in production from 1940 to 1952. It was intended to compete with the Singer Featherweight and is a light little machine. That thing coming out the front right is a knee lever.Elna Grasshopper Sewing Machine

Next is a Supermatic from 1954 and then (the taupe one) another Supermatic from 1956. These two have little doors on the top, which are for cams for decorative stitches. They both have their original cases, which can be used to create a larger sewing surface – you can see how that cut-out fits around the free arm of the machine. The taupe one has the original Bakelite box for bobbins and accessories. It slides under the free arm when you pack it all away.Elna Supermatic from 1954 Elna Supermatic from 1959
Then there’s a Hugin, which is a similar machine that was made in Sweden. This one sadly hasn’t done any sewing, because it needs a belt and I haven’t found one the right length yet. It’s also a straight stitch machine. I just like that it’s named after one of Odin’s ravens. (I blogged about it once before in this post.)Hugin sewing machine

Next are the Singer machines: first a cute little 185K. (I don’t have a picture of my Featherweight – it’s just a plain black one.) My 185 was made in Scotland in 1958. That box in front is a buttonholer. I like that the box matches the machine so well.

Singer 185K

Then there are two old Singer machines. The first has a stencil design called Venezia, and some original wiring. (Hmm.) The second one is a handcrank with decals called Victoria. I think they’re just so pretty. They’re both Scottish lasses.Singer handcrank sewing machine Singer handcrank sewing machine

Finally, there’s the treadle machine in the cabinet. This is a King Rotary, which I haven’t been able to find out much about. It was likely made in Buffalo, New York – here’s a bit about the King sewing machine company and you can see that the heraldic emblem on mine is like the one on that website. Look at those lovely iris decals:King Rotary treadle sewing machine

Do you collect anything vintage?

Red Koigu KPPPM Cardigan

It’s Fibre Friday again, and time to peek in on my knitting projects. Progress on my Wingspan shawl came to shuddering halt this week, when I realized I would run out of yarn. You might remember that I went up a needle size and wondered if I’d run out. Well, I will. So, I stopped knitting and ordered another skein of the same yarn – it’s Briar Rose Fibers Sea Pearl. The yarn is 50% merino and 50% tencel, and has a lovely sheen. I didn’t think that mixing in another yarn even for the border would look right.

The colour and dye lot aren’t marked on mine and it’s been aging in the stash for so long that there’s no way the colour would match anyway. I had a look at their website and think mine might be colour 1841. (It’s also possible that it’s a colour they don’t dye anymore.) I ordered a skein of 1901 (it’s on the second page of colour samples) which is a grey. It looks quite similar to mine but without the pink, which should make the hem look a bit darker. And the grey is probably the same dye.

While that project is on hold, I wanted to knit something other than socks. I had another poke through my needle stash and found a pair of 3.5mm circulars. Yay! They’re only 60 cm long, but that’s plenty for a cardigan knit in pieces. You know what happened next – I cast on the Lunenberg Cardigan in my red Koigu.

Here’s what it looks like so far:

Back of Lunenberg Cardigan knit in Koigu KPPPM by Deborah CookeIt’s interesting how pink this shot looks on my computer. The yarn is actually a gorgeous variegated cherry red and I just love it.

The colour number is 329. I had a look at the colours on Koigu’s site, and it looks even more vividly pink there. It looks more like #859 on this page.

This cardigan is knit top down but in pieces – this is the back from the shoulders down. I have a few more inches to go before doing the ribbing (which will give me time to decide whether to knit ribbing or another edge) but I’m very happy with how it’s coming out.

What do you think?

Sunny Socks

We’ve been having so much rain here that Mr. Math and I have been discussing the merit of building an ark. It’s a bit frustrating as far as the garden goes – the weeds keep growing, but the weather isn’t very conducive to getting out there and cleaning up the beds. I did a lot of work in April but have been kind of stalled since then, and the thistles are taking advantage of their moment.

Rain is good weather for writing, though, and it’s also good for knitting. I’ve been working away on my Wingspan shawl and am getting down to the feather tips. It’s all bunched up on the needles though so I can’t take a good picture. I’ve added some beads, which I really like, and currently am playing yarn chicken. Will I run out? (I think it likely.) What yarn will I use for the wingtips if I do run out of this yarn? That’s a really interesting question and I haven’t decided yet. I’ll take some pix when it’s finished and blocked.

In the meantime, I’ve knit myself a pair of socks. Wingspan isn’t TV knitting at all. Socks are. These socks are very bright, which is welcome this year.

