Welcome to Morale Fiber Blog!

From here you can navigate to all my offerings for Morale Fiber – independent fiber artist and crochet pattern designer πŸ™‚ (For more on who I am, see my About Page!) I created this post to make finding what you’re looking for easier. Let’s start with everyone’s favorite:

Free Patterns

The Free Patterns page is a running list of all the free crochet patterns, and they are all available published here for easy viewing- No extra downloads, sign-ups, or anything πŸ˜‰
I also have a page for my Crochet Tutorials!

Some of my most popular free patterns right now are the Novella Shawl (pictured right), the Lotus Mandala Duster, and the Elf Coat (pictured below left and below right).

As a self-publishing artist I make most of my income from sales of my PDF crochet patterns through Ravelry and Etsy. If you really want to support what I do, check out my running list of crochet designs available as downloadable, printable, ad-free PDFs!

Paid Patterns

Some of my personal favorites are only available as PDF’s so it’s worth a look πŸ˜‰ Like the Flower Child Pullover (pictured right) or the Embla Vest (below left) and Cobweb Wrap (below right).

If you have questions about any of the patterns I offer, I respond to messages regularly and would love to help! You can contact me here easily by leaving a comment on the page linked below, or contact me directly via any of my social media channels.

Pattern Help

Social Media Links

Finally, if you’re here to just peruse through my ramblings on all things crafty, you can go back to the Home Page to view all my blog posts starting with the latest!

~* Thank you for visiting*~ MF

Fox Claw Elf Coat

The Elf Coat Tunisian crochet pattern is definitely my most popular design recently, and it’s undergone a series of updates and expansions since it was first released for free here on my blog in 2019. The first regular sizes – Small, Medium, and Large – were all released separately as individual blog posts, getting posted as soon as I had finished drafting and testing the written pattern.

These first 3 sizes (along with all the most recent updates) are also available gathered together as one ad-free, downloadable, printable PDF crochet pattern which can be purchased from my Etsy Shop or Ravelry Store!

Back then I ended up posting the size Large pattern before I ever finished the actual coat itself! Demand was so high, that as soon as I completed the front panels, back panel, and drafted the first half of the sleeve, I released the Large size pattern without any of the fancy finished photography that I like to accompany πŸ˜‰ Today we are remedying that with the help of Christina Persephone Tedrow, who agreed to model my recently finished piece in what turned out to be a very kickass and fun photoshoot. Keep reading for more info about the latest progress on this design and examples of this tricksy coat in action!

I have been naming each of these Elf Coats according to my vision for their personalities, indulging my love for character creation which helps me dream up interesting ways to show off my product. This coat, dubbed “Fox Claw,” was always intended to manifest the spirit of the fox, with it’s subtle orange and cream hues mixed with brownish lavender. Also, I just really love foxes – an interest shared by my friend Persephone here, which is why I was intent on having her as my model for this piece!

A bit about my model, who is also an independent businesswoman like myself: Persephone is one of the best body piercers in the business; she co-owns and -operates Fox & Crow Body Modifications in Evansville, Indiana, and updates on her business and openings frequently from her Facebook Page, the shop website, and from @PersephonePiercing on Instagram. If you are interested in high quality body art, also check out the shop’s Instagram page @foxandcrow.evansville !

Also worth mentioning is the amazing handmade 25-yard dance skirt modeled underneath the coat, made by Painted Lady Emporium.

It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t initially finish the size large Elf Coat which I had started back when first writing the pattern, because it didn’t take long to discover that the original Elf Coat needed a few tweaks. I used this piece to help me work out what needed changed in the design of the sleeves, and to draft a larger hood as many people had problems with the hood coming out small. These updates are listed and explained in my recent post on the blog here.

