In Progress: June Knitting

My summer of knitting has arrived.

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I’m very excited that I finished my #MeMadeMay18 featherweight cardigan. I’ll have a post about this soon. Though I’m sad I can no longer knit with this amazing yarn, this finished object has opened up space for a new cast on in my knitting queue!

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I have a tiny little hem worm of my Tegna sweater by Caitlin Hunter. I am so excited for this top – perfect for summer but suitable for cooler months as well. I am knitting my Tegna out of a silk/cotton blend I reclaimed last fall. I dyed this yarn at Alpacas of Troy with with Sumac berries and Indigo. The result was this lovely teal-blue with green undertones. I also experimented by dying this sweater in its machine knit form. The result was quite exciting, the dye is speckled evenly on the yarn which enhances the shimmer effect from the silk fiber content. This yarn looks like the waves of a lake on a summer day softly lapping the shore; not too much drama but just enough movement to capture my attention and lull me into relaxation.

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I had a little hiccup with my Tegna. I swatched three times to achieve the pattern gauge – starting with a US 5 and finally getting gauge on a US 7. I cast on for the medium, which would have given me about 9 inches of positive ease and knit half of the lace, I realized the bottom circumference of the sweater was far too large for my size. Even with the decreases in the lace, I would have been swimming in this top. Nine inches of positive ease on my petite frame is just a little too much. I also noticed that in my gauge on US 7 needles, the lace was already quite open. I thought this whole top could do with a downsize. I downsized my needles to a size 5 and, after some gauge math magic, cast on, again, for the medium size. This will give me a top with about two inches of positive ease which will probably be more my style. I’m hoping this all works out.

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I have two other projects that are probably going to travel with me the entire summer. The first is my Reyna shawl by Noora Backlund – which I’m knitting because my friend Kate in St Louis decided to cast this on as her first shawl project! After yarn shopping with her and guiding her through the first bits of the pattern, I realized that I really wanted one of these shawls for myself.

I had the perfect yarn – a gift from my friend Anna after her trip to Wyoming during the 2017 total eclipse. This yarn is the most amazing collection of purples. It’s Palouse Yarn Company Merino Fine in the Total Gravity colorway. This color is part of a special collection the dyer made especially for the eclipse and I think the dyer absolutely nailed it. The purples are so rich, but shift in tone from a lavender to an almost black. I’m really enjoying the color of this yarn.

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My second project is this little basic sock – made with a commercial Patons sock yarn I picked up from a reused craft store in Cincinnati. I have yet to find sweaters that I can unravel that are suitable for sock yarn, as I always prefer a tightly spun yarn for my socks. Most of the sweaters I come across in thrift stores end up loosely spun, if spun at all (especially if they’re blended fibers or have any sort of cotton content). Therefore, I keep my eyes out for any commercial sock yarn I can find at secondhand craft stores. One day, I would love to knit my socks without superwash or nylon content – but until that day I’m eagerly watching Mrs. M’s no-nylon sock experiment to glean from her research.

Usually, I knit my socks cuff down and use a heel flap and gusset, however, I started this sock toe up and will probably throw a short row heel on there just for ease. The short row heel doesn’t fit my foot quite as well as a flap and gusset – I have quite a high arch and instep – however, it’s been a while since I tried a short row heel and I want to double check the fit on my tighter sock gauge that’s developed over the last year since I’ve been regularly knitting socks.

I’m quite pleased with the projects I have on the go for June – my Tegna, Reyna, and my toe-up sock. The variety of these projects has kept me interested as I still mourn the absence of my sewing machine. Speaking of my wonderful sonata sewing machine, I’m beginning to miss it so much that I’m thinking about naming it! Naming is a skill that I seriously lack (if you only knew how long it took me to come up with a name for this blog – hint two+ years). However, I think my trusty machine deserves some attention while I’m away. Since my machine was originally owned by my mom, I’m thinking a name from her generation will suite it best. Something like Linda, Karen, Tammy or Denise. Or I might go super 80’s like Heather, Tiffany, or Stacy. As of now I’m leaning towards Stacy or Linda.

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Me Made May 2018 Plans

May 2018. My first Me Made May. It could not come at a worse time (final paper season, end of the semester, moving to Oregon for the summer, etc.), but I am psyched out of my mind to join in this year.

I had a few me mades in May 2017. My first t-shirt, a shift dress, a basic top and a couple of easy skirts, but for some reason I didn’t jump in – fear maybe? This year I’ve done all the things I’ve put off doing (like starting a blog), so of course I will fulfill my goal of wearing me mades for a whole month.

So what’s my challenge? I already wear at least one me made every day. It’s hard not to… my sewing and knitting plans are focused on what I will actually wear. So I’m challenging myself to wear, make, or mend a me made item each day for the month of May.

Mainly, I want to use this challenge to finish the everyday cardigan I have been trying to make since I first started knitting… I keep putting it off. I never found the right pattern, nor the right yarn color… but all this procrastination ends now: I’ve found my perfect basic cardigan.

It’s the featherweight cardigan pattern by Hannah Fettig… yep. That one cardigan pattern with over 9000 projects on Ravelry. Real original with this one, but it’s just. the. perfect. cardigan. I need this cardigan – did I mention that I HAVE JUST ONE BASIC CARDIGAN (one that I wear regularly). It’s my uniform cardigan, which is a heavier weight, more casual piece. I need a cardigan that can be dressed up or down, that will work in cool and warm weather, and that will mesh with my wardrobe. This pattern is it, the perfect everyday cardigan.

The perfect material came my way one day while I was out thrifting – a pink silk eileen fischer pullover. Light fingering weight yarn, beautiful silk feel, drape for days, and my favorite dusty pink. This thing will be perfection (have I used perfection too much, its just the only word that fits perfectly)

I’ve planned it, I’ve swatched, and I need to start knitting.

