Portage Cardigan: Take Two

I did it, I finally re-made the Portage Cardigan by Melissa Sachschwary after my first failed attempt (seen here).

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I am so happy with this cardigan. This pattern was one of the first I truly fell in love with, right when I started knitting. I tried to make it in the worst yarn possible (black, tweedy, and no memory) and the first version failed. I decided to try again in the interest of using patterns I have and love – this time in the right kind of yarn.

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I found the perfect yarn at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival back in May 2018. After strolling through the fairgrounds filled with yarn booths, I happened across Madeline from Ballyhoo Fiber Emporium. Madeline had a delightful selection of yarns – and I almost bought some of her fingering weight Shetland, until I saw this Hampshire DK.

This 100% Hampshire is an undyed (she called it Naked Ewe for Naked You) two ply. There were a couple of spots in every skein where the yarn was “thick and thin” but overall the yarn was quite consistent. I was a little nervous at first that 100% Hampshire would be too rough for my skin – I’ve yet to see a Hampshire yarn marketed to the knitting masses. I decided to take the chance to knit a full sweater in this yarn, hoping that my the wool would soften with a wash and my body could adjust. I was also very excited to try out some wool exploration after catching up on some KnitBritish podcasts.

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Equally as enticing is the story behind this yarn. Madeline told me that this yarn comes from an eccentric art collector who lives in the hills of Kentucky. After visiting the U.K. he, apparently, was so captivated by the sheep grazing on the British hillsides, that he had to have the exact breed for his own land. So that’s how a flock of Hampshire’s ended up in Kentucky.

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Knitting this cardigan was relatively easy. I added a few modifications in the way of cables. I was inspired by Fee Donovan’s Portage – she continued the side cables through the hem of the cardigan. I followed her lead, and decided to add an underarm cable as well. This sleeve cable is my favorite thing about this cardigan – it’s shy but sassy  – like me.

I also eliminated the pockets – which I feel quite sad about. I tried very hard to make the pockets work, but somehow with my gauge and in this yarn, the pockets refused to lay flat against the body of the sweater. I had a huge gaping problem. Maybe one day I’ll add afterthought pockets, but for now it’s just fine.

I am so inspired to make another shawl collar cardigan – I think this cardigan style will get a substantial amount of wear in my academic wardrobe. They’re easy to layer, and I love the way they look. But, for now, I’ll relish in my newly completed Portage cardigan.

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Summer Long Socks

It took me one summer to finish these socks. They’re basic bitch 64 stitch socks with a short row heel and a 2×1 ribbed cuff.

I found this yarn at Scrap It Up, Cincinnati’s secondhand craft store. There was no label but it looks similar to a patons sock yarn (washable wool + nylon). I haven’t knit with yarn like this before – I found it unbelievably splitty.

I cast on these toe-up socks so I could have some easy knitting while I watched the latest Star Wars movie in a dark theater. Turns out the theater was far too dark and as I tried to knit I split at least three stitches…

These sizing of these socks was a bit of an enigma. I measured and counted rows, but one sock was an inch longer in the foot than the other. When I re-knit to make them both the same length, they only matched up with the previously too short sock was 10 rows longer than it’s counterpart. No idea what happened there or why simple arithmetic couldn’t capture these socks, but now they’re the same length, so that’s good.

I love having a pair of slow moving socks on the needles. It seems like it takes me a full three months to finish a pair of socks (they’re never a first priority). I have two more balls of unknown sock yarn and I’m hoping to cast on some ribbed socks to branch out from my stockinette sock rut.

Reyna: My First Shawl (for me)

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Hooray for my first shawl (for me). I knit my actual first shawl last fall (read about it here) as a gift for my mom. After seeing the versatility that the shawl brings to an entire outfit – I set my sights on starting my own shawl collection. Reyna is what I would consider a classic beginners knitting pattern. A triangle shawl with simple increases, the mesh lace sections add manageable places to build skills in reading your knitting. The simplicity of this shawl made a perfect summer travel project. Reyna went with me to the lake, the pool, and the parking lot waiting to pick my husband up from work…

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I have something to admit though, about shawls. When I first started knitting… and until last year… I was anti-shawl. I had no idea why they were wanted objects. Why would I want to knit something I couldn’t wear? Also they have this reputation for being downright matronly and I am not a matron. I had to deal with so many granny comments already simply by knitting in public and adding shawl knitting to my list of activities would only bring on more old lady comments.

