Another in the old German silent black & white films, I seem to have discovered a treasure trove in the last one posted about Flax spinning in 1930’s Germany. This film was made in 1964, when I was still sleeping in a crib, and about 23 years more yet before I learned to spin. I really love this one, it is long and very intensive film on the process. I hope to copy this woodworker one day and make a rudimentary version of a spinning wheel, or at least some spinning related bits & bobs, from some of the dead maple trees fallen all about around here. I may be dreaming but I am admiring most of all the shop of all hand-working tools as much as the spinning wheel being made. I love best the grand close when he brings it to his wife to spin some flax on it! Hope you enjoy . . .
What a coincidence, yesterday just after I posted about Virginia learning to spin on an old flax spinning wheel and the little flax knitted bag she made and sent to me, I found this little silent black & white film from Germany, which seems to be an excellent demonstration about the art of dressing the distaff and using an authentic flax spinning wheel and skein winder. Although claiming total ignorance here as I am not sure what’s going on in the very end where the lady puts something of seeming importance on her head covering the top knot in her hair, then marches on out through the village with the spun flax. Can anybody enlighten us in the comments? Anyway I hope you enjoy it . . .
Something arrived in the post today, from Pennsylvania, a dear little handspun & knit flax bag from my good friend Virginia!
Backstory: A couple of years ago after moving back into my loft studio, I was hoarding fiber to spin. Sometime in the last year Virginia announced that she was going to learn to spin and got a hold of an authentic antique flax spinning wheel she was renovating ((they have all the great antiques in Pennsylvania I tell you!)) So, in a gesture of congratulations and encouragement, I sent her the flax fiber I had bought, it was not enough to overwhelm a brand new spinner, just a taste of flax fibers. Besides, I still have not spun flax, wasn’t planning on it any time soon, and she had the flax wheel! Well, the dear woman does not dawdle, ever, and she spun that flax up as soon as she could get her wheel going, purring I might say, and look what she made for me out of the flax she spun! As a beginner she has already surpassed me, and I am speechless, utterly. The generosity of the knitters and spinners in my life astounds me.
Thank you Virginia, from the bottom of my heart, and I will cherish it !
Its been a lovely relaxing couple of weeks since not allowing myself any serious knitting. I have had a pile of linen shirts & pants staring me down that have been needing patches, and in recent days I finally attended to the chore. Actually, its not a chore at all, mostly it is an opportunity to be creative. I am refining my patching technique to using the “pad stitch”, effectively stitching the layer with a hole against a patch layer, and learning that this pad stitching thing really strengthens the all over fabric from the back of the work, while keeping the little tacks of thread in front looking as artful as can be, nearly like sashiko. With a back stitch around the perimeter of the patch, so that in front it looks like little bead stitches, but again, it is all quite well fastened as it has a lot of thread running along the back. Ironing well between each step, I find the fabric grain stays straight much better too. And while I only demonstrate an outside facing patch, it would of course be much more couture if a second patch were placed on the inside of the shirt, pad stitching through all three layers and sandwiching the actual shirt layer between so no raw edges of the hole ever would show on the inside, but I’m just not that fussy. If you click the 1st image in the mosaic, you will see the steps and stitching . . .
This is my first patch I’ve used linen thread on linen fabric, and I am smitten with the feel, and the look of it. It is a little thicker, but more pliable, and works fine with linen. Oh, and I have a thing about linen going way back in archives, and so that most of my clothes I’m wearing are linen, and Irish linen is my favorite linen of all linens. This is an Irish linen shirt . . crisp and long wearing . . . just an old gardening & hiking shirt which has many patches all over it, but worth every one, some patches overlapping patches, because it is lasting me quite a long time. After the wildfire I ended up buying mostly used linen clothes on ebay, really affordable , but also the odd thing is I’m not really comfortable in new clothes anymore. So the great thing is that I could say I’ve gotten a lot of practice developing my mending methods — I swear by pad stitching! — and going for the element of very functional as well as the artfulness of nice hand-stitching.
