In Progress: February Knitting Hopes and Dreams

Sometime in the middle of January, I sat down to plan out the next few months in terms of knitting projects. By the next few months, I really mean that my knitting schedule is booked until July. I think this spurt of scheduling was brought on by my ordered approach to my graduate school coursework. Every paper and assignment is documented in the calendar and every reading assignment is broken down into digestible bits. This makes a lot of sense for graduate school; blitz reading 500 pages of Ancient Christian primary sources is equivalent to death. However, this was the first time I’ve applied my heavy organizational method to my craft. Previously, I knit whatever popped into my head, usually motivated by the yarn that was available. I would sometimes schedule knitting projects by deadline – especially helpful for Christmas gifts, but it was never really part of my crafty life.

At the moment, my knitting mojo is high and I have a lot of projects I want to complete. Each of those projects fills an important void in my wardrobe. I tend to feel overwhelmed when I have a lot on my plate without direction. Sometimes this leads me to feel stressed about how many knitting projects I want to complete in the next year and doubtful that I could manage to finish them. This doubt, that I won’t complete the projects I want to in time, is not grounded in actual fact. If I look at my knitting history (thanks ravelry!), it’s clear that I am actually quite good at finishing projects (no UFO’s here folks) and I tend to be highly productive when it comes to knitting.

By scheduling my knitting life for the first half of the year, I am simultaneously relieving myself of the stress of unknowns while also combatting the doubt that I can actually accomplish my goals. I’m embracing my knitting schedule as a experiment in empowerment through realistically evaluating my skills in knitting.

So what’s this schedule? February has three projects in the line-up.

  1. A quick scrap buster to gift to a friend. I’ll share more about this project after it’s completed. Ugh, secrets are the worst.
  2. Birkin by Caitlin Hunter. I’m knitting this sweater using yarn gifted to me from various parties. While I probably wouldn’t have picked this yarn on my own, it’ll work just fine for this sweater. For the main color I’m using Manos del Uruguay Alegria in the Petal colorway. For the colorwork I’m using selections of Bergere de France in Cyclamen (pink), Elephant (dark grey), Meije (white), and finally some unknown stash yarn (light grey). I would prefer to use stickier yarn for colorwork; all of these yarns are superwash and have some nylon content (except maybe the light grey?). However, as these yarns are in my stash and available, I’d like to use them despite the fact that they’re not my favorite. Also, because I already have a Birkin sweater (designed by Amy Miller), I’m calling this sweater my St. Valentine sweater because of its general pinkness.
  3. Carbeth by Kate Davies. I had already had this on my schedule for February, and it so conveniently was also in the minds of the hilarious ladies at Mason-Dixon Knitting. Their #bangoutasweater kal is all about Carbeth this month. I’m very excited to play along. I’m holding two strands (black and blue) together for this sweater. The yarn is unknown fiber content from cones which I found at Scrap It Up, the creative reuse craft store in Cincinnati. The black is quite thistly – and my guess is that it might be carpet grade wool? Holding it alongside the blue yarn (which is much softer) and a good soak in some water softens it up a bit. This sweater will be a true test in my skin’s readiness to accept scratchy fibers. I’ll probably have to toughen up a bit.

I’ll share more about my knitting plans as their (loosely held) deadlines approach.  For now, I’m fully committed to finishing these three projects during the shortest month of the year. I see a lot of knitting in my future.

Advertisements

Christmas Break Crafting: Wraping Up with the (sort of) Mia Jeans

I have put the finishing touches to every project I had planned for winter break making madness.

My Erin Skirt, Logalong Skirt, Flora Mittens, and Zweig Sweater, are all complete. Finally, I have put the finishing touches on a pair of refashioned Mia Jeans.

img_8108

These jeans are a hybrid of the Mia Jeans pattern from Sew Over It and the original pants design. I kept the side zipper and the button closure of the original pants, as well as no pockets. I achieved the right fit using the Mia Jeans – and that’s about it.

img_8107

Here’s a high quality shot of me wearing the original pants (kind of a drop crotch going on)…

