New mittens

Hello, crafters. How are your projects going? Christmas has come early for me – my Sydänmaa mittens are done and have been getting lots of wear.

Sydanmaa FOs

In my previous post, I was expressing some anxiety at having to work what I often feel is the least fun part of mittens: picking up stitches around thumbs. For a while, the unfinished mitts languished on my WIP pile, the gaping unworked thumbs staring back at me like conduits to an endless void. I’m learning that things like this constitute the veritable black-holes of crafting: procrastinating provides momentary relief, but unfinished business has a tendency to hijack new projects. In the end, necessity won (it’s cold here!). I unpacked my DPNs and made a very modest beginning.

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Looking fear in the eye.

I must, at this point, also acknowledge that the input and advice from several bloggers helped to move this thumbless WIP to FO status. A big thanks goes to AgnèsBelinda, and Helen for generously sharing their knitting expertise in the comments, and suggesting various strategies for avoiding holes while picking up thumb-stitches: in sum, this entails picking up extra stitches in the ‘ditch’ that lies between the live stitches (on the DPNs in the photo above) and the non-live stitches to be picked up on either side of the thumb gusset (in the photo, these are several ‘loops’ between the DPNs. These were added by a backwards loop cast-on). In addition, knitting into the backs of stitches twists them and also helps to cinch things up for a neater finish. Except for a single rogue stitch (my fault, see below), your suggestions worked super and will be repeated. Thank you!

Some Mending Minutiae

Despite my best efforts, I wound up with one pretty sizable hole at the front of the right mitt. I tried every which way and number to pick up — whether it was my skills or the slant of the stitches, a gap was determined to be made (and my repeated angling with the needle was not helping).

As in life, however, so it is in finishing-up: when I finally accepted the truth and inevitability of this flaw, I was able to shift my energies towards working with it (or, quite literally, around it). Recalling that the duplicate stitch is not only an embroidery stitch, but also a darn fine darning and mending-method, I decided to see if following the contour of the stitch with an extra strand of yarn would work well. I think it did the trick!

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Weave around the loose stitch, then cinch it up.

Bonus video

After finishing these mitts, I’m looking forward to my next cable-knitting project. On that note, Tony posted a great ‘no cable-needle’ cabling video in the comments (thank you!).

I am still relatively new to cable-knitting, and had never seen this method before; it looks less fiddly and very time-saving. I will have to try this next time! Do you cable-knit with or without a needle?

And what exciting makes does your holiday season have in store this week?

Wishing you many merry makes.

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Sydänmaa Mittens and my Achilles’ Thumb

I feel so close (but still so far away!) from finishing my pair of Sydänmaa mittens, by Hanna Leväniemi.

Mittens have a very special place in my heart. When I first learned to knit, I decided mittens would be a great project to tackle. After experiencing the delight of making my very first pair for myself (one blue mitt with a red stripe and one red mitt with a blue stripe), I made similar “mismatched” mitts for all of my high school friends in a kind of mitten-making trance. Mittens were my introduction to knitting garments for others (and to knitting en masse).

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Thumbless and pre-blocked.

I love that this pattern has helped me to improve my cable game; after working row after row of cables, I finally have a sense of what it does to hold stitches in the back or front of the work. I also followed the sage advice of the ever helpful and knitting-savvy Helen of Crawcrafts Beasties, and reproduced my cable ‘mistake’ on the second mitt. Running with mistakes, I’m learning, is OK! (though, running with scissors is not).

As you can see, however, I’ve worked the entire pair except the thumbs. In fact, I have a clear Achilles Thumb, when it comes to mitten-making: picking up stitches. In past projects, my stitch pick-up work (especially around thumbs) has always left stitch-counts that diverge from the pattern, and the ‘collateral damage’ of gaping holes that need mending. To me, picking up stitches (like seaming) is still the murkier and more ambiguous side of knitting — the skill that requires a more intimate knowledge of the architecture of hand-knit-fabric. I’m welcoming working those thumbs this week as a learning opportunity. For this reason, I’ve saved the hardest task for last. Wish me luck!

I have been so dazzled, by the way, by all of your holiday projects, productivity, and prolific making, crafters! Bravo, and Keep going!

What are you working on this week?

Well played, Porter Airlines…

When traveling back and forth between my hometown and where I study, I take Porter Airlines. Service is fast: Porter’s Chicago-Toronto flight brings me to Canada in about the same time it takes to ride the train across the city in Chicago. Porter’s Toronto waiting lounge is also my favourite: looking forward to free coffee, tea, snacks and wi-fi while you wait makes going to the airport much less of a hassle.

