#slowfashionoctober: Introductions

Its that time of year again! The weather is cooling (finally!), the leaves are changing (which is so weird, I’m from CA, y’all!), and Slow Fashion October is here again. This first week is about introductions, giving us all a chance to say who we are, and what slow fashion means to us. To be perfectly honest, I had a hard time getting going this week. And not because slow fashion isn’t important to me, and I don’t have a lot to say about it–because it is, and I do–but rather because I was so overcome by other Life Stuff, that it fell by the wayside. Which in some ways, was almost perfect (for the purposes of this blog post) because it got me thinking about how slow fashion fits into my life as it is right now, not the life I hope to someday have.

As some of you may know, I am currently in my first year of law school. This means that my time is limited. I spend a good chunk of my weekday on campus, in class, and doing homework. While I have a little more time to myself on the weekends, I still spend a good amount of it doing homework, doing chores, going to networking events, and sleeping. While I certainly do get knitting time, I don’t really have much wardrobe planning time, and I personally find those to be two different things.

Along with the lack of time to devote to slow fashion, I find that living on a student’s budget means that I have a distinct lack of funds to devote to slow fashion as well. I keep find holes in my wardrobe, particularly since my move to a cooler, damper climate, and though I would like to fill them, I simply do not have the money to make that happen. I need to knit some more pullovers (my closet is sorely lacking), and cardigans with full length sleeves (3/4 worked for CA, not so much for OR), and while my light sundresses worked just dandy in CA winters, I could use some heavier dresses for winters in Portland. And some lightweight layering tops to wear under all the pullovers I’m going to knit. And some swingy a-line dresses for when spring comes. And on, and on, and on. I really would like to make all these garments. In my goal to eventually have a mostly handmade wardrobe, I would like to be able to plan out what to make, purchase the fabrics and yarns necessary, and then get to work. But with my budget where it is, that just isn’t going to happen right now.

Which all brings me to, how does slow fashion fit into my life as it is right now? In my life of no time and no money, does slow fashion even have a place? Spoiler alert–it does!

In some ways, not having unlimited amounts of time and resources to devote to creating the perfect handmade wardrobe is actually really making me slow down and think. What pieces do I really need, what is absolute top priority among those pieces, what is the best way to get it done? All of that, and more, are things that I have been asking myself as I have been trying to figure out where slow fashion falls into my life. Can I find it at a thrift store? Will I be happy with finding it at a thrift store, or would I ultimately be better off waiting until I can make it myself? These are also questions I have been considering. For some things, like jeans, I am absolutely confident in my ability to find at thrift stores. Other things, like well-fitting sweaters, and dresses, I know I will have to make for myself.

I am still figuring it all out. I am still in the process of trying to piece together my new life, incorporating all these new, fearsome pieces in with the old, comforting pieces in an effort to put together a picture that I like. It is challenging. There are a lot of pieces that I have had to set aside for later or throw away entirely. But this piece, this slow fashion piece, is definitely a keeper. It is a way of life that is so near and dear to my heart, I can’t imagine ever throwing it away. I just have to find the right place to put it.

So that’s my introduction y’all. I’m Brigit, I’m a 1L law student living in Portland, OR, and I don’t have things any more figured out than anyone else. Happy Slow Fashion October!

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New Adventures, New Home

Two months ago, I did something I had never done before – I moved away from my home town.

I grew up in California’s North Bay, and there is a reason why people stay there. The weather is mild, the landscape is beautiful, the people are kind, the beach is close, and there’s more local production of food, wine, and fiber then you could shake a stick at! I had a wonderful time growing up in Sonoma county. I loved living there for all the reasons I just mentioned, and more; including the fact that all of my friends, and family are there. So why leave? Well, for all the wonderful things about Sonoma county, it doesn’t have a law school, and I am bound and determined to get my J.D. So two months ago, I moved up to Portland, OR to start my first year at Lewis and Clark Law.