IMG_7829

I found these jeans at a Goodwill in Cincinnati, I was on the hunt for a pair of pants with enough stretch required for the Mia Jeans but also large enough for me to achieve a high waisted fit. I walked around the denim aisles stretching every pair of jeans to see if I could find a truly stretchy pair. Eventually, I started imagining that some pairs were stretchy, but then I realized I was actually pulling them on the bias… I’m sure I looked a little crazy. Finally, I was shocked to come across the perfect pair of stretch grey trousers from Gap. The key is that the tag in the back actually says “stretch,” making my job much easier.

img_8105

Refashioning these was relatively simple, up to the zipper. I don’t know if I like the long side zipper on such a tight fitting pair of pants… but I also don’t hate it. It makes it a bit easier to tuck in tops and prevent awkward bulking in my midsection, but it does stick out.

img_8103

I’d like to make another pair of Mia Jeans, however the fabric characteristics (stretch denim) is not the easiest fabric to find while thrifting. I’m on the hunt for some non-stretch pants patterns (like the Lander Pant!) as non-stretch denim and canvas is easier to find used and reclaimed.

Finished Object: Zweig

img_8097

Also known as the sweater that was a little tighter than I planned.

This sweater is an hommage to my Minnesotan childhood winters.  The natural white mimics a blanket of snow and the tonal blue reminds me of a the blue skies that can only happen on the coldest days. Would this sweater keep me warm when windchill hits -40 degrees? Probably not by itself. But I would  be super stylish while waiting for the endless winter to end. (Also, -40 is the point where Fahrenheit and Celsius meet… v. cold)

img_8098

This sweater is tighter than I planned. I don’t mean uncomfortable or ill fitting, it just doesn’t have as much positive ease as I imagined. I’ve decided that one of the reasons for this closer fit is due to the 100% merino of the body – it’s probably more like a sport weight than a fingering. Second, I made the crucial mistake of swatching flat rather than in the round. While my flat swatch matched gauge – once I started to knit in the round, I no longer had purl rows to bulk up my stitches. The fabric I produced in the round was much tighter than if I were knitting flat. So lesson learned… always swatch in the style in which you will knit. I’ve already fixed my bad habit in my next sweater project.

img_8094

I experimented with bind offs on this sweater. For the sleeves I used Jeny’s surprisingly stretchy bind off and for the hem I used a stretchy bind off (k2tog, tbl). At this point, I prefer the stretchy bind off for ease and overall finished look.

I have a few more sweaters planned this winter – but I’m happy with the first finished sweater of 2018. Here’s to many more!

Finished Object: Logalong Circle Skirt

img_8032

Holy Moly. She’s finished.

My dreams of a full circle skirt knit in the log cabin style have been actualized.

I left my last post on this skirt a bit hesitant. I was unsure my design idea could even be realized and not at all confident my planning skills were up to the task. However, after taking a few gambles, I am pleased to say my skirt checks all the boxes. It’s full, flowy, light, high-waisted, and delightful. IT WORKED and I’m not totally sure how.

img_8041

Here are some specs:

  • I originally planned for ten triangle segments to make up my skirt, that number shrunk to seven after a layout test.
  • I seamed the triangles together with a three needle bind off.
  • I finished the bottom of the skirt with an i-cord edge treatment.
  • Each triangle uses 40 grams of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. Overall for the whole skirt I used seven skeins of yarn.
  • I picked up stitches for the waistband and knit a casing for elastic

img_8053

The most difficult part of this project was decision making. I have no experience designing – and this was a pretty large and intense way to get my feet wet. I was baffled by the sheer amount of decisions that must be made in a garment. Stitch texture and yarn choice proved relative easy for me, but the waistband was more challenging. For a while I imagined I would knit the waistband separate from the body of the skirt and seam it together, but after mulling over this option for actual days, I determined that fitting a waistband to my body as well as the skirt would be beyond my skill level. So, I calculated the number of stitches needed to fit around my waist and picked up stitches to generally match this number. My waistband is taller than I imagined – but I think this height helps balance the volume of the skirt. It also ensure the skirt falls at a wearable length. One unintended result of my waistband that I love is how the body of the skirt (the triangles) start right at my hip.

img_8026

I’m pleased (and surprised) that this skirt has turned out as I imagined. During the construction process I felt a bit nervous about knitting so far out of my comfort zone, but now that I’ve worked through the decision making process I feel quite empowered. I’ve tasted the sweet results of seeing a project from design idea to finished project – and they certainly are addictive. Now I wonder if I can go back to settling for patterns that aren’t quite right (answer: probably not). But I’m not in a rush to give up patterns entirely. I feel quite grateful to Karen Templer and her marvelous idea for the #fringeandfriendslogalong, without which I would be skirt-less and uninspired.