Before this starts to read like a plug for the airline, there is a knitting connection: on my last few flights home, I’ve taken inspiration from several airplane-knitter-bloggers on WordPress to bring my WIPs on board (now, I cannot but look back at how many knit-less flights I’ve had… so much lost time!). My flight routine has been the same: I set up my tray-table, have a glass of red wine, and knit the 1.5-hour flight away.

With the holidays approaching, my thoughts naturally go back to my hometown with the hope that I can make the trip (again) this December, as I have during past years.

I suppose it’s in the business of airline advertising not to leave anything to chance: I woke up to find this in my inbox last week, advertising an upcoming flight-sale (now over).

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Is the ad meant to charm the unsuspecting knitter? If yes, it worked. From Mr. Porter’s (the airlines’ raccoon mascot) yellow scarf, to his blue reindeer-sweater and voluminous holiday stash (suggestive of some serious holiday WIPs), right down to the advert’s text, replete with crafty knitting puns — the cuteness abounds. I’m happy when pop-culture images of knitting portray new and different kinds of knitting characters (and I’m happy when the portrayals get the directions of the needles right, though Mr. Porter’s “knitting with two strands” in the image is a bit confusing. Is he doing stranded knitting, with the same colour? Not sure).

Anyhow, I like to pride myself on being savvy and insusceptible to advertising (this is mostly self-deception), but I have to admit: Porter got my number with this one.

Have you seen any interesting portrayals of knitters in ads, recently?

Happy Crafting to you!

 

 

Back in the blogosphere

Hello, friends. It’s been a month-long, inadvertent hiatus from WordPress. It’s good to be back in the blogopshere! I admire those of you who can blog on the go. This seems not to have been my forte this year: October was spent in Toronto on much-needed (on my end) visits to friends, family, and in a general state of distracted flurry. Being away from my needles and stash was also trying. Crafters think in, through and with their materials; being away from the bulk of my materials, strangely, left me a little bereft of the bulk of my words as well.

BUT. I managed to get some good winter-knitting into the mix during my stay. Toronto temperatures stayed unseasonably well above the 20s (70s in the US) up until the end of the month, but Canadians know that the arrival of winter is inevitable (it will always come down hard at some point, even if a little late). I started a pair of Sydänmaa cable mittens in mid-October and found them an excellent TV-knitting project (though, I managed to flub the cable on the hand decreases while watching Ghostbusters).

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Sydänmaa mitts: can you spot the mistake in the cable?

With temperatures steadily falling, I’ve yet to complete the thumb (whose stitches are sitting tight on scrap yarn for now) and the full left mitt. Maybe, though, there’s a logic for the ‘thumbless mitt,’ close cousin of the fingerless mitt? Maybe I won’t need to do those thumbs after all?). Well, I’ll see how much I can tackle in the coming week. Chicago is cold, and new mittens would be nice.

And, in other very happy crafty news…!

I have been a huge fan and follower of blogger, crafter, and quilter extraordinaire, Tierney Hogan, of Tierney Creates: A Fusion of Textiles & Smiles. Tierney’s awesome blog has been on my steady blog-reading list for nearly a year; her beautiful quilts, blocks and sewing projects, her great eye for interior design and workspace organizing, her intriguing library hauls, and her inspired (and inspiring) writing on the crafter’s life have kept me coming back to her blog time and time again. Last month, she hosted a giveaway in celebration of her 4th Blogiversary (yay!). It turns out that luck was with me on Blogiversary drawing day: a little while ago, I received a lovely, handmade ‘little wallet’ from Tierney in the mail, along with a custom greeting, made from recycled business cards, revealing her great gift for card-craft!

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This wonderful purple wallet is part of a series of little wallets Tierney has made from scraps (see more of these handmade beauties and read about their making herehere, and here. Aren’t they scraptastic?!). The last time I checked, she had made over 58 of these beautiful purses. I am so impressed by her prolific sewing and incredible productivity and her eye for textiles — each wallet is a unique combination of colour- and pattern-coordinated fabrics. Each wallet creates a “feel” and a coherent theme with colour and design. At the same time, the wallets are playful and improvisational with the colours and patterns, combining them in fun, unusual, and unexpected ways.  These wallets are works of art, and they are so awesome!

