Progress Report: Volute

I’m writing to you today from my mother’s kitchen in Santa Rosa, CA. As I sit here, she’s putting together a wonderful breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls, savory buns, sausage, eggs, coffee, and mimosas. It’s raining outside – that beautiful California rain that envelops the world and turns its green – and there are loved ones chattering away in the living room. I’m in heaven! A family wedding has brought me home for the weekend, and it honestly couldn’t be at a more perfect time. Finals are coming at the end of the month, and its going to be an absolute slog to make it there. Coming home for a few days is exactly the treat I need to help make it through. After all, what is more healing then a few days at home?

Like any knitter, I always bring a project with me when I go on a trip. This is a three day visit, so I only needed to bring one thing with me. I chose Volute, my incredible mohair experience, as my project for this trip, and I truly don’t think I could have picked better.

Volute has been on my mind for about a year now. This time last year I was working at a knitting shop here in Sonoma county, and we were hosting a Shibui trunk show just after Stitches West that Volute was a part of. As soon as I saw it, I knew it belonged in my closet. The floaty mohair is absolute perfection – the way the fabric drapes reminds me of flowing water. It’s an excellent layering piece for spring and summer, providing just enough warmth to keep bare shoulders happy without being stifling. And the color! I don’t usually do this, but I’m knitting my Volute in the same colorway as the sample. Ash is a dark grey that gives Volute the perfect touch of witchiness. Seriously, over a black dress, with a moonstone necklace, and a crescent moon crown, Volute is going to be packing a pretty magical punch.

However, while all of my Volute-wanting factored into bringing it on my trip (actual knitting time means it will get done faster!), my main reason for bringing it is that its all stockinette stitch. Volute is basically a large stockinette rectangle that gets strategically seamed together to become a cardigan. Now, I know that some of you are going to be instantly put off by that. Who wants to knit miles and miles of stockinette, and in mohair no less! But let me tell you, it has been such a joyful, meditative experience for me, I’ll be sad when its finally finished. The power of stockinette is that it slows down your brain. It lets you just focus on making the stitches, and feeling the yarn that’s in your hands. I can (and have) gone stretches of time just knitting in silence, completely absorbed in the repetitive knits and purls.

Which is exactly why Volute came with me on my trip. This is a bit of a whirlwind visit, so I’m not necessarily going to be able to focus on any of my projects that require more concentration. But this trip is also a breather from classes, and studying, and the mad dash to the end of the semester. I wanted to bring a knitting project that would be just as relaxing as sitting in the kitchen watching my mother make cinnamon rolls. With its endless amounts of stockinette, Volute was precisely the project to help me unwind, and calm down my mind. So often, stockinette stitch is overlooked, written off as being too boring. But there’s a lot of power in its meditative qualities that can be ideal for relaxation.

What about you? What’s your favorite thing to knit to hel

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Pattern Release: The Coffee Date Cowl

Ah, spring break! The needed rest towards the end of the spring semester, when it feels like you’ve been working non-stop since January, and you need a recharge before that last major push before finals. I have never been one to go away for spring break. With three kids, and a parent who is a public school teacher, spring break has always been a time to putter around the house and get done things that could never be accomplished when school was in session. Now that I’m older, that’s still how I spend my spring break. While others are on their way to Hawai’i, Malibu or Mexico, I’m pulling out my gardening gloves and dusting off my sewing machine.

However, this spring break, I did something a little different – I began an adventure into the wild world of knitwear pattern designing! I released my first pattern, the Coffee Date Cowl! I’ve been working on this pattern for months, and was so excited to finally get to share it with this fiber community I love so much.

Like so many other things in my life, this pattern was inspired by my environment. Its chillier in Portland than I’m used too, but I kept finding that the large scarves I wound around myself as I left my house early in the morning would become too cumbersome later in the afternoon. I kept finding myself reaching for cozy cowls that weren’t there. The Coffee Date Cowl was a solution to my problem, and I hope that those of you out there also reaching for cowls can use it as a solution to your problem too.

The colorwork pattern is also modeled after the Portland environment. In springtime here, tulips, daffodils, and other bulb flowers are the first to bloom. They push themselves out of the ground offering the first vibrant color to a winter-weary landscape. Robins also start to make an appearance in early spring! Their little redbreasts add another splash of color that February eyes are longing for. The triangle, and diamond motif spoke to me of awakening flowers and returning robins.

