The Green Herd Grows

Some of you may have noticed that I have an affection for vintage sewing machines, and that I particularly like the green machines.

Just to recap the rest of the Green Herd, here’s the Arrow and here are the Singer 185, the Elna Supermatic (actually there are two Elna Supermatics, but only one is green) and the Hugin. Recently, we saw another green machine (I forget what kind) and Mr. Math was prepared to lug it home. Nope. It didn’t make my little heart go pit-a-pat. I told him that there was only one more green machine I wanted – a Grasshopper.

Hip hop. Guess what turned up?


This is an Elna #1, commonly called an Elna Grasshopper. It is the first design produced by Elna, beginning in 1940. This particular machine dates from 1950 and was made/wired for the Canadian market from the outset. It has a knee control, which is folded down in this shot. The entire top plate is actually just sitting in place in this shot, because I have taken it off to clean inside the arm. (Dustbunnies love it in there.) It’s a straight stitch machine and this one sews beautifully. The green and black box to the back left is the attachments box, and this one came with all its special feet. It also has an aluminum plate, and I can’t figure out what the heck that’s for. As is typical of many Elna models, the hard carrying case unfolds to create a table that fits around the free arm of the machine to make a larger sewing surface.

Here’s some more about Grasshoppers. There are pix on this site of the case, the case being used as a table, and the nifty way the accessories box fits along side the machine in the case.

This just might mean that the Green Herd is complete…

P.S. Here’s the mysterious aluminum plate that came in the attachments box. It says “Swiss made” like all of the Elna attachments so, so it must belong. It looks so useful, but I can’t figure out what it’s for.

Stripey Noro Messenger Bag

Well, this week we have kind of a re-useable bag theme going on here, at Alive & Knitting. First off there were bags we could knit or crochet. Then there were bags we could make from reclaimed or vintage sweaters, that had been felted to make them tough. And now, here’s a bag knitted from scratch, ready to be used again and again and again.

But first, a bit of a saga. Remember the sweater I made from Noro Kureyon? Well, I had some leftover yarn and wanted to use it. (Stash management is key, right?) Remember my Dr. Seuss Socks? There’s just something about using a self-striping yarn like Noro in stripes that works for me in a big way. Noro Kureyon is said to felt wonderfully, so I decided to make a felted stripey messenger bag with those leftovers.

I paired the Noro with a colourway of Patons Classic Wool that I bought on a pilgrimage to Spinrite – thus, yes, doing some responsible stashbusting while pursuing a responsible project. This must have been a test colour because it’s not on their site. ($9.99 C for 8 x 100g balls. That’s not temptation. That’s inescapable acquisition.) Actually, there were a number of colours available at the mill, all of which had one ply that had a long graduated colour change. This is a mustard with the coloured ply changing through reds and purples. It worked well with the greens in the Noro Kureyon.

This is the massive project that has been taking up my needle time. After all the knitting was done, I wanted to add I-cord. Ugh. There are about 10,000 miles of applied I-cord on this bag. It’s not strictly necessary, but it does make the edges look so much better. Here’s a shot of the I-cord in progress – it’s done on the left but not on the right:

See how the I-cord neatens up those edges, and makes the bag look more crisp? I get really bored knitting I-cord, but I love the results.

I found some amazing buttons in my stash – I bought these because they were so wonderful, but never found a project for them. (Until now.) They look like pieces of amber, but have little lines inside them – Mr. C. says they look like rutilated quartz. I’m taking his word on that.

And here’s the finished bag before felting:

It’s HUGE. The edges wanted to roll so I pinned them down – here’s hoping they just stay flat once it’s felted.

And here it is, after felting and finishing. Of course, it has a zipper and a lining, because I’m kind of compulsive like that.

My Stripey Noro Messenger Bag

I LOVE this bag! What do you think of it?

The pattern, btw, is posted on Ravelry – after you log in, check my profile DCDknits. I’ve requested that my patterns be visible to non-registered Ravelry users (i.e. the whole world) but am in the queue to have my settings changed.

Vintage Bags

Another day on the re-useable bag theme. Today’s bags aren’t vintage bags in themselves – although it can be fun to score an oldie but a goody. I saw airline totes from the 1970’s the other day in a thrift store. So cool!

These bags are made from old sweaters.

It’s one thing to felt a piece of new knitting. But you can also felt a piece of old knitting. Or machine knitting. Or make use of a wool sweater that you might not use otherwise – one that doesn’t fit anymore, one you don’t like anymore, or one you bought for $2 at the thrift store.

Like this:

My Felted Vintage Bags

The first thing you need is a 100% wool sweater. Ideally, it will also be a colour (or pattern) that you like.

The second thing you need to do is felt the sweater. Knot it up in a pillow case and toss it into the washing machine, with some towels and/or jeans to balance the load. If it doesn’t felt enough to lose stitch definition – i.e. if you can see the individual stitches – put it in for another round. Heat and agitation make wool felt. Front loading washing machines are more gentle and will require more repeats to felt an item. Hot water works faster. You can also fill the tub with hot water, toss in the sweater, put on your rubber boots, grab a plunger and get in there to agitate it. Your choice.

Once the sweater is felted, you need to decide which part to use. You can cut felted knitting without worrying about it unravelling. The bag on the left was the simplest kind – I cut it off straight at the underarms. The bottom ribbing became a seam allowance (a big one) in the base. The base is oval, just eyeballed from the size of the bottom plus a seam allowance. I edged the top with some piping from my fabric stash, made matching handles and a lining, and that’s that. I’m not much for open bags, but that would have been even easier.