I also just had to invent a few new tricks involving a belt tie and pockets – the Fox Claw elf coat features both! The pockets here are inset, which means they are mostly hidden from the outside (they are set a little bit too far back as well… whoops! Next time I’ll measure!) This garment is also a little longer on the front & back panels than the normal Elf Coat, from adding extra rows at the beginning of the panels, giving about 2-2.5″ more in length to the coat – perfect for the taller model I had in mind.

And yet, after all the stitches and panels and tweaks and extras (and coats and questions and emails and testing and measuring and math), the Elf Coat design is still being developed! I had a lot of requests for this design in Plus Sizes, which I was very excited about offering but couldn’t get accomplished without a lot more work. So when I was ready, I set about drafting the written pattern for XL and 2XL – I discovered that given the way the design increases by using the base number of panels, the 2XL size is actually a bit oversized and would extend to cover 3XL as well! Currently, the Plus Sizes version of this design is being tested by a team of awesome people willing to help me make some elfy magic and I really hope with their assistance I can get it released by late summer or early autumn.

If you have more questions about this design, I recommend checking out the Elf Coat FAQ page that I’ve written up – and if you want to see more awesome Elf Coats and other projects inspired by Morale Fiber designs, I’ll refer you to our really sweet and supportive Facebook Group, the Magic Fantastic Crochet Atelier!

And if you REALLY love fox themed goodies, I also have a couple more designs for you to peruse…

-MF ❀

Sol Halter Top Updates

The weather has been turning my mind toward hot sunny days – indeed, it was up to almost 70 in the sunshine yesterday – and this inevitably results in crocheting halter tops! I’ve started toying with a new design recently but couldn’t resist diving into some old patterns too. After all, I had a half-finished update for the Sol Halter top sitting in my computer files, giving me the side-eye after being pushed toward the bottom of the to-do list for a couple years.

So today I uploaded the finished pattern update for my Sol Halter Top pattern, the very first halter top I ever published (it was 5 years ago now… OMG). The pattern needed some extra tutorial photos in one of the trickier areas, and I clarified some of the language and just generally tried to give it a spring cleaning πŸ™‚ I’m very happy with the result!

You can purchase the newly updated Sol Halter Top pattern (straight sizes, for A, B & C cups) in my Ravelry Pattern Store or Etsy Shop now! Keep reading for more info on this design as well as some cool mods…

Of course I made one or two actual halters in the process of updating, and in the last few years my strategies have changed from using straight tie-back style straps, to the more comfortable criss-cross backing as in the Basic Bralette, the Valkyrie Top, and the Feather & Scale Halter. I didn’t feel committed to changing the strap style entirely within the PDF pattern itself, so I’m offering these modifications right here on the blog, so keep reading for more info on this design and how to modify it ❀

What I really like about the Sol Halter top design is the cup style. The halter top starts by creating a long base for the underbust, then creates two equidistant points on which is centered a series of increases, and also stitch height changes (if you are working B-C cup sizes, A cups continue in the same height of stitch).

The combination of increases and height changes creates an actual bulge in the material which is form-fitting to the bust. Many other central-motif style halter tops work rows of back-and-forth stitches that create a basically flat piece of fabric for the torso, which merely wraps around and compresses. That method is pretty and fairly simple, but I find that my method – which occurs also in my Mehndi Halter Top pattern and my Valkyrie Top pattern – is really comfortable and doesn’t result in major slippages on the bust while wearing. I consider it my signature strategy for halter top making!

Besides the bust portion itself, the mandala motif in the center of the Sol pattern also includes an expansion for C-cups which gives a little extra room between the motif and the main body of the halter. Once the motif is attached, I like the clever way that the stitching goes right on to work the edging and the straps without having to cut yarn and tie off.