 

Logalong Plans and Progress

img_7812-1

img_7805

When Karen Templer of Fringe Association announced the plans for a log cabin knit-a-long, I had mixed feelings. The log cabin style of knitting was never something that caught my eye, perhaps because I tend toward color minimalism – preferring solids to multicolored items. The log cabin construction style lends itself to items like blankets or scarves – anything square.

I knew if I wanted to join in this knitalong it would mean knitting a solid colored garment that incorporates the log cabin construction. Realizing that I have a baffling amount of sweaters (and more on the way), I knew sweaters were out of the running. I was left feeling sans inspiration for some time – without any confidence in my log cabin knitting plans – until early one morning I woke with the most brilliant idea. So brilliant that it takes a little extra explanation.

The Plan: Log cabin full circle mini skirt made of triangles.

I’ve been attracted to the look of full circle mini skirts this year (my logalong pinterest board has a few), especially those made of wool. They have volume and a little bit of sass that would really brighten up a winters day. While I haven’t found any patterns for a knit full circle mini skirt – I don’t see why it can’t be done.

Full circle skirts can easily be broken into triangular sections – like pieces of a pie.

But is a triangle even a log cabin thing? Yes it is my friends, quilters do it and so will I.

By using a circle skirt calculator for sewing, I was able to make some extra calculations to create triangular sections. But, in order to have room for the waist, I have to chop off the very tip of the triangles – making them trapezoids with triangle insides… a hyprid shape.

My original plan is to have 10 triangles 15 inches high with a 15 inch base. That will give me a very full skirt and a pretty short mini. I’m planning for the waist to have a little bit of negative ease (being knitwear and all) and adding a waistband (maybe with some cables?).

That said, I’m about five triangles down, and I’m starting to think I might prefer the skirt with a little less volume – maybe a 3/4 circle skirt – so I might stop with eight triangles, maybe even six, it all depends on if I can make the waist fit.

The Yarn: I chose to use Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in the Old World colorway. I am so excited to finally be working with this yarn. I really wanted to see what it was like working with a wool that blooms after blocking – and I can confidently say it is everything that I’ve hoped and dreamed for. While knitting, the yarn feels stiff, scratchy, and sticky – however after a 30 minute soak in warm water it transforms into a drapey, soft piece of fabric. After knitting and blocking my test triangle I was so surprised by the change in fabric characteristics. I went from unsure that this design would even be possible to very excited and confident that it would work.

The Old World colorway is a navy blue tweed with flecks of bright red and turquoise. I know this skirt will fit in with my wardrobe color palate. That’s why I chose it. I’m actually using two dye lots (break all the knitting rules!) but since this skirt is made of pieces, I figure the difference won’t be noticeable.

The Log Cabin: While most of the log cabin knits I’ve seen are made of garter stitch, I chose to knit my triangles in stockinette. I was really drawn to Norah Gaughan’s Log Cabin Shawl pattern, especially her use of different stitch textures in the log cabin blocks. However, after a small test with alternating stitch textures, I realized my triangles were better suited for a very basic stitch pattern. The bit of inspo I did pull from the Log Cabin Shawl was the use of a ridge to separate between blocks (however, my ridge is way simpler than the one used in this shawl pattern).

While I’m excited about this skirt, I won’t fully know if the whole idea works until I seam the pieces together and try it on. I’m proceeding with fingers crossed and a general attitude of knitting recklessness.

The Embroidered Erin Skirt

img_7770

This skirt began as a pair of mid-rise wide leg pants. The beautiful herringbone weave fabric with tiny strands of gold were calling out to be transformed into a wearable, everyday item.

img_7758

One item I’ve been reaching for constantly this fall/winter is my high waisted denim a-line skirt (seen here). This skirt has been a year round staple since I bought it, ready to wear, about two years ago. I’ve slowly been transitioning from store-bought clothes to homemade versions, and I thought my beloved denim skirt could use a sibling.