It has been an interesting couple of months. Law school has definitely been the right choice for me. I’m enjoying the classes. I love the material, the thinking that is required, the new research and writing skills I’m learning. I’m loving exploring the area, visiting little thrift stores, finding new coffee shops, and going on hikes. It has been a little bumpy transitioning from a smaller town to a larger city. Discovering that parking lots are few and far between, that different neighborhoods have different feels, that going downtown can be a tremendous chore, and that driving across town can take the better part of an hour have all been new experiences for me. But the hardest thing by far, has been the feeling of loneliness.

I have always been a super introverted person, more likely to have a few very close friends in one tight-knit group than several friends across several groups. And it will usually take me a while to form those kinds of bonds. It’s just who I am, and I have always been this way. Living in one place for my entire life, this hasn’t really been much of a problem. My close friends have always been around, and even when confronted with the task of making new friends, my old friends were always there to support me, and give me a safe space to return to when I felt overwhelmed by new people and experiences. That is no longer an option. I’m out here completely on my own (well not completely, I moved with my boyfriend and my cat, but as any lady knows, neither can take the place of girlfriends), and sort of struggling to find a place to fit in.

Which is actually sort of okay. It may take time, but I am working on discovering a new place, and figuring out exactly how I fit into it. It’s scary, and overwhelming, and completely uncomfortable, but it’s also an incredibly opportunity to learn something about myself.

So what does this have to do with knitting? This is a knitting blog, and most of you probably come here to read about knitting. Admittedly, this post doesn’t have too much to do with knitting, except for this: in this time where so much of my life seems shaky and off-balance, knitting is the solid thing in the center tying everything together. I may not know where my career is going, or if I’ll make friends at school, or if I’m doing any of this right, but I can still make a sweater that I could love and wear for the rest of my life. I may not know if I’ll ever truly feel at home in this strange, new city, but I know that my feet will still feel cozy in a pair of freshly knitted socks. I may feel a little lonely watching Netflix by myself on a Friday night, but once I pick up my knitting, I feel soothed, and at peace. There may not be much I feel confident about these days, but knitting is one of those things, and if that’s not amazing, then I don’t know what is.

 

Some KAL Love…

I love knit-a-longs. I love the challenges they offer, the opportunity they provide for engaging with the broader knitting community, and the oh-so-helpful deadlines that mean I actually get things finished in a timely manner. This year, I decided to actually get myself in gear to participate in two annual KALs who’s hashtags I’ve been admiring for some time, Andi Satterlund’s Outfit-a-Long, and Karen Templer’s Fringe and Friends KAL.

This year’s OAL just concluded, and I am very excited to say that I finished on time. This was a big deal for me, because it was the first time I had sewn a garment. I’ve been wanting to branch out, and start learning to sew for some time, but due to time constraints, lack of space, and my own fixation with having someone around to actually teach me, I hadn’t been able to get going. By deciding to participate in this year’s OAL, I was making a promise to myself to stop putting it off, and actually get sewing. I chose the Zinnia Skirt by Colette Patterns, since I had already purchased the pattern in the spring. I was also lucky enough to have a friend who is a talented seamstress offer to help me put it together. We took two days, and about twelve total hours, to put my skirt together, and it was such an amazing feeling to slip into that skirt, pull of the zipper, and have it fit like a dream!

And of course, the knitting was fun too! Zinone, the knit pattern Andi had designed for this year’s OAL, was one that I had been wanting to knit since seeing her teaser pics for it earlier this year, and it certainly did not disappoint. I’m not much of a lace knitter, so doing the lace back, and shoulder details was a bit of a challenge for me. It isn’t often I find myself having to go back several full rows to fix a mistake, but when I was getting started on the lace section of this piece, I felt like all I was doing was frogging and re-knitting. However, it was all worth it for the finished garment! Seriously, if you like to knit summer tops, this one has to go on your list. Not is it immensely adorable (seriously, how cute is a cropped, lace back top?), but knit out of Quince and Co. Sparrow, it is practically weightless, making it ideal for oppressively hot summer days.