Pictured above: C-Cup size Sol Halter Top with modified straps
Pictured above: original straps from the PDF pattern

While the original PDF file only includes instructions for straight ties (one pair for the neck, one pair for the bust) I have moved away from this style for myself personally since I don’t like the pressure of the ties on my neck. Instead, I follow the first portion of the instructions for the edging until reaching the lower portion of the side bottom:

Instead of single crocheting across the entire side, I create a series of loops (about ch 20 sized) intermittently. I normally do 2 loops, but I got extra and did 3 for this top. Once your ch-20 loops are placed (about 3-4 single crochets apart, with no skips in between), you can move right into rotating the piece and working the bottom edging as directed.

Mirror those loops on the other side of the halter, then complete the edging by working the rest of the single crochets up the side. Follow the directions as written for working across the top of the motif, but instead of using the “ch 75, sc back down” style tie, you’ll want to chain 175 – 250 (depending on your band size – these are chain 200 size ties and work well for a size Medium gal) and SLIP STITCH back down the chain length, not single crochet. Do this for both ties on the top. I changed over to working slip stitch cords really shortly after writing the Sol and Mehndi patterns, as I find they are rounder and more comfortable and work better for lacing back and forth.

Once your ties on top are completed, finish off the edging round as directed. You can stop here, but I had some extra yarn left over and I like a nice substantial bottom band so I rejoined my yarn at the bottom of the halter and worked 3 extra rows of single crochet back and forth to add a little more coverage!

To tie on this criss-cross back style, the straps go over the shoulders and then cross, lacing into the first loops, and then lacing back and forth through the second loop (or as many as you have) before tying. With just a bit of adjustment to make sure everything is even, this style of lacing is really secure and comfortable – and I don’t know about you, but I love feeling free to romp and roam in my magical crochet-wear without having to re-tie and tug around at the garment all the time!

I hope you enjoyed this little exploration of one of my keystone designs and are inspired to try it out for yourself – I think I’ll be making more halter tops from the Morale Fiber vaults this season, so hopefully there will be more to come. Until then, have you checked out these great FREE tutorials? πŸ™‚ ❀

-MF ❀

Scrappy Knit Shawl Pattern

I accumulate odd bits and ends of yarn skeins at a rapid pace, so it’s fortunate that I love upcycling and recycling projects that take advantage of “waste” material and turn them into something gorgeous and useful ❀ My favorite way to use very small bits of yarn over the years has been the knit them into garment designs that don’t require weaving in ends; leaving the spare lengths tied off to be incorporated into the fringe later saves you from having to weave in approximately thirty zillion scrap yarn ends πŸ™‚

I’ve provided free tutorials and patterns on how to make these very simple, beginner-level knit garments here on Morale Fiber blog, and today I’m adding to the collection with the Scrappy Knit Shawl – a long triangular knit shawl that follows my method of using very small yarn balls of various sizes, large gauge needles, and incorporating the yarn ends into a fringed edge. Before we get going, here’s the other two pattern tutorials I have available in this style!

Bonus! If you’re not bi-stitch-ual (someone who knits AND crochets) I do have a great pattern for a scrappy crochet shawl in this style called the Scrappy Granny Shawl (IT’S FREE TOO!), pictured below πŸ™‚

The simply named Scrappy Knit Shawl gets its shape by working a yarn over increase 1 stitch from the edge on both sides of every row. It’s got a pretty dang LONG wingspan, reaching around 95″ on the longest side! You can modify this shawl to be wider (from edge to triangle tip) by doing the YO increases only every other row until you get the size you like πŸ™‚ If you like this project, be sure to favorite it on the Ravelry project page!

If you don’t know how to make a YO increase, check out this video tutorial on YouTube!