These days when I take a needle & thread to mend,
I attempt to do something artful.
Becoming intimately involved with warp & weft in the fabric of something that you wear on your skin is beautiful,
and maybe even a little bit essential.
It is such a novelty these days it seems, to have any skills at all in mending.
Do you recall this linen shirt make-over from nearly two years ago? You might recognize the collar re-do, and already I have nearly worn a hole in the linen, and this is just a fun patch job of it, although the white-on-white is not really easy to see the detail, especially in this early morning light.
I have a second shirt I’m patching here, that is full of holes, and I am using it to practice my new ‘quilt patching’ technique.
Here is what I do:
- Whip stitch hole shut, aligning grain of warp & weft threads as much as possible.
- Cut squares of new fabric on the grain, big enough to fold back up to 1/4 inch hem on all edges.
- Iron all edges to fold in, and pin to garment with care to aligning grain of fabric with both garment and patch.
- With a simple running stitch, sew as close to edge as possible, then again, artfully fill in the patch with shapes, ‘quilting’ the patch against garment, which improves wear of patch as well as looks good. Almost as if you stuck on squares to quilt for the pure craft of it!
Quite a hash of patches, but it makes the shirt all that much more of a treat to wear again!
Just in case you’re curious, you can see all posts “New From Old” HERE (including this one, but scroll down!) This category has grown over the years, sharing artful mending & upcycling that I have done, where even I go deep into the warp & weft and try my hand at difficult weave darning.
I hope you try the quilted patch on one of your holey shirts, and see how useful as well as lovely a simple running stitch can be!
I just took scissors to another thrift shop mens linen shirt, and made it into a loose draping toss-over shirt with the original cuff placket still showing after I cut off the cuff.
I simply cut off the sleeves about 1-1/2″ longer than I want, made a pleat, and then pressed it all into a half-inch hemmed cuff.
This time I tried popping off all the buttons on the button bands and simply sew’d the button band over the button-hole band, because as I don’t ordinarily iron, and loath gaping button bands in front, and at the bust-line especially. Its kind of funky an interesting detail,but worth the experiment.
And I left a little open at the bottom.
I was thinking I’d go over it with shell buttons and just sew them on for the faux affect, but then I will wait & decide later, for some shirts are nice to have just pure linen.
The learning curve on this one was, 1. never buy a shirt with front pocket flaps thinking they’re easy to take off (the seam ripping was torturous and long). Although the holes from the previous stitches show now, they’ll go away in the next few washings. Or maybe never.
And 2. custom bias tape rocks! With the same kind of fabric, and it can be made easily. (This I had to use some linen from my stash, as it must be on the bias), but it is a great way to finish a neckline which is curving, for one really doesn’t want a ripply rolled hem like I did on this one. This is the little bias tape tool (admittedly I don’t really know what that swiveling part on it is for)… pull the fabric through and iron and neaten the folds to the middle as it comes out~~ voila!
Then I simply sewed the raw edge of the neckline to it and folded it on the inside to sew down. Simple, tidy, and sews up so professional looking. I found a good video tutorial on how to make bias tape here
I didn’t have enough cut from the length to make the usual front insert or cuffs, so this is an experiment of how I can change the look minimally.
The nicest thing about white linen is the transparency so visible when held up against light. The warp and weft of flax threads speak a language I can understand, sort of like the neat pleats and double-folded hems are sharing with me their secrets, all which make the shirt feel crisp and just a little bit like a veiled treasure.
I’ve been on a trend lately of simple collarless shirts, for in cool weather they just invite a nice lace cowl, and I am slowly acquiring quite a few of those, more recently craving to cast on with some fine flax lace yarn.
To see all of my New From Old projects, click HERE.
And lastly, is it my imagination or are most of my photos in this post really fuzzy?
