8 years ago blogger Zoe set up a challenge – wear something ‘me made’ every day for the whole of May – #MeMadeMay was born. Last year I was a knitter who sewed sometimes and I thought that I would love to have a go, but unless May was cold enough to wear sweaters every day (or warm woolly socks) I would struggle.
Late last year my beloved overlocker, Joey Janome, came into my life and began to reignite my passion for dressmaking. I was able to make the sort of clothes that I was more likely to wear: t-shirts and tunics, sweatshirts and soft tops, and at the same time I found a few on-line patterns from independent designers that really dinged my bell. I have never had a happy relationship with the conventional pattern companies (Butterick, New Look, Vogue etc) – I don’t like that flimsy tissue paper, the sizes are weird and they appear to assume that I want to dress like a housewife from the 1970’s or a supermodel prancing down the catwalk. Shirt-dresses? No thank you.
This May I was able to wear something MeMade every day without too much of a struggle – sometimes I got to wear more than one thing I’d made. I didn’t record pictures of myself on Instagram (if you want to look at the awkward selfies other people took the hashtag is #memademay), for me it was a personal challenge (and I don’t like seeing photos of myself in any case!).
A month of wearing what I’ve made made me realise a few things: my style is pretty androgynous – I don’t really do flowery, and skirts? Nope. My ideal silhouette is baggy around the top and snug around the legs – I rarely deviate from this format and maybe I should? I don’t like spending money on clothes or rather, I don’t like spending money on clothes if I don’t love them and I rarely love things that are available in the shops. The final thing is that making clothes for me means that I have a much more kindly attitude to my body.
I’ve rarely met a woman that loves her shape: too thin, too fat, too saggy, too, well, you know the score. And trying to force your non-standard shape into a range of standard dress sizes in over-heated changing rooms (with mirrors that allow you to see every crease and bulge) is unlikely to help. But dressmaking does help, and so can knitting and crochet. Your wardrobe is made to fit you – not the other way around. And that is a hugely liberating feeling.
By the way I am still knitting, it’s just that I have finished anything for ages….. sigh. WIP update next time and hopefully I’ll have some photo’s of finished projects!
So you want to make a sweater or a blouse, a shirt or a jacket. You reluctantly measure your chest and waist and look at the pattern. You see that one of the sizes matches yours and get started. While you’re knitting/sewing you keep on thinking – that looks a little snug – but the pattern says that your size matches this size so you carry on regardless. You press it out, put it on, and stuff if straight into the charity shop bag – repeat this a few times and you eventually give up knitting or sewing garments.
The thing that stumps a lot of home knitters and sewers is ‘ease’ – this is the amount of extra inches or centimetres written into the pattern over and above the basic measurement. On a knitting pattern you’ll usually see it given as the ‘actual measurement’ of the finished products and sometimes a sewing pattern will do this too (though rarely). The thing is, your idea of what you want from ‘ease’ is seldom what the pattern designer has in mind. They appear to imagine a world full of slender, tall models dressed neatly in garments that fit like a glove – this, friends, is not the case.
And standard pattern sizes are not necessarily your friend either. Over the weekend I did a spot of sewing and measured myself all over – this was a mortifying experience. I usually wear a size 14 – going up to a size 16 up top if I want to give my ‘ladies’ a bit more room – I compared my measurements with the pattern size and sighed. According to them I was safely a size 16/18. I have no problems with a bit of curviness but I also know that if pattern designers think you have a capacious bosom or a generous ass, they will also assume that you are also taller and have wide shoulders. So make something that fits your ‘rack’ and it will be too big on the shoulders and the sleeves and body will be much too long.
These are the problems facing a maker – what is the solution? Measure yourself thoroughly first (I know, I know…) and then get a few things that you love from your wardrobe and find out how big they actually are. If they are around about the same size as you, you don’t much like ‘ease’ and you can use patterns pretty much as given. In my case it’s clear that I like snug jeans but very roomy tops: my favourites have as much as 6 inches of ‘ease’ (and today I am wearing something even baggier). So there is little point in using the pattern size recommended for my bust, even if the ‘actual measurement’ is a wee bit larger. To get the look I’m after I will have to go up multiple sizes.
But consider the point I made about pattern sizes above: if I go up to a size ‘ahem’ I will end up with something that has a bit of give around the chest, but is way too large everywhere else! So I will have to grade between sizes. This means that I will use the chest measurement of the pattern but the shoulder for a smaller size and the length for a smaller size too. With a sewing pattern this means drawing lines between the sizes given and altering the length, with a knitting pattern this means doing a bit of mixing and matching with the decreases, cast on’s and offs and the lengths.
Does all of this sound a bit like hard work? I guess, but if you spend hours and hours knitting a sweater, or a bank holiday sweating over a sewing pattern and the finished object goes straight in the charity bag, then it’s worth a bit of measuring and maths before you get started isn’t it?
As promised yesterday here’s the pattern for the baby socks. They’re a perfect last minute gift for a new arrival, and take a just a few grams of DK and a couple of hours of your time. They also provide an opportunity to get to grips with some of the skills required for grown up socks – but without the time and knitting commitment! Finish off a few of these little socks and you’ll be ready to get started on your favourite size 9’s. They are a generous first size. I haven’t graded the pattern up just yet – I’m assuming that they’ll largely be a gift for a new baby.
