Theresa Shingler Knits > handmade wardrobe

Sweater Surgery – and embroidery on knits

I’ll show the pretty pictures first

Sweater Surgery


I  finished this cardigan, my version of Peggy Sue in June 2013, and only wore it twice.

The neckline was dreadful on me, far to high and unflattering on me, and because I have narrow shoulders and there were no no short rows at the back, I couldn’t wear it open without the wretched thing falling off. When I finished it I put a little yarn aside so that I could steek it, my Ravelry notes talk about doing so, but I didn’t, the cardigan was relegated to the back of the wardrobe and I moved on. About a year ago I snipped the front neckline out (after first reinforcing it with some machine stitching) and popped it into my works in progress box where it’s sat until the recent news reports of a super cold winter and my desire to stock up a woolies now yesterday

This is how it was when I pulled it out of the wips box. (well it was rather more crumpled and sorry looking, but you get the idea)

The first thing that I did was that I removed the ribbing at  the back neckline and picked up stitched all way around.

I worked short rows across the back neckline from the front raglan line back wards (I did 6 w+t each side)

Then I worked a border of twisted rib.

I covered the cut edges at the front neckline with bias tape.

And for a bit of fun embroidered some flowers

I’m very pleased to say that this cardigan has already seen more wear since it’s been refashioned, than it did in the previous two years.


How I wash hand knit socks

How I wash my hand knit socks

It’s ‘that’ time of year, the leaves are turning brown, the nights are drawing in, it’s getting flipping cold in the mornings and evenings, the woolly socks box has been pulled out and the socks are back in rotation. That means one thing, sock washing. Funnily enough washing the socks was one of the things that put me off hand knit socks for so long. Now I’ve got a good selection, as have the family, I have an easy routine that I’d like to share.

I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of sock washing methods; just between bung them in with the jeans at one end and gently hand wash at the other. Some disclaimers, all my socks are knit from yarn that is designed for socks, all can withstand the ‘wool cycle’ or my machine and I always wash a new pair separately at first to ensure that the colours won’t run onto it’s sock mates.

Here goes

  • I roughly sort the socks into lights, brights and darks. I usually do the darks and brights together as I know from initially washing them by themselves that they don’t run. (But I don’t want to tempt fate with the light delicate colours!)
  • Any really grubby patches are rubbed with a very wet block of Savon de Marseille that I use to treat stains in wool.
  • I put them in the washing machine set on the wool wash setting with the temperature set at 30 degrees Celsius. Into the detergent drawer I put about half a tablespoon of eucalan. If I’ve used the soap on any stains I wait ten minutes or so before setting the machine off. (If you have a machine that has a separate temperature control, do take care to ensure that it’s on the appropriate setting)
  • I take the socks out of the machine as soon as it’s finished as I don’t like them sitting damply around together.
  • I give the socks a flap and a gentle pull to make sure that they’re the shape and size I want them to be when dry, then if it’s a bright breezy day, I’ll peg them on the line. If it’s a damp grey day, I put them on a radiator to dry and by the end of the day I have a soft pile or clean warm socks, ready to go on feet again.

I never tumble dry my socks,and my routine does take a little time going back and to, emptying the machine and hanging up socks up to dry. I need to be home when the machine is finished, I can’t bring myself to just bung them in and forget about them, because given the many hours I’ve spent knitting the socks a little extra care seems worthwhile. However routine is much quicker than hand washing a families worth of socks on a regular basis, and thus far – fingers cross none have been ruined in the wash.

Disclaimer, the producers and/or sellers of any products that I mention have no idea that I either exist or are talking about their products. I’m just happy using these products and haven’t been compensated in any way.


How to work a knitted on patch – a tutorial

A knitted on patch, a great alternative to darning.
A knitted on patch, a great alternative to darning.

This is my favourite way of dealing with holes in the soles of my socks, either worn holes of small holes caused by catching my socks on nails heads or uneven

It’s a really smooth patch, there are no lumps or bumps to irritate the feet and cause blisters and it can be fun to use contrasting yarns and colours. The finished patch mooves with the original f If you are covering a worn area make sure that you extend the patch into a sound area of knitted fabric.