Okay, I’m on a roll, I fall asleep dreaming about taking scissors to over-sized and hardly worn shirts, and refashioning them into one-of-a-kind personalized shirts. The original, a Talbots brand women’s tunic, in gorgeous jet black in lightweight Irish linen, found at a thrift shop somewhere for a few dollars.
Refashioned into what is becoming my signature look, a boxy throw-over style inspired by my favorite brand FLAX, with practical as well as flirty finishes…
This style collar is hand-sewn inside of the edge of plain neckline hem, then folded over to make a very nice look. However, after I added the decorative length to the bottom, I felt that the sleeves were too short and I wanted to use those rectangular pieces in the end for cuffs, so I undid the collar and reworked the pieces into wide faced cuffs able to be folded up, with a single wide pleat into the sleeve.
I had a lot of length to work with , cut it in half widthwise, and from those I made; 1. the insert down the middle, having taken out the button placket, and 2. with left over pieces I sewed together into one piece , then worked to fit shirt body with narrow little pleats spaced out and pinned around 16 times around circumference (intentionally not too neat) to fit the bottom hem. Result is a slight charming skirty edging…I suppose this is officially called a ‘peplum’ finish.
Having decided not to cut off the existing narrow hem of the neckline, after cutting off the button bands, I just made a hemmed piece over the insert.
A very funky little bit, but that sort of detail is what makes each shirt one-of-a-kind, in that I must improvise with what little sleeve and body length I cut off. You will find this to be true also, when you begin to take scissors to old shirts to make new shirts.
More thoughts on the collar…
The really nifty thing is that collars are like shirt accessories, as are buttons, a separate collar piece hand-stitched to the inside makes a dashing old-fashioned finish, in white, blue plaid, or whatever, ( especially including some old lace ones I have ~~thanks Sorcha!) . Just switch them out like they did in the bygone era, for both women’s dress and men’s shirt collars in those days were meant to be replaced per occasion or just when worn out. Collars and cuffs took the beating of the wear, and were often replaced (as I learned from Morrie ~ thanks!)
Anyway, there was no shaping involved in this type of collar, nor was there a collar stand, I just whip-stitched two rectangular pieces and they folded over making their own stand. (I actually moved them around, and tried on basted before stitching them on secure.
Its always a bit of a gamble and some shirts just are ruined, but after doing it a few times, you’ll be surprised to find how easy it is. Much easier than sewing a whole garment from cut yardage, and far less spendy in many cases. By the way, if & when I make or find the perfect collar for this shirt, I will post it. If you can find this book by Odhams Press (dated 1930’s) there’s a chapter called ‘New Collars for Old Dresses’ and I highly recommend learning this old-fashioned skill of refashioning.
There was some discussion in the last post about making big brother/sisters outgrown shirts into refashioned ones for little brother/sister. I don’t have any kids clothes around, but would love to hear from any of you out there who are keen to try.
That about wraps it up for refashioning of Shirt Two, and now I ought to be knitting Autumn Sweaters.
See all posts New From Old , including my tips on what I have done ~~ HERE
I love making new from old.
Upcycling something from a $2 mens thrift linen-cotton shirt… into mine.
( I did get a little sloppy on the rolled hem at the neckline ~ I was rather in a hurry. )
I love simple utilitarian clothing, pleats, and especially lovely buttons. I have a jar of these natural shell buttons which have accumulated from years of thrift shop shirts, and I keep them just for this sort of occasion.
Only a few simple steps to transform from men’s button-up shirt to a rather casual boxy throw-over shirt, which I love in linen, because after several washings, the boxiness begins to drape and all the sloppy bits will blend in with the original shirt’s crinkled old hems.
This is how I do it: First I cut off the neck under the collar stand, the cuffs, and button bands, and as much length as you don’t need. From the cut-off length in body and sleeves, you can make middle insert in place of button band, cuffs, or other details such as a collar. This time I cut down a little from the stand in front so the neckline in front of the new shirt rests a little lower.
Note: How many extra bits you are able to make all depends on how long the shirt is and how much you can cut off length in body and sleeves after trying on and marking the length you would like it to be, plus hem allowance.