About 10-15g of yarn – if you’ve got a scrap of some delicious and treasured cashmere/silk wool blend now would be the time to use it!
Appropriate double pointed needles – in my case I used a lighter DK and 3mm – socks usually require a smaller needle than usual, so if you have a thicker DK, try a 3.5mm.
Darning needle and scissors for finishing.
st/s – stitch/es
k – knit
p – purl
s1,k1,psso – slip one, knit one, pass slipped stitch over
k2tog – knit 2 together
s1pw – slip the next stitch as if to purl it.
Cast on 28 stitches using your usual method. If your cast-on tends to be snug, go up a needle for the cast-on only and then transfer your stitches to the smaller double pointed needles.
Distribute your stitches as follows – needle 1 – 14 sts, needles 2 & 3 – 7 stitches each.
(if you find it awkward to knit on the stitches as arranged – divide them more equally between the needles – and then redistribute them on the last row row before the heel)
To make the cuff
Join to start knitting in the round – being careful not to twist your stitches – your working yarn should be to the right of your work – I usually knit the first couple of stitches with the cast-on yarn to secure the circle.
Knit one round.
Next round – *k1 through back of the loop, purl 1.* this sets up the twisted rib. Repeat * to * 5 more times.
Next round, *k to end of the round* – this starts the stocking stitch in the round. Repeat * to * 7 more times
Make the heel (be warned the heel instructions take a bit of reading!)-
Next round – working on your first needle with the 14 stitches – k1, s1,k1 psso, k8, k2 together, k1 (2 sts decreased, 12 sts on the needle).
These are the heel sts.
Turn your work so you have the purl side of the heel facing you.
*1. s1pw, then p across the remaining sts.
2. s1pw, s1, k1,psso, k to last 3sts, k2tog, k1*
(2 sts decreased )
Repeat rows 1 & 2 twice more, and then row 1 once more – you’ll have 6 sts remaining.
Next round – with right side now facing you – s1pw, k to end, then pick up and k 4 sts along the first slope of the heel onto the same needle.
Then knit the foot top stitches onto one needle (7 + 7), then use the spare to pick up and k 4 sts up the second slope of the heel PLUS 3 from your first needle. You should then have two needles with 7 sts for each side of the heel, and 14 sts in the centre for the foot top. The start of the round is in between the 2 sets of 7 sts – i.e. the heel back.
Work 14 rounds on these sts.
To shape the toe
*Next round, 1st needle – k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1, middle needle – k1, s1, k1,psso, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1, 3rd needle, k1, s1, k1,psso, k to end. 4 sts decreased – 24 remaining.
Next round – k all sts.*
Repeat the last 2 rows 3 more times (4 sets of decreases). Then k the first 3 sts of the next round onto your last needle – you will now have 2 needles with 6 sts on each.
NOTE The socks feature grafted toes and an alternative three needle cast off. The grafted toe uses a technique called Kitchener stitch which gives the smooth rounded finish that you usually see on socks, the 3 needle cast off is a wee bit easier, but doesn’t give the classic smooth finish.
Three needle cast off
Insert a third needle into both first sts on the other two needles and k them together.
Do the same to the next st and then pass the first st over the second to cast them off.
Repeat all along the row until you have one stitch on the needle – cut yarn and pull it through the loop.
Grafted toe using Kitchener stitch
….this is a lot of words to describe a relatively simple process! Don’t panic.
Cut your yarn leaving a good 4 – 5 times the width of the toe, thread it onto a darning needle. With your yarn at the back and to the right of your work, set up for grafting as follows
-insert the darning needle into the first st on the front needle as if you were going to purl it – pull the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle, then insert the darning needle into the st at the back as if you were going to knit it and pull the yarn through, again leaving the stitch on the needle.
*then insert the darning needle into the stitch at the front as if you were going to knit it, pull the yarn through, and take this st off the needle, then, on the same needle, insert the darning needle into the next stitch as if you were going to purl it, pull the yarn through the st, but leave it on the needle.
then insert the darning needle into the stitch at the back as if you were going to purl it, pull the yarn through, and take this st off the needle, then, on the same needle, insert the darning needle into the next stitch as if you were going to knit it, pull the yarn through the st, but leave it on the needle.*
from * to * until you have 2 sts left (1 on each needle)
then insert the darning needle into the st at the front as if to k, pull the yarn through and pull off the st, then insert the darning needle into the remaining st as if to p, pull the yarn through and pull off the stitch. Pull remaining yarn through the last loop and pull tight to finish.
Darn in ends at cuff and toe. Make a second sock to match.
Alternate cuff finishes
To make a sock with a folded cuff
Cast on 28 sts and then join to work in the round – make sure the sts aren’t twisted. Knit one round.
k1, p1 to end of round * repeat this st pattern for another 17 rows and then complete as from ~ in main pattern.
To make sock with a garter stitch cuff
Cast on 28 sts and then join to work in the round – make sure the sts aren’t twisted. Knit 3 rounds.
*purl 3 rounds, knit 3 rounds* Repeat from * to * twice more and then complete the sock as given from “to make the cuff”
This will give you a rather cute fold-over garter stitch cuff with a snug rib underneath to hold the sock on.