Scrappy Knit Shawl Pattern

Materials:
Size 10 or 10.5 (6.5 mm) knitting needles (I started with straight needles then moved to cabled circular needles once my piece got longer)
A big ol’ pile of scrap yarn balls, various weights (some of them can be very small – start with those first!)
Accent yarn for the fringe
Scissors, tapestry needle

Finished Measurements:
About 95″ in length
About 20″ from edge to center point of triangle

Gauge: Not critical for this piece but mine was 5.5 sts & 12 rows = 2″ in garter stitch

Terms:
Knit (K)
Yarn Over increase (YO)
Stitch (st)

Instructions:
With 10 or 10.5 knitting needles, Cast On 3 stitches with a very small scrap yarn.
Row 1: K1, YO, K1, YO, K1
Row 2:K1, YO, K until reaching the last st, YO, K1

From here, try to change yarns at the end of the row only. Leave your yarn tails loose (except to tie on the next yarn), changing yarns if you think you won’t have enough for the next row. I use up very small balls at the start for the shortest rows, then gradually use bigger balls as the rows get longer.

We’ll be repeating Row 2 using this yarn changing method for the rest of the garment. If you started on straight needles, switch to cabled circular needles when the piece becomes too large.

Rows 3-120 (or until you have the length you like): Repeat Row 2

If you have very thin yarns you’d like to use, try doubling them up with other yarns so the weights are more even!

Once your shawl is the length and width you’d like, bind off. I like to use this “super stretchy” bind off method.

Now, go over all the yarn ends left at the ends of the rows and make sure they are tightly knotted together. If you absolutely had to change yarns in the middle of any of the rows, weave in those ends but not the ends at the edges, which will be incorporated into the fringe.

I used my trusty notebook to wrap my yarn into 12″, then cut the looped yarn to make a bundle. Double up each strand and hook the loop of the strand through the edge of the shawl, taking advantage of those YO openings left in the fabric to apply the fringe.

Once you’ve fringed and woven in any mid-row ends, you’re done! I was so pleased with the result of this scrappy shawl design, I managed to make quite a pretty accessory from a relatively small amount of scraps. It’s so warm too- good thing, it was cold out that day!

If you like this project and love scrappy projects in general, you should check out my pattern collection of Scrappy Projects – all the links to all the scrappiest patterns I’ve published (both free and paid) plus notes on each one! ❀ Happy upcycling!
-MF

P.S – BONUS GALLERY

Pssst… writing this post I was reminded of one of my first big knit projects I ever made up, which was knitted with 50% upcycled yarn (the beige yarn) that I had pulled out of an old sweater. That post is no longer available on this blog but I thought I’d pull a few from the vaults, for fun πŸ˜‰

Happy International Women’s Day!

It’s been Morale Fiber tradition over the past few years to celebrate International Women’s Day with coupon code for a free pattern from my Ravelry Pattern Store – and this year is no different! I usually announce this event via my Facebook Page, but this year I wanted to be sure everyone had the code so I’m making a short blog post as well πŸ™‚

(Pictured above: My free Sundogs Throw pattern available here on the blog – many of the girls are also wearing Morale Fiber designs like the Embla Vest and the Lotus Duster)

Last year I took the year off from the IWD freebies to do a variety of fundraisers instead, first for the Australian Wildfire wildlife rescue, then a series of US organizations such as the Trevor Project and Food Not Bombs during the first few months of the pandemic. I take my moniker of “morale” pretty seriously, because I really believe in fiber arts as an art form that not only positively benefits individuals and creates stronger communities, but that also shows the heritage and influence of the people who keep traditions like knitting and crocheting strong.

(Pictured above: Lainy and Thea modeling the adult and child sizes of the Cecilia Skirt Belt)

So I’m very happy this year to bring back the International Women’s Day Free Pattern, which you can get by entering the code “IWD2021” (must be all caps) in your Ravelry checkout cart for ANY free pattern from my collection that you want! The code can only be used once, and only runs today (March 6) through the end of the day on Monday, March 8 (International Women’s Day!)

(Pictured above: Daisey and Arika modeling the Feather and Scale Halter Top!)

That’s all for today, I hope you take the chance to get one of my unique patterns that’s been missing from your collection for free, and keep doing that amazing fiber thing that we all love to do! And if you haven’t followed me on my social media sites yet, be sure to check me out on Facebook (including our great little Facebook fiber arts group centered on all things whimsical), and Instagram!

