Several years ago, I was visiting my friend Cora Ginsberg, who has an antique treasure house in Tarrytown, N.Y., and from a huge box in her attic she pulled out the most magnificent full-length Persian nobleman's silken coat.
It was stitched in trapunto, that Italian padded quilting that gives fabric a uniquely durable, soft and luxurious quality. But what was most extraordinary was that the quilting on both sides was identical -- the coat was reversible! I was so taken with the idea that I decided I must have a reversible trapunto evening jacket, so I immediately set about making one for myself.
Unlike ordinary quilting, which is a sandwich of lining, padding and quilt -- top stitched together at one time -- the padding of trapunto is added afterward. If you're working a reversible garment, you must find a soft material that won't show holes where the large needle has penetrated, carrying the heavy thread for padding.
I chose a box-style Mandarin jacket with a standup collar and long sleeves, so that I could turn back the cuffs and show the contrasting reverse side. For material, I went to a fabric store and found some inexpensive (relatively!) silk remnants, a muted rose for on side, and soft beige for the reverse. But whatever garment you decide to make, whether a jacket, a reversible vest or even a wrap-around skirt with a trapunto hem, it's wise to first take a trip to the fabric store with a large needdle in hand. On a corner of the fabric you're considering, make an "acid test" by plunging your needle through the fabric and seeing if holes show.
Once you've found a fabric to your satisfaction, buy a dressmaker's pattern and trace around the shapes on either one of the materials. Before cutting out each pattern piece, outline your trapunto design with a pencil on the fabric. Because the padding is done with a thick, lightweight yarn like Dacron, the design should be a double line enclosing a channel for the thread to fit between. Best for trapunto are designs of interlacing lines or narrow geometric bands.
I worked my jacket in an overall design and added a geometric border down the front, which continued around the collar. If you decide to make an overall quilting design, you must first cut out your pattern in muslin, then baste all the pieces together. Try it on, fit it, and draw your design on the muslin so that the overall pattern will continue, say where the shoulders meet and where the sleeves join. If your design is worked only over sections of the garment, however, you don't need to work it out on muslin first.
After you've finished drawing your design on one side of the garment, cut out the pieces and sew them up. Then cut out the pieces of the "reverse" side, using the same pattern. Stitch up the reverse side, slip it inside the "front" side of the garment, right sides facing, and stitch the two together, leaving enough of the hem of the jacket open to enable you to turn it inside out. Stitch the hems together with tiny invisilbe stitches.
Now you're ready to begin your quilting along the outlines of the channels you've drawn in pencil on one side, using a quiltilng needle and whatever color thread you prefer. For may rose and beige jacket, I selected two strands of rose-colored DMC cotton floss, so that the rose side would show only the impression of the stitches, and on the beige side, the rose stitching would provide a beautiful contrast.
Quilting stitch is simplicity itself since it's just a running stitch -- in and out -- with about three to five stitches on the needle at one time. Your stitches can be as fine or as coarse as you can comfortable make them (although, of corse, the finer the better!). The most important trick is to keep your stitches even, so that the size of the stitch equals the space between it.
When you've completed your stitching, thread a large tapestry needle with a doubled thread of bulky knitting yarn or a single strand of any thick yet lightweight Dacron mixture and begin running it through the channel. Make each stitch as long as is comfortable on the needle, then pull it through the top of your channel and return it to the same hole to continue. Pull the wool flat (not too tightly), then stroke over the hole where the needle has returned so the hole will completely disappear. (Now you see why you took that "acid test" in the fabric store?)
Q: I read somewhere that there is a book that shows how to convert crochet patterns to knitting and knitting patterns to crochet. I have tried to get a copy of this book, but the clerks at every place I tried just gave me a blank look and said if I found it to let them known and they would order 150. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
A: I feel the same as those other people you've asked. It sounds like a wonderful idea. However, I've checked with some of the experts and they are not aware that there is any way to convert knitting stitches to crochet and vice versa. Can any of our readers help?