The story of a shawl that embodies my yarney commitments.
I’ve already determined that I am a shawl convert; once a disbeliever, Iam now a committed member of the handknitting shawl society. The Raina Shawl by Andrea Mowry from Making no. 4/Lines is an incredible shawl. I had high hopes of making this squishy piece when the magazine was first published – and finally found the perfect yarn match this fall.
I love the two yarns in this shawl. One is a breed-specific farm yarn: Round Barn Fiber Mill Esme – a pure Jacob yarn from a single sheep (named Esme) whose fleece produces this lofty, soft, and delightful natural brown yarn. I paired Esme with a white Shetland yarn that I reclaimed from a thrifted sweater. This reclaimed yarn is a little more robust than Esme, which is why the Shetland took the first color place and Esme plays a supporting role in the background of the brioche. The chance to hold a recycled yarn along with a breed-specific yarn is my ideal knitting project! I care so much about using yarn from these two sources: small farms and rescued sources – and the fact that I could use them together in one project where they work so well together was truly satisfying.
This project also brought a new technique: two-color brioche. I’ve done brioche before – usually one-color, with a lot of mistakes and confusion. I have heard from other knitters that two-color brioche can be frustrating and time consuming as it involves sliding a finished row of stitches to the beginning of a needle and following with the second color – so it takes two rows to finish one row. I had no interest in sliding my stitches to the beginning of the needle. So, before I started this project, I sat down with the Sockmatician one-pass brioche tutorial and focused. I learned the one-pass method in one night and cast on my shawl the next day. I will admit, the last time I had to focus like this in a knitting project was when I was learning to knit back in 2011… There was a lot of focus going on.
With one-pass brioche, my Raina Shawl was a very smooth and satisfying knit. I love the finished shawl and the way the two yarns play together. I finished this shawl the night before my second PhD qualifying exam. I wore it during my exam as a protective wooly layer to remind me that: yes – I am amazing! I can knit this shawl and I can pass this exam. I did pass, and I think the focus and clarity I found from knitting Raina helped immensely.
Raina was a delight to knit. Worth every bit of intense focus.
Before that MMMay18 post, I was pretty quiet (actually silent) in this space for the last month. All that radio silence is my first real period of blog-absence since Reclaimed Craft started in August 2017. I had a great streak of posting at least once a week since that first post appeared, however, April came in and just smacked me in the face.
So what happened to April? Where have I been? What have I been making? AM I STILL AROUND?
Answer: yes, I’m around. I’ve been pretty active over on instagram… I’ve been making a bit, not a lot, and definitely not according to my schedule anymore. I have been writing – final papers. Those thirty page gems that demonstrate my skill as an almost Doctor of Theology and Health Care Ethics (coming 2020 if all goes well). This writing takes WORK – and uses very similar skills to blog writing. All my writing abilities have been zapped up by these papers. But I’m not sorry for my blog absence because these papers will be amazing and all three people who read them better be impressed.
So, more to theme, what have I been MAKING? Well, April left me with a lot of work to do, so honestly my projects have been minimal.
This embroidery sampler has really kicked my slow sewing bug into shape. I want to add hand embroidered elements to all of my me-mades. Is it possible? I think so.
I finished a pair of socks which are (subjectively) the ugliest socks in the world. Rainbow is just not my style. However, I will wear these socks with pride. Also you can just see the final paper fatigue written all over my face – I’m embracing it.
I finished another GORT! for my friend Carly from scrap yarn. I wanted to celebrate her birthday and her upcoming graduation from seminary with a sweet toy that mixes her favorite color (forest green) and my favorite color (dusty pink). Incidentally, she has hated the color pink for our entire friendship (something about recovering from consumerism… and suburbs), so I have now made it my mission to reintroduce the color to her in a helpful and palatable way. I think it’s working… This Gort is stuffed in a similar way to my last Gort, but with more cut up fabric scraps than yarn pieces – which makes it a bit lumpier and heavier. Yarn scraps are definitely my stuffing of choice when it comes to toys.
I have some Selbu mittens on the needles. They need thumbs.
I’m working on this wedding blanket for my good friend Veronica. I have not been able to find the right style for this blanket. It has to represent her well and be large enough to avoid the baby blanket look. I’ve knit three different versions, and have finally settled on a log cabin style Mexican blanket inspired look. I will 100% not finish this on time, so it’ll be a late wedding present.
