Logalong Plans and Progress

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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.

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Subtle Kitsch Christmas Sweater

I had no plans of knitting myself a Christmas sweater in 2017. But sometimes a newly released pattern catches your eye – and it won’t leave. That’s what happened with Andi Satterlund’s Julgran – a cute cropped sweater with a striking textured evergreen pattern. The word “kitschy” was thrown around quite a lot with this sweater. I would not readily use that word to describe myself, but that didn’t stop me from falling completely in love with this pattern. However, I had two sweater projects in the pipeline and no readily available options for ethical yarn, and not a lot of funds left in my craft budget. I tried to let Julgran go by telling myself I could wait until next Christmas to knit this amazing pattern. I was fine with this plan, until I found myself at the Perennial Clothing Swap staring at a lovely sparkly greige (that’s grey and beige) sweater from Ann Taylor Loft. It was begging to be unravelled and turned into Julgran – and I listened.

The fiber content is a lovely mix of rayon, wool, cotton, and rabbit hair (Does that mean angora? What else is rabbit hair?). The weight is probably on the lighter side when compared to the recommended worsted weight yarn. My excitement to have this sweater finished before Christmas encouraged me to skip the washing and stretching portions of the unraveling process, but even in my hurried state I managed to squeeze out a gauge swatch. My swatch produced a fabric that was a little loose, but still met the pattern requirements, this was good enough for me to jump into knitting.

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I found the knitting process to be absolutely wonderful. This is my first time knitting one of Andi’s patterns, and I now understand why other knitters describe her patters so kindly. I found the pattern and Christmas tree chart were easy to follow. I made a small modification – after the last sleeve decrease I knit four inches of stockinette the ended my now full length sleeve with four inches of ribbing. I used tubular bind off’s for the sleeves and body. I’ve used this bind off before to mixed results, in this project the edges tend to flare out. I’d really like to find a stretchy bind off that doesn’t produce any flare. I’m thinking the surprisingly stretchy bind off is next in line?

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My favorite part of this sweater was bedazzling the Christmas Tree. I was so very hesitant to sew anything onto my sweater. I want this sweater to be wearable all winter long – not just in December – and I thought adding any ornaments would limit my sweater’s wearability. But after finding some faux pearls at Perennial, and playing around with some designs, I decided that I set the limits of wearability – and if I wanted to wear this sweater after Christmas I very well could. So I committed and sewed on the pearls with some invisible thread. In hindsight I should have used a grey or light brown cotton thread instead of the plastic invisible thread. I reached for the plastic stuff without thinking about how many small little pieces I would cut in the process of sewing on small beads. I don’t have a good way to dispose of those small plastic thread clippings while I often save my cotton thread clippings to use for stuffing in toys.

The thing I love most about my Julgran sweater is that it is made of 100% used materials (the yarn, the pearls, and even the invisible thread). I do love the sparkle that comes with Christmas decorations, and with this sweater I can actually wear that sparkle with minimal waste involved. This sweater is also a great addition to my winter wardrobe. With the long sleeve modification, I can keep warm by wearing this sweater over dresses, high waisted skirts, and high waisted pants (#sewinggoals2018). This sweater took me 8 days to knit (WHAT, AM I CRAZY?). I met my deadline with room to spare. I love my subtle kitschy Christmas sweater.

Most of my Clothes Used to be Bedsheets

 

It’s true, most of my clothes were originally produced to cover mattresses. Other people’s mattresses. Now, those old sheets have become my arsenal of t-shirts and dresses. I love transforming bedsheets into everyday garments.

The Practical:

It’s already been established that I’m operating on a tight making budget. $40 a month doesn’t go very far for everything needed to make clothing. Plus, I’m a newbie. I’ve only been sewing regularly for nine months – and teaching myself no less. If I hope to get any better, I need to practice, which requires access to materials. Sheets have a ton of yardage. Thrifted bedsheets, which I can sometimes buy according to weight, are a perfect solution to a tight budget. Most of the time I can get a bedsheet for $1-3, and each bedsheet will make two items (50 cents a shirt! that’s even cheaper that fast fashion). But the practical is only one piece to this grand making adventure.

The Philosophical: Beyond the practical reasons for sewing with bedsheets.