The detail and handiwork that went into making the wallet I received (and its lovely inside pockets!) is also amazing. In a previous life, I owned a working sewing machine and was trying to learn how to make my own clothes. My dreams of fashion-designerdom were thwarted, however, by my chronic inability to get the machine to make straight lines of stitching. A year or two — and several awkwardly worn garments later — my Singer and I decided on a moratorium that has yet to be lifted. When it comes to good sewing, then, there is definitely more than meets the eye. This wallet is exquisitely made, and I am marveling at the world of skill and mastery Tierney put into making it!

If you haven’t yet, do visit her excellent blog for more quilting and crafting fun (and Tierney, thank you so much, again, for this splendid little wallet. I love it!)

Happy Crafting! (now, where were those DPNs I never unpacked?…)

 

The Mighty Mitered square

Hello, friends. This week finds me in my beloved hometown of Toronto for an October visit. Travel means travel knitting! My knitter’s kit (below) was the most considered part of my luggage. I knew I wanted to work on a few hats during this stay, what with Winter not too far ’round the corner, so it was 16″ circulars and DPNs for me.

Knit kit

In other knitting news, I’ve begun some very early exploration of mitered square-knitting, using scrap yarn. The mitered square duo below is looking a little irregular and misshapen, but they are very happy to be together. After working a seamed-squares blanket on my last knit, I’m really loving this method’s seamless construction. The mitered square is the humble workhorse of blanket-knitting; its simplicity makes it mighty, in my eyes! I hope to give these squares some more (increasingly square-shaped) company as I continue to knit.

mitered square

Have you had any experiences/adventures in working mitered squares? How do they compare, to you, with working other kinds of blankets and afghans? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

Blanket delivered

One more parting snapshot of the Welcome Blanket for good measure (thanks to A for the photo help!).

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I delivered it to the Smart Museum today, in a brown paper bag like someone’s huge knitted lunch. Today was a scorcher in Chicago – the kind of thick, 33 celsius day that sees your fellow passengers wiping beads of sweat off of their brows with a soppy hanky on the subway. I felt more than a little cognitive dissonance as I carried around the blanket version of a rainbow woolly mammoth on this muggy, muggy day, but I was happy to see this project through to its end. I hope that the blanket will give a little bit of joy to whomever receives it.

This project, and the in-progress Knit Together organized by Melissa at knittingthestash, is opening my eyes to the beauty of the communally-made blanket. As the Knit Together and the Welcome Blanket makers are showing, collaboratively-made blankets are meaningful symbols of solidarity, togetherness, and community. They enact the principle of making something bigger out of individual, unique contributions. I love how knitting lends itself so readily to this idea, and am so glad to have been a part of both of these labours of love.

To making blankets together! And to the spirit of welcome!

Welcome Blanket: Design & Knitting Up

After a little over 3 weeks of here-and-there work, my Welcome Blanket is complete and ready to be wrapped up and sent to the Smart Museum, where the main exhibit is taking place. I’m told that the project has recently broken the 1001 blanket mark, and the plan is for the exhibit to house all the donated blankets in a single room!

I started this Welcome Blanket on August 16th and finished on September 10th, working a square at a time, seaming up and weaving in the numerous ends here and there. I found it easier to stay motivated by going back and forth between knitting, seaming, and weaving-in than to separate like tasks and complete them all in sequence. I chose to knit up the project’s recommended pattern – Come Together by Kat Coyle.

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© Kat Coyle

What’s wonderful about Come Together, as a beginner blanket-project, is its knitter-friendly modular construction. Made up of 16 10″ x 10″ diagonally knit garter-stitch squares, the pattern provides a way of easily producing even fields of colour and allows for endless compositional variations. Knitting squares also means that the blanket feels like a quick knit for being done in small pieces (even if the finishing up is much more slow going).

My favourite part of this project was getting to play around with shape and colour; I discovered that I love to tinker with modular composition and variations (which seems to be something that, say, quilters get to engage in more than knitters?). I’m feeling a little bereft of words this week, so I’ll let the images reveal the process, from designing to finishing up. As you’ll notice, my colour choices changed significantly early on – the product of a compromise, or trying to balance creative vision with, er, the much humbler desire to de-stash and work with the materials I already had at hand. It turns out that big visions and material constraints can and do play nicely after all.

Designing and Tinkering

blanket ideas blankBlanket Idears

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Knitting and Finishing Up

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Me and my FO 

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Now, to wrap it up, pen a warm message to its recipient, and send it on its way.

For more information about the Welcome Blanket Project, see here.

Happy Making, friends!

