Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Flower Looms

Flower looms, aka the Bloom Loom, Knit Wit, or Crazy Daisy Winder, seem to be making a comeback thanks to a lady in California and Martha Stewart. The problem I have with them is the same reason I didn't think much of them back in the 70's. While the flowers are very pretty, I'm a small person and they're just too big and clunky for my own taste. Although I do have to admire what people are doing with new yarns and ribbons and wire and beads and pretty much anything you can wind around the little pegs.

I've spent some considerable time trying to track down my own vintage loom, I've discovered that they're harder to find than I thought. Doesn't help that I spend ALOT of time looking at vintage magazines and now I'm pretty sure what I thought I'd seen in a store a few months back was probably a vintage advertisement.

I did find something called a Bloom Loom at JoAnn's. It's about 4" in diameter with pegs on both sides so you can make a double sided flower. My flower ends up about 3.5" in diameter as I tend to pull the yarn pretty tight. The instructions specifically say not to, but I can't seem to keep the yarn on the pegs any other way. I also find the instructions a little confusing. Maybe it's the format; the lines tend to run together so it's hard to keep your place. Bear in mind I've got a 2-handed death grip on the loom so everything stays where it's supposed to be. It could also be a left-handed thing. I really want to go clockwise, not counter-clockwise! I did finally get it and then started thinking about how to make them smaller.

My favorite of the vintage looms is the one called "Hazel's Loom" because it has more than 2 rounds of pegs so I can make 3-5 graduated layers of petals if I wanted. I drafted up plans for making my own since I can't find one of those at all and the nice lady in California has apparently bought up all of the old flower looms of any type out there.

As a test run, I put a double circle of really big pins in my pincushion and did the little flower. It turned out to be 1.5" in diameter, which is more like it. I'll crochet a couple of leaves and turn it into a barrette. The pincushion thing worked for testing, but the pins want to move as you're winding the yarn so I'll be making the wood version or maybe in metal since the pegs will have to be so small and I don't want it breaking. Hopefully it'll work out as well as I think.

In closing, some of you may be wondering why so few new patterns have been put up lately. This picture explains it pretty well. This is Poki, who hears the sound of a printer or sewing machine and comes running to "help". It is very, very hard to work with a cat sitting in the middle of your project! Especially one who reaches out to grab stuff. She's named Poki for a reason, and not just because it's "cat" in Hawaiian.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Thanks to ebay I have finally gotten my hands on a few spools of the mythical Belastraw crochet yarn - er, thread, umm, "stuff " for lack of a better word. Belastraw was the material of choice for a lot of the purse patterns in the 1950's and I've been trying to get a handle on exactly what it was and what's available now that would make a good substitute.

On first sight I was tempted to dismiss it as junky funky plastic yarn. The sort of thing that gave crochet a bad rep back in the 70's. It's pretty thin and bears a definite resemblance to nylon rope. It feels a lot softer though and the little metallic strand running through it makes it kind of pretty. I also remembered that aluminum was a luxury metal when it was first invented and chainmail or mesh purses made of aluminum were much more expensive at the time than the steel ones. Belastraw was the up and coming, fashion forward, gotta have it fiber in its day. Remember, this was not long after WWII and everyone wanted modern. Now we appreciate the wonderfulness of 100% wool or cotton, back then it was old fashioned and synthetics were just way cooler.

The labels say Belastraw was distributed by John Dritz & Sons, and yes that Dritz. Dritz was eventually bought out by Prym and became the Prym-Dritz Corp we all know from the sewing notions. It also says that it's made from "viscose process rayon". Had to look that one up.

Turns out that rayon is made much the same as a spider spins its web. A liquid is extruded (shot out) of spinnerets and becomes filaments, which are then spun together to create the final strand or thread/yarn. Bottom line, it's still a form of synthetic, much like nylon. "Viscose" is not quite the same as "viscous". Viscose is "a thick golden brown viscous solution derived from cellulose and used in the manufacture of rayon and cellophane. Viscous means "having a relatively high resistance to flow", or in a sentence now; Molasses is more viscous than water. (Both definitions are from the American Heritage dictionary)

The photo shows the Belastraw at the bottom with some Red Heart Baby Sport above it. They're roughly the same size and the Red Heart is weight size 3 in the new standards. The label originally said there was 144 yards on the spool but it's been blacked out and 125 yards stamped instead. Judging from the vagrancies in the stamps for color, dye lot and yardage, it looks like some poor person actually stood there with an ink pad marking each spool. How's that for a boring job! At least it was a job, and that's something we all appreciate these days. I'm thinking that just about any 3 yarn will do for a substitute and any with a slight sheen will be better. The belastraw does have that faint plastic glow.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Resizing Vintage Knitting & Crochet Patterns

*Waist measurement on the Size 16 = 28"

These are from a Bucilla/Bear Brand book from 1939 that not only gives the standard measurements for that time period, but also fairly clear instructions on adapting patterns to fit.

The following is a copy of the original instructions for resizing a pattern.

Please bear in mind that vintage clothes fit ALOT closer to the body than modern ones! According to these charts I'm a size 16, but when I made a sweater using that info for the sizing it was way too small! I will probably go with a size 18 or 20 on these charts just to get the extra room I'm used to.

"Knit to Fit"
First work a sample piece to determine the right Gauge. Before beginning work on a garment, take the yarn and needles specified in the directions, cast on 20 stitches (or if a specified pattern stitch is used, cast on a multiple of the number of stitches required for the pattern). Knit 2 inches in the pattern used in the garment. At beginning of directions fro each garment you will find that the number of stitches to 1 inch, and the number of rows to one inch is given. This is called the gauge. By comparing this gauge with the number of stitches and rows to one inch on your sample, you can make sure whether or not your gauge is the same as the gauge called for in the instructions. If you gauge is different from the gauge called for you garment will be of different size than the garment described. In order to get the same size garment you must adjust your gauge to correspond to that given for the model you intend to make. If the difference in gauge is slight, adjust by tightening or loosening the tension of your yarn when knitting; if the difference is considerable change the size of your knitting needles so that you can obtain the right gauge with ease. The same principle applies when crocheting a garment.

The directions for most garments are given in Size 16. For each larger or smaller size, the number of stitches and rows to be worked must be altered according to the
different measurements n width and length for the new size. the normal change in width for each size is 2 inches (1 inch for front, and 1 inch for back). If a special pattern stitch is used, attention must be paid to the number of stitches needed for the pattern).

Take your own measurements in places as indicated on Chart A, then decide which one of the size charts comes
nearest to your own measurements. f your measurements differ in any particular place from the standard measurements on the chart, make these changes on your chart. Now multiply the number of inches on your chart with the number of stitches in the gauge and you have the number of stitches needed in width at this particular place on your garment. Change (decrease or increase) the number of stitches accordingly The length measurements are easier to adjust as you can measure the needed length in inches as he work proceeds. If the difference in length is considerable (as may be the case in length of sleeves, armholes, skirts, etc.). make less or more rows between decrease or increases in order to get the proper width at the required length.

Decrease more stitches at beginning of armholes in the larger sizes as the difference between bust measure and bank and front upper body width is greater in the
larger sizes.

A skirt may be worked any desired length, but all changes in distance between decreasing rows must be made before the
hip line; the hip measure marked on the chart must be attained 7 inches below waistline.