For the look of Relax in a worsted weight yarn, take a look at Worsted Boxy.

Crafty Sunday

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Dear Ann,
Sunday morning, 10 a.m. Carnage on the living room floor.
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Our friend Julia (age 10 But MUCH Older Than Carrie) was with us. Julia is a Mad Hot Beader. Julia can wangle her parents and grandparents into purchasing some serious beads. They bought her beads in LONDON for Pete’s sake.
The Manly Art of Beading
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Joseph’s particular area of expertise is in Sales and Marketing. He made me a beautiful necklace of extreme symmetry. He tried to get Hubby to buy it for me for 8 dollars for Valentine’s Day. Hubby saw him coming and said no dice.
I did not know this when I handed over my 8 dollars for the thing. Hey–we must nurture the crafting impulse.
We did get some more sewing in, including Julia’s maiden voyage on the Janome. My conclusion from teaching two ten-year-old girls how to sew on the Janome Jem Gold is that despite its low price and light weight, it is a fine, fine machine. Those seams are going to be straight no matter what you do and the only trouble comes when somebody forgets to pull the thread back and the needle comes unthreaded. Next lesson is Threading the Needle.
Another thing I learned is that next time Julia and Carrie start freehanding dolls and doll clothes, there are going to be strict limits on their stash-grazing range. It’s too painful to have one’s precious yardage cut into. Scraps and uglies only!
We Pause To Honor the Handknits of the Past
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Julia’s mom Jane wearing a cardi that her Aunt Ellen made 30 years ago (or more). Jane had the good sense to grab it when Aunt Ellen was retiring it from the active duty roster. (The women in Jane’s family are all the same size–halfpint–which makes it handy to pass sweaters from generation to generation, forever and ever amen.)
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Let us reflect upon the grosgrain buttonhole reinforcement. Ellen used good wool and a classic pattern, and took great care with the finishing. These wood buttons will not be falling off in our lifetime. Expect to see Jane hauling ass down Broadway with her granny cart, wearing this sweater, in 2037.
It is so gratifying to see a well-crafted handknit going strong, pill-free and enjoying life. I resolve to sew my buttons on better. People: let’s revive the grosgrain buttonhole reinforcement.
In honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, some trivia:
1. He hated the nickname Abe.
2. Lincoln’s mother and sister made all the family’s clothes from buckskins and from homespun fabric made from the cotton and flax that they grew, picked, carded, spun and wove. My takeaway: Dress your boy in natural fibers, and someday he may save the Union.
Love, Kay

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. It’s so inspiring to see beautifully executed handknits stand the test of time! Thanks for sharing Aunt Ellen’s sweater.

  2. I have no handknit sweaters passed down to me, but I do have crocheted afghans done by my aunt and grandmother, (one in my high school colors) that still keep me warm each winter. In a beautiful sweater like hers, Jane must feel she can handle anything!

  3. My grandmother knit about a million sweaters for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. They all had grosgrain-reinforced buttonhole bands. I have no idea how she did it.
    If anyone can tell me, though, I’d be grateful.
    (I seem to remember Grandma making my mother take them to the East side of Cleveland to the one little tailoring shop that could deal with them…Can that really be the only way?)

  4. What a great sweater! Grosgrain reinforcements would prevent that unattractive stretched buttonhole look wouldn’t it?.

  5. That thing is 30 years old? Wow. Now that’s unsettling. I’m 30 and have more holes in ME through wear and tear than that sweater!

  6. Anyone know where I can find a pattern for a similar cardi? I’m dying for classic and not funky or hip…

  7. The fabric reenforcement is surely the best way, but–unless you’re a very good seamstress–best done by a professional seamstress or tailor.
    But second-best is to use shank buttons and back them with at least a half-inch button (or perhaps a matching button) on the wrong side of the work, and to sew them together through the knitting, so nothing is pulling on the yarn of the button band.
    This doesn’t work well with heavy buttons.
    But it does improve durability, and, if you use matching buttons, gives you spares if you lose one.

  8. Are you going to post a tutorial on how to make a grosgrain reinforcement? It appears to involve sewing button holes which is harder than knitting them. It’s a classy sweater.
    Such a good mom to allow all that crafty mess. I’m never very good about that…I always tell my kids that’s what art class is for.

  9. Sadly, I don’t have any handknits passed down to me (but at least I got some good recipes.) Of course, that’s just good motivation to start our own traditions, isn’t it?

  10. I don’t know which I’m more impressed by – how well that sweater has stood up and the functional elegance of the grosgrain button hole band, or the incredible work that Lincoln’s mom and sister went through to clothe their family (makes me really glad I can buy fabric).

  11. great sweater! and you should post pictures of that very symmetrical necklace.
    I made my mom a cardigan for Christmas this year, and (gasp) applied a grosgrain buttonband reinforcement. I hand-stitched it (double gasp) because I was very, very afraid of sending it through the sewing machine and I knew Mom would like the cardigan regardless of my crooked hand-stitching and slight puckering of the ribbon.
    closeup of the horrible grosgrain application:
    http://www.xantha.org/gallery/knit/DSC_6639
    I love the detail, but wow, I need to get better adding them!