Socks knit in Sugar Bush Itty-Bitty by Deborah Cooke

The pattern is my usual one, but the yarn is a new for me. It’s Sugar Bush Itty-Bitty, which I found in the mill ends bin at Spinrite. The colourway is Sailor’s Sky Delight. The yarn is a blend of merino and nylon with a bit of cashmere. It’s a lot thicker than I thought it was, and these socks are both thick and big. I should have used 64 sts instead of my usual 72. I used just over two balls.

Sock Twins socks knit toe-up by Deborah Cooke

I’ve cast on another pair of sunny socks for myself. I bought this yarn at Spinrite, too. It’s called Sock Twins and includes two balls of yarn that are gradient dyed. The idea is that you easily knit socks that match. I want to use it all so I’m knitting this pair toe-up, starting with the yellow. I like the colours but am not loving the yarn so much – it feels thin and splitty – but maybe it will full when it’s washed. They’re not showing all the colours on the website – you can see mine, which is called Sunset, on Ravelry right here.

I also found the loveliest magazine this week. It’s called By Hand Serial, and the issue I found is number nine. It features a region and the makers in that region, with lovely photographs, interview and projects. Number nine is about Nova Scotia. You can see a preview on their website, right here. As a bonus, I’m not really motivated to finish my Wingspan, because I need those 3.5mm needles to make the Lunenberg Cardigan!

The Wingspan Shawl

If you’ve been conscious over the past two weeks in the knitting world, you’ve probably seen the Wingspan shawl. This is an incredible design that looks like a bird’s wings. The original is very striking because it’s knit in a hand-dyed ombrĂ© yarn that shades once over a colour progression in 800 yds or so. The kit went on sale last Saturday at the Knitter’s Frolic in Toronto, and the pattern went on sale on Ravelry the same day.

You know I bought both. 🙂

Here’s the Wingspan pattern on Ravelry.

Here’s the kit at Blue Brick Yarns.

There’s (predictably) a backlog on yarn orders – this pattern has gone viral – so I cast on the shawl in Briar Rose Sea Pearl, a yarn in my stash which comes in an 800 yd skein of fingering, just like the specified yarn. This is a handpaint, not an ombrĂ©, so the wings won’t shade. Sea Pearl is 50% merino and 50% tencel, so it has a shine. This skein has always made me think of a bird’s feathers, so it seemed the perfect choice. I’m not sure what colourway mine is as it’s not marked on the tag and there seem to be a few contenders on the Briar Rose site – if they even dye this colourway anymore. My skein has been well-aged in the stash.

Here’s the skein before I caked it up:Briar Rose Sea Pearl

And here’s my progress on the shawl.

Wingspan shawl knit by Deborah CookeYou can see that I’ve finished the second row of feathers. (There are four rows altogether.) I’m really pleased that there’s no pooling of the colour. My beads have arrived (they’re pewter with silver linings) so I’ll be adding them to the rest of the shawl.

This is a really lovely knit. It’s quite addictive. Although the instructions are written, not charted, once I got the hang of what is going on, I didn’t need to read every line anymore. (I’m not sure that this pattern could have been charted.)

What do you think?

More Sparkle for the Hoard

Dragon pendant and earrings with blue glass made by Deborah CookeI’ve been doing some more beadwork and making shiny things for my dragon hoard. I’ll take these to Romancing the Capital in August.

Today, I wanted to show you these necklace and earring sets. I found dragon pendants that match my dragon charms, so putting them together was an obvious choice.

This one is blue glass beads that have some opalescence. I matched them with cut glass beads of light green and Czech glass 2/0 beads with the same opalescence as the big beads. The fastener is a magnet. I wasn’t sure it would be strong enough for the weight of the necklace, but it is – and it ensures that the wire doesn’t get twisted. Ha.

Dragon necklace made with glass beads by Deborah Cooke

Next is another one with glass beads. I love how sparkly this one is! The larger beads are faceted crystals with an A/B finish. They’re matched with smaller faceted glass beads with the same finish to make a glittery result. The picture doesn’t do its sparkle justice!

Third, a necklace set with fire agate semi-precious gemstone beads and black glass beads, The black beads have a bit of gold detail. There are Czech glass 2/0 beads in gold, too. The fire agate has been dyed to be a brighter orange. I like the pattern in the stone.

Dragon necklace with fire agate semi-precious gemstone beads and glass beads, made by Deborah CookeFire agate is linked with fire by those who use gemstones for healing, and so it has associations with passion and earthly desires. It is also said to be a protective stone and to be revitalizing. Doesn’t it sound like an excellent choice for a dragon?