My thing lately is to take a strip off cut-off length (the length grain will have to be inserted cross-grain fashion, which is a nice contrast, and sew it on to cut front pieces raw edge, using French seams.
I made a collar and lined with some other cotton/linen I had handy, but ended up hating it, so ripped it off.
Finishes: The neck was way too gaping as the front insert was rather wide, as were the sleeves, so I pleated those loose areas after it was all finished, and sewed shell buttons on purely for aesthetic, not really doing anything, as you can see also on front pocket.
Over all it is a really fast way to upcycle and make a really nice shirt for myself in less than an hour. The best discovery I found in this make-over shirt is how buttons on pockets are really a lovely accent just sewn on, or to cover the opening of a pleat. I just love shell buttons & linen!
Edit in, per request : Link to all projects “New From Old”
I woke this morning with a vivid realization that a new experience awaits, blossomed from an epic love relationship of linen. As I ponder this, it would just have to be, as my love of knitting, and the fact that living in a climate where dryness and heat are a way of life half of the year, and well, even when it is cool and damp, I love to wear linen.
Since posting about this yarn ages ago, originally I was intending it to be a lace thing, but I let it hibernate so long that it now wants to be something else. I think. Maybe. I am ambivalently thinking about making it into an actual shirt. I really don’t want to call it a ‘sweater’ as that evokes cold weather & sheepy cozy wooliness, which this is most definitely not. It will be a highly breathy creature, billowing in the breeze hanging dry on the clothes line after being washed in the washer with a load of jeans . . . something one could not dream of doing to wool . . . something one could toss on and wear into the town on a balmy day.
Oh, but first, it is understood that knitted linen fabric is nothing like woven linen fabric, and as I am a knitter, and not a weaver, the obvious task at hand is to master the fiber with knitting needles, wrestling it into submission as the flax was to make the linen strands. Interestingly, linen made from flax, a vegan sustainable resource which is in itself a hardy most beautiful plant. Just look at it’s pure light blue delicate flower ! How can something so delicate come from a plant that is so incredibly strong and tough and enduring? I love the metaphor of the delicate and enduring hardiness all in one , I really identify.
My love of linen has grown deeper with time. Its rustic wholesome weave holds my appreciation like no other textile. The warm shades of grey form layers in the seams, and when held in front of angled light from the late or early sun, it is simply beautiful. Just to see it that way I am able to almost smell its fragrance, as if the presence remains of that field of flax from which it was born, and it my skin longs to be against it.
So, I made another shirt for myself, new out of old.
Making new clothes out of old is one of those things which I absolutely love to do but takes a bit of skill. Pardon the wrinkly shirt photo, but that is actually the way I prefer it, not ironed too much, just a little, for linen has such personality with a little texture showing. Months ago I bought a linen shirt from the thrift shop and I was wearing it around like a tent recently, and yesterday I finally cut into it. Now it is more of my style, it has personality, it is natural, totally unique, and has a feminine classic charm. There was plenty needle threading and hand-sewing, which I adore actually, and the machine work was plenty too.
Here’s what I did: I first ripped off the breast pocket, then cut out the big bulky button bands and collar. Then I cut off some off of the length which gave me enough fabric to sew in a ‘gusset’ to bridge the two fronts in the absence of the button band. I cut off the cuffs and cuff button placket, completely, which left sleeves a little short.
From two sleeves I had cut before off of another linen shirt in my pile of linen scraps, I made simple wide folded faced bands to extend into a sort of cuff, and pleated the excess sleeve material to fit… a fast & easy way to go… and looks great rolled up. Usually I just hem the neck opening without a collar, but this time I had envisioned a peter-pan collar, so I set into making a collar custom to the cut-out neck, with the other linen sleeve in the scrap pile, and with the help of this book, published 1930’s….