(Pictured above: the Valkyrie Halter Top)

Thank you everyone for making the world a more colorful, cozy, and loving place ❀
-MF

Elf Coat Updates

I’ve been working super hard since fall to expand, update, and improve my popular Elf Coat design and today I’m so pleased to announce that I have rolled out the updates for the new Elf Coat Pattern regular sizes (version: 2.0)!

All of these updates have been applied to both the FREE blog versions of the pattern and to the purchasable PDF version, and the links to all of these can be found on the FAQ page for this design πŸ™‚ Or keep reading to see what the updates entail!

These new updates include a re-shaped sleeve portion, which fixes some of the bunching issues that were occuring in the armpit area of the old style sleeve. I moved the decreases to the center of the row so that the sleeve follows the downward curve of the shoulder more naturally:

The old style of Hood also needed some work (and the Half Hood even MORE work) – so the Hood has been expanded and updated so that both styles of hood are plenty roomy and big enough, with notes on how to modify!

Honestly though, this pattern was in desperate need of something brand new : POCKETS!! Thanks to some help from fellow crocheter Tirzah, a basic pocket pattern was developed and then implemented in two different styles: Afterthought Pocket (applied to the outside) and Inset Pocket (hidden in the waistband)!

Photo courtesy of Tirzah Norton-Shantie


The pockets were absolutely necessary for carrying magical items, woodland treasures, and sedition – but I thought with the larger sizes being kind of oversized, there needed to be a belt option too, for extra cinching capacity.

Size Large, finished & laid out for blocking

Of course, all the extras are included in the PDF pattern file as part of the written pattern and are available in free pattern format on my blog via the links I mentioned at the beginning of the post. I’ll have to make a “deluxe” Elf Coat at some point for myself so that I can include all the options mentioned here on one coat – not forgetting that sweet corset back lacing option…)

Last but certainly not least, I have paid to get this pattern professionally translated into Spanish! I was lucky enough to find a great Spanish translator to work with who speedily took care of all of my new Elf Coat updates and created a beautiful PDF pattern file available for purchase in my Etsy Shop and Ravelry Store.

I’ve still got some work to do with this design, including getting that neatly finished Large Size properly modeled and photographed, and the Plus Sizes are currently in the testing phase meaning that more updates will be coming soon for the expanded sizing! You know what I always say…

Until Morale Improves, the Crocheting Will Continue!

-MF ❀

Elf Coat Pockets

One thing my popular Elf Coat Tunisian Crochet Pattern really needed was some pockets! We all love to have a place to stash our woodland treasures, quest items, and sedition, so I’ve provided here a tutorial on how to create & apply both “Afterthought” pockets – easy and applied on the outside after finishing the coat – or “Inset” pockets, which are more advanced and are placed on the inside of the coat through an opening created at the waistband. All the same pattern specs such as gauge, hook size, and yarn from the original pattern (linked above) can be applied here, so let’s get right on into the instructions!

Pockets (Make 2 for Afterthought pockets- Make 4 for Inset pockets)

Pocket pattern developed from design by Tirzah Norton-Shantie – thanks Tirzah! 😊

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To add pockets to the outside of the garment, create 2 matching pieces and sew them on after the coat is finished. To create inset pockets, make 4 matching pieces from the pattern below, then follow Inset Pocket Waistband instructions.

Ch. 19

Row 1: Pick up a loop from ea of the next 18 ch sts. RP. – 19 sts

Row 2: TKS in the next 8 sts, TKS inc in the next space. TKS in the next st, TKS inc in the next sp.  TKS in the next 9 sts. RP.  -21 sts

Row 3-10: TKS in ea st across. RP. – 21 sts

Row 11: TKS dec over the next 2 sts, TKS in next 7 sts, TKS inc in next sp, TKS in next st. TKS inc in next sp, TKS in next 7 sts. TKS dec over next 2 sts, TKS in last st. RP. – 21 sts

Row 12-16: TKS in ea st across. RP – 21 sts

Row 17: Repeat Row 11

Row 18-26: TKS in ea st across. RP. – 21 sts

Row 27-29: Rpt Row 11
Cut yarn and tie off.