This is certainly not the last pattern you’ll see from me. I’ve already got a few more that I’ll be sharing with you soon. But this is my first, and I’m sure it will hold a special place in my heart.

PS – Releasing patterns wasn’t the only thing I did over spring break. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about my Alder Dress! Its the first dress I’ve ever sewn, and I love how it turned out.

Finished Object: Yellow Polwarth!

During the course of my first Portland winter, I came to the realization that I needed more layering garments. Due to the drought in California, this had been my first winter in about 5 years. Over the course of those five years, I had gone through about six moves, and several wardrobe purges, which had somehow resulted in a closet that was short on layering pieces (but heavy on sundresses!). I realized that I needed a few lightweight pullovers in my closet, and I needed them badly. The sort of pullovers that could go over a shirt, and under a jacket. The sort of pullovers that could be thrown on over anything, and stretch through several seasons. Fortunately, I had just the thing queued up in my stash!

When I first saw the detail shots for Ysolda Teague’s Polwarth sweater, I knew I needed to make it. I bought the pattern as soon as it came out, and the yarn not too long after. Then it sat in my stash for about a year, waiting for the right time to be cast on. That time came a few weeks ago, when I decided that Polwarth was exactly the wardrobe staple I was missing. And boy was I right! Since finishing this sweater, I have worn it almost non-stop, with all types of outfits, in all sorts of weather. This has proven to be exactly the laying piece that I needed, and I am so happy to have it in my closet!

Polwarth was a simple knit, with just enough interest in the design details to keep me engaged. The brioche triangle detail on the collar was my favorite part of the design! I haven’t done a lot of brioche before, but the instructions were so clearly written, I found it very easy to follow along. Likewise, the subtle curve of the raglan seams – achieve through strategic increase row spacing – were fun, and engaging to create.

After splitting for the sleeves, I set aside the pattern and took some creative liberties. I omitted the waist-shaping, opting for a boxy shape that I find is perfect for layering. The most noticeable change I made is the split hem. I have been wanting to incorporate a few split hem pieces into my wardrobe for a while, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to make that happen. I also went ahead and lengthened the back ribbing about an 1″ more than the front ribbing, and I love how it turned out! It came out exactly as I wanted, and it looks perfect over all of my split-hem shirts.

Lastly, I knit the sleeves the flat, instead of in the round, and opted for 2×2 ribbing on the cuffs instead of brioche. I also lengthened the cuffs to 5″ so that I could fold them in half. Again, I love how the sleeves came out! Folded sleeve cuffs may be my new thing!

The last thing I want to say about this sweater is the color. I have always loved this rich, golden yellow, but it can be so difficult to find. Brooklyn Tweed’s Hayloft colorway knocks it out of the park! I am so glad I chose it for this piece, and am eager to use it for other projects. For a girl who primarily ears greys, blues, creams, and other neutrals, this rich yellow is just the pop of color I need to increase the richness of my wardrobe palate without wandering too far out of my comfort zone.

I would definitely call this sweater a great success. It’s exactly the layering piece I was looking to create. It’s lightweight, warm, goes perfectly over several of my shirts, and fits snugly under jackets and cardigans. The details make it interesting to look at, but the shape is simple enough to make it perfect for the every-day. The yarn is soft yet sturdy, which makes it comfortable while greatly reducing the chance of pills. And above all, it was fun to knit! I would absolutely recommend this pattern for your own lightweight pullover needs!

Have you made a Polwarth? What did you think about it? Do you have another favorite lightweight pullover pattern? Share in the comments bellow!

Pattern: Polwarth by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: 5 skeins of Brooklyn Tweed Loft in Hayloft
Size: 37 1/2″

 

Wardrobe Building: The Sock Drawer

This past week I did something I haven’t done in a long time – I cast on a pair of socks. When I first started knitting, socks were my ultimate goal. I wanted to be a competent enough knitter to manage their tricky construction. Though I no longer remember the first pair of socks I knit, I do remember feeling immensely proud of my accomplishment, and eager to move on to my next pair.

For a few years, knitting socks was my jam. I loved everything about them, from their interesting construction, to how amazed non-knitters were when I pulled out my double-points. I almost always had a pair of socks going, and was constantly endeavoring to try new things – lace, cables, heel construction, I wanted to try it all!