I had a blast participating in this year’s OAL, and am so glad that I rose to the challenge of learning to sew. I had let that keep me from participating in last year’s, and know that when the 2017 OAL rolls around, I will be eager and able to join right in.

 

With the OAL behind me, I’ve now got my eyes on this year’s Fringe and Friends KAL. Karen Templer always manages to come up with such exciting subjects for her annual KALs, and this year is no different. The challenge this year is so knit a top-down sweater without a pattern, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what people come up with, and to get started on my own.

To be perfectly honest with you all, when I first saw that a free form top-down sweater was the subject of this year’s F&FKAL, I almost thought about sitting it out. After all, I have already knit several top-downs, using either my own design or heavily modifying someone else’s, so I couldn’t really see what knitting another one would do for me. Then, in a moment of clarity, I had a vision of the sweater I wanted to knit. Snuggly, grey, long, with deep pockets, and a vertical brioche band, the exact sweater that I have been wanting in my wardrobe, but haven’t been able to find a pattern for, and I realized the genius of a top-down KAL. The best part about creating a handmade wardrobe is the freedom it gives you in creating clothing that perfectly suits you. What better way to knit a sweater that fits perfectly into your wardrobe than to design one yourself? This KAL gives us all a chance to flex our muscles as designers, and to really think about the sort of sweaters we want to add to our closets.

Does anyone else have a favorite KAL, one that you did in the past or an annual that you try to do every year? Is there a KAL that you’ve been wanting to try, but haven’t been able to yet? Share in the comments below! I’d love to hear your KAL stories.

Also, as a small side note, I have recently moved to Portland, OR. So if anyone has any recommendations-food, drink, activities, stores, ect., let me know!

Marathons vs. Sprints

Wow! It has been a while since I’ve updated here! Don’t let anyone fool you, blogging is hard! Not only do you have to have something to say, but you also need to have the time, energy, and proper style in which to say it. And while I’ve had a lot to say, time and energy have not been on my side these past few weeks. I have been busy choosing a law school to attend, beginning to plan my move, working four days a week, and of course, knitting constantly through it all!

Last month, I had posted a roundup of all my current projects on the needles. Some of those projects, like my grey Vianne, have made it off the needles and into my wardrobe, but several others remain unfinished. And what’s more, my inspiration to work on them comes and goes. I have been struggling with that recently. As someone who revels in order and organization, it frustrates me that I can’t seem to keep my number of projects on the needles down to two or three. I want to be able to finish things before casting on something new, but as anyone who keeps a close eye on my instagram knows, I frequently fall victim to the impulse cast on, and end up completing something new while old projects languish.

In order to help resolve this issue for myself, I have started to think of my projects as either marathons or sprints. Marathons are projects that end up taking a long time to finish. Whether its because they require a lot of work or desire to work on them comes and goes, these kinds of projects can take us months or even years to finish. They are in the background ofnour lives, worked on slowly and deliberately until they are, at last, finished.

Sprints, unlike marathons, are projects that take practically no time to knit up. They are cast on, and knit through at a break neck speed, taking only a few weeks or months to complete. Sometimes these are planned projects that are just too enticing to put down, and sometimes they are unplanned, and simply impossible to say no to.

Both marathon and sprint projects occupy my needles, and while I will work to my finish my long term knits, I won’t feel guilty casting on newer, quicker ones in the meantime.

Anybody else have any long term projects on the needles or struggle with casting on a new project before finishing current ones? Share about it in the comments!

 

Adjusting Your Pattern to Your Gauge

We have all head it before – “Be sure to check your gauge before starting your sweater!”, “Don’t forget to work up a gauge swatch!”, “It doesn’t fit? Did you check your gauge?”