I was very prejudice. And discriminatory. First of all, there is nothing wrong with “matronly.” Except that it maybe conflicts with an American overemphasis on the values of youth and sex appeal. I’m actively working to destabilize that in my own life. An item doesn’t have to be youthful or sexy to be valuable (and to be honest sexy is never something I’m going for anyway). Second of all, sweaters will always be my first love – I seriously doubt they will be booted from the top of my knitting queue. However, the shawl is a useful and beautiful way to add more wool to my life.

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Reyna, while being a simple beginner shawl, has also made a serious contribution to my life. She has pointed out unfair prejudices that needed examination. She has allowed me to move past those prejudices into a much more open and beauty filled world. And she had given me knitting – the only gift I really wanted.

If you want to see the other blog posts about Reyna, you can find them here and here

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.

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.

Finished Object: Flora Mittens

I’ve been excited about colorwork mittens for a while now – and the design of the Flora Mittens stood out miles from other colorwork mittens I’ve seen. This pattern is available in a bundle – five patterns in all (for about $25). The designer recommends that new-to-colorwork knitters start with the first pattern in the bundle and work their way to pattern number 5. Flora is third pattern, not the easiest but also not the most technical. I would consider myself a colorwork newbie, but I decided to jump straight to the pattern that stood out the most. I’m happy to report that it turned out just fine.

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I have been knitting for six years and these are my first proper pair of mittens. Sure, I made the obligatory newby mitten trial pair with acrylic yarn and poorly shaped thumb gusset (that was also back when I was unaware about weaving in ends… I tied everything in knots). I spent two of my winters in St Louis – which has a mild winter according to my Minnesotan climate gauge – in bulky scrappy mittens made from acrylic scraps found in a dumpster. Last Christmas I made my mom a pair of double layer mittens for her winter walks to work. It was this pair of insulated northern style mitten that made me realize I was lacking proper mittens.

Of all the knit items, I think mittens are the best way to show off knitting skill – yes, that’s right, mittens. While sweaters, scarves, and hats are amazing, a beautiful pair of mittens will add color to the dullest of dark winter days. Waving hello to someone with a stunning mitten shocks them out of their winter hibernation coma.

For these mittens I chose to purchase yarn. In my stash of thrifted sweaters waiting for unravelling I have yet to pick up some good wooly options. Trying to find two sweaters in the same weight yarn with colors that would work together was a challenge I was unwilling to take on at the moment. However, after completing these mittens I can say this challenge seems less overwhelming. My curiosity for rustic wools has been growing – and I wanted to see for myself how knitting with and wearing wool compares with my usual knitting projects (which are dominated by merino and alternative fibers).

The yarn I ultimately chose (though it’s lacking in true rustic-ness but the colors are on point) is Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok in October Sky (blue) and Quartz Crystal (pink). The wool is sourced from Peru. I was glad to find that the yarn company has documented the source of their wool in a blog post (you can read it here). The yarn is sold in 50 gram skeins which is the perfect amount for one pair of mittens for about $8. One pair of mittens for $16? I can justify that as a luxury project. Would I use this yarn again? Perhaps, I appreciate that the source of the wool is documented, but it does have to travel quite a distance to reach me. I’d like to explore the colorwork potential of American produced wools in my next pair of mittens. For my usual knitting projects (sweaters and larger items) locally produced ethical yarn are usually out of my budget – but a small project like 100 gram colorwork mittens might be the perfect way to support local yarn producers without breaking the bank.

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I’ve done colorwork before – but the last major colorwork project was this cardigan back in 2015. So deciding to jump into an intermediate colorwork pattern was definitely a risk. On my first mitten I had a couple of blunders – there’s some misplaced stitches that I chose to keep rather than rip back and replace. The second mitten, however, I would describe as perfect. I was expecting this pattern to be difficult and overwhelming, but I was pleasantly surprised how fun it was to knit these mittens. Deciphering the colorwork chart was like solving a scavenger hunt – following clues which create a magical result.

Colorwork involves the new and added difficulty of holding two strands of yarn but only knitting one at a time. I’ve experimented with different techniques including holding one strand in my left hand and the other in my right, wrapping one over my first finger and one over my second, and dropping the strand of yarn I wasn’t using. I finally settled on the Norwegian style of tensioning colorwork – holding both strands on the same finger. As a continental knitter, this method requires more dexterity in my right hand as I pick the correct strand of yarn – but I found it created the most even tension of the four methods.

I now recognize my new love for mittens. These also only took me three days to make. I have four other patterns in the Selbu Mitten Club bundle – and you can bet I will be making more colorwork mittens this year.

 

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