The Return of Providence

I'm extremely happy and excited to reintroduce Providence to the collection of sweater knits in the shop. Some of you, who may have read this blog in the days when I personally machine knitted most of the shop fabric, may remember posts about the Providence stitch pattern, fabric, and eventual sweater. While it's wonderful to have  the opportunity to bring back a favorite, I'm also pleased that this Providence is new and improved.

The newness comes in the dimension of width. While the old Providence, knitted on my vintage Passap machine, was limited to a relaxed 24 inches wide, the new Providence is 60 inches wide relaxed (updated Feb. 22, 2017), stretching crosswise about 40%. Most people will want to go down a sewing pattern size when using this fabric. Do be careful with any sewing pattern identified as "negative ease"; like many sweater knits, while the fabric stretches well across the width, the recovery (return to pre-stretched size) is slow. In other words, the fabric isn't suited for a body conscious sweater dress. This is 100% wool, 0% spandex.

Frankly, I'm ambivalent about the greater width. A narrow width is definitely easier to handle. If a fabric can be knitted to the width of the wearer, a narrow fabric will require less cutting and will produce less waste. On the other hand, only with custom knitting can a home sewer be provided with fabric of a custom width. When providing fabric to a variety of sweater knit enthusiasts, I'm learning it's best to go wide (especially with the fancier or more intricate designs). And so I have. A sewer can more effectively layout the pattern pieces this way. Allowing for the generous crosswise stretch, some will be able to cut an entire sweater from a single yard.

The new Providence is a little bulkier than the old, now knitted with a slightly heavier yarn. It's a beautiful medium grade, worsted spun yarn from a New England spinner and yields a fabric with amazing stitch definition and a hand knitted look. My knitting contractor referred to the fabric as "slow knitting" (with all those double tucks for texture) and having "lots of body".

Fabric Care

I'm sure you've heard this next bit of business before, if not on this site, then elsewhere. It's about being sure to prepare fabric before cutting and sewing. Always sew a zigzag stitch or overlock stitch on any raw or cut edges on the wool knit before washing. Follow the same procedure you plan to use when laundering your finished item. Remember agitation, hot water and hot dryers will shrink most wool. (Prepping Providence properly will also soften and fluff it.) Here are my recommendations for prepping or the regular washing of wool sweater knits.
  1. Launder similar colors together. Mix a small amount of mild detergent or soap in sufficient cool water to completely submerge your fabric. (Do not use Woolite. Woolite contains "optical brighteners" which can remove natural oils and "dry-out" the fabric. Do not use bleach.) 
  2. Allow fabric to soak for 15 to 20 minutes. No need to agitate.
  3. Rinse gently in cool water. You may use fabric softener, if you like.
  4. Remove excess water by rolling fabric in a towel and squeezing gently or by using the gentle spin cycle only of a washing machine.
  5. Gently smooth the fabric into shape on a flat surface, being careful not to overstretch the fabric. 
  6. Allow fabric to air dry away from direct sunlight. 
    OR you may have your fabric dry cleaned.

    I recently read about a technique of ironing sweater knits through a wet cloth in order to prep them for cutting and sewing. I can't recommend it, only because I've never tried it! Though I have a couple of exceptions, I tend to avoid pressing and ironing sweater knits. I've also heard of people using the steam cycle of a dryer to prepare wool. I've never tried the steam cycle of a dryer. (I don't have access to a dryer with a steam.) I'm guessing that the steam cycle of a dryer might shrink and/or felt the fabric somewhat, because of the heat and movement?

    So far I've only worked with a 9 x 9-inch swatch of Providence. My swatch had no shrinkage when I hand washed it, as described above, and let it dry flat.

    Providence sweater knit is now in the shop. I'm planning to make a jacket!