 

 

Crafting Welcome: The Welcome Blanket Exhibit

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Tucked into a lawn-hemmed corner of the University of Chicago campus, The Smart Museum of Art – the UC’s local exhibition space – is currently HQ for the Welcome Blanket Project. Welcome Blanket is a crowd-sourced project that is sending donated crocheted, knitted, and quilted blankets to new immigrants, migrants, and refugees living in the U.S. Along with the blanket, the program is asking that each crafter enclose a personal message of welcome to their blanket’s recipient. The project imagines and performs a mass-scale welcome through letters and yards and yards of yarn and fabric as a way of creatively resisting current “build a wall” rhetoric.

The gallery blurb on the wall clarifies:

By overlapping art, craft, design, architecture, social activism, political resistance, social media, and civic engagement, Welcome Blanket offers a concrete way to explore abstract ideas. Not only by making the concept of a 2,000-mile border wall tangible through yards of yarn, but also by blurring the spaces between individual stories and collective conversations. It connects a large-scale installation in a museum gallery with small-scale local craft circles with single links between a blanket maker and a new neighbor.

How do we make large-scale civic engagement meaningful, positive, and creative for each individual?

How do we intimately understand international crises?

How do we share our singular stories in an understandable way?

I see value in simple acts of welcome, reception, and inclusion through craft. A simple handmade blanket is not much: it does not change legal frameworks and practices. It does not significantly alter the difficult and precarious economic and social conditions of living for refugees and other newcomers to the U.S. And, it is likely not going to change the opinions of people who are committed to shoring up the borders of the country. But, a blanket gifted in this way sends a meaningful message to the individuals and families whose lives are being affected by the recent shift in policy and public sentiment on immigration in the U.S. I have also learned, through joining a local Welcome Blanket knitting circle, that contributing to the project is a way for people to materially make sense of what’s happening and find voice, agency, and community again in concrete and productive ways. Like others, I think with my hands and must grapple with things when working through bigger questions.

My sense is that simple messages and gestures like these, taken by a critical mass of crafters, can restore a sense of hope.

The Space

Imagine being given the best hug you have ever received from a good friend. This feeling of embrace, warmth, and acceptance permeates the Welcome Blanket exhibition space – you’re surrounded by a collection of handmade gifts whose purpose is to offer a little bit of colour, warmth, and comfort.

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Building a wall of welcome

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In line with the exhibit’s theme, the Welcome Blanket space invites visitor-participation. You’re welcome to sit and knit a while, peruse through a binder of personal welcome-notes written by various blanket-makers, or (if you’re new to knitting or crochet) take a seat and try your own hand at basic blanket square-making. The knitting circle meets weekly in this space, and it has been lots of fun to spend some time stitching at the Smart with other UC knitters, transforming what is usually a ‘private’ and solitary activity into one performed in a public and shared space.

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Knit (and crochet) happens.

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Having found out about the Welcome Blanket Project very recently, I knew that I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to contribute to a meaningful act of craftivism, despite never having made a knit-object on this scale before. So, it looks like a foray into blanket-making for me. More on the specific blanket-making process soon!

If you’re heading Chicago-ward in the coming time, the exhibition will be up until December 17th. And if you are interested in donating a blanket yourself to the Welcome Blanket Project, the deadline has just been extended from September 5th to November 4th. So that more people can participate, Welcome Blanket is covering the cost of shipping blankets to the Smart Museum in the US. Learn more at welcomeblanket.org

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Knit Together: Blanket square

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My blanket square for the Knit Together Project, organized by the wonderful Melissa at Knitting the Stash, is done.  I had a lot of fun working on this one.

My square uses a combination of fibres: the main colour is from the Stonehedge Fiber Mill – a farm in East Jordan, Michigan, that has been around for all of 157 years. This worsted weight blend is Stonehedge Fiber’s amazing Shepherd’s Wool Yarn in the Autumn Gold colour way: it is incredibly soft, probably the softest and cushiest blend I’ve ever knit up (more on Shepherd’s Wool Yarn here).  Doubling up strands to work the yarn on size 11 DPNs produced a soft, billowy, marshmallowy square.

The Square Story

I wanted to reflect, through my square, on the kindness and generosity of crafters and makers. The square’s streak of bright blue is taken from the mini-skein of fiber that Melissa sent in the mail, and so includes her kind gesture (thank you, Melissa!). One of my favourite knitting stories on this theme is the children’s book Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett. Have you heard of it? (there is an enthusiastic Youtube reading, if you’re interested). Apart from John Klassen’s fantastic illustrations of a community connected by knitting, I think that Extra Yarn is a beautiful story about the intrinsic gift-nature of knitting – one that, as the story explores, threads people together, and comes from an invisible but inexhaustible source of generosity.