You will need

  • 3 DPNs in a size smaller than the size used to work the original fabric.
  • Two DPNs in the size used to work the original fabric
  • Working yarn to knit the patch, this should be similar in weight and composition to that used to knit the original fabric.
  • A tapestry needle.
DPNs inserted into the stitches at the bottom, left and right of area to be patched.
DPNs inserted into the stitches at the bottom, left and right of area to be patched.
  • Using DPNs a size or two smaller than usual, pick up the right leg of the stitches along the bottom of the area that you want the patch to cover. Make a note of your stitch count.
  • Place a DPN up the left side of the area that will be patched. Place the DPN one stitch to the left of the leftmost stitch picked up by the DPN, pick up the right leg of every other stitch beginning with the row immediately above the bottom DPN.
  • Place a DPN up the right side of the area that will be patched. Place the DPN one stitch to the left of the rightmost stitch picked up by the bottom DPN, pick up the right leg of every other stitch beginning with the row, two rows above the bottom DPN.
  • You should have the same number of stitches picked up on eash side DPN, there right DPN’s last stitch should be one row higher than the last stitch on the left DPN.





Using working yarn, knit into the stitches on the bottom DPN
Using working yarn, knit into the stitches on the bottom DPN


  • Using working yarn and a DPN of the size usual for the yarn you are working with, knit across the stitches on the bottom needle.
  • From now on, use DPNs of the appropriate size for the yarn to work the stitches.









Knit the first stitch picked up by the DPN on the left.
Knit the first stitch picked up by the DPN on the left.


  • Knit the first stitch picked up by the DPN on the left.
  • Turn your work.









Purl across the working stitches and then purl the first stitch picked up by the other side DPN
Purl across the working stitches and then purl the first stitch picked up by the other side DPN


  • Purl across the working stitches.
  • Purl the first stitch picked up by the side DPN.
  • Turn your work.
  • You will now have two more stitches being worked than in the first step, this is the number of stitches that will be worked until the end.







Knit across the working stitches, stopping before the last one.Knit the last stitch and the first stitch picked up by the side DPN together.


  • Knit back across the working stitches, stopping before the last stitch.
  • Knit the last working stitch together with the next stitch picked up on the side DPN.
  • Turn your work.









Purl back across the working stitches stopping before the last stitch, purl the last stitch together with the picked Up stitch on the side DPN.
Purl back across the working stitches stopping before the last stitch, purl the last stitch together with the picked Up stitch on the side DPN.


  • Purl back across the working stitches, stopping before the last stitch.
  • Purl the last working stitch together with the next stitch picked up on the side DPN.
  • Turn your work.









Continue following the last two steps working in one picked up stitch from the DPN at the end of each row.
Continue following the last two steps working in one picked up stitch from the DPN at the end of each row.


  • Continue following the last two rows working one of the picked up stitches on the DPNs at the end of each row.












  • All the picked up stitches have been worked
  • The live stitches must now be grafted to the stitches in the base fabric.








Graft the live stitches to the background fabric
Graft the live stitches to the background fabric


  • Cut the working thread leaving a length equivalent to around four times the length of the row, thread the end into the tapestry needle.
  • Graft the live stitches on the DPN onto the background fabric by using the working yarn to mimic the path of the thread in the stitches of the background fabric.
  • When you reach the end of the row, fasten off and weave in the loose ends







The finished knitted on patch.
The finished knitted on patch.


  • Hooray :o) your patch is complete.
  • Wash, block and enjoy. :o)









Knitted on patch collage


The care and feeding of a handmade wardrobe – part 2

An ongoing series looking at what at the making and sometimes breaking of a handmade wardrobe

Part 2: Creating for the life you lead

Am I the only person whose head is easily turned by pretty delicate fabric, colourful yarns, patterns for glamorous dresses and thick chunky sweaters? Probably not, but I’ve got a houseful of small children, I wear quite a small palette of colours, my days of balls and clubbing are over for now and I don’t wear many think heavy sweaters; living in the UK it’s not often that it gets cold enough for anything thicker than worsted weight yarn, certainly inside.

piglet's slipover 001When I first began to sew and knit for myself, I was in what I call the delusional phase of my wardrobe making life, I made dresses that were hopeless for nursing in, little jacket toppers that in themselves were beautiful but didn’t go with anything else in my wardrobe. I knit cardigans that had necklines that I would never have bought. I found it a terrible temptation to lie about what the tape measure was telling me so everything was a size too small.  Thankfully the delusional phase didn’t last long, but it also put me off making for myself and I moved onto making for the children. Somehow those same temptations didn’t call so loudly when making for them. I made them what was missing in their wardrobes, I addressed the issues that I faced in dressing them. For my little boys, trousers that fitted comfortably over their cloth nappies, I knitted them woollen tank tops (vests) to keep their little bodies warm and their arms free. For my daughter, I sewed soft cotton nightwear that felt lovely to sleep cosily in, I knitted woollen cardigans to give warmth and not just the thin acrylic chilliness available in the shops at the time. And for them all I knitted woollen hats and mittens, knitted socks and sewed soft absorbent bibs and drawstring bags for their treasures. As the successes built up, my confidence in my ability to create slowly returned and grew.  It was through working on the small items that I learnt important lessons that I was (eventually) able to put into use when making for myself.