I have some other semi-precious gemstones that I’ve been using to make these necklaces. There’s a set with lapis lazuli and freshwater pearls. Lapis lazuli is associated with tranquility, self-awareness and healing. These beads are not dyed and are a natural deep blue. I also have some labradorite, undyed, which I’m still trying to pair with something sparkly. Labradorite is said to increase the wearer’s psychic and magical powers, which also makes it a perfect choice for a dragon.

Dragon necklace made with gold and purple beads by Deborah CookeThe fourth set I have to show you today is one of my favorite combinations of glass beads with these dragon charms. There are purple glass beads with an A/B finish and gold ones with the same finish, along with some Czech glass 2/0 beads in gold with an A/B finish. I love this combination as all the beads seem to be reflecting shades of gold and purple.

That’s just four of my dragon necklace sets. What do you think?

A Tiara for a Dragon Queen

I’ve been playing around with beads and charms, making some shiny trinkets to take to Romancing the Capital in August. I decided to try to make a tiara fit for a dragon queen.

Here’s my first attempt.

Bead and crystal tiara made by Deborah Cooke

I used a metal hairband as a frame. The crystals are dyed quartz and have been drilled, which made it a lot easier to secure them in place. I used 24 gauge wire for the wrapping. I arranged the crystals in order of size first, with the biggest ones in the center, then attached them to the frame. Once they were in place, I added glass beads of various shapes and sizes.

Detail of bead and crystal tiara made by Deborah Cooke

The result is quite sparkly. What do you think?

I’ve also been making some necklaces with gemstone beads, using wire. Here’s one of Dragon’s Eye Agate, with matching earrings:

Necklace and earrings of dragon's eye agate and beads by Deborah Cooke

And here’s one of Fire Agate – the agate has been dyed to enhance the colour, but it is quite spectacular. The black beads are onyx:

Fire agate necklace and earrings made by Deborah Cooke

I’ve been making earrings, too. Here’s a selection with the fun dragon claw drops:

Dragon claw drop earrings with glass beads made by Deborah Cooke

I’m going to make another tiara in different colours – if not two – and will show you them when they’re done.

What do you think? Would you or your favorite dragon queen wear any of these?

Wild Grass Pullover

It’s Friday! Let’s talk about knitting.

Wild Grass pullover knit by Deborah Cooke in Swans Island washable wool sport

I’ve been working on a pullover with a beautiful yoke. The pattern is called Wild Grass and the yarn I’m using is Swans Island Washable Wool Collection Sport. For this pattern, you make a provisional cast-on, knit a few rows, then knit up, through the yoke and the neck. Then you pick up stitches from the provisional cast-on and knit down, dividing for the sleeves then to the hems. This means that the fun part is over early. 🙂

I may re-knit the neck on larger needles. Right now, it’s more of a turtle-neck, but the pattern shows it as a cowl, which is a big part of what I liked about the design.

I bought this yarn at Swans Island when we were in Maine last summer. They make the most beautiful blankets and dye their own yarn. The colours are amazing. This is a wonderful squishy and soft yarn which is spun from merino. Here’s a link to the yarn on the Swans Island website – I’m getting a security warning because of their certificate, but maybe that will be fixed by the time you click through. Here’s a Ravelry link, too. The colours I’m using are Mallard and Pesto. The Mallard is a little darker than it looks in this picture. The yarn is also incredibly soft, so I’m not worried about having this wool next to my skin.

What do you think?


Easy as Mirri 1, 2, 3

I’ve been learning to sew with knits lately, which has proven to be a lot of fun. Today, I’ll show you three versions I made of a dress pattern called Mirri, from Wardrobe By You. It looks like a wrap dress but actually isn’t—the bodice is sewn in place, which is how I prefer wrap dresses. (They can’t come unwrapped this way.)

Here’s my first Mirri, modelled by the ever-lovely Nellie:Mirri wrap dress sewn by Deborah Cooke

This is sewn from a knit fabric that I found in the sale bin at my local fabric store. It’s probably a polyester and lycra blend. The idea was that the test-sew would be cheap—and disposable, if it didn’t work out, but pretty enough to wear, if it did work out.

This pattern has a minimum of pieces—left front, right front, back bodice and the skirt, which is the same for front and back. The fronts have self-facings, and there are two bands to finish the sleeves. No zipper or fastening. You just tug it over your head.