The past two years, I have moved away from socks, and concentrated all my efforts on sweater-making. Its been ages since I actually had a pair of socks on my needles, and perhaps even worse, its been ages since I’ve had any handmade socks in my sock drawer. Most of the socks I knit during my sock phase were either experimental (and therefore didn’t fit quite how I wanted or didn’t work with the yarn I had picked) or had been knit for someone else (usually my boyfriend). As a result, I have a dearth of handknit socks for my own feet. This is a situation I felt needed immediate rectifying, so after casting off my latest sweater, I dove into my carefully curated collection of sock yarn and cast on.

As I started knitting this sock, I began to think about my pledge for the year – that I would only make new clothing, not buy any. I had intended that pledge to extend to my entire wardrobe, but I hadn’t given any thought to whether underwear – as in socks, bras, and panties – would be included in that. “Wardrobe” is a broad term, and taken at its broadest, all types of underwear should be included.

This is something I feel doesn’t get a lot of air time in the conversations surrounding slow fashion. Certainly disposable socks and undergarments are just as much a product of fast fashion as cheap jeans and blouses. Making it a goal to knit all of my own socks is just as important as making it a goal to knit all of my own sweaters. So, in addition to one day wanting to be able to have all of my outer garments be handmade or otherwise sustainably produced, I want to be able to have all my under garments be created in the same way.

At the moment, I am nowhere near being able to sew my own bras or underwear (although the underwear thing is probably way more likely to happen since there aren’t any underwires involved), but I do have the ability to knit my own socks. So, in keeping with the promise to make all of my new clothing this year, I will be making all of my socks in 2017.

What about you? Are you a sock maker? Are you also working towards making your own undergarments? Or do you do so already? Share in the comments below!

PS. – Wanted to share this article on the environmental impacts of fast fashion. I thought it was a good overview of some of the ills associated with the fast fashion world.

Knitspiration: Summer Knits

Is anyone else as ready for tank-top and sundress season as I am? Don’t get me wrong, I love winter (at least I love West Coast winter). I love the coolness in the air, the ability to wear snuggly sweaters every day, the sound of rain on my rooftop, the way hot coffee tastes on an exceptionally cold day. All of this I love! But I also love the feeling of sun on my face, how it feels to put on a dress and be ready to go, the ability to bear my arms without them freezing and falling off. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have been dreaming of summer.

However, being a knitter in the summer months can have its draw backs. After all, what’s a knitter to do when it becomes too hot to knit on wool? If you’re anything like me, you keep going as long as you can, but even I have my breaking point. At a certain temperature, it just becomes too hot to keep a big pile of animal fiber in your lap. These past couple of years, instead of being resentful that the weather was keeping me from knitting, I’ve learned to embrace the summer months as a time to knit on linens and cottons, and have even started to plan ahead what my summer knitting projects will be. The patterns I’m sharing today have been dancing around in my head the past couple of weeks, and the more ready I get for summer, the more I dream of knitting these beauties.

Moon Tee (top left): Ain’t she a beaut’? Can’t you just picture throwing this on over a pair of jeans and heading to a farmers market or an outdoor concert? Looking at this top has me dreaming of days that require sunhats and iced coffee. This piece would also transition well. It could easily be layered under a pullover or cardigan and carry well into fall (winter too, if you live in a more mild climate). This is definitely one I’ll be wanting to get on my needles this summer.

Vaara (top right): I don’t know if I can accurately convey how much I love this pattern in only a few sentences, but I’ll take a stab. I actually knit this up last summer, and I can’t wait for it to warm up so that I can wear it again. It’s a fun, fantastic knit, and the curved hem is so flattering! This is one I will definitely be knitting again, and as summer draws closer, I’m more enamored with it than ever.

I won’t lie, it seems a little strange to be publishing a piece on summer knitting while its cold and rainy outside, but sometimes daydreaming is all we have. What about you? Is anyone else ready for summer or are you all happy to have winter stick around a while longer?

Tips & Tricks: Break the Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater

I have discovered many wonderful things in the knitting community. I have discovered a love for the art of handcrafting, a respect for taking things slow, an understanding that starting over from the very beginning isn’t a bad thing, a willingness to answer any question no matter how small. All this, and so much more, are things that I love dearly about this community of ours. However, there is one thing in the knitting world that I would very much like to see put to death: The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater.

We’ve all heard it. The warning that follows every knitter (whether she has any inclination towards having a boyfriend or not), that as soon as she knits a sweater for her man, she has signed her fate, and he will inevitably leave her. I’m unsure whether this applies to other relationships that a knitter may have, or if non-female knitters are similarly afflicted, but I do know that I have been warned since I started knitting at the tender age of 12 that I should never knit my boyfriend a sweater lest I wish to doom our relationship. What a rotten curse!