Finished, and excited to get involved in a very summertime project for the hot weather, and that is making new out of old, re-making every possible tent-like mens’ linen shirt I possibly can get a hold of , and immerse myself in the metamorphosis of them into artful beautiful shirts for *moi*. My wardrobe is anorexic, but is on the mend, and I’m absolutely loving my needlework, on a quiet mountain, punctuated by very little else, which suits me just fine.
I’m ready to go at it with another!
If ‘rascally’ could be a word to describe yarn, I would say linen yarn is very much so. Crisp, unyielding, stubborn, and relentlessly tough stuff, linen has a great appeal to me… oh such like rusty found things, or uncushioned old benches, or crackled old earthenware. I love this stuff, and wear it constantly, year round.
Even winding it off the swift, into a ball , it has a mind of it’s own…rather messy in appearance, not laying in unison with other strands, wrestling it into a ball, as it tried to be a cube, was a task in and of it’s own!
I will tame it. It may take ten cycles in the washer & dryer along with a load of white towels, but it will soften and be every bit as wonderful as my favorite linen shirts.
This yarn however, is only 46% linen. I bought it to dip my toes into the feel of linen, for I do have 3 skeins of navy colored 100% wet spun linen waiting to be knit up. It is also 42% recycled silk, and 12% wool. It is Shibui “Twig” , and there is 190 yards of it. I am going to be sampling this lovely summery linen blend with my Una Cosettina pattern , as I have gone quite on a tangent today.
I am putting down Snowmelt gaiters for a short while, let them sit on a table for a few days. What is the rush anyway? I am my own competition , I feel suddenly today like having a little play time, so here I am yarn tasting again, going to pour myself a tall one of what I consider the perfect Northern California yarn!
I took a big men’s blue check linen shirt I found at Goodwill Thrift shop a few months ago, for a couple of dollars, and this morning reconstructed it into a pretty shirt with details I have done so much I call them ‘signature’. I took my time before I cut with scissors because I really put a lot of thought into the details I wanted.
Such as the cut off cuff hemmed with sleeve placket and then a button for show.
This time I took some of the length cut off from the shirt and made a little detail sewn over pleats. (oops, I forgot to photograph the before photo), then added buttons. I love it !
Also I sewed the button placket down because I hate gaping button plackets on shirts. Voila ! Refashioned 100% linen summer shirt ! For two dollars !!! Did I already mention that I love it?
Recently I stopped in on my Local Yarn Shop and bought these scrumptious sapphire gems of Louet Euroflax Wet-Spun Linen yarn. There were three x 270 yard skeins of fine sport weight yarn that screamed ‘take me home with you!’ all in unison, and so I did. Actually, had I not had a colossal store credit from a very generous gift, I would never have splurged on these, it was just one of those rare situations.
The honest truth is, I’ve been hankering to try the Euroflax yarn forever, and to try a simple lace stole too, so why not make this my starting point? Knowing full well that I am soon to be knitting up something for Spring Sweaters for my nieces, it will have to be something I can put down for a good long rest and just pick up whenever . . . a ‘take along in my knit-walking bag’ sort of thing, for the months ahead in spring and summer. In fact, I can’t imagine anything nicer to knit in hot weather than deep blue cool tones of linen, in the color of cold mountain lakes, or new jeans.
That’s right, I don’t expect to finish anytime soon, but I can hardly wait to begin those yarn-overs, just wading through row after row of crisp linen. Just something about linen which tickles a spot for me, and I feel though it was a bit of a stash-quest, it will be ready when I decide to cast on.
Wholesome and necessary are words that describe two materials known to humankind for thousands of years; linen & shell. I shouldn’t crave these things, these essential objects as I do, but I do love the little unworldly things in life… like ice cream, linen, and shell buttons.
Let me begin with my love of linen. This is not just a fondness, but an intimate part of me, and the way I dress. I could happily wear a fine white linen blouse every day of the year. I hardly can begin to describe why, or when this became so.
