Aren’t libraries brilliant? I was in our local one yesterday, child free, with my husband (luxury) and I remembered to look at books for me. I started by looking at knitting books. The only one there yesterday that I liked the look of was Knits Men Want. The synopsis is that a Male Knitwear Designer is helping his fellow Female Knitting Fanatics with the thorny problem of the man in their life not wanting to wear anything they knit for them. The answer (spoiler alert) is to knit them something they want to wear rather than something you want to knit and the key points given are to keep it simple, use plain muted colours they like and yarn that doesn’t make them itch. I’ve taken it out on loan because it had a Grandad Shirt / Henly style jumper, which looked great and also a hoodie with a bold stripe across the middle. I won’t make either because my knitting patience doesn’t extend to garments that large, but I want to linger over the patterns a while pretending I might first. The photographed garments are beautiful, mainly as they seem to have used really expensive yarn (think I spotted some Rowan tweed or similar). From a knitting perspective, the thing I liked most was that the patterns are not yarn specific, you swatch your chosen yarn and work out the gauge. Then the pattern has instructions for several gauges (between 4 and 7 depending on the project) in 6 sizes. How cool is that?
Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent because on the same shelf I found Fabric Manipulation by Ruth Singer, which is brilliant. This is a book of techniques for manipulating fabric, organised into clear sections, with short, clear explanations illustrated with diagrams of how to do them and lots of photo’s of the finished technique. It has a few project idea’s in “you could use this technique to make a scarf” but mainly the idea’s sit out of context of what you would do with them, they are just a reference of all the amazing things you can acheive with fabric. I sat in the library looking at all the amazing shapes and textures that Ruth had created with by folding, gathering, pleating, tucking, ruffling, shirring, … There are too many idea’s in this book for me to explain.
Having decided that I need to limit my screen time when I’m around the kids (practice what you preach and all that), that evening after dinner I sat on the sofa and picked up the book. Before long I was having a little play, doing some smocking on a scrap of gingham, while my son tried following some instructions for folding ribbon (and his sister, finding that frustrating, folded some strips of paper instead).
The direct smocking I tried was fairly straightforward and I surprised myself at my patience with hand sewing. Next I decided to try some American smocking, and I got in a right muddle, until I realised that for this you’re working on the back, so it doesn’t “look right”, you have to turn it over to see what you’ve achieved. Also it was fiddly on the gingham. So I had a rummage around and found a piece of slightly faded red velvet I’ve had 20 years I reckon that was big enough to play with but nothing would be lost as it wasn’t really big enough to do anything with.
First off I marked a grid on the back with the intersections I needed highlighted. Then I sat down to watch a film (also rented from the library) with hubby whilst I stitched. Top Tip, if you’re planning to sew in front of a film, don’t choose one with subtitles!
However, I managed to make my velvet do this, which is cool! But I’m really worried about the fragility of it as it’s only hand stitched (and my hand stitching at that), so I wanted to encorporate it into something, but what? (As I type this, hubby tells me that it this technique would make a great, if over the top, lining for an instrument case.)
It is sort of begging to be touched, a really tactile thing, so I thought maybe a cushion cover. But it’s not big enough, so I rootled around, wondering if I had something satiney to be another tactile thing to go with it. All I had was the leftovers from the girls cape lining, which is a very bold pink. Red and pink are quite a statement together, but I decided that it would be a nice kitsch feel, so I went with it.
I had great fun playing and now I have a piece of lattice smocked red velvet, framed by some shiny pink fabric (I tried using a quilting technique I’ve seen, but don’t tell any proper quilters, as it’s not that neat and I’m not sure I did it “right”), with “vintage” velvet ribbon around it (from my grandmother in law’s stash) and some more interest added by using a twin needle on a shorter stitch length than normal to create a kind of tunnel effect (another idea from the book).
Now I just have to turn it into a pillow case and find a home that will appreciate this glorious piece of kitsch (my daughter loves it but my son would trash it, I just know).
And I think I might book this book on my Christmas list… Any other recommendations for books I should put on it?