The dress is quick to cut out and quick to sew—the only note I made on the instructions was to finish the edge of the self-facing on both fronts before sewing the dress together. (Because you know what I did the first time.) I used the serpentine stitch on my machine to do that, then the overlock stitch for the seams. I sewed down the collar with the twin needle and top-stitched the sleeve band with it, too.

For the hem, I pressed on a narrow strip of fusible knit interfacing to stabilize the hem, pressed it into place, then sewed it with the twin needles, too. I like how polished that finish looks.

The fit is perfect and the length is just right. No fitting changes! Yay!

I cut out a second Mirri in a scuba knit, which is heavier than the first knit fabric, that I also found in the sale bin. The image on the scuba knit was printed in 80cm panels, and also mirrored on the center fold. I pushed this around a bit and decided that there was no ignoring that mirroring so I should work with it. I centered the skirt pieces and the bodice back on the center fold. Each skirt piece used the better part of one 80cm panel, then the bodice pieces all came out of the third one.

This one is a bit bolder, but I like it a lot:

Mirri wrap dress sewn by Deborah Cooke Mirri wrap dress sewn by Deborah CookeThe side seam on the skirt mirrors similarly to the center front and center back.

This version of the dress taught me a lot about the differences between knit fabrics. The scuba knit is a lot thicker so I made a few changes as I was sewing. On the first dress, I pressed both waist seams down, but to avoid bulk at the side seams in the scuba knit, I pressed one up and one down.

By this time, I also had a system for the collar. You sew the bottom of the collar (on the fronts) to the back neck, then the shoulder seams after that. This is the only tricky bit, as there is a nice 90 degree corner at the end of the collar seam where it meets the shoulder seam. I had the best luck sewing the shoulder seams from the sleeve toward the neck on each side. I pressed the collar seam up (towards the collar) and the shoulder seams back. I had turned under the seam allowance on the back neck facing on the first dress, making a neat inside collar with no visible seam allowances. On this one, I finished the facing and didn’t turn it under, which reduced the bulk of the seam. It still looks neat, and I like the look of the twin needle stitching to hold the facing in place.

This dress fits more snugly and the collar stands up higher. The scuba knit just has less stretch and drape. (I think it’s going to be warmer, too.) In future, I’ll cut a little more ease when using a scuba knit.

You can also see that while I was sewing the second Mirri, Nellie’s corner got a little more crowded. Now, she has to share the space with a bookcase to hold my stock for booksignings, as well as (inevitably) some dragons.

Finally, I graduated to more expensive fabric. I’d been saving this piece of cotton and lycra knit until my skills improved. It’s from the Netherlands and is really amazing. I loved it as soon as I saw it, but wasn’t sure what to make with it. Mr. Math always hums Go Ask Alice when I pull it out to look at it and it is a bit wild. (That’s why I love it.) I should have taken a picture of it uncut, but you can see it at EmmaOneSock where I bought it – this link will take you to their product page for this fabric, if they still have any of it left. I actually used the pieces cut of the scuba knit as my pattern when cutting this out—then I used the first cut skirt as a pattern to cut the second, so I could make sure the pattern matched up.

It still needs a good pressing, and to be hemmed, as well, but Nellie really wanted to try it on:

Mirri wrap dress sewn by Deborah Cooke Mirri wrap dress sewn by Deborah Cooke

Since I only had two panels, I didn’t have many options for placement of the pieces. In hindsight, I don’t know why I was convinced that the two skirt pieces had to be identical. There really is no matchy-matchy with this fabric and more chaos might have been more interesting. Also, if I’d used another zone for the second skirt piece, the two front bodices would have been more different than they are.

This knit is stretchier than the scuba knit, but still a bit thicker than the first knit fabric. The fabric is fabulous – very soft. It does have a little more tendency to stretch in the cross wise direction – and ripple – so I’ll stabilize the shoulder seams with interfacing the next time I knit with it. The fit is (no surprise) right in between Mirri 1 and Mirri 2.

I feel as if my choices for pattern placement didn’t do justice to the fabric and might have to buy another panel of it to make a T-shirt.

I’ve cut out (yet) another Mirri, but will show you that in another post. It’s in a lighter knit than the first one so I’m going to line at least the bodice. (New challenges abound!) Also, I’ll play compare-and-contrast between it and a wrap-front dress that I’ve cut using a pattern from one of the big pattern companies.

And yes, I love wearing dresses. 🙂

What do you think of my Mirri‘s?  The more, the Mirri-er?

Almost-Done Comfort Fade Cardigan

I’ve been working away steadily on my Comfort Fade Cardigan and have an update – it’s almost done!