  12. I so enjoyed the Handknits from the Past feature. The grosgrain reinforced buttonhole is certainly an under appreciated feature. Can we expect a MDK tutorial on this technique in the near future?

  13. Why do all adolescents use the middle of the living room floor to do their crafting? Mine does, I know.

  14. Ahhh, Joseph saw you coming! But why $8? Why not $5 or $10? 8 is just so, well, not the number you usually to try to flog things to family for! Is Carrie feeling Bead Envy? Should I send beads?

  15. That Joseph is one shrewd beader!
    And I hope that someday my handknits are being worn by my great grandchildren, that would be amazing!

  16. A word to the wise. Always wash the ribbon before attaching it to the sweater. Ribbons do shrink and you would have a puckery (is that a word) button hole band. Same for zippers. Wash as you will be washing the sweater.
    I remember when even cheap store bought sweaters had this finishing detail. My Mom always put it on the sweaters she knit. Sometimes on the shoulder seam if the yarn was of the stretchy variety. Ahh the mists of time are closing in.
    Ahem, wash them first, no matter what it says on the packaging.
    When my daughter was younger I use to take her to the quilt shop and let her pick out fat quarters to sew. Which saved my fabric from Bobbie induced sewing madness
    xox

  17. I love the grosgrain touch – that is on the old knitting to-do list. Thank you for showcasing this vintage knit, it is wonderful to see an oldie but a goody going strong! I have a friend whose grandmother knit vests and shells (Can you say Sleeve Aversion?) and she wears them looking like she just stepped out of an Anothropologie catalog. Great stuff!

  18. I always add grosgrain to cardigan button bands, button side as well as buttonhole side, it keeps both button bands even and prevents stretching through the life of the sweater. On the button side, it supports the button and on the buttonhole side it saves the buttonholes. I am surprised it is not recommended on sweater patterns. As a cheat, on the buttonhole side I use a skinny, 3/8″ or 1/4″ ribbon and only reinforce the space between the buttonhole and the edge, which is where the most of the pulling stress is taken. On the button side I use whatever width matches the buttonband, so the button is sewn-on through the ribbon.
    It aggravates me that all the fabric stores around here shrinking their “ribbon by the yard” selection to just a few very basic colors and sizes. I want to coordinate with my yarn (match or contrast) and I don’t need a whole spool.

  19. Must.KNIT.THAT.EXACT.SWEATER. Omg, I’m in love.

  20. Such a beautiful moment of Hope for the Future of the Next Generation: kids crafting, boys AND girls! May they continue in their creative pursuits forever and grow up into Abraham Lincolns rather than getting into trouble!

  21. So did you go out for Magnolia or did they deliver?

  22. Would LOVE a grosgrain buttonband tutorial!

  23. this is a nice distraction but we’re all wondering if you finished your lovely cardi… :)

  24. I agree with Norma. We need that sweater. It could be the perfect sweater (if that weren’t already decided.) It’s just so – perfect! Now, who’s going to flesh out the pattern, hmmmm?

  25. I like that grosgrain buttonhole reinforcement. I need to learn how to do that. Could you show us how or point us to a good reference? I bet this is one of those things I would need a sewing machine to do though, isn’t it?

  26. You sure know how to keep the peace in the house! I’m all for bringing back the grosgrain. A good excuse to keep lots in the house.

  27. Would you recommend the Janome Gem to a beginner sewer who was a bit (lot?) older than 10?

  28. “Dress your boy in natural fibers, and someday he may save the Union.”
    Ha! That made my night!
    But seriously are ya saying I have to grossgrain the button band too?? I am just so proud that I just made a button band. Isn’t that enough?

  29. Reminds me of my nephew selling the afikomen back at Passover, starts at something liek $100. I love the grosgrain band, I sort of remember them too, but cannot imagine actually doing it. Teach please..

  30. How many do you cast on for your baby genius scarf?

  31. Just wanted to say I bought my 10 year old daughter a Janome Jem Gold for Christmas this year. I agree, great machine for the price. Gotta get these girls sewing and knitting young. I wish I would have learned at 10!

  32. I learned last summer to have a separate stash for young sewers. They have excellent taste and tended to want my favorite yardage.
    Love that sweater! What a wonderful heirloom “hand me down.

  33. boy, do I relate to that scrap craft management. the other day in my craft room I found a piece of vintage fabric from 1900 earmarked for a quilt backing with a huge round hole cut out of the exact middle. My darling 12 year old was looking for something to make me a little something. she wasn’t happpy with the results so she threw it away. I rescued it and we have a good laugh over it. I promised her I would put it in the quilt and she could have it forever. so now we have rules.. it was the cutting in the middle which challenged my sense of humour… thank god I didn ‘t go postal… but I came close…….LOL. love your blog….

  34. boy, do I relate to that scrap craft management. the other day in my craft room I found a piece of vintage fabric from 1900 earmarked for a quilt backing with a huge round hole cut out of the exact middle. My darling 12 year old was looking for something to make me a little something. she wasn’t happpy with the results so she threw it away. I rescued it and we have a good laugh over it. I promised her I would put it in the quilt and she could have it forever. so now we have rules.. it was the cutting in the middle which challenged my sense of humour… thank god I didn ‘t go postal… but I came close…….LOL. love your blog….