When I use my hands to create a garment from a discarded textile, I give those materials new life. I honor the hands involved in producing those materials – from the farmer who grew the cotton, to the workers who processed the fiber, to the artists who compiled the pieces together. My transformed garment remembers all of their efforts. I’m remembering the nameless and faceless. I’m refusing to let their efforts be masked. I’m recognizing that behind every item is a collection of hands desperate to make a living because my community demands absurdly cheap materials. And by remembering them I can resist my own urge to demand the same. I consider making garments out of discarded items as a gentle but powerful act of resistance. I resist the structures of capitalism that equate human beings to energy – simply cheap resources to get the job done. I resist the culture of waste – that new is always better and the old is better off discarded. I resist the idea that making things by hand is useless and meaningless. I resist the concept that handwork is too costly and inefficient.

Each time I choose to transform a discarded item into an everyday basic, I am habituated to see the good in the unwanted and discarded. This act small act of resistance reminds me not to give in to the demanding voices of an economic system that feeds on cheap labor and easy access to anything I want.

Making from unwanted items satisfies more than just my small budget, it creates the space for thoughtful reflection and critical engagement with economics, culture, and capitalism. I’ve grown to love my practice of sewing from bedsheets. But it doesn’t end there, while the practical and philosophical reasons for sewing with bedsheets are necessarily entwined, I wonder what would happen if my craft budget increased? I’m committed to the philosophy behind making with used materials, but I don’t believe that used materials are the only answer to my environmental and ethical commitments. Used materials fit within my budget at the moment, but I’m confident that ethical options are available at any budget point. I know if I had the resources, I would gravitate towards newly produced materials that acknowledge and valued the work of farmers, producers, and makers.

I’m purely speculating. I don’t have the resources at the moment to buy new, and I don’t think I’m good enough at sewing to use new ethically produced materials without the fear of ruining them forever. So while I’m building my skills with needle and thread, I feel confident and comfortable with my choice to use discarded items.

All that from an old bedsheet!

Happy Making.

 

On Recycling (and a pair of socks)


The #slowfashionoctober Instagram prompts have me thinking about my craft as of late. I highly recommend checking out the feed here. The “what” prompt got me all excited about recycled materials. Even though the prompt was posted over a week ago, I’m still thinking about the meaning behind using recycled materials for my work. There are a lot of ways to be ethical/considerate in crafting. Sourcing locally, dyeing naturally, and organic wool are a couple that jump out at me. I love these options, but price wise they’re usually out of my reach. However, I don’t think cost has to be a barrier to conscious crafting. Recycling materials from items that already exist can really cut down on the overall costs of making. Buying a linen duvet cover from a thrift store is most likely going to be less expensive than new linen. And, with extra effort, quality materials can be found. But cost is only reason why recycled materials play such an important role in my life.

From the perspective of waste reduction, the best materials are the ones that already exist. According to this view, making my clothing from clothing that might end up in the landfill would minimize total waste. It’s a simple calculus that I find motivating and useful when I think about the impact of my hobbies on the earth. Of course, this is a very mathematical/economic way of thinking about making clothes.

Sometimes I like to be a bit more poetic. As I was knitting these socks I kept thinking about non-human recyclers. Just about every other creature on this earth might be better at recycling than us humans. Or at least every ecosystem has designated recycling systems built in. There are mammals, like raccoons and possums, who scavenge food waste. There are birds who build their homes from discarded items in the forest and the city. There are entire species whose job it is to break down plants and animals so they return to the earth. These decomposers perform essential roles by creating rich and fertile soil that is open and welcoming to new growth. Without these mammals, insects, and mushrooms, we would live in toxic environments.

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I wonder if there is a role for the scavenger and decomposer in the making community? We place much needed emphasis on sourcing thoughtful new materials, but do we pay enough attention to the back end of the process? What would it look like for makers to take note from the scavengers and decomposers of the world?

Just like every slow food devotee has a compost heap, would every slow fashion maker have a yarnpost heap?
Would we dumpster dive for materials that others have deemed irreparable?

Would we have competitions for most mended garment? Or item with the longest or most wears? Would we begin to keep note of these stats on our own clothing items?

Would we celebrate, rather than despair, when our friends frog a garment because it’s unworn and celebrate again when they knit it into something loved?

Would we start up new quilting bees for our fabric scraps?

As I think about the role recycling could have in maker communities I get excited. The ideas I mentioned above actually sound like a blast. I love making with other people, and all the more l reason to gather together in creativity!