The previous post on the sweater is here. I had finished the yoke and was comparing the fit to other sweaters in my closet. Here it is after I finished the body. (This one is top-down, so I did the bottom ribbing last.) It was tough to confirm the fit because the collar ribbing is so wide – at this point, when I tried it on, it seemed to be falling off my shoulders.Comfort Fade Cardigan in Rowan Colourspun knit by Deborah Cooke

I picked up the stitches to do the neck next (before the sleeves) to manage my yarn. I didn’t have enough of all the colourways, so decided to do the neck, then use half of whatever was left for each sleeve.

When I picked up the stitches for the neck, I forgot that the right side of the cardigan shows the purl side of the reverse stockinette. I also followed the directions and picked up with the first colour, which is my lightest one. At the bottom is my pick-up from the wrong side, which doesn’t look good on what will be the right side. At the top is my pick-up from the right side, which looks better.

Comfort Fade Cardigan in Rowan Colourspun knit by Deborah CookeI did decide to frog and reverse the order of the colourways on the collar, picking up with my last colour, which is the brown. It blends in better and looks neater. See?

Comfort Fade Cardigan in Rowan Colourspun knit by Deborah Cooke

The collar is shaped with short rows for this sweater and it’s huge. In the picture above, you can see the wedges of short rows that add to the depth of the collar. It’s quite squishy and luxurious.

I cheated on the sleeves and knitted them inside out. (Ha. This makes me feel so clever.) This way, I could knit them in the round instead of having the purl them. The only thing is that I had to remember to leave the ends on the side facing me, not the opposite side as usual.

Comfort Fade Cardigan in Rowan Colourspun knit by Deborah Cooke

The sleeves are a little long and I didn’t finish all of the decreases as specified. Here’s the almost-completed sweater – I balled up the other sleeve in the shoulder and you can see one of my DPNs peeking out there:

Comfort Fade Cardigan in Rowan Colourspun knit by Deborah Cooke

I couldn’t crop out that wonderful beam of sunlight. It’s so nice to see the sun again!

I’ll take some more pictures when the sweater is done. All I have to finish is that cuff. What do you think?

New Dragon Scale Mitts

My mitten-knitting has taken an interesting little turn of late: I made a second pair of dragon scale mitts.

You might remember the first pair, which looked like this:
Dragon scale mitts knit by Deborah CookeI used a free pattern for ribbed fingerless gloves in worsted weight, then metal dragon scales from Ring Lord. The post about them is right here.

I gave that pair away, but ordered more scales and finally got to them. Here’s the pair I made this week: Dragon Scale Mitts knit by Deborah Cooke Except for the red, they’re the same. The scales are anodized aluminum in the small size, in black and in red. I switched from the black yarn (which is Patons Classic Wool Worsted in Black Tweed) the yarn to Cascade Jewel Hand-dyed, so the knit edge at the fingers would match the scales. For these, I work a row with scales, then two rows plain – the first plain row is black and the second one red, then the rest of the mitt, including the row with the scales, is knit with red.

Dragon Scale Mitts knit by Deborah CookeI have Patons Classic Wool Worsted in red, which would have been the same yarn as the black tweed, but it’s more orange red than the scales. It’s called Cardinal, while this one I’d call Ruby. (It’s actually #9969 but that tells you just about nothing. “Ruby” is better!) Patons shows a Bright Red on their site, but I think that’s more of a brick colour. It’s possible that the shade I have is discontinued – it’s been in the stash for a while. The Cascade Jewel is discontinued but it’s a nice single ply yarn with a kettle-dyed look. I found this skein at the thrift store. If you find some, snatch it up – it reminds me of Malabrigo Worsted, though isn’t quite as soft. (I hope this means it won’t pill as readily.)

I also ordered some different scales from Ring Lord, including clear plastic ones and ones that glow in the dark. (They work! Ha! Now I have to find a fun color for the yarn.)

In the course of the big clean-and-organize of my craft stuff, I also found (finally!) a wonderful pattern for elbow-length fingerless gloves. I knit these from a Fleece Artist kit and gave the mitts to my niece. I liked them a lot, though, and remember that it had a lovely fit. I looked high and low for this pattern and found it (of course) in the most unlikely of places – with the remaining yarn from the kit. Gah. It’s called Hans – that’s a Ravelry link.

I cast on a pair to check the fit again, as I think the pattern might be easily modified to have scales. Here’s the first one, without scales.

Hans knit by Deborah Cooke in Patons Rumor

The yarn is discontinued – it’s Patons Rumour in a colourway that was never distributed. It makes me think of dragonflies.

What have you been knitting this week?