My self imposed rules for making for MY life


  • Look at what is missing and or worn out – if I’m always looking for woollen socks, only to find a ratty pair with holes, or I’m waiting for them to dry on the radiator, it’s a fairly sure bet that I could do with making some more.
  • And look at what is never worn. Conversely, when I’m carried away wanting to sew the next hot pattern (Anna dress – I’m looking at you) I need to remember the beautiful woven wrap dress that although I love, I very rarely wear and certainly can’t breast feed my baby boy easily when wearing. Jennifer Lauren Vintage has written a wonderful article on why we don’t wear our handmade clothes, a thing that she picks up on that certainly applies to me, is that they frequently don;t fit into our ‘uniform’.
  • Look at the shapes and proportions of what I wear happily time and time again? Consider why and what makes those garments so successful. Look for patterns that have those elements. A when I find a designer that designs the shapes and proportions that suit me, keep her or him in my favourites to look at when I next what a new pattern.
  • What do I wear again and again, should I make more? Last year I discovered a love of shawls and shawlettes, so this year I have more in the works, knowing that they will get lots of wear. If I …..
  • Use colours that you like to wear. When putting time and effort into a new make, that might not be the time to experiment with a colour that you never usually wear, certainly not over a large garment. It’s much less painful to experiment with a pair of socks or a shawlette than it is with a sweater or cardigan. I wear a quite limited colour pallet, unfortunately I don’t always remember that when buying yarn, those skeins either become small accessories or presents for my loved ones.
  • Be realistic about my speed and abilities, I find this very difficult sometimes and frequently draw up very ambitious wardrobe plans only to then crash and burn; I’m a much happier handmade wardrobe maker if I can avoid this form of self-flagellation.
  • It doesn’t have to be dull and worthy. It doesn’t have to be big and boring, shawls, socks and hats are arguably worn more than sweaters. I know that here in the UK with our wet and generally fairly mild climate that the socks, shawls, cardigans and fingerless mitts are worn daily from Autumn to Spring ( and frequently summer) whereas a heavy sweater will only be worn in Winter.
  • Sometimes, throw the rule book out of the window. I’ve very recently made an Enchanted Mesa, although it’s in my colours (as it’s made up of the left overs from my previous projects) it’s not at all what I consider a wardrobe staple, BUT I had the best time ever making it, an absolute blast – it flew off the needles, and what’s more, I’ve already worn it twice during the damp and dismal summer that we’ve ‘enjoyed’ in England this year.

20150910_093356-2These are my rules, of course yours will probably be really quite different. Different climate, different life, but by thinking clearly why you want to sew or knit a new wardrobe item at the beginning of a project will usually result in a happier result at the end of the project.

A great post about how one woman approaches building a capsule wardrobe can be found on the Kzjo’s Studio blog and really shows the process that she goes through to fill those spaces in her wardrobe for Autumn/Winter 2015

Another great resource for filling the gaps is the Colette Wardrobe Architect series

Disclaimer: At the start of the series I mentioned that I have a problem with knitting and sewing being seen as ‘useful’ and ‘practical’ no one expects golf or computer gaming to bring practical results. There is nothing wrong in ‘just’ enjoying the process and having fun making the world a more beautiful place. I almost never ‘make’ myself create something just for its utilitarian value. I crave the aesthetic delights that creating a handmade wardrobe affords me, but it’s not for everyone and if it’s not for you, don’t beat yourself up for it, enjoy the pretties.

Next time in part 3 : Caring for the handmade wardrobe, tending, mending and storing


How to ensure rain – sew up some shorts

My knitting was pushed to the back burner this week when it became obvious that my biggest girl REALLY needed some new shorts, she’s shot up in height this summer (and her shorts were not).
Shorts for my big girlI chose the Deer and Doe, Chataigne shorts pattern, I ordered the paper pattern, and it arrived within a few days from France. Big girl’s measurements were a size 44 in the waist and a little above 40 in the hips, I chose to trace and make the size 42. The white floral stretch cotton were the first pair that I made; she tried them on before I sewed down the waistband facing and as it gaped at the back, I took about 5cm out of the centre back waist band which improved the fit considerably. For the second pair in the pink needle cord I altered the pattern pieces and took some out of the back leg pieces at the centre back to flow more smoothly into the altered waist band.