Extra Yarn reminds me of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the modern World (1983) which makes the very similar case that a creative process relies on gift-giving and what he discusses as the logic of “the gift” – things freely given with no set conditions for return or reciprocity. These gifts – whether out-of-the-blue ideas, resources, tools, knowledge, time – are meant to circulate, and often have mysterious or unexpected origins (his reading, for example, of The Shoemaker and the Elves sees the tale as an example of gift-logic at work). the gift coverThe continued circulation of gifts is what enables makers to produce and generate new ideas, making acts of acceptance and giving the heart of creativity. What’s more, Hyde suggests that each artist’s unique contribution adds to and enhances the whole (and so Hyde makes the case that artistic works be treated as social endowments and kept accessible to the public).

The message of Extra Yarn and The Gift seemed to echo the underlying spirit of the Knit Together. I was oddly starting to feel as though I was being reminded, by various sources, of an important message. I have come to see and appreciate how much knitting (and knitters) have given me, and the importance of finding ways to share what I’ve learned.

 

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From Extra Yarn. Copyright 2012 Jon Klassen

DPN Tag (a.k.a. would you like to contribute a square?)

Speaking of sharing and circulating… Part of the Knit Together Project includes co-creating a blanket by circulating shared tools: sets of DPNs.

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Several DPNs are circulating  through a system of tagging; I received these DPNs in the mail and now that I’m done with my square, I’m to tag a few other knitters to participate and find someone to pass the needles along to. In other words, it’s time to set the DPNs free and find them a new home so that the blanket-making can continue.

I thought of the knitting bloggers whose words and works I’ve come to enjoy and learn so much from over the past year. I highly recommend reading these exquisite knitting blogs!

Are you interested and available to join the Knit Together Project?  :

Agnes of Ready to Knit
Karen of Nothing But Knit
Melinda of Knit Potion
Tony of The Yarn Blabber

(I’ll send the single-set of DPNs above to the first tagged person who agrees in the comments)

To the tagged: The idea is to send an 8″ x 8″ blanket square to Melissa (knittingthestash.wordpress.com) who is collecting all the squares. They will be seamed together, and a draw will be held among the square-contributors to receive the blanket FO(s).

The tag to knit a square (and tag another fellow-knitter) is still extended whether or not DPNs are sent directly to you.

Finally, I completely understand if this is a busy time that may not easily lend itself to an extra blanket square. No worries if you choose to decline. 🙂

All the details + the project’s contact e-mail are available on Melissa’s Knit Together Project Page.

Looking forward, friends. And Happy Knitting to you.

 

Crafting, Resilience

Maybe the crafters here will not be surprised by this: the more I continue with knitting, the more I’ve come to realize that, in certain situations, the most politically empowered thing one can manage in troubling times is to start cultivating sanity and resilience through little, everyday practices, building from there.

While it is not required, some form of creative grounded-ness can be a very good foundation for staying receptive, open, and taking engaged actions in the world towards benefiting other people. Knitting and crafting tends to be seen by the people I know as a quaint “hobby,” maybe an escape-hatch or a “womanly” way of unwinding. Little do they know (or do they? I’m kind of a blabber-mouth) that cultivating craft in my life is part of a broader commitment that includes developing the clarity, strength, and sanity to stay socially engaged and be of help in the areas that matter to me. This commitment goes beyond knitting; it also includes being trained in teaching and research (where, I hope, the things I write can add to the chorus of voices that, specifically, is opposing the kinds of anti-immigration laws, policies, and public discourses that are unfortunately cropping up in many different places. More on my research here).

Knitting and making things has made all the difference between, on the one hand, trying to do this work while nursing a constantly battered sense of hope that social shifts could produce a more equitable world, and — much more preferable — doing this work while allowing the process to teach me to cultivate resilience. In other words, crafting isn’t the cure for, say, the kinds of micro-aggressions (and more) that women, POC, and various minorities encounter, but it can provide a home-base to return to if a day or incident has been trying. The need to cultivate a source of clarity and resilience grows greater in light of the reality that women (speaking for myself here) tend to be socialized to internalize or blame themselves for problems that are structural or systemic (why is it more habitual to castigate ourselves if we are less than perfect at balancing the demands of life than, say, to question the unreasonable gendered expectations placed upon us, and ask for a hand?).