Finally, I have a Kalle shirt in progress. It’s been languishing for the last month, untouched, for some unknown reason. All I have to do is add the hem binding and the buttonholes. I think the thing stopping me is the stain on the back. I have so many ideas for how to cover it creatively to make it a design feature – but my creativity has really been funneled into those final papers, so crafting has taken a serious back seat.
I’ve also finished one of the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever made – but that deserves a whole post dedicated to its creative glory. Fear not, there is more making to come!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Domestic. Feminine. Girly. 1950’s Housewife. All “compliments” that require a huge amount of interpretation on my part to be received well. When I first picked up knitting I had no idea about its history or its current cultural connotations as a woman’s activity. As I began to knit around my family and friends, I heard comments using the adjectives above with greater frequency. Being called domestic or feminine felt more like an insult than a compliment. It has taken a lot of thought to reach the point where I say thank you when someone compares me to a 1950’s housewife rather than slam the door in their face.
If I’m being honest with myself, I am feminine. Identifying as feminine is difficult to do considering my strong identity as a tomboy and my rejection of anything girly as a child. This rejection was still present when I picked up knitting in 2011, completely unaware of its feminine connotations. I was also completely unaware how this new hobby would reveal years of internalized sexism. As I became more and more of a “knitter” I wrestled with what it meant for me to be feminine and my deeply held negativity about femininity.
Let’s return to my identity as a tom boy. This identity had a very clear origin: sometime in elementary school I chose to embrace all things “boyish” and reject anything “girly.” Previous to this point I was a huge fan of the characteristic girly stuff: dresses, pink, dancing, dolls, etc. I chose to push aside those interests and take on totally new interests like football, the color orange, and cargo pants. Now I find it absolutely hilarious that to my eight-year-old brain cargo pants and orange were the most boyish things I could imagine.
One of the reasons I rejected femininity as a child was because, in my community, feminine things were characterized as boring, frivolous, and limiting. If I was girly, I couldn’t enjoy playing outside or being loud and rambunctious – which I desperately wanted to do at all hours. Somehow I made the all-or-nothing calculation that if I were to be strong, athletic, and loud, I couldn’t be feminine. I identified with these traits that could be traditionally labeled masculine and gave up my feminine traits. While I am glad I embraced those parts of me that were loud and strong, I can identify that for most of my childhood I did not feel like I could be myself. My decision to reject the feminine had been detrimental to my sense of identity.
After years of schooling and some very helpful academic courses on feminism and theology, I realized that qualities labeled masculine and feminine could, in fact, be embodied in one individual. These traits that are labeled feminine or masculine aren’t actually inherently gendered. The color orange does not, at its core, belong more to men or women. The ability to follow a recipe for cupcakes does not inherently belong more to women than men. Gendered traits are formed by communities and cultures. I realized that in my community, those traditional feminine qualities get quite a bad reputation. Even though I was raised in the era of “girl power,” girly things weren’t considered powerful and girls could only feel powerful if they rejected femininity.
Because I believed words like domestic and feminine to be boring, I had a hard time imagining why someone would tell me, to my face, that I was so domestic or I reminded them of a 1950’s housewife. In my mind these phrases were akin to calling me boring, frivolous, or antiquated. However, now I understand that my association of femininity with frivolity was internalized sexism and revealed how my community valued (read: did not value) traditional feminine traits, qualities, and activities. After coming to terms with my community’s belittlement of the feminine, I began to explore the values of traditional femininity. I rediscovered my love of dresses, embraced my appreciation for the color pink, and owned my skills in baking, knitting, and sewing. Rather than hide my love for these things, I embrace these activities as equally valuable to my skills in more male dominated spheres like rock climbing, technology support, and building/fixing things.
My obsession with knitting, and perhaps my initial ignorance of its gendered history, was the spark that began my reunion with femininity. Now that I no longer view feminine qualities and activities as boring, I feel more connected to the strong, creative, and feminine women who have preceded me. Women like my great aunt Joan who was a master weaver, natural dyer, and spinner and my great grandmothers Eleanor and Mary Belle who could knit lace weight garments with their eyes closed. These women were previously just names on my family tree before I took up knitting. For them, traditional women’s crafts weren’t limiting, but provided necessities and freedom in the form of economic independence. When I think about them, being called a 1950’s housewife seems a bit more bad-ass than it did before.
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.
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.