So May – bring it on, by the end I hope to have my perfect basic cardigan finished and ready for summer (most likely ready to be packed in a drawer to return in October… but still READY).

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.

Finished Object: Carbeth

This enjoyable and fast sweater knit has come to a end. My Carbeth sweater is bound off, blocked, and finally dry.

I used two mystery cones of yarn held double for this project. One a wooly, rustic black and the other a soft, smooth blue. These cones were purchased from Scrap It Up, the creative reuse store in Cincinnati. I would highly recommend a visit to this shop if you’re near the city – the diversity of supplies is incredible.

I used the Patty Lyons ssk decrease recommended on MDK: it’s mainly just slip one then pass it back to the left needle then knit through the back loops. Patty Lyons also has a one move version of this decrease, but I found that actually made my stitches looser rather than tighter.

Blocking was simple, I followed the plate method and used a 10″ plate. Surprisingly my sweater took three days to dry. Probably because it’s been raining in STL for the past four days and everywhere is quite humid.

This was a great basic and easy sweater. I think I’ll wear it often in the deepest part of winter as it’s toasty warm (I might even say boiling). Hopefully I can get a few more wears before Spring arrives.

A Monster for Baby Francis

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My wonderful friend from my PhD program is having a baby! So to celebrate, I knit her this sweet monster baby toy. This is Gort from the Big Book of Knitted Monsters by Rebecca Danger.

Toys like these monsters are my favorite way to use scraps of yarn. I use larger leftovers for the body and those small offcuts for the stuffing. Unravelling thrifted sweaters produces a surprising amount of yarn scraps – some of the scraps used to stuff Gort were from 2015.

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Speaking of stuffing toys with scraps, I once heard an experienced toy knitter say that the only reliable way to stuff plush and full toys was to use poly-fil (or some sort of polyester batting) specifically for toy use. I’ve never used polyester filling for my toys. I’ve stuffed with lambs fleece, roving, and mostly scraps of yarn and fabric. I have never had a toy collapse or grow lumpy. I prefer to use scraps as it saves them from the landfill and serves a wonderful purpose.

The body is stripped with worsted weight yarn – the dark blue hails from my mother-in-law’s stash while the light blue marl was from a wedding blanket I knit in 2015.

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I decided to embroider the facial features on this monster to make it baby safe. The embroidery process was a bit nerve-wracking, but I pulled myself together and tried my best to plan it out. I think this little toy has a friendly face, perfect for small ones. Though, I did have a bit of a crisis immediately after finishing the face as I feared it could come across as terrifying. Thankfully, everyone who saw the monster disagreed and thought it was adorable and said it was overreacting.

This little monster is going off to meet it’s new family this afternoon! I’m hoping it will fit right in and be a loved for many years.

Craft Culture: My Top Five Crafty Podcasts

The audio podcast was an essential part component to my full immersion into craft culture. Listening periodically to devoted makers describe their crafting journeys has tuned me into my own perspective on craft. These podcasts continue the tradition of oral education in traditional crafts. I imagine that, at one time, discussing projects, techniques, patterns, and materials was something done by makers who lived close to each other; family members, close friends, and neighbors. Now, as a general knowledge of needlecrafts has disappeared from collective culture, finding these important places of communication requires a little extra effort. Enter: the podcast – today’s version of folk knowledge.

Here are my top five

  1. Love to Sew. Helen and Caroline are my two favorite hosts of any podcast. They make me giggle out loud in elevators, nod along in the hallway, and dream up sewing projects after every episode. I have learned valuable skills and tricks from these two and the wonderful folks they interview. Also, the theme song is brilliant. My favorite episode so far is this one. Overall theme of this podcast: you can make anything.
  2. Mrs. M’s Curiousity Cabinet. Everything about this podcast is my style. From Meg’s attention to the ecological implications of making to her soothing presentation of her making journey – this podcast inspires me to keep asking questions about my habits and materials. Her research oriented approach to knitting and sewing really satisfies my academic side, but I think even non-research folks will love this podcast. Each episode is packed with information and inspiration. Meg even answered a question I posed to her in a comment on instagram (in this episode)!
  3. Making (formerly Woolful). This is a hugely popular podcast, and the first proper knitting podcast I ever listened to back in 2014. It’s new iteration – combining Ashley Yousling’s Woolful with Carrie Hoge’s Making Zine (one of my favorite designers and publications) is pure magic. The story telling and interviewing in this podcast is beautiful.
  4. Curious Handmade. I’m really late to the game on this one. Helen Stewart is a veteran in the knitting podcast genre, but I didn’t start listening to her until last November… I now realize what I was missing. Helen has this ability to describe knitting projects and patterns with words that renders the need for images useless. This podcast really inspires me to dream up perfect projects that fit into my life, while moving slow enough to make space for realistic expectations with our crafty time.
  5. Live from Here with Christ Thile. Okay this isn’t a podcast, its a radio show. It’s also not about crafts, its about music, laughter, and pure radio magic. I had to include it because I love this show and knit to it all the time. Prairie Home Companion was one of my favorite things while growing up in Minnesota – though not without serious issues (like obvious sexism). Chris Thile has transported this show into the 21st century with modern artists, storytelling, and content. Every one of my favorite musicians has been on this show in the last two years including Brandy Carlile, Abigail Washburn, and just this whole episode with Marcus Mumford, Corrine Bailey Rae, Trevor Noah, and Gabby Moreno…). I love to listen to this show while eating wild rice soup and staring at my Dala Horses and dreaming about cross country skiing.

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.