I know that talking about material sourcing and waste can be a touchy issue. It’s so easy for me to feel guilty that I’m not following one of my slow fashion goals. But, it doesn’t have to be about strict adherence to moral-fashion guidelines. We are all creative people, and this isn’t a competition. The massive challenges facing our earth and communities won’t be solved through individualism. Working together to do our best which will almost certainly be imperfect is better than perfection alone. I think the best place to start is with a small idea and a forgiving heart.

Happy Making

Tour de Sweater: The Fearless Pullover

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My Smokey Green Tea pullover was my first intentional wardrobe replacement sweater. Back in 2015, I was wearing this oversized cotton pullover from a thrift store for a few months, when the idea hit me that I could make this sweater. It was my first aha moment in my now typical approach to garment making. Basically it goes like this: something in my closet I didn’t make? Can I make a me made version? Time to replace it.

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While this sweater is not an exact replacement, but I think I love it even more. I experimented with stitch patterns on my own and chose a textured purl stripe patter. I also successfully modified the width of the pattern (first time!). This piece really represents my growing confidence as a knitter, I was beginning to understand pattern basics and felt more comfortable adding my own ideas into a pattern.

I found the yarn for this sweater at the Goodwill Outlet (the crazy, bin version of the Goodwill Retail Store). It was a machine knit sweater with lots of cables – my guess was from sometime in the mid 2000’s. It was covered with cables, and the sage green color didn’t exactly help it stand out, but the yarn blend really caught my eye. This sweater is a mix of wool, mohair, and nylon. Based on that alone, I decided that this sweater was worth my time. So I brought it home (paid by the pound so it was like $1) and started to deconstruct. The color itself its hard to capture, I think the picture below is most true.

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The deconstruction process for this yarn was a bit messy. As I unravelled the yarn, mohair went everywhere. I often would pause for sneezing breaks. Fluffy fibers… not the easiest to harvest. But I was determined that this yarn was worth it. And, looking back, I think it was.

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I would count this sweater in the loungewear category of my wardrobe. It’s soft, very warm, constantly shedding, and easy to pull on because of all the positive ease. There are a few hiccups – like my signature tight sleeves (too tight!). The bottom hem band flips up, and I find myself constantly tugging at it in hope of a miracle. The positive ease has found me in a few tight spots, like when I lean over the stovetop to turn on the timer and singe little spots in this sweater… Don’t ask me how this has happened multiple times. All of those factors combine to make this the perfect house sweater that’s not afraid of bread baking, gardening, or other messy activities I find myself doing. Knowing that this was made from recycled yarn makes it a bit easier to be my true/messy self while wearing this. This sweater is fearless. Fearless when it comes to hard work, fearless in knitting skills, and fearless in being an awkward color that doesn’t photograph well. We all need fearless pullovers.

Finished Object: Circlet Shrug

Today felt like the first real day of autumn. It was the perfect day to break out my newest finished object: my Circlet shrug. which I have named Goblin Made because the cables and lace remind me of the sword of Gryffindor, plus Goblin’s make beautiful and amazing things – this shrug deserves to be one of them.


I spotted this pattern in making no.3. Its a beautifully complex cable pattern by the queen of cables -Norah Gaughn. At first glance I placed this pattern on the back burner. In my mind I wanted to make it out of reclaimed yarn and I knew finding a suitable yarn substitute from thrifted sweaters would be a challenge.  Such a challenge that I threw out the idea all together when my mother in law said she wanted to buy me a sweaters quantity of yarn for my birthday. Um, enough of this perfect yarn to make a perfect shrug??? YES PLEASE


Let’s take a break to talk about my amazing mother in law, Barb. Barb is an incredible knitter. She also is on a mission to keep all local yarn shops in business. For her, helping the local community is her main hobby. Her mission is an honerable one. I hope I can be as generous as Barb one day.

Barb’s generosity meant I could buy enough of the recommended yarn to create this beautiful shrug.


the yarn: So about this yarn… Brooklyn Tweed Arbor in the potion colorway. I have been longing to knit with Brooklyn Tweed since I became a yarn snob (three years and counting). They’re American made – American wool, milled in the USA, and dyed here too. Yay! This yarn is difficult to describe. It’s DK weight, but it produces a very stiff fabric. So for this garment the stiffness and memory of the wool make the cables and lace stand out quite clearly.


the pattern: Now it’s time to talk about constructing the garment. This pattern was a bit tricky for me. Basically it’s knit as a long rectangle and the long sides are seamed. But there are gradually sloping rib sections on the front sections that add complexity. After reading through the pattern carefully two or three times, I was able to press onward in my knitting (though still a little timid).