Any which way you turn in the knitting community, it seems that there is always something – a blog post, a paragraph in a book – educating us on the importance of gauge. Which is wonderful. It’s lovely to have that information so readily available. However, many of these pieces discuss the importance of gauge, how to check it, and how to adjust your needles to achieve correct gauge, but don’t necessarily explain how to change your pattern to suit your gauge. I can’t tell you how many knitters I have had come into the knit shop where I work, pull out their gauge swatch and ask “what next?”.

The truth of the matter is, sometimes we want to make a garment with a different gauge than the pattern suggests. Whether it’s because we have our hearts set on a yarn that won’t quite get gauge or we love the shape of the garment, but desire a different fabric, it sometimes just isn’t possible to knit a pattern to the suggested gauge. However, just because your gauge is off, doesn’t mean you can’t still make it work.

To adjust your pattern to your gauge, all you really need is some basic math. Say you’re knitting a sweater, and the given gauge is 6 stitches to the inch, but the fabric that you like is 5 stitches to the inch. All you need to do is go through the pattern and convert the number of stitches you’re supposed to have on your needle at any given time to match your 5 stitches gauge. Sound complicated? Don’t worry, it’s much simpler than it seems!

Say that the pattern you’re working on is for a top-down set-in-sleeve pullover, the first thing you would need to cast on for is the back neck. In the pattern’s schematic, you can check to see how many inches you’re supposed to cast on for the back neck in your size. If its 8″, all you have to do is multiply your inch gauge – in this case, 5 stitches per inch – by 8, and you’ll come up with your cast on number. You can also check this number against what the pattern says. If the pattern is having you cast on 48 stitches, you can divide the cast on amount by the number of stitches per inch that the pattern calls for. If the initial cast on is 48 stitches, and the pattern gauge is 6 stitches per inch, you can divide 48 by 6 to come up with how many inches to cast on. From there, you can multiply the number of inches by your own gauge to come up with how much to cast on.

The same holds true for differing row gauges. If the pattern you’re knitting calls for 10 rows per inch, but you’re knitting at 8 rows per inch, you can reference the schematic to see how many rows you should be knitting or check the row count in the pattern to figure out how many inches long the piece will be. For instance, if you’re knitting the back piece of a top-down set-in-sleeve sweater, it may be 7″ from the cast on for the back neck to the armhole. In that case, you would want to multiply your row gauge by 7 to determine how many rows you need to knit. Likewise, you can count out how many rows the pattern is asking you to knit, divide by the given row gauge, and multiply the resulting number by your own row gauge to determine how many rows to knit.

A combo of those two techniques can be used to adjust increases and decreases to suit your gauge as well. If you have to decrease the width of a garment by 4″ over 5″ of length in order to shape a waist, all that you need to do is plug your gauge in to know how many rows you need to knit, and how often you need to decrease. The row question is easy, just multiply your row gauge by the amount of inches given for the decrease section. To figure out your decreases, you can multiply your gauge by how much you will be decreasing to determine how many stitches you need to decrease. If you’re knitting a sweater, and have to decrease from a 36″ bust to a 32″ waist, then you would subtract the waist measurement from the bust measurement, and multiply that number by your stitches per inch gauge. In this cause, it would be 4″ of difference multiplied by 5 stitches to the inch, so you would need to decrease 20 stitches. If you have 5″ to do this, and you’re getting 8 rows per inch, then you have 40 rows in which you need to work your decreases. From there, you can decide how many decreases you want to do per decrease row, and how staggered you want the decreasing to be. A standard decrease row will have you decreasing 4 stitches each row, so if you need to decrease a total of 20 stitches, you would want to do 5 decrease rows. If you need to do 5 decrease rows over a total of 40 rows, and wanted evenly spaced decreases, then you would want to decrease every 8th row.

Increases can be adjusted for gauge in exactly the same way as decreasing, except you’ll be adding stitches back in, instead of taking them out.

The bottom line is, gauge is important, but not getting the expected gauges doesn’t mean you can’t make the pattern you want with the yarn of your choice. I have had so many customers come in discouraged because they couldn’t get gauge in the yarn that they really wanted to use. You are the boss of you’re knitting, and you can make it work for you.