    Last update 22Feb2017

    Your Creative Sweater Knit Projects

    Arlene Holzman in New Hudson
    I'm in love with the palazzo pants sewn by Arlene Holzman for a special family event. They are elegant, have a gorgeous drape, with just the right amount of fancy. And I'm only a little prejudiced since Arlene chose O! Jolly! New Hudson natural white sweater knit to make them. But really... just look at those palazzo pants!

    From time to time I've posted pictures of people modeling their O! Jolly! sweater knits. I'm happily posting a few more today. Yes, I do get excited when I see what others make with these fabrics! I develop the knits, have them produced, then send them out into the world wondering what they'll become. I'm so very grateful to those sewists who've shared pictures of their finished garments with me and who've allowed me to post their pictures. I really enjoy seeing just how creative sewists are and how differently they use the knits. Arlene, after all, used the very same fabric, that Sonja of GingerMakes used to make a Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt.

    Deepika of PatternReview used the New Hudson more traditionally and made a sweater. She's fulfilling part of her #sewprecious2017 pledge. You may have read that Deepika is challenging herself and others to cut and sew the "precious" fabrics they may be saving in their stashes. (Thanks for considering the fabric special, Deepika. I'm glad you finally sewed it. And I know it looks better on you than on the shelf, in the drawer or other designated hiding place!) Here's Deepika's Burda 7595. You can read her pattern review is here.
    Deepika in New Hudson
    New Hudson is a rather stable sweater knit, so it can work with a variety of projects. Georgia (I Believe I Can Sew) combined it with natural white 2x2 cotton rib to make a suit with flair and flare.
    Georgia in New Hudson
    I've been carrying New Hudson in the shop, for almost two years now, ever since I started contracting local mills to knit fabrics to my specifications. Natural White Cotton Jersey is another fabric that I've carried from the beginning and try to always have in stock. Though I don't have many pictures of finished garments with this fabric, the cotton jersey has been the shop's best seller. Dorcas (@lonestarcouture on Instagram) made a very lovely and cozy Vogue 9057 tunic in the fabric.
    Dorcas in sweater weight Natural White Cotton Jersey
    Technically the fabric is a jersey, but as you can see, it's sweater weight -- considerably heavier and plusher than the jersey used for a t-shirt.  Annie, another sewist, has used this incredibly soft fabric to sew a couple of tunics. Her color-grown light green version is below.
    Annie's sweater weight Color-Grown Cotton Jersey tunic
    This, of course, doesn't mean that the sweater knit jersey can't be used for a t-shirt-style sweater. I absolutely love the cut of this cropped, short sleeve sweater from Olaf Designs in Brisbane in the natural white jersey.

    I've personally had plans to make a cardigan with dark chocolate Washington Square wool since before it was knitted into yardage. I haven't sewn the cardi yet, but I was thrilled to see the deep raspberry Washington Square cardigan that Jeffifer Shoemaker made. Jeffifer used both sides of the fabric in a single garment. Speaking as a designer, using both sides of the fabric as a public side is an approach that warms my heart. (I made use of both sides of a different fabric just last month.)
    Jeffifer in Washington Square
    A pullover with basic lines will always work for a prominently textured sweater knit. Sonja (Ginger Makes) chose the Mandy Boat Tee pattern for this sweater for her mother-in-law.
    Tee by Sonja in Washington Square
    Marcy Harriel (Oonaballoona) took the same Washington Square on a whole different journey. Though she admits the fabric may not be perfectly suited for the body conscious skirt she had in mind, I happen to think that Marcy in her matching skirt and hat ensemble is a treat. And by the way, Marcy used both sides of the Washington Square fabric for her hat. Yes!
    Marcy in Washington Square
    The next project could be a wonderful centerpiece for one of my "Scraps Not More" posts. Debbie Iles of Lily Sage and Co pieced together leftover Saratoga Rib fabric from her Megan Longline Cardigan and combined it with plain white ponte to make this uniquely beautiful, raglan top that looks more like a clever design than a combo of cutaways. But then, Debbie is a clever designer with her own line of sewing patterns. "There’s never any fabric waste in my house," says Debbie. I do like the way she thinks.
    Debbie in Saratoga Rib
    Two more traditional sweaters I'd like to share. Both are cable sweaters sewn by two different bloggers with two different cable knits. Each blogger writes about her process. Neither fabric is available in the shop at this time, but if you haven't read the posts already, you may find them interesting and helpful for cutting and sewing sweater knits in general. Kyle Burkhardt of Vacuuming the Lawn "...Sewed a Sweater From a Blanket". And I'm happy to have just discovered Carolanne (Sweet Carolanne), who "...Made A Cable Knit Sweater... Without Knitting!"