The cable section is based on a 20 row repeat. I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a memorizable pattern, but I would say I tentatively remembered it by the time I reached halfway through the back section. So that did mean I spent a lot of time with the pattern in front of me. I also spent a lot of time tinking back rows where I forgot to add the lace eyelets which are added on the wrong side – easy mistake.

The pattern left the side seaming up to the knitter. I used mattress stitch and seamed about 3/4 up the side. The arm hole is loose enough for my preference. Considering my history with tight armholes and sleeves I consider this a massive success!


reflections: I saw this pattern as a contemplative exercise. While most of my knitting is like a race to the end, this one was a slow practice in taking things easy – not rushing. This is something I am very bad at. I am a very rushed human being. When I played cello in school I most certainly was the culprit behind our orchestra wide rushing problem. I think the rush is in the very fiber of my being, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take some time to call it to the foreground, examine it, and maybe question it a bit. So, as I knit this shrug, every time I felt like rushing to the end of a row or section, I reminded myself that with this pattern I could just put it down right there. If I wanted to rush I could pick up a sock. But this project was all about slow.

I think the slow really benefited this pattern. There is only one mistake, a miss-cross of a cable, that I caught after completing two of the chart repeats. Considering I would have had to rip out 40 rows, I decided to keep the mistake and embrace it as a design element. After all, contemplation isn’t really about the best, rather it’s about building new habits and reflection and that miss-crossed cable dropped me straight into reflection mode.

I love this shrug, I think it’s a great piece for layering in fall/winter. The color is perfect for my palate. The yarn is amazing. The details are delightful. It’s the perfect statement piece for me (low on the statement but high on the detail). 100% recommend to anyone interested.

 

Tour de Sweater: Porter Cardigan

Sweater number five is this all over cabley squishy number. But I’m going to be honest upfront – this sweater has lost its luster. Which is why the beady eyed amongst you will realize these photos are different than the rest of the tour de sweater photos. That’s because I totally forgot about this sweater while we were taking pictures. So I did it myself and they look a little silly. Which is how I basically feel about this cardigan.

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Pattern: Porter by Beatrice Perron Dahlen. I love the intricacies of this pattern. I think the cabling is beautiful, especially the honeycomb back panel and the stag horn cables.

Yarn: Recycled yarn from a handknit sweater. Origin unknown, but my best guess is Lion Brand Wool Ease? It seems to me to be a wool/acrylic blend. When I first picked it up I thought it was all wool, but now that I’ve actually worked with more wool there is definitely some acrylic content in this fiber. This is my first truly recycled garment. As always, I learned some important lessons and I’ll make sure to list them below.

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Lessons Learned

  1. Recycle your yarn carefully. I did a wrap test to determine the weight of my recycled yarn. Everything appeared to be aran weight (which is what the pattern called for). As I knit this it was clear to me that the fabric was very open. My yarn was not thick enough to produce a densely cabled fabric like I’d hoped. So what happened? After unraveling the sweater, I am 99% sure I wound my yarn too tightly. This stretched out the yarn and reduced the loft, making the yarn move down a category in weight. Now I know: always wind yarn loosely (or use a nifty ball winder).
  2. Anything can be a cable needle, really. I used a pen, the needle section of a broken circular needle, and even a bobby pin for the cables on this project. All worked fine… though the broken circular needle was best.
  3. Check the Sleeves. These sleeves are knit in the round, which is a handy modern construct that eliminates seaming. However, for some reason, the pattern of my sleeves both twist around my arms. The stag horn cable is supposed to follow the length of the arm, but mine snakes around like it’s trying to hide from the light.
  4. Crew Neck Cardigans… I doubt I could foresee this lesson, but it was an important one still. I do not like crew neck cardigans. They’re just not my style. Crew neck pullovers – love, but slice it down the middle and put some buttons on it – gives me ambiguous feelings with small levels of discomfort. So, a crewneck cardigan is not my style, which is why this beautiful cardigan most likely will be gifted to someone who likes it.

img_5704I still love this pattern, which is why I’m considering knitting it up as a pullover instead. I think it would make an amazing vintage style, high neck addition to my large pullover collection. The instructions are phenomenal and the pattern is well written. If you want to try your hand at an allover cable pattern I would highly recommend this one.

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