Knitspiration: Gansey Madness!

Gansey knitting seems to be having a bit of a moment right now. What with the Fancy Tiger Crafts KAL for the Seascale sweater, and Brooklyn Tweed’s new collection, it seems like everyone has gansey’s on the brain.

So what exactly is a gansey? A gansey (also known as a guernsey) sweater is a particular type of sweater that originated in the Channel Island for the express purpose of keeping fishermen warm. These sweaters were traditionally knit at the tight gauge, to be waterproof, and without seams. Fishermen wore them against their skin when out at sea, with a silk scarf around their necks to keep the wet wool from chafing their skin. Overtime, specific villages, and even specific families adopted their own unique patterns to help identify the wearer. The motifs featured in gansey sweaters also represent elements common to life as a fisherman. For instance, decorative ribbing was taken to represent the rigging on a sailor’s boat, while raised seams represented rope, and garter stitch panels were meant to depict waves crashing against the shore. Women were the primary knitters of gansey sweaters, and they would pass the patterns down from mother to daughter to keep the tradition alive.

Today, gansey sweaters are worn more as fashion statements than work clothes, and it is easy to see why! The textural motifs of gansey sweaters are absolutely irresistible, both for wearing, and for knitting. If you’re looking to knit a gansey of your own, the new BT collection is a great place to start, and I’ve included links to my favorite patterns in this post. I’ve also included a link to the Seascale pattern that was used in the recent Fancy Tiger Crafts KAL (just in case you haven’t already seen it), and a pattern that has been floating around in my Ravelry faves for a while, which is gansey-inspired with a slightly more modern fit.

Ever knit a gansey or have any plans to knit one in the future? Share your thoughts/experience in the comments below!

 

Making Lemonade

 

Today, I would like to talk about making lemonade. Not actual lemonade, mind you, but rather, the things that we do when we make a mistake.

I think that, as artists, none of us are unfamiliar with the feelings that occur when a piece doesn’t come out quite right. As knitters, we know the disappointment the comes with spending all kind of time (not to mention money) on a project, only to have it come out less than expected. We have all, myself included, experienced this.

Most recently, I experienced this with a cardigan. I had picked out some of my favorite yarn, a local line called Twirl, and was so excited to create something with it. I was so looking forward to adding a garment made from this amazing stuff into my regular wardrobe. I spent time carefully picking a pattern that would show off the rustic quality of the yarn, and took a little over a month to knit it up. My initial doubts began after the cast off. It looked a little longer than I thought I wanted, and the stitch definition was less than stellar. But I went ahead, weaved in my ends, and blocked it out.

After blocking, my initial doubts fomented into the knowledge that I had absolutely made a mistake. The sweater had grown in length, and the fabric was far too drapey to support the structure of the design. I was heartbroken. I knew I would never wear the sweater, and set it aside for nearly a year while I ruminated on what to do. For a while, I thought that maybe my mind would change, and I would pull it out one day and find that I liked the fit. However, that kept not happening, and I had to face the facts that I simply didn’t like the sweater.

That was when it occurred to me that I still liked the yarn, and I could still use it. So I plotted out a new plan for the yarn. A sweater still, but a pullover with minimal structure, and a colorwork yoke that would show off the body, and rich color of the yarn. Last week, I embarked on this new project. I ripped out the cardigan, and began to swatch.

My point of this story is this–it is okay to make mistakes in knitting. I work in a knitting store, and too often I hear knitters worry over whether they should attempt this pattern or use that luxury yarn for fear of messing up. But everybody messes up. New knitters mess us, experienced knitters mess up, all knitters mess up. And that’s okay! Mistakes are great! They provide valuable learning experience, and can almost always be corrected. You can almost always rip something out and begin again. You can always make lemonade.

Have a tragic, knitting-gone-wrong story? Share it in the comments!