Yarn Tasting: Lindy Chain

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I’m finally up to rattling off a couple of knitted somethings for my nieces this summer.  Wanting to use linen for these, I thought I would try with some linen blend yarn I’ve had my eye on for a while  ~~  Knit Picks Lindy Chain .

This yarn is a chain of a super fine single, rather than plied, 70% linen/30% pima cotton, fingering weight, and 180 yards to 50g ball.  Crisp, attentive, not rascally, but soft, and I feel like the pima cotton element is making it easier on my fingers too.   I’ve done acres of knitting the  hem with 2.75mm needles, and graduated to 3.25mm for the stockinette.  I got three balls in each color for two sleeveless items, but let me tell you, as this yarn is not wool, I have no bearing as to how yardage and weight work together for a garment, this is me navigating the sea of unknown.

Hey, did you know that Miss Eighteen is leaving for college this summer? This won’t be the last of the darling duo, not by a long shot, but I did want to send Miss Eighteen off with a recent sweater success fresh in her thoughts, as we did miss the Vernal Equinox Spring Tee due to my incessant moving about.  So I’m giving myself until mid July to finish two linen summery things. Counting down. Stay tuned.

Artful Patches

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These days when I take a needle & thread to mend,

I attempt to do something artful.

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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.

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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:

  1. Whip stitch hole shut, aligning grain of warp & weft  threads as much as possible.
  2. Cut squares of new fabric on the grain, big enough to fold back up to 1/4 inch hem on all edges.
  3. Iron all edges to fold in, and pin to garment with care to aligning grain of fabric with both garment and patch.
  4. 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!

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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!

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new from old

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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.

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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.

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And I left a little open at the bottom.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

Another really nice shirt.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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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…

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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

 

A really nice shirt.

jenjoycedesign© a really nice shirt

I love making new from old.

Upcycling something  from a $2 mens thrift linen-cotton shirt… into mine.

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( 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.

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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.

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I made a collar and lined with some other cotton/linen I had handy, but ended up hating it, so ripped it off.

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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.

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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”

Linen Shirt Make-over

jenjoycedesign©linen shirt makeoverMy 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.
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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.
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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!

Yarn Tasting: Shibui Twig

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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!

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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!

Refashioned

jenjoycedesign©linen-shirt-upcycle-back 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.

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Such as the cut off cuff hemmed with sleeve placket and then a button for show.

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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 !

jenjoycedesign©linen-shirt-upcycle-detail (1) I also separated the felled seam at the bottom edge and rather hurriedly made a make-shift after-thought side seam placket, and decided to make the front shorter.

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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?

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Linen Lace

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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.

Good Things

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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.

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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 . . .

jenjoycedesign©my-darning-egg. . . a darning egg.

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.

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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 !

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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.

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 My Good Things,

 unworldly, and essential.

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The Personality of Linen

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.

New From Old

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”.


Well,  not exactly a sow’s ear. But a dearly beloved shirt I’ve worn to threads, bought ages ago from a thift-shop. Twice used !

Really nice linen.

Probably Irish Linen.

From the back side I cut out a large square.

(really, I ripped on the grain, for perfect edges)

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.

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