So in my limited & dwindling number of linen shirts, there have been more given up to the linen shirt graveyard than I care to face. I am a thrift shopper, and take the time to sleuth out fine linen shirts for dollars, alter when I must, and have cause to celebrate when I find one perfect just as is. I have come to face another fact, that I’ve been long overdue in learning to use this odd wooden thing . . .
In above photo is my first attempt at darning, and I am so pleased with myself I can’t even tell you ! After two darned ‘holes’ , and switching from off-white to white thread, I started to get the knack. I managed to close up and fill in the underarm disaster areas which my favorite shirts began to show, after near constant wear, and the final darning jobs were alright by me.
Satisfied that my work is pretty much unnoticeable when not back-lit, I decided to try the small holes which happened to riddle my favorite shirt, one with a label that reads the beautiful words “100% Irish Linen”. I managed to darn all the wee holes in it, ‘it’ which is my favorite linen gig shirt which has not been worn, but hanging in the closet for a couple of years now. I was floating for a whole day from this darning epiphany !
But sometimes one must surrender a great linen shirt , in the end, to the scizzors (as I had in this post ), for it becomes too thread-bare. I made a fine linen hand kerchief, and I even got to collect the lovely shell buttons from it. Those pearly surfaced little treasures are put in a little jar , a present-place destination, an artful limbo, for buttons of linen shirts past and future.
My Good Things,
unworldly, and essential.
When I was visiting in Vancouver the other week, Jeff’s sister just tossed a couple of her linen wardrobe items in my hands and asked me if I would like them (she does this often!). But of course ! And so fiendishly I stash them in my travel bag to take home. It wasn’t for a week after arriving home however, did I take this out and even try to wear it (truthfully, I almost declined it at first). I looked at it, thinking, wondering how does one wear a ‘short dress’… or is it a tunic? After putting it on over equally faded plum colored pants, I decided it is indeed what one refers to as a smock.
I’m triple smitten with this smock ! For one, it is Flax label, made of (mostly) linen, and I love, love, love linen ! I especially love linen’s personality when it is washed and dried on the line. It’s texture which speaks like no other cloth. To iron linen is to tape shut it’s mouth as it speaks it’s poetry ! Though I do love how immaculate and fresh that ironed linen is, too, though not quite as much. This particular smock, is not full-bred linen, but part cotton, thus lacks a little luster in the unpressed form.
Secondly, it has huge pockets which I discovered makes it a thoroughly ideal utilitarian thing to wear, as I found myself both gathering tomatoes and snipped parsley in the garden and stashing them in the voluminous caverns hidden inside the pleated ‘skirt’ of this thing. Having discovered how well the pockets had become useful servants to me, I wore this beauty out for a couple of knit-walks and didn’t even need to carry my yarn bags, just the pockets by themselves worked wonderfully. So the smock is ideal for holding yarn as well as it is garden produce !
Thirdly, it is a lovely shade of blue. I nearly titled this post ‘The personality of Blue’. Does one call that French Bleu? Perhaps it is the color of the flower of flax, from which linen is made? Folks, I’ve decided that after two-and-a-half decades of avoiding blue, I am totally and unexpectedly thirsting for it! This shade especially, this leaning toward indigo. I also am drawn to the deep azure tones of the sky at altitude, or blue faded to near white. Well, I’ll explore it with this linen smock for starters, the mood it imparts into my wardrobe. (Note, these photos were taken in the first light of the morning the other day, and the camera rather fuzzed up the image, but the colors are spot on. )
I had been winding off two shades of blue recently, as I’m up to a little knitting something in two shades of blue.
I took a short break from knitting, and made something fresh and new from something old and tatter’d. Like the saying goes ” a silk purse from a sow’s ear”.
Really nice linen.
From the back side I cut out a large square.
Folded hem, ironed, pinned, then
settled into stitching . . .
I am intrigued with the thing which is mitered corners.
I figured out how to do it all by myself !
Well, not exactly a silk purse, but in my opinion better.
Something new from something old .
A hand-made linen handkerchief !
Twenty by twenty inches. A generous sized hikers’ pocket companion.
* * *