Fabnik is a new (2015) USA-based business producing a small range of kits for leather goods. The guys behind it were kind enough to send me a voucher for a free mini-wallet kit. It was far from free by the time I’d paid for international shipping, VAT and the swingeing £8 handling fee imposed by Royal Mail, but none of that is the fault of Fabnik. Anyway, I have only just got around to making up this kit, thanks to being at home over Christmas and having some time off.
The kit was beautifully packaged and presented. When you order, you get to choose from a lot of options to personalise your wallet: discreet laser-etched initials on the outside, what types of internal and external pockets you want, one or two colours of leather and the colour of the linen stitching thread. The wallet materials came in cloth bag inside a cardboard box complete with a tabletop “stitching pony”, a Fabnik invention which fulfils the same role as a clam, i.e. it’s a third hand to hold the work securely while you sew the seams. It’s perfect for small leather goods such as this wallet and makes it really easy to achieve high quality saddle stitching. The real innovation is that the stitching pony has writing on each side to remind you which needle to use next (saddle stitching uses a pair of needles, one on each end of the thread), and to insert the second needle into each hole above the thread that is already in there.
It’s all pretty idiot-proof, and the seams I produced with it are probably the best saddle stitching I’ve ever done. You can see that in the photos below of the insides – the brown wallet on the left is the one I made from scratch a few months ago, using my own materials and without the benefit of the stitching pony. The one on the right is from the Fabnik kit I’ve just made up. It helps that the Fabnik leather was laser cut goatskin, giving rather cleaner edges than my calfskin cut with a knife.
The kit contained everything needed except a pair of scissors: needles, stitching pins (another Fabnik innovation) to keep the laser-cut stitching holes lined up, beeswax for sealing the edges and even a piece of cotton fabric to use as a polishing cloth. The instructions for this bifold wallet, and a simpler, non-folding version, are on Instructables and I see from them that a waxy leather polish is now included in the kits too. The Fabnik Instructables even provide a PDF of the pattern needed to cut out the leather if you don’t want to buy the kit, which is what I used to create my first calfskin version.
I’m really happy with the finished result, it looks very professional. It took me probably a couple of hours from beginning to end, including polishing the leather pieces to start with and burnishing the edges – that is quite a lengthy process. The wallet is credit card sized and is perfect for holding a card, a few banknotes and maybe a travel pass or a key when out on the town or participating in sports – any time you don’t want to be weighed down with a handbag or full-sized wallet. I wholeheartedly recommend the Fabnik kits, even someone who has never done any leatherwork before should be able to produce a desirable item given the quality of the materials and the really clear instructions.
Two hats and recorder gloves finished
The owl beanie I made for my niece looks a lot better after blocking. Sewing 18 small pearls on for the owls’ eyes was a tedious job though. If I ever make another, I’ll try to find beads with holes big enough to be threaded onto the yarn so that they can be knitted in.
The Hipster hat, also for my niece, is done as well. It only took a couple of evenings’ worth of knitting, not counting a false start that was turning out too large. This is in a 50% merino, 50% acrylic blend, and I can’t say that I enjoyed knitting with it very much. Compared to pure wool or alpaca it feels harsh. However, it shouldn’t make her head itch – like me, she can’t wear most wools next to the skin, but merino has very fine fibres and should be OK. The high acrylic content will make it easier to wash too.
The fingerless gloves (Hands of Blue) for my recorder-playing SiL also look better for being blocked. (What doesn’t?) I daren’t model them for photographing purposes in case I stretch them with my enormous hands. I’ve found some more of the same lambswool and cashmere yarn in my stash, but brown rather than red. I think there’ll be just enough of it to knit a pair of full-fingered gloves for myself, and that will be on my ‘to do’ list just as soon as the current pair of gloves are done.
These are Io, and I’m well on with glove no.1. I’m going to make the fingers a little more generously sized than called for, as I don’t like tight gloves – they are warmer if they’re not skin-tight. Also, several people have commented on their Io Ravelry project pages that the index finger is tight because of the mini cable spiralling up it, so my index fingers are going to have 28 stitches – that’s the plan anyway, I’ll see how it looks when I get there. I find that any excess stitches in glove fingers can be decreased in the first round without it looking odd, especially if the decreases are placed between the fingers. Often it’s a good idea to pick up and/or cast on stitches liberally between fingers to avoid any holes, and then get rid of them at the first opportunity.
I’ve just started on the jacquard zig-zag section above the colourwork cuff. This stitch, like so many others, was documented by Barbara Walker. Sometimes I turn to the Walker Project website when I want to see what one of her stitch patterns looks like in a modern yarn, and the jacquard stitch example there is beautifully knitted. The “floats” are created by slipping two stitches with the yarn in front on the knit side, and slipping two with the yarn to the back on the purl rows. Of course, I’m knitting my gloves in the round, which means purl rows are avoided. This is my first time knitting jacquard, as far as I can remember, and I’m wondering whether I’m getting the tension right. Time will tell.