The knitting has been a companion for all of this. It has been, for me, one of the best apprenticeships in recognizing and practicing real agency again. With every project — with every stitch! — I subconsciously remind myself that something new is possible, that new things are possible and can be brought into being with a little bit of practice, knowledge and patient action (oh, and mistakes). And if I’ve developed a habit of reading about others’ crafting tales, it’s partly because they also remind me of the unending emergence of new things in the world — splendid things reflecting the world of care, ingenuity, and loving engagement the maker put into them. Seeing this helps me to dig deep into my life and experience, and begin to look for ways to be involved and continue to take action on a broader scale. In the process, I am finding it helpful to draw on that same crafter’s energy and keen eye for possibility and transformation.

Happy Crafting, folks. Wishing you an empowered week.

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…sometimes, it also helps to find a pretty view. Loyola U. campus, looking east over Lake Michigan

Blanket square swatching

I’ll keep my update very brief: just a little bit of swatching and research, today, for a first foray into blanket squares! 

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August 7th: Some sunny day swatching.

This little swatch is towards the ongoing Knit Together project, coordinated by the wonderful Melissa at Knitting the Stash.

The aim of this very exciting Knit Together is to circulate sets of needles (DPNs) by post to knitters across the country (and now, it seems, beyond!). Each DPN-recipient is requested to make an 8″x 8″ blanket square, with an emphasis on local/special fiber that has meaning to them and tells a story. Then, they forward the DPNs to another knitter (and can tag a few others!) who will contribute a square of their own, and so on. The squares will be collected and seamed together by Melissa, and the plan is to have a draw once the blanket(s) is/are made. Each contributing knitter is automatically entered to win the FO(s)! Like so many knitting undertakings, this one’s long-term, and the project is anticipated to go well into 2018.

In her DPN mailing to me, Melissa was so kind to include an adorable little skein of some local-to-her fiber, and a splendid stitch marker. This little gift brightened my day, and got me thinking about potential themes and ideas for my blanket-square contribution. I love the idea of telling and sharing different stories in ways that materially bring people together in acts of crafting!

I just came from the mailbox today to discover that the DPNs from Melissa @knittingthestash have arrived! They are for the Knit Together Project: sets of DPNs are circulating by mail to make blanket squares which Melissa will seam together when all is said and done, with a big draw for the completed blanket(s). I can't think of a more beautiful project to express the ways knitters are (now literally) connected by the craft. She also was so kind to include a fibre-y treat! Thank you, Melissa for brightening my day. 😊  I can't wait to get started on some blanket-square research. To learn more about this wonderful knitting project, visit https://knittingthestash.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/knit-together-project/ #knitting #knittingthestash #knittogetherproject #knittersofinstagram

A post shared by S C Yeung (@scyeung_knits) on

As of today, I’m still in the pre-knitting phase of the blanket square (my characteristic slowness is revealing itself, here), but I hope to be done in the next few weeks. By then, I will be ready to tag a few WP knitters here on the blog (!) and ready to pass on these lovely DPNs to the next person. Stay tuned, and Very Happy Knitting to you!

For more details on this project, and to get involved, visit Melissa’s Knit Together info page.

 

…and that’s a wrap (or a shawl?)

After about a week’s worth of night-time movie-knitting, the Age of Brass & Steam kerchief shawl is done and ready to be wrapped up and given to its new wearer. Age of Brass & Steam must have been just the right starter shawl for me: now that it’s done, I want to make another shawl, pronto. I’m hooked. This, from a knitter who has not only never knit a shawl, but has never worn one, either (and, to be honest, was a little confused about the difference, say, between shawls, haps, and wraps. If there is a knitter out there who would like to shed a little light, I’m curious).

This is a great beginner pattern: it calls for 3 repeats of a stockinette + garter eyelet section to make a simple kerchief. I decided I wanted a roomier, hug-sized garment, and added an additional 4th repeat. The shawl ends in 3 rows of garter stitch. All in all, making it required ~ 310 yards of worsted weight on a size 7 24″ circular (cast-off using US 9s).

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July 26th: Half way through what ended up being a 45-minute bind off. I have never knit anything on this scale of stitches.

After steam blocking, the shawl measured 58″ across. I love its shape, and am still marveling at how the increases, worked ‘straight’ across on the circulars, popped out this neat isosceles triangle thing. Learning how to do this was not quite as big of a shocker as, say, my first sock heel-turn (unforgettable!) but I have to say, it’s up there in the instant replay of Knitting A-ha! Moments of 2017. The craft never ceases to amaze.

