Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Repairing Fair Isle with a Felting Needle

A horrible thing has happened in my joke of a closet.  What I have to assume was a gang of moths, infiltrated my walk-in and declared a wooly corner, next to my duct tape judy, their territory.  Somehow, some sort of sticky thing (likely a slow melting hard candy or cough drop) challenged the moth's turf, and when the dust settled, neither the jets nor the sharks were the fair-isle sleeves were.  

This is a hibernating project, but still one close to my heart.  The sleeves were worked circularly, as one unit, and then steeked twice, to separate the two flat sleeves.  They were also decreased into pleats, but that's another story.  

The sleeve that had sat on top had two problems;  stains of hard but powdery stuff, and many tiny bites.  If you find yourself in this shameful position, consider my method:

First, I tried to soften the brittle stains by dabbing with a moist cloth.  Where the stain ran into raw ends, exposed by bites, I frayed them and roughed them up until the powdery substance was gone.  This also got rid of any fibre that was going to dislodge later, anyways.
I then began to needle felt from the back.  I looked for stash fibre that roughly matched the main colour in the area.
From the front, I carefully needle felted without adding new fibre, to lock the work in place.
I then took cuttings from the steek of those colours most in trouble.  I needle felted these in place, working from the front and then securing in the back, turning to the front once more to clean things up with the felting needle.

I was able to cover some areas almost as if I were swiss darning.  In areas of a recessing colour or of a larger colour block I didn't worry about following the path of each stitch quite so much.

While the felting needle and block were out, I experimented by felting the pleats into place.
I had never tried this before, but the results were fairly convincing.  It is also another good reason to steek when possible!  As you can see, I use a crochet steek.  The critters had been there as well, so the troubled sleeve was coming away from the crochet in places.  I squished the perpendicular crochet and knit stitches together and needle felted along the join.
That's probably a good idea too, even outside of wartime.  I sometimes worry about a crochet steek holding, depending on the yarn employed.  While I usually reinforce with hand sewing; backstitches with a doubled thread, from now on I may turn to needle felting if reinforcing is necessary.  I think it is a good solution for stranded projects worked in Cascade 220 in particular.  The larger gauge doesn't always support traditional steeking methods and of course the wool lacks a Shetland wool's stickiness.  It is, however, a prodigious felter!
I do a lot of stranded projects in Cascade 220, but this has more to do with availability.  The Loop's shipment just arrived and the heathered colours are beautiful.  As always, I will have to buy one skein of each new colour.  I think of 220 as Pokemon a little bit.

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