Do I really have to detail why I think this myth needs to be put to rest? How many of us view making knitwear for our loved ones as a sacred task? I can’t imagine any better way to express my love to someone than to spend hours creating them a mindful garment stitch by stitch. A knitter making a sweater for someone they love, whether its a boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, or spouse, is something that should be celebrated. Those knitters who set out to express their love for someone by creating for them a personalized garment should be encourage, not warned away with cautionary tales of ruined love.

I have been knitting a sweater for my own boyfriend for close to three years. It is the longest it has ever taken me to finish a single project. The road to completion has been hampered by just about every knitting mistake in the book. Wrong sizes, wonky gauge, ill-fitting armholes, too-short sleeves, you name it, and I’ve probably done it with this sweater. I’ve changed the yarn once, and the pattern at least three times trying to get it right. I’ve learned a lot about knitting with this sweater, and I’ve learned a lot about love. I’ve come to reevaluate what knitting for someone other than myself can mean. I’ve started to understand more about what clothing can mean to us, how a handmade sweater can carry so much more than just the materials it took to make it.

If, when all is said and done, this sweater spells the end of my relationship, then so be it. If my relationship isn’t strong enough to withstand my knitting a sweater, then it probably wasn’t a very good relationship to begin with. But I highly doubt that will happen. I think this sweater will bring my man and I closer together. In fact, I know that it already has.

So what do you say, fellow knitters? Can you join me in the promise to kill the Boyfriend Sweater Curse? Instead of warning new knitters that a handmade sweater will cause their relationship to die, I plan on telling them that I have found hand knits to be one of the most powerful ways of sharing tradition, nourishment, and joy with those that I love. I hope you will do the same.

Slow Fashion October: Handmade

It is no secret to anyone in my life that I love making myself handmade clothes. I love the process of production, I love putting on something I created, and I love when people tell me that they love something I’m wearing, and I get to tell them that I made it. There is no doubt that I absolutely adore making clothing for myself. What I am still struggling to fall in love with is producing handmade clothes for other people.

My slowest piece of fashion is, hands down, the sweater that I have been making for my boyfriend. At this point, I actually don’t really know how long I have been working on it. It was supposed to be a 21st birthday present for a man who is now 23 years old, so officially, I’ve only been working on it for about two-and-a-half years, but due to planning, pattern choosing, yarn selection, and general discussion, this sweater has been in production for far, far longer than I’ve been knitting on it.

My man and I started this project with a very specific vision in mind. We had particular ideas in regards to style, fashion, and fit. Due to this fastidiousness, I have changed yarn selection for this sweater twice, pattern three times, and started over at the beginning more times than I can count. It is only now, in this past month, that I am finally on the right track, and am geared up to finish the sweater by the end of the year. But I would be lying if I said that the procrastination is all down to a commitment to perfection. Mostly, the delay in finishing this sweater has been because of me!

You see, as much as I love knitting, and creating things for myself, I have essentially zero interest in making for anyone else. Every time I cast something on for someone else, I can feel all of the inspiration drain out of me, and an activity that I love suddenly becomes a chore. I don’t know if I could pinpoint exactly why this is, but I do have some theories. While it would be easy to write it off as simple selfishness, I think the reason why I shy away from creating for others is that it limits what I perceive as my freedom of artistic expression, and my freedom to fail. When I am making for myself, I don’t mind if there are a few mistakes, or if it takes a while to get a project to the finish line, or if the finish line is never reached at all. When I’m making for myself, I can improvise, embellish, add, or subtract anything that I see fit. I don’t have to check in with anybody to get approval of my decisions when I make for myself – rather, I am completely in charge of my own work. In a world in which I am rarely in charge of anything, this complete autonomy is a rare treat.

However, this lack of a drive to knit for others out of reluctance to limit myself is, in itself, a limitation. I remember, as a child, whenever my mother made me clothing, I felt so special wearing it. It was something that my mother had made just for me, something that no body else had, it was a gift of love from my mother that I could wear as armor against the world. I want to be able to give that same gift to the people that I love. I want my man to put on this sweater and feel how much I care for him. I want him to feel special knowing that no one else has this sweater, and that no one else ever will.

Handmades have the power to connect people to each other like no other thing has. I am determined to push past my own limitations, my false sense of lost freedoms, and tap into that power. I want to love my handmades for more than what they mean to me, I want to love my handmades for what they mean to others!