Age of Brass and Steam Shawlshawl FO1

Learnings

I’ll keep my learnings brief; from start to finish, this project was one big lesson. One thing, though: making this shawl has got me thinking about the importance of drape (something I have been neglecting). I’m happy with how this first one turned out, but am wondering what would have happened, drape-wise, if I’d gone up a few needle sizes. I suppose I’ll have to find out later, but am learning to keep things loose and let things flow. In any case, that’s how the shawl falls, I say (I suggest this as the shawl-knitter’s version of “that’s how the cookie crumbles”).

I’m curious: what, in your view, makes for a great shawl, wrap, or hap? Do you have a favourite one that you’ve done several times? What do you love about it? Do tell.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, wherever you happen to be!

Shawl knitting

“How do they get that little triangle shape into the knit?” I remember asking myself when I first saw Purl Soho’s bandana cowl. Midway through the Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief by Orange Flower Yarn, I’m looking forward to finding out. Or, rather, I’m learning that the kerchief ‘triangle’ is the result of a series of increases around a midpoint-stitch, and at the edges. How cool is this?

The Brass and Steam kerchief shawl, a gift for a relative, has been a fun first shawl to work on. shawl1

Worked flat, each knit row produces 2 YOs and 2 M1’s; each purl row yields another 2 YOs. In other words, the thing takes on size fast. Before I knew it, the 2 cast-on stitches that began the shawl had literally turned into 200 without a fuss. It’s mysterious how little of that growth I actually noticed. This shawl engages one of my favourite kinds of knitting – what I like to call subliminal knitting, or the knitting that happens just under your radar of perception. There’s an internally-generated endurance to this knitting; its quality of unobtrusiveness made for a lot of stitches in a short amount of time (the rows are getting longer and longer, so maybe I’ve spoken too soon?).

This shawl is the kind of knit that is “growing up too fast” and has you wondering, with the necessary headshake, where all the time has gone. Who knows?

Wishing you lots of good making-time in the days ahead.

 

Finishing up: Recycled Sweater, part IV

The saga of the recycled sweater has come to an end. What a process it’s been.

Working on this simple top has taught me a lot about basic seamed garment-construction. I had to stray from the pattern early on (not enough yarn), and ended up inventing a garment that looks quite different from anything I could have imagined. It helps to follow one’s whimsy every now and then.

This sweater has taught me how much reconstitution knitting involves. Knitting entails reworking and reconstituting both my materials and my aspirations (!) as I go back and forth between dreaming of perfect, fictional (and perfectly fictional) garments and the givens of reality. One can’t always have their proverbial cake and eat it, too — especially when working with second-hand yarn. This project taught me to follow my gut, stay loose, stay calm, and knit on. I’m happy that such an important set of lessons also happened to produce my very first knit tee – it’s a little misshapen and has some uneven bits here and there, but it’s wearable (and it fits!).

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I’ll have to fix those sleeves (!)

Hooray for the summer sweater! (Sonya Philip has a very fun article on precisely this topic, Wear what you make: The Summer SweaterI really enjoy her fun sense of style and colour, and she’s spot on about the need for a summer knit in cool, air-conditioned interiors).

As usual, here are some lessons culled.

First / Recycled Sweater Learnings

1. Roll with it (mods are a-ok). Stockinette fabric is a curly thing. After seaming, the sleeves wanted to curl in, and the sweater’s bottom hem wanted to curl up. During early fittings, I felt like I was wearing a big blue curly corn chip. I decided to be kind to the fabric; instead of ‘killing the acrylic’ with an iron (permanently flattening it out), I decided to work with the knitting’s natural inclinations: I rolled up the sleeves to make cuffs (with inspiration from the 80s cut off sweatshirt), and I rolled up the bottom hem on both sides to make a little garter-stitch border. Since the sweater was very fitted around the waist, I left 3″ open slits along each bottom side-seam to add some space and movement to the hemline (see above). I just did what I felt worked. Hopefully, though, I will be doing less ‘sideways’ knit garments in the future and will encounter fewer of these curly ends.

2. Bulky Seam Syndrome (BSS) is avoidable. What I call BSS is about as appealing as it reads. A number of readers (thank heavens) warned me about the possibility of bulky seams as I began finishing up. I had to see these purported bulky seams for myself, so I did an underarm seam using a regular mattress stitch. Just as expected, this method produced a bulging, heavy, rope-like thing in the armpit that was so thick, it stiffened the fabric’s natural movement.

