Friday, September 30, 2016

Handmade wardrobe inspiration & a sweater breakthrough

Karen at Fringe Association had an inspiring post recently on wardrobe building and I have been thinking about it ever since. I loved seeing her collection of clothes, seeing the color and shape vocabulary she has so exquisitely put together and made herself. I am enchanted by the idea of a functioning, mostly-handmade wardrobe of my own, of course. To see hers gives me hope that it can happen! Then yesterday I read this interview with another handmade wardrobe hero, Sarah Kate Beaumont of very sweet life-- so much great stuff!

This inspiration is exactly what I needed, I think, to have a sweater breakthrough. That and some really good yarn:

Bartlett 2-ply, woolen-spun goodness from Harmony, ME-- a third-hand windfall from my knitting circle. By the time yarn reaches its third owner it might just be doomed, but I pounced when it was offered up and have been hoarding it for just the right project. I have loved Bartlett from afar and up close for years now, the texture, the smell, the colors... lovely stuff. It just sings to me of Maine winters and the hardy, practical, industrious people who can endure them-- they even make it in blaze orange! I know it makes for gorgeous texture stitches and cables-- I have searched and searched without success for the perfect pattern to showcase those qualities AND yield a sweater that I really, really want on my body. What I finally realized is that I want something more straightforward and plain-spoken-- here's what I have so far:

Just your basic, garden variety, top-down crewneck raglan sweater-- uncomplicated knitting at its best. Once I figured out what measurements I wanted to start with for the back neck, neck drop, yoke depth, and chest & arm circumference, the rest is arithmetic and trying on, and I am at ease with letting it be an experiment. What I have here is my third attempt-- I started first with the wrong needle size (I should have labeled my swatches more carefully!), then started again with too many front neck stitches. I'm doing yarn-over increases, twisting them toward the raglan lines from either direction when I knit into them on the next row. To my eye this looks good-- kind of like the full-fashioned increases on a machine-knit sweater-- it's also easy to knit and gives me something to do every round. And just like that I'm exactly where I want to be with my knitting!

When I analyzed my history of sweater failures, I made a few guidelines for future attempts and this sweater-- so far-- sticks to them: a high neckline, perfect for layering and warmth, just enough texture from the wooly yarn but no gilding the lily. I think this could be the first time I've started knitting a sweater based on what I want to wear, rather than what I would most like to knit, either for the fun of it or because I coveted the finished object. It's a fine distinction, perhaps, but a meaningful one. Unworn garments, whether they are store bought or handmade, are a waste of time and resources-- sure, they may find another owner and home, but that still furthers a cycle of unhealthy consumption that I would very much like to step back from. When I imagine my ideal wardrobe, it contains only things I love to wear, just enough that I don't need to add anything unless I really love it or need it, and it fits my life and style well enough that I'm not always panicking when the seasons change, when I go on a trip, or to an event. I imagine, also, that this would free up some mental space for other things, not necessarily more important, just different! Because I feel like my wardrobe takes up more than its fair share of my thinking and making time.

This sweater gives me hope that I'm moving in the right direction. I know I need to do some more work on wardrobe planning if I'm going to get there, I think it's a good time-- before my fabric and yarn stash engulf all my available workspace-- to reflect more on what I need, what suits my life and style, and what I can accomplish with knitting and sewing towards a more sustainable closet. Since this happens to mesh nicely with the Slow Fashion October framework over at Fringe Association, I'm going to try to follow along each week with a post here. I look forward to joining the conversation!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Desperation knitting

My latest knitting project started as a total desperation move-- I was nearly finished my baby sweaters and was about to run out of knitting! I have become so hesitant and indecisive with my knitting that this is now a regular occurrence, but this time I decided to take preemptive action. I turned to my Ravelry favorites with two assumptions: 1) Recently favorited items are more likely to be what I want to knit RIGHT NOW! 2) The longer I spent looking for a project the more likely I would be to end up in decision-making paralysis-- and without knitting. So I forced myself to choose a pattern from the first page of my favorites and vowed come-hell-or-high-water I would cast on within 24 hours, using whatever stash yarn was a reasonable approximation of the pattern yarn weight. Which was this:

My first wheel-spun yarn! It was actually started during my first wheel-spinning lesson and I am still shocked by how well it turned out. The fiber is undyed BFL top and it was pure joy to spin. I am in love with looking at and touching the skeins and probably would have hoarded them forever were it not for desperate times calling for desperate measures.

It turns out to be pure joy to knit with-- much more so than yarn from my drop spindle. This is good news because repeated shoulder injuries have made the spindle a thing of the past for me. I am knitting a hat, of all things. Now that it's in progress I realize I have been hankering for a simple ribbed hat in a rustic, tweedy yarn. Desperation, meet serendipity!

The fabric looks rough but I assure you it is very soft and squishy. I am set for knitting for at least a few more days...

Monday, September 5, 2016

Knitting: baby sweaters

I have been a bit of a stranger to my knitting needles lately. The summer has flown by with lots of hiking trips and quite a bit of sewing (which also deserves a post... soon) but I did get a tiny bit of knitting done. Literally, I have been knitting two tiny things:

When all other knitting inspiration fails me I usually find myself in need of a baby shower gift or two-- human reproduction is reliable that way. My thought process for these started with a color palette-- I inherited some yarn from a friend* who has decided she is done knitting.* What I got is a selection of cool blues and purples-- I wanted to flex my color design muscles and use up this windfall.

For the first sweater I chose a deep plum and dusty light purple-- and my go-to baby gift pattern Beyond Puerperium. I tried stripes and I tried a contrast band but neither looked good to me. Here's what ended up happening:

The embroidery took a long time because: a) I had to figure out how to make the stitches on knitted fabric-- there was a lot of starting over! b) Once I had the hang of it I kept stopping to admire the effect, kind of like a photo negative or sun print I think. I did not document my many attempts to stitch leaves for those flower stems-- suffice it to say they didn't look right and they aren't needed.

The second sweater started with two medium blues-- to my eye without much value or hue contrast between them, so I didn't have high hopes for the combination. I played around with stripe width and landed on a ratio that I find very pleasing:

The slightly lighter blue has more contrast with the slightly darker one when there is more of the lighter color-- I wish I could say confidently that this is color theory at work, but my eye at least tells me it is true.

Baby sweaters are a snack-sized amount of knitting with a feast of finishing, usually by the time I have one sleeve done I begin to wonder why I always end up making them.

It's probably because they are adorable-- and another perfect small canvas for playing with color and pattern.

*Hi Vickie!
*Which I find sad, but that didn't stop me from snatching up her yarn before she could change her mind!