Finished Object: Pink Birkin

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I set my sights on a pink pullover long before this Pink Birkin ever materialized. In its materialized Birkin form, my pink pullover dream has been smashed to pieces and replaced with something divine.

I am simply thrilled, absolutely beaming, that I can call this colorwork yoke sweater mine.

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First I want to gush over what I love about this sweater: the colorwork yoke and the body shape. I have not attempted colorwork of this scale before, not to mention never tried my hand at holding three strands in one colorwork row. I think I could have managed my yarn with more grace (I wish I had seen this video by Dianna Walla on stranded colorwork!), but blocking truly worked miracles. Even with superwash yarns with nylon content, blocking still managed to fill in the gaps left by my inexperienced colorwork hands.

The shape of this sweater is loose and relaxed – my most essential life values. Thanks to the unique a-line shaping (increased needle size rather than increased stitch count) the body of the sweater did not feel monotonous or strenuous to knit. My initial gauge swatch was a bit small on the recommended needles, so I went up a needle size – swatched again, and felt comfortable with my results. After the surprising close fit of my Zweig, I decided to knit a size larger than I would typically knit for extra positive ease to ensure my Birkin had space to breathe.

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So I did fudge a few things. First, I used heavier weight fingering yarns for the colorwork while my main color yarn was lighter weight. What did this do? Well it threw off my row gauge in the yoke section and I created a much deeper yoke than I was expecting. Considering the whole sweater is a relaxed fit, this doesn’t actually affect the overall look or function one bit.

Second work around: I used superwash yarns instead of yarns better suited for colorwork like a more rustic wool. How did this affect my Birkin? Well, I was on the verge of a breakdown before I knew blocking would even out the colorwork section. I had no idea how superwash wools would behave in a colorwork yoke or of blocking would work the same kind of magic. Final assessment: the magic isn’t exactly the same, but it’s smooth – I’m happy. Superwash wools also have a tendency to grow (elongate) after blocking. Therefore, my Birkin is a little longer than I was expecting and the 3/4 length sleeves hit me at my wrist – but again this only adds to the relaxed feel I was going for.

Using superwash wools created a very fluid sweater while the heaver yarns in the colorwork section create a more stable shoulder section.

I used Manos del Uruguay Alegria in the Petal colorway for the body (2.66 skeins) and a variety of Bergere France Ideal for the colorwork yoke (check out my ravelry page for exact colors). I wouldn’t necessarily buy these two yarns on my own as I prefer to work with natural fibers without chemical treatments. These yarns were gifts from various parties excited to help me along on my knitting journey from I time before I was vocal about my ethical preferences (and I’m still not very vocal to be honest). Since they were in my possession, however, I decided it was best to use them up.

I feel committed to using what I have rather than purchasing new materials as a way to unwork some of my consumerist habits. Part of my approach to ethical making that keeps it affordable and accessible to all income levels is my commitment to materials that already exist – materials in my possession being the best to use first.

I hope my Pink Birkin will continually remind me of this commitment, even after the new sweater joy fades and it begins its regular rotation in my sweater collection.

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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.