Summer Solstice Lace Shawl

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Hello again everyone! Yesterday was the summer solstice, a day I really love. The sun doesn’t go down until about 9pm here, the days are hot and the evenings are warm and beautiful… *sigh* I love summer.

On Saturday I finally finished a shawl I was working on way back in February. I actually cast off the shawl in February, but I didn’t consider it finished—it was all white, and I knew I wanted to dye it. Saturday was the perfect opportunity to do that. My spinning/knitting group has an annual dye day in the summer up at the alpaca ranch, where we all bring various things to dye, usually yarn and fiber, and go crazy. Handpainting, kettle-dyeing, ombré… it’s all there. Naturally, I brought my shawl to work on.

Here’s the “before” picture, with obligatory cat photobomb (Tigger and Maggie like to drink out of the faucet, and they’re always hoping I’ll turn it on for them.) I gave it a quick steam-iron block just to see the size and drape of the shawl. Not bad!

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This is step 1 of the dyeing process. At home, before dye day, I kettle-dyed the shawl using a Jacquard acid dye in the color “brilliant blue.” When in doubt, use brilliant blue! I’ve used it a couple of times and it is truly brilliant. I overdyed a handwoven scarf once with it, and it practically glows.

The kettle-dyeing process is the most lazy of dyeing methods. Essentially, I mixed up the dyestock (a cup of boiling water + scoop of dye powder), poured it into the dyepot full of water, and tossed in the shawl. As the water heats up and simmers for a while, the dye strikes the fibers. I did stir the shawl around a little, but mostly I ignored it. This is how the uneven mottling of the kettle-dye is accomplished—if the dye can’t reach all the fibers evenly, it will strike in different concentrations. If I’d been aiming for a solid color, I would have had to make sure the shawl was fully immersed and had room for the dyestock to penetrate fully and evenly (with more stirring.)

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(Some of the visible mottling is from the dyejob, some from the tree-dappled light.)

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And this was the final result. I handpainted on a Procion (?) dye called “Twilight”, which is a darker blue, starting at the top center and lightening gradually toward the edge. Then I added a little shading on some of the “V” shapes at the edge. The result is something beautifully shaded all over. It’s hard to get this in a yarn-dyed process; this sort of big-picture color manipulation is best done after the object is constructed.

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Once the shawl was rinsed and mostly dry, I steam-blocked it with my iron. I do sometimes do a full wet-block with lace, where the piece is soaked and then pinned out, but this shawl does well with only a steam block, and I didn’t need it to be much bigger (a benefit of wet-blocking.) The scallops are done by ironing towards the edge—you want to use a fair amount of pressure to push the edging out, and a LOT of steam. It gets almost as good a result as pinning the scallops, with a lot less effort. Also, steam-ironing is great for lace—it gives the piece an incredible drape that you don’t get any other way. Even when I wet-block, I also steam iron to get that drape effect.

How to iron out the edging scallops:

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Result: ironed on the right, unironed on the left. Remember, no matter how you do it, always block your lace! The yarn needs to be opened up to show off the pattern.

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I’m very pleased with the result of this shawl. It’s large enough to be comfortably warm, has lovely drape, and is my absolute favorite color. (It’s what color my hair is supposed to be—but the blue in my hair fades much faster than the shawl blue will!) Of course, a wool/cashmere shawl is not the most suitable garment for the summer solstice, but it will be great to have on hand when things start cooling down!

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The pattern for this shawl is Vernal Equinox. The yarn is Knit Picks’ Capretta (80% merino wool, 10% cashmere, 10% nylon) originally in cream.

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Simplicity 2700 Pinstriped Trousers

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I finally have a finished sewing project to show you again! To be honest, these pants didn’t actually take that much actual sewing time. I’ve just been so busy lately that there hasn’t been time to work on them! I’ve also had a couple of other projects underway, including revamping the storage in my studio. But I finally got these finished up and honestly, I think they’re pretty awesome.

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The pattern is my standard modified Simplicity 2700 “amazing fit” trouser block. I slimmed the leg down like I did on my last pair, except this time I actually remembered to make the changes to the pattern (I’m so detail-oriented, lol.) The original pattern is a wide-leg but these are slimmer through the thigh and then flared toward the bottom. I also redrafted the waistband (again) for these. The main change I made was to omit the fly front and install an invisible zipper at the right side seam instead. It’s a bit less fiddly that way and doesn’t interfere with the pinstripe lines. But mainly I did it because it was easier.

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I’m pretty proud of a few things. One, these fit great. (The back view is a little more wrinkly than I’d like, but those go away if I hike these up a smidge.) The fabric is a fabulous stretch cotton that I bought ages ago; the lycra gives them a good deal of stretch which makes these really comfortable. The rise is not quite a high-rise, which doesn’t look very good on me, but it’s higher and more comfortable for me than a low-rise (which is all I’d be stuck with if I were buying pants.)

The other thing I’m proud of is my stripe placement. I matched the stripes to make chevrons on the center front seam, the center back seam, and the side seam (the zipper side is not as good—one day I’ll learn how to make waistband overlaps that match properly!). I also matched the stripes at the slash pockets and on the belt loops. I omitted a center back belt loop because it would have obscured the neat chevron effect.

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Other than that, the construction was pretty straightforward. Once you get the fitting down, pants are really not that tricky to construct—even the slash pockets are pretty easy, especially if you’re using the same fabric for the pocket as the pant so you can omit any facings. The innards are serged, nothing fancy. I debated adding welt pockets, or fake welt pockets, or pocket flaps, but in the end I decided not to make these pants too busy (and I didn’t want real pockets because I thought there might be funny lines on my butt. Trufact.)

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(There is a spider-shaped light spot in my hair. Did you know humans can get spots just like other furry creatures? I have at least three spots in my hair, I think.)

Ultimately the goal here was just to let the fabric do the work. It’s pretty awesome fabric, but it’s kind of loud for dress pants—in fact, the fabric had sat for long enough on my shelf wrong-side-out that I forgot how heavily contrasted the navy is to the white stripes. I do like the effect, though—although I probably will wear these with solid tops and jackets.

I’m hoping to have one of those solid tops to share with you next week, but like I said, I’m pretty busy, so we can only hope! Peter and I are getting ready for a show on Saturday, and those always take a lot of work and a lot of prep.

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“More treats, hooman!”