    I do hope you've enjoyed seeing these makes. Some pics and referenced posts are over a year old (oops). I usually don't get to see what's made with the fabric. Most of the people who purchase O! Jolly! fabric don't blog and are not on Instagram, at least not for sewing. If you're reading this and you've got a photo of your finished garment made with O! Jolly! sweater knit, please let me know. I'd truly love to see it! And I'll only post with your permission.

    Disclosure:  Dorcas and Georgia in above post were Pattern Review contest winners and received gift certificates toward the purchase of their fabrics. Marcy and Debbie received fabric in exchange for photos/blog mentions.

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    Saint Cloud Sweater or Scraps No More (Almost) - Part 2

    Late last year I wrote a short article for Pattern Review in conjunction with the "One Yard Wonder" contest that the O! Jolly! Shop was sponsoring on the Pattern Review site. I discussed various strategies to squeeze an entire garment out of a single yard of fabric. One strategy was to consider using a zero or minimum waste layout with few, if any, scraps.

    For many, many years I machine knitted only fully fashioned garments, where the pieces of the garment are knitted to shape. Machine knitting and fully fashioned garments were the topic of the earliest posts on my other blog. Here the only leftovers were leftover yarn, and leftover yarn can easily be incorporated into a new design.

    Makers through the years have worked to avoid wasting materials to a greater or lesser degree. Whether designing an elaborate layout and cutting procedure to reduce the absolute quantity of materials used or by actively recycling and reusing leftover materials (See Scraps No More - Part 1), minimizing waste needs to be a priority. Though I always recycle and reuse, until now I'd never made the effort to design a garment with my layout informing the design. In the past I've researched designing with rectangles only, but I'd never gone beyond a basic drop shoulder sweater and a two-rectangle shawl.

    Arrival of New Fabric

    New fabric was in the shop that I'd taken the time to develop with care. Frankly, I just couldn't wait to cut and sew it. So for my first project with Saint Cloud sweater knitI challenged myself to explore a very simple, very low waste cutting layout.

    I began with a piece of fabric that was approximately 43 inches wide and 44 inches long. Here are my scraps from the entire project laid out on an 18" x 12" cutting mat.

    Theoretically, the piece on the right, the hole for the head, could be used for pockets. The sweater has no shoulder seams, so this design is really only good for a relatively stable sweater knit (like Saint Cloud) that's not too heavy. I used both sides of the fabric. (This had nothing to do with my challenge; I happen to like both sides.) I used the fabric in both directions, lengthwise and crosswise. (This had everything to do with the challenge. The layout is only good for a relatively stable sweater knit.)

    An Interesting Exercise, I Wore It the Same Day I Finished It!

    Well, it was a quick one to sew. And I enjoyed the challenge. I loved thinking of the project as a puzzle. I pondered the layout for a couple days and decided to go with something very simple. I always recommend "simple" for sweater knits, allowing textures and other fabric design elements to shine through. Except for the neckline there were only straight lines to cut. The neckline was finished with a self binding. I used a quick and neat twin needle hem. I've discovered, dare I say, a failproof(!) way of using a twin needle with a sweater knit. In future posts I'll share more info on both the layout and some tips on the neat twin needle finish.


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