Thankfully, there’s another way to go about it – an adapted form of mattress stitch that is much less bulky for when seams are called for. It’s still ‘concealed’ and does the trick. See it in action here.

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Seaming up.

3. Mark beginnings and endings of seams beforehand. I’m taking a page out of my sewing days here. I took up sewing clothes at around 19, and learned from the instructions that came with the Butterick and Vogue paper patterns. A key step in garment-making, I remember, was to pin the pieces of fabric together before running them through the machine. It turns out that this is good sense when seaming knits, too. Because I was careless, and did not count my rows on the sleeves, I produced sleeves of slightly different lengths! Securing the starts and endpoints of my seams before sewing went a long way in keeping hemlines even. Which leads to my next learning…

4. Count the rows. Another reminder to myself. Next time, I will not rely solely on my tape measure to determine whether equivalent parts of the sweater are the same. Next time, I will measure and count actual rows. Having long prided myself on my pencil-and-paper minimalism when it comes to row counting, I just may buy a stitch counter the next sweater ’round.

And finally, 5. Process is queen.There’s always a little fear that comes with straying from the directions. But there’s a lot of freedom in straying, too. If I were to picture the process of making this first sweater, from thrift-store find to intended pattern to FO, it would basically consist of a series of unexpected and make-do-with-the-circumstances strayings, like this:

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It’s ok to fear, in the thick of things, that a project might fail. Every now and then, though, the seeming ‘failed’ part ends up being precisely the thing that leads to a new direction. And an entirely workable or downright happy direction, at that.

This recycled yarn project has been 4 months coming, and it feels good to be finished!  I will do this again, and have already taken to finding other froggable garments. If you have a little bit of spare time, it can’t hurt to try your hand at some simple yarn recycling.

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Before and After

In case you’d like to read the three previous posts on this process, here’s where I unravel the thrifted sweater,  wind up the yarn, then choose a pattern and knit it up.

Thanks for reading, and happy making!

Knitting up: Recycled yarn, part III

After winding down, naturally, comes knitting up.

I’ve been working nights, over the past few weeks, on my recycled-yarn sweater, and it is slowly taking shape! After dreaming about tackling a seamless top-down sweater (a construction method I love), I decided to work on a seamed sweater project instead. Having had the fun and excitement of making a top-down baby sweater, I felt like I wanted a new challenge.

I felt a twinge of love at first sight when I laid eyes on Roberta Rosenfeld’s Drape front sweater in the pages of a slightly weathered copy of Vogue Knitting’s Very Easy Sweaters (2013).

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© Vogue Knitting/Rose Callahan

The sweater looked comfortable, versatile and, yes, very, very easy in its all-stockinette composition. If you recall, the back of the sweater was completed a while ago.

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The front of the sweater has since also been knit up, but with one major modification: it won’t be a draping sweater after all! It will be a plain-fitting, non-draping front. Literally, a sweater t-shirt. It’s as simple as tops get. I chose this modification for two reasons:

1. I learned that I did not have enough of the recycled yarn for the drape version, which requires an extra stretch of knitting at the front. Yep.

2. Knitting up using my recycled yarn ended up requiring making many (many) joins. The sweater is basically made up of yarn pieces! This photo may be tantamount to airing out my dirty laundry, but here’s what I mean:

 

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Sweater front (wrong side): a veritable infestation of joins.

The original pattern requires half of the sweater-front to be twisted after being knit up, leaving half of the front ‘inside out’ (with an outfacing garter-stitch side) and the other half in regular stockinette.  The prospect of multiple loose threads from the joins above coming undone and leaving little ends sticking out did not appeal to me. I decided to abandon the dream of that beautiful drape and keep the joins where they belonged: on the inside of the garment!

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Sweater front (right side): I was sad to ditch the drape, but the joins will be contained once woven in.

What’s left, now, is to block the front, then sew the two pieces together. I’m a little jittery about this last step, but I can’t wait to share (and wear) the results. I resolve to love this ‘first sweater,’ regardless of how misshapen it may turn out. In honesty, I already love this future recycled garment with all my heart: I love that this sweater gave me so much time of happy work. It will be that funny sweater I wear that contains all the hours of joy and delight that went into making it. It will be my Happiness Sweater (for this reason, I really hope it fits!). More to come.

Hoping this week finds you enjoying some stitching under the sun!