I left the leg cuffs off both pairs as I wanted a quickly completed pair of shorts, but the weather has changed to cold and wet today and I’m hoping that I wasn’t too late after all.

button detail

On the first white floral cotton pair I used a coordinating white concealed zip, but for the second pair I constructed a button placket to avoid having to get a pink zip, I’m very happy how it turned out and will probably do the same on the next pair that I make.

All the facings were cut from coordinating scraps of cotton to reduce bulk and for the fun of it. The floral pair has pale blue cotton pocket inners and facings, gleaned from an man’s shirt, the pink pair has a lilac gingham, the left overs from a pair of pyjama trousers that my daughter made for herself.

I’m very happy with how well this pattern went together, it was very well drafted and clear, the instructions are clear and the quality of the pattern paper itself is nice. I chose to trace the pieces as I can see myself making more than one size, both for my daughter as she grows and for myself. The fitting issues that I encountered have more to do with my daughter’s shape than anything wrong with the pattern, and that is always likely to be an issue sewing for a teen.

The shape of these shorts is really lovely, very flattering and easy to wear without being frumpy, I might well make myself a pair with the leg cuffs, given that I’ve not worn shorts for almost twenty years, that’s an indication of how fabulously flattering I think the cut of these shorts is!

pocket lining detail

My next project is going to be this pattern with an extended leg to make cropped trousers for her using the scalloped edge instructions.


The care and feeding of a handmade wardrobe

An ongoing series looking at the making and sometimes breaking of a handmade wardrobe

Part 1: Do you really want a handmade wardrobe in the first place?

There really isn’t anything wrong with knitting* for the sheer pleasure of the activity, for feeling the yarn move through your fingers, for enjoying the gorgeous panoply of colours available, just for the hell of it. If you are a process knitter who cares not a whit for the finished article, there is no shame in that, own it and enjoy it. (And perhaps come back later, this might not be the article for you)

(*substitute sewing as you see fit :o)

However that’s not me, I aspire to have a handmade wardrobe of my very own.


I’m not one to say that I’m a process knitter (or sewer for that matter), as much as I love the physical act of knitting I unashamedly love having the finished object more! Yet even so I’ve found myself getting cranky at the proliferation of handmade wardrobe posts springing up around the web. Very odd, some of my most favourite bloggers and designers are writing about something that I spend a fair quantity of my leisure time doing – creating a handmade wardrobe, and I get grumpy – why? And then it hit me, it’s the usefulness of the activity that rubs me up the wrong way, why should my leisure activity be useful? No one expects golf to have a useful outcome! (Cue gnashing of teeth at this juncture) Obviously I have some angst about this issue that has nothing all to do with the inspirational posts popping up all over the blogosphere – that I’ll come back to another day, for now a remedy.

DSC_0080-2 (1)

To counter the irritation the best course of action I find is to immerse myself in the flood of inspiration; I’m happily polycraftual and will as happily sew as knit (though it’s not as convenient for snuggling down with on the sofa) so my inspirations are mostly similarly polycraftual.

There are of course many and varied motivations to creating a handmade wardrobe, from concerns about ethical consumerism and worry about ecological sustainability to a wish to experiment with self-expression and personal autonomy.

Creator of the wonderfully inspiring Me Made May is Zoe at So Zo … what do you know? Her focus is primarily environmental sustainability, she sews but doesn’t knit, she has recently had a daughter and is clothing her in the same way that she clothes herself which is fantastically inspiring.

Someone else who I’ve been following for almost as long as Zoe is Libby at Truly Myrtle. Within the last few years, she moved to New Zealand and has taken up designing knitwear, she does sew as well though, often creating whole outfits and has a podcast where she talks through her creations.

Through the Truly Myrtle podcast  I’ve started following the wonderful Georgie Hallam (of the Milo  vest fame) on her website  As many others have, I’ve knitted the Milo vest more than once but I wasn’t very aware of her whole range, mostly of children’s patterns, I’ve quickly remedied that and am having my very own little Tikki fest knitting Posy and Jane for my girls this summer (more in a later post) I find her whole blog and website are very inspiring for me as I strive to create my own handmade wardrobe (and sneak a little into the children’s’ cupboards and drawers).


One of my biggest inspirations is Isabelle at I have followed her work for years from when she only sewed, then began crotchet and now knits and spins as well. Her work is amazing, she has a wonderful eye for colour and proportion and has exquisite taste, all the while managing a family life and a demanding professional career. She also has a podcast which has recently become a video podcast; my favourite as I love to see all the pretty things being talked about.

Of course, there are lots of wonderfully inspirational crafters whose work I love to follow, but if I need a quick fix, these are the ones that I go back to time and time again.



Next time in part 2 : Creating a handmade wardrobe that won’t be left at the back of the closet, aka making a wardrobe for the life that you lead.