If working outside / afterthought pockets, then work the following LDC rows onto the top of each pocket. Outside pockets can be sewn on after construction.

tirzahpocket

Photo courtesy of Tirzah Norton-Shantie

 If working inset pockets, the LDC rows will be worked later so skip them for now.

Row 30-31 (LDC ROWS): Attach yarn to the top edge of the pocket piece. Ch 3 (does not count as first st). 1 LDC in the same st and in ea st across, inserting hook through each stitch as if to TKS. – 19 sts.

Inset Pocket – Waistband

If working inset pockets, complete 4 pocket pieces (without the LDC rows) and seam each pair together with the wrong sides facing, leaving top open.

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To leave an opening at the waistband for inset pockets, there are two choices. The easier option is to complete the entire waistband as instructed and leave a 19-stitch long opening on each side of the garment when seaming together the waistband and the bottom of the Front & back panels.

The more advanced option is to work a set-in pocket in the middle of the waistband. To do so, familiarize yourself with both the Foundation Tunisian Technique here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haU59Ss8Hsw&list=PLwudTTp1E52YwgmfEmdmNSDgKJGbejoOm&index=2

And with the β€œAdding Length” technique which utilizes Foundation Tunisian, instructions here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bsg54HL156M&list=PLwudTTp1E52YwgmfEmdmNSDgKJGbejoOm&index=7

When working the waistband mark off where you will place your inset pockets on either side, then create a 19-stitch long Foundation Tunisian chain at that place (detailed in tutorial photos below). Resume regular TKS until reaching the other pocket point, then repeat for that opening. Return Pass as normal, then work the rest of the rows as normal.

Working Tunisian Foundation in the middle of the waistband for an inset pocket:

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TKS until reaching the portion you wish to leave open for inset pocket.

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Insert hook into the back of the next st – under the loop highlighted in green.

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Draw up a loop from this stitch to begin your Foundation Tunisian chain. Complete 19 Tunisian Foundation stitches.

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Once foundation length is complete, skip the appropriate number of stitches on the row below and resume TKS as normal.

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Once the entire waistband is complete, locate your two openings. With the two seamed-together pockets, sew the pocket openings into the opening created in the waistband or at the bodice/waistband seam.

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Insert pocket envelope into opening

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Align the edges and whip stitch together with tapestry needle and yarn.

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Attach new yarn and work the Linked Double crochet (Rows 30-31) over the bottom seam of the pocket, working through both the garment layer and the bottom layer of the pocket. Seam this row up the side of the pocket when complete, overlapping the top to hide the opening.

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View of the inset pocket from the inside of the coat.

Now, go fill your pockets! πŸ™‚
-MF

Elf Coat Belt Tie

Along with the new updates I’m implementing for my popular Elf Coat Pattern is this quick little addition for a belted-waist tie, perfect for those that don’t want to mess with buttons (or need some extra cinching!). All the same pattern specs such as Tunisian Hook size, yarn, and gauge from the original pattern (linked above) can be applied to this belt tie, so let’s get right on into the pattern πŸ™‚

Belt Tie (Optional, Make 2)

This pattern makes a ~21” tie about 2” wide, but you can make longer and/or wider ties depending on your needs by adding extra rows and/or foundation stitches. Ties are sewn into the side seams after construction.

One completed belt tie.

Ch 10.

