sweeks!

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Well, I did it — I made me some SWANTS – or should I say – SWEEKS (ie, sweater-breeks).

I started with a large second-hand jumper (wool, of course), which I found for a few pounds on eBay. (Watch and wait is my motto)

swants

The jumper had been worn, but was in reasonable condition, and would have easily fit someone with a 48 in chest – there was an awful lot of fabric for me to deal with.

swantsing
(I apologise for the quality of these photographs, which Tom took with my phone last night. But I thought you’d like to see the whole process)

The sleeves worked really well as legs, so that was a good start. I began swantsing by cutting out the neck and shoulders, following the instructions in Stephen’s tutorial. And then, using mattress stitch I seamed the crotch front and back.

And then . . .

swonsie

. . . I still had a whole lot of jumper. Seriously, I could have almost fashioned myself a SWONSIE!

I decided at that point to do things a little differently from the way that Stephen recommends.

mystified
(I know, Bruce, it IS an odd sight, even in this house)

I pulled the swants up so that the legs sat at calf, rather than ankle-length, cut off the ribbed waist band of the jumper to use later, and then cut away the remaining fabric that was sitting around my waist and torso (as shown above). I then made and seamed two darts at either side to deal with the excess.

Then it was time for Borgen. Although, having watched many such programmes, I harbour the weird delusion that Danish is a language I speak fluently, I still find that Borgen requires a concentration incompatible with swantsing, so I took a wee break.

This morning I pinned the old waistband, to the new waist of my sweeks. The waist fabric sat rather on the bias, so I stretched the waistband out a bit, and stitched the seam using a really strong back stitch so that the sweeks would hopefully stay put.

sweekswaistband

BINGO.

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Not bad, I reckon, for a first attempt.

sweeksarego

I’m well aware that this is a ridiculous photograph, but I have to say it is the best picture I’ve seen of myself in ages, and it makes me really happy — because I am actually jumping! (As my left foot is still slightly ‘dropped’ following my stroke, it is very difficult for me to jump – and indeed it has taken over three years for me to be able to do so).

Now, I know swants (or sweeks) seem to arouse strong negative feelings among some knitters. I’m really not sure whether this is about the general look of the garment or about the fact that they repurpose old jumpers. If the former, I honestly don’t care if you think I look like an arse. I may well think that what you wear makes you look like an arse as well, but I would definitely applaud your individual style, and totally defend your right to wear whatever you fancied. And if the latter, I have to say that to me, salvaging a worn jumper, and giving it a new life, is a laudable crafty enterprise no different from repurposing old shirts in a quilt, or indeed what innovative Shetlander Wendy Inkster does with her world-famous Burra Bears. I have been wanting to make a pair of swants because I very much admire Stephen’s vim and brio . . . but also because I find myself mildly obsessed with these, but refuse to shell out £90.

See you later, I’m off down Milngavie in my sweeks . . .

a woolly wednesday. . .

atmos2

As the weather grows more chilly, things are becoming very busy round here — in a good way. I have been knitting and designing and writing for weeks now, in advance of a few new Winter releases. In a few days I will be publishing the next design in my Edinburgh Series of garments (which you’ll see hinted at above), inspired by the industrial and maritime heritage of Leith. This design is cosy and wintery and woolly and I’m very happy with it – I hope you like it too.

Additionally, I’ve been working really hard on some new seasonal accessory designs. . .

pomteaser

. . . which will soon be available as kits in my online shop. Colours of Shetland (now in its second edition) is finally back in stock (hurrah!) , and I’m looking forward to it being joined by Snawheid, and several other jolly kits over the next couple of weeks. I’m developing these kits as something of an experiment, so you must tell me if there are particular designs of mine that you’d like to see available and I’ll see what I can do.

I’m also rather happy about a couple of vintage knitwear finds . . .

This jumper (an ebay find) is destined to become a pair of SWANTS!

swants

. . . and if you have seen Ella’s blog recently, you’ll know why I am unbelievably excited by this:

zedress

Ye gods! It is indeed one of Margaret Stuart’s beautiful Spencer dresses and it is now in my possession! Seriously, this is a completely amazing garment (that fits me too) and I am incredibly grateful to Ella for enabling its acquisition. More of this anon.

In the meantime, here are a few woolly links for you this Wovember Wednesday:
Needle and Spindle‘s lovely post about Pelle’s New Suit – a beautiful children’s story from 1912 that tells the story of a jumper.
Caroline Walshe thoughtfully documents the process of growing, preparing, spinning and knitting a shawl from the fleece of Jake, her Jacob wether. This is one of the most inspiring pieces about process that I’ve read in a long time.
Equally inspiring, but for different reasons, is Cecilia Hewitt’s piece about her unique and very beautiful handspun yarn. Cecilia’s sense of place and colour has something truly magical and profound about it – but her work is also refreshingly grounded in the ordinary and everyday. “An intriguing patch of colour in the hedge turned out to be a crisp packet.”
Finally, via 60 North TV and the Shetland Times, a short video about this year’s Shetland Wool Week. Highlights include Oliver Henry talking about his work grading fleeces, and brief clips of Hazel, Tom, Sarah and, of course, Felix singing the Shetland wool song!

steeks and swants

anatolia
Anatolia by Marie Wallin

So, have you seen Rowan Magazine 54 yet? I finally got my hands on a copy yesterday and there are some wonderful designs in there. My two favourites are probably Anatolia by Marie Wallin – a beautifully luscious yoked sweater knit up in rich shades of Felted Tweed – and Sarah Hatton’s Melissa – a neat and eminently wearable wee gansey.

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Melissa by Sarah Hatton

As previously mentioned, I have a design in the Magazine for the first time (woohoo!) and Rowan have also kindly included a profile of me and my work in this issue.

portrait

Me.

Additionally, I have written an editorial feature about knitting in the round and steeking, and produced a steeking how-to for this issue of the magazine. My tutorial includes instructions for crocheted and machine-sewn steeks, while my feature explores different technical aspects of chopping up your knitting, along with the history and etymology of the steek (did you know, for example that in Scots ‘to steek’ actually means to close or fasten, rather than to cut open?)

As part of my research for the feature, I had a chat with lovely Stephen West. I am a great admirer of Stephen’s approach to design, and really love his style, and I was blown away by the steeked sweater-pants that he began to make last year out of his Amsterdam thrift-shop finds.

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For the feature, Stephen sent me some fabulous images of a pair of SWANTS (Sweater-Pants) that he’d whipped up from a vintage Setesdal sweater, but as these didn’t make Rowan’s final selection for the magazine, I can (with his permission) show them to you here.

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For me, Stephen’s SWANTS really sum up the approach to steeking which I have tried to get across in the the feature – viz – to just go for it and have fun . . .

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I love the SWANTS!

If you’d like to have a go at steeking and refashioning your own pair of SWANTS, Stephen tells me that a tutorial or two will be forthcoming on his blog this Autumn. Thanks, Stephen!

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