The one on the right was one I wanted to be as big as possible. Those fake suede patches at the base actually cover the armscye from where I cut away the sleeves. The waist ribbing from the sweater is at the top, underneath that piping edge. This one has a square bottom which was a little bit trickier to sew. To cut the right size rectangle, I flattened the bag, then measured the whole width. The sum of the narrow side of the rectangle base and the long side of that base had to be the same as the width of the flattened bag. The other thing with this one was that I discovered after getting home that it had one little moth nibble. I unravelled some yarn from the cuff (which I knew I was going to cut off anyway) and darned the hole with the same wool. After felting, I couldn’t even find the repair again.

Have you made any bags from recycled or thrifted materials?

A Green Theme for the Week

I thought this week we’d explore a theme. And since we’re beginning to peek at green topics, and since this is a knitting blog (as well as a writing blog) I thought we’d look at a knitting project that’s green.

Re-useable bags.

Where I live, a lot of vendors no longer supply plastic bags when you make a purchase. You can buy one, for a nickel, but that’s a bit nuts – these bags are worth about a hundredth of a cent (which makes me think that these vendors have found another new profit source, but that’s a whole ‘nuther story.) If you’re stuck, you can do it once in a while, but it makes more sense to shop prepared. The underlying notion is that landfills are filling up with plastic bags, which are made from petroleum products, and generally that the world would be a much greener place if we could stop using them.

The first way to address this is to collect bags of your own. A lot of shops locally have been providing a re-useable bag with a purchase of a certain amount. These are useful, but invariably have logos on them. I find it a bit weird to shop in Store A, then have my purchases loaded into a bag emblazoned with Store B’s logo. Maybe that’s just me. I still keep them all and use them.

The second option, a far more creative choice, is to make a re-useable bag. No logo and it would be one of a kind! There are tons of patterns for re-useable bags out there in the big wide knitting world, most of which are made from cotton or hemp. What’s nice about these is that they scrunch down to almost nothing – easy to jam into your purse or your pocket – and you can often use up bits of stash to get them done.

Here are a few for you to try:

Everlasting Bag Stopper – a free pattern on Knitty, which gathers into its own pouch.

Grrlfriend Market Bag – you can snag the .pdf on Ravelry or from this page. This one is fun because it’s made of reclaimed yarn, unravelled from a sweater.

Crochet Market Bag – in Sugar ‘N Cream or Bernat Handicrafter. I have a couple of these kicking around. This is a free pattern, but you have to create a user account and log in to get the pattern. (Actually, most yarn companies have a free pattern for a market bag. If you already have an account at one company’s website, do a search there. It looks like Lion Brand has about four of them, for example.)

Tomorrow, we’ll look at another option – that of making re-useable bags from thrift store finds. This is a favourite hobby of mine, like making something from nothing, and maybe you’re an enthusiast too.

Meanwhile, tell me – have you made knitted or crocheted shopping bags of your own? Do you have any fave patterns?

And here’s a fun question – if you were a dragon shapeshifter (like the Pyr) what kind of shopping bag would you use?

Going Green(er)

One of the goals of my Pyr guys in the Dragonfire series is saving the earth. And one of the forces that the earth needs to be saved from in this series is humans and our influence on the planet.

So, maybe it’s pertinent once in a while to talk about “green” issues here. And what I’m going to talk about today is reducing one’s environmental footprint. This is an analogy – an environmental footprint being a measure of how much of a mark your lifestyle has upon the planet. It’s a reference to the idea of leaving a footprint in a wilderness zone, quite possibly to an old saying “Take nothing but a picture; leave nothing but a footprint.” How we choose to live, quite reasonably, influences our energy consumption, our waste generation, our consumption of products, etc. etc. and generally, the size of the mark our presence makes on the earth.

Lots of people these days are talking about diminishing our individual (or household) environmental footprints. Once upon a time, there was a book called FIFTY SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO SAVE THE EARTH. I liked this book a lot because its core notion was that small gestures add up – it was working for the cumulative effect. So, each change was comparatively minor, but the assumption was that, in unison, the changes would make a difference. The more people who took on those changes, the greater the cumulative influence.

My current issue of choice is the dryer. I don’t like the dryer. I don’t like how clothes smell when they come out of it. I don’t like the static that it puts in fabric, or how hard it is on fabrics. Ours is an old monster, and it’s losing functionality – right now, HOT works, which means everything gets cooked and shrunk. Ick. A new dryer is on the agenda for the future-and-yet-undetermined date when that room gets renovated. For the moment, I live with this one, and quietly despise it. (The feeling is probably mutual.)

Recognizing this, Mr. C. bought and installed a clothesline, one of those ones that works like a square umbrella.

Wow. I love it. I’d forgotten how much I like hanging out the laundry in the sunshine. It also takes longer than I recalled, but it’s good thinking time. The other thing I’d forgotten is how heavy a basket of wet towels is. I get a good workout when I do laundry now. Even if the washing machine was inside the door closest to the clothesline, it would be a bit of work to haul them over there – there’s a set of stairs between my washer and clothesline. It’s clear after a day of doing laundry just how those women in 1950’s ads had teeny tiny wasp-waists!

Plus each time I let that dryer sit and sulk, choosing the clothesline instead, I reduce our environmental footprint. As a bonus, I get some aerobic workout, esp if I take the stairs fast. It’s all good.

How about you? Do you have a clothesline? (Is it true that some neighbourhoods ban them?) Have you made any changes recently to green up your life?