Row 1: Pick up a lp from each of the next 9 ch sts. RP – 10 sts

Rows 2 – 90: TKS in ea st across. RP. – 10 sts

Row 91: TKS decrease over the next 2 sts. TKS in the next 4 sts. TKS decrease over the next 2 sts. TKS in the last st. RP. – 8 sts

Row 92: TKS dec over the next 2 sts. TKs in the next 2 sts. TKS dec over the next 2 sts. TKS in the last st. RP. – 6 sts

Row 93: TKS dec over the next 2 sts twice. TKS in the last st. RP. – 4 sts

Row 94: TKS dec over the next 2 sts. TKS in the last st. RP. – 3 sts.

Cut yarn and tie off.

Using a tapestry needle and yarn, sew the tie into the side seam at each side, RS facing.

Hope you enjoy!
-MF

Winter Sewing

I really couldn’t come up with a better title than that, despite the fact that I’m excited about how my latest sewing ventures came out! I take a break from crocheting occasionally to create garments on my sewing machine and serger – I love patchy pieces using upcycled garments and fabrics, and these two projects I have today fall into that category, as well as both being hand-dyed by yours truly. I finished both projects over the winter, and managed to tolerate sub-freezing temps to get a picture of them outdoors where the light was decent! Here’s my latest sewing, I’m sure you’ll see the gown at least one more time because I have a crochet design in mind to go with it later this year (hopefully).

Rag Gown

My stash of to-destroy thrifted clothing are mostly castoffs from my wardrobe, things that didn’t fit quite right but still had nice natural fabric or an interesting quality I wanted to create with.

For this rag gown, I saved up a linen sundress and a linen skirt, a cotton machine lace tank top, and a small vest of the same kind, and dyed it all along with some spare lengths of cotton plain weave and cotton blend knit jersey. They stewed in a big tub with hastily splashed greens, and the dye took in a beautiful mottled way that I tend to favor over traditional patterned tie dyes or evenly distributed solids ❀

From there I laid them out with a rough plan of how to splice, cutting slits into the sundress for gores made out of long wedges of the skirt. The bottom edge was left rough as the mismatching lengths were sewn in, then I trimmed the fabric leaving peaks where the added length was longer.

This fixed the weird tubular issue the sundress had to make it more flatteringly shaped. The inside slip needed lengthened, so the plain weave cotton got stitched into the premade insert peeking out from below for a permanently layered look. Both hems got some or all the way covered in ruffles I made from the remaining cotton weave!

Next I wanted to adjust the bodice, which was a little puffy in some places and a bit too short of line visually. I cut bits and pieces of the machine laced tops to create a front panel featuring some of the bolder designs and edged it in the lace strips, bordering the sides and flowing around to the zip fastening in the back.

I did consider replacing the zipper with a criss-cross tie back, but at this point my experimentation courage had been used up! My rag gown was looking better than I had any expectation of, and I was happy with this piece enough to end my first foray into this kind of design. A few fabrics didn’t get used or used all the way, and I have ideas for future rag gowns so we’ll just have to save some tricks for later πŸ˜‰

Patchwork Skirt

I’m pretty fond of this sewing pattern for Wendy Kay’s No-Gathers Skirt, which I purchased from her Etsy shop years ago and I’ve had plenty of use from! I’m not sure how many I’ve made but it’s over a handful, and I’ve always wanted to try dyeing one myself. These are perfect with scraps of affordably priced quilting cotton, which I either inherit from friends’ relatives or purchase myself in the discount remnant bins of the hobby stores.

Determined to use up my stash, I had bits and pieces of other skirts left, plus a lot of fabric that had a color I didn’t favor. I decided to use all the fabric I had, and then overdye the resulting garment in hopes that it would tie the non-matching colors together.

It worked pretty well! I love the rich purple and maroon that I custom mixed from my dyes, and the gold embossing on some of the fabrics really shines against that dark background.