The Erin Skirt from Sew Over It is a high waisted button down skirt that comes in a mini and midi length. It’s high waistband is perhaps the only feature it shares with my store bought version. The Erin Skirt has the added details of a button down front, pockets (!) and a more pencil-skirt feel, while my denim version is sans pockets, has a bit more volume and is a bit shorter.

As I mentioned earlier, this skirt began it’s clothing life as a pair of pants. While I loved the pants as-is, they were just a tad too short waisted for my preference. I’ve been leaning toward cropped tops and high waisted bottoms lately; it’s a silhouette I’ve been drawn to in all seasons. While I toyed with the idea of altering the pants to fit me perfectly, I recognized that a skirt would be of greater utility.

Every material in this skirt was somehow secondhand. The pants were found at my favorite clothing swap at Perennial, the covered buttons and material come from Cincinnati’s creative reuse store called Scrap It Up. I’ve never used covered buttons before (let alone vintage one’s), but when I came across a six-pack of Prym covered buttons, I realized their versatility was invaluable. After a short rummage through an upholstery sampler box, I found a perfect navy herringbone fabric for a statement button. I think the total cost of these buttons was $.40 ($.25 for the buttons and $.15 for the fabric sampler). The clothing swap fee was $10, but I took away 10 items, making these pants $1. My total cost to make this skirt was $1.40.

I had to do some unique pattern placement to get enough fabric from the pants to make this skirt. First, my front pieces both include the side seam from the original pants (visible in the photos above and below). Second, I used the original waistband, which is double the width of the pattern waistband and includes four belt loops. Because I used the original waistband, I had to mend the original buttonhole – so there’s some mending visible on the front of the skirt. Third, the pants have about four layers of hem (why so many???) and after unpicking all four, the stitching and fold lines were still quite visible around the bottom of the skirt. After mulling over my options to camouflage the original hem, I decided four lines of chain stitch embroidery would do the trick. This thread came from my sister-in-law’s closet clean out, she found them in a box of middle school craft supplies and I was thrilled to rescue them.

Refashioning pants into a skirt was well worth the extra effort. My favorite parts of this skirt (the buttons and embroidery) were only possible because I limited myself to used materials. These limitations, rather than produce something subpar, allowed me to develop my skills and creativity. I’m absolutely thrilled with this skirt.

In Progress: Christmas Break Knitting

Yay Christmas Break! This break is all about making: knitting and sewing the days away – endless hours of craft time. We’re spending Christmas, and three weeks of the break, with my in-laws, who have an entire empty basement space waiting to be transformed into my personal crafting dungeon.

This break, my knitting plans centered on one project: Zweig – my dream sweater.

IMG_7741

After a lot of waffling about yarn choices, I cast on my version of Zweig on December 15th – right after I finished my Christmas sweater. I’m enjoying the knitting process so far. I especially love my simple color choices of indigo blue and natural white. This is the kind of basic color combination that makes my heart swell.

I intended to have my Zweig finished by the start of the spring semester on January 15. I was on a knitting roll and ready to meet my arbitrary deadline until I realized I forgot my other two skeins of natural white yarn at home. What a dummy! So Zweig is on hold and I feel a bit foolish.

Rather than wallow in my planning error, I moved on to the next project in my queue: the Flora Mittens by Skeindeer Knits. This pattern was perfect for the Christmas recovery days. I’m actually almost done with both mittens – just one thumb left! Look forward to a finished object blog post in the coming days.

I’m so grateful for this luxurious time to think only about making. Working on a Ph.D doesn’t leave much time for luxury. Most students I know, myself included, carry heavy loads of guilt when we don’t spend our waking hours on schoolwork. During the semester, I do my best to balance studying with my self-care and making. Typically I have to set a tight schedule for the day – something like “no knitting until 5 pm” – otherwise I tend to get lost in the craft process and procrastinate on my research. School breaks are such a delight because I no longer have to fight with that desire to spend endless hours on making. I can give those desires breathing room. These times of intense making have been essential for my scholarly career. By taking time and space away from intense academic work, I find I can start the new semester with energy and a clear mind. I know I won’t always have these times to craft for three weeks straight, but hopefully when that time comes, the intensity of Ph.D. work with also have passed. Cheers to taking breaks.

Happy Making!