Of course, having busted my stash of quilting cottons down, I’m encouraged by the success of dyeing these skirts and will probably pretty quickly rebuild said patchwork stash πŸ˜‰

I love experimenting and exploring with fiber art and apparel, and the fact that I get to twirl around while doing so is no small incentive πŸ˜‰

-MF

Do or Dye

‘Round about this time every winter my wandering creative eye starts to fixate on my spinning stash, as the cold and unpleasant weather of the Midwest drives me toward indoor activities that will relieve my mounting cabin fever. Besides spinning wool into crazy art yarns, I also hand dye wool rovings myself using professional acid dyes or experimenting with natural & botanical eco dyeing.

This year, my dye cabinet really needed to be worked through – I had POUNDS of wools stuffed in there waiting to be painted, and jars of dye I hadn’t even cracked open yet. On top of that whole situation, another imminent move (I’m a roving artist, myself – har har) meant that I really needed to downsize.

So in I dove, resolved to color all of the wool that I had laying around and produce a stash of things I could spin for years to come. 10-12 hours of labor and days of setting and drying time later, I had an extremely pretty and earthy toned woolen rainbow to cuddle.

My acid dye batch included some dyeable prespun merino yarn and a fistful of silky-soft baby Suri alpaca locks – lush!

But after that massive batch of acid dyeing, I decided I wasn’t done yet. I saved back about a half pound of wool because I had last summer’s reject elderberries sitting in my freezer, preserved with the intent to commit eco-dye.

In the past I’ve created my own botanical & food based natural dyes out of tea, coffee, turmeric, pokeberry, black walnut, and avocado – as well as trying out some commercial botanical dyes – and had mixed results. Usually it’s quite hard to get the homemade natural dyes strong enough to get good color and to mordant the fiber properly to get the color to stick. Still I get tempted because I’m a mad fiber scientist at heart!

The lightly toned roving in the picture above comes from commercially derived botanical dye liquids and represent the strongest colors I’ve ever gotten out of a natural dye.

In the late summer when we harvested 15-20 pounds of wild elderberries to make syrup and jelly, I discovered that while rinsing our little treasures the overripe and underripe berries tended to float to the top of the rinse water, making them easy to scoop out leaving the plump, juicy berries sunken at the bottom. I saved back all these rejects knowing at some point I’d try to dye with them, the perfect solution to not wasting pounds of harvest.

The dye process was quick, and I used this excellent post from Woollenflower to guide me. After a mordanting soak during which I boiled down my frozen berries, I drained the wool and put the dye berries through a cheesecloth sieve to separate off the liquid. The wool roving went into quart canning jars, each portioned with citric acid and elderberry juice, and I popped them into the canner to steam for about an hour. After the heat was applied, I let them cool overnight.

While most of the dye rinsed out, I’m still very happy with the gorgeous muted purples and pinks that appeared! Elderberry is particularly sensitive to pH levels, and I aimed to created a mottled effect with some alkaline color and some acidic color on the rovings – it’s hard to tell because none of my picture taking equipment captures these subtle tones in natural light, but I’m pleased with the result πŸ™‚

I don’t expect a ton of colorfastness from this batch, so I’ll probably reserve this wool for creating a wall hanging, as I did with some of my Avocado dyed wool – an indoor decoration is the perfect solution to delicately dyed natural fibers which tend to fade in sunlight or with multiple washings.

A dreamcatcher I made using peachy-pink natural avocado-dyed alpaca fiber, handspun by me. I also crocheted the happy li’l cado in the middle πŸ™‚

I can’t stop looking at this gorgeous woolen rainbow, which I’ve had strung along my photo backdrop curtain string for weeks at this point just because it’s too dang pretty all displayed together like that πŸ˜‰ But today I’ll pack it all away, now that my last stash of undyed wool is colored. I successfully cleaned out my to-dye-for wool stash, but now where do I put all the dyed wool??? Ha!

Almost all of my dyes, mordants, and dyeable wools come from Dharma Trading Co., a USA based tie-dye and fiber art supply company, and I highly recommend them for their products, free resources, and customer service!

-MF