patience

fleta-folded-front
The biggest project of 2017: cables for months and an incredibly satisfying final result.

Hello, and let me clear the cobwebs off this old blog. Thanks to everyone who got in touch here and during my occasional returns to Instagram over the past months.

I have missed the conversations on blogs and over sewing-related content in other places; however, I really needed the time away and FOMO or any other tether of our interconnected world was not strong enough to keep me from what I knew I needed. Which was to be away and focus on what was necessary.

Usually, it’s the online sewing community that gives me a nice sense of temporary escape into a much-loved hobby, but there comes a time when things are not usual any more, and this was one of those times.

Over the years as a pretty avid blog reader I’ve definitely drawn inspiration and a sense of meaningful connection from writers who’ve written candidly, beautifully, and often with a sense of humor and insight, about their experiences of illness, hardship, and loss. Without naming specific people, I want to thank those of you who write about life in this way. You help others by allowing them to think and feel together with you. And, in their own trying times, to remember, and feel less lonely and more capable.

I’ve discovered that I’m not that kind of blogger. I really enjoy blogging as a means to get away from all the emotion-laden real-life challenges. While immersed in them, I try to be there as fully and honestly as I can, but I don’t share it in writing afterwards. Hence the blog silence.

So while I was away from the blog I was with my family as we faced the challenge of terminal illness and loss. My dad passed away after a long struggle against cancer.

We’re here, still supporting each other. Some days are really difficult, others are easier. I don’t have any wisdom to share other than let yourself feel your feelings fully, no matter how strong they are. And be there for the people in your life, in your own imperfect but true way (even if, like me, you can’t write about it).

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While I usually enjoy the fact that sewing can take you much faster from idea to its realization than knitting can, in those months knitting helped me work on my patience, while sewing was mostly beyond the attention I had available. Knitting demanded less immersion while bringing a perspective of relief and time to think.

And so I completed one of the most involved knitting projects I had ever undertaken: a cabled cardigan modified from a pattern I had long admired. The pattern is Fleta, from Norah Gaughan’s pattern book #9 for Berroco. I changed the neckline to get a silhouette I find more wearable (as I usually wear cardigans unbuttoned) and I shortened the cardigan slightly.

I haven’t bought new yarn in a long time and this was part of my mission of stashbusting. As you can see, the bottom was knitted in a different type of yarn to use up a partial skein and get the necessary yardage.

Apart from the cardigan, my other important project was the dress I made for the funeral ceremony. I had not planned to sew initially, but searching for an appropriate dress online was really disheartening. There’s a rant in me that I really don’t have the time for right now but… why is there this pervasive idea that women wish to look sexy at all times?… Most of the dresses I was able to find online were too revealing, no matter how I limited the search.

Sewing was my best best, I realized, and reached for the October issue of Burda, in which dress #103 caught my attention.

My photos — taken hastily on a dark January day — don’t do this dress justice. It’s really nice, with clever shaping using double darts and a flattering neckline that doesn’t hit too low (what a relief!).

 

 

Bad lighting and posing, good dress.

I was also amazed how little adjusting I had to do in order to get a good fit. I needed my usual broad upper back front shoulder adjustments, but apart from those, initial basting showed I could continue as is, which meant quick work.

Iwould like to make this dress again later. When I do, however, I will finally commit to the one adjustment I keep meaning to incorporate into my Burda sewing but tend to skip — I’ll raise the armhole by 1cm to get a slightly closer fit (and better range of motion).

That’s it from me for now. I hope 2018 is off to a good start for you, not just in terms of sewing, knitting, and other projects ūüôā

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a sweater simplified

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My short post on embroidery has ended up taking me in an unexpected direction thanks to Melina’s great comments and reading recommendations. I’d like to continue that conversation (hopefully, with another post) but it will have to wait a little bit so I can do more reading. Till then, please feel free to join in, add to my reading list, and share your thoughts.

Today I have a post about something not completely different: knitting, which, like embroidery is a great medium for storytelling, expressing your identity, and giving voice to enduring traditions.

These aims can make for a very interesting knitting experience. But sometimes you feel the need for the opposite: making things as simple as you can.¬†That’s where I’m at with my knitting these days. And that is why this cardigan is an important addition to my wardrobe.

I worked on it on¬†and off for a few weeks. I don’t knit much since I discovered I had been giving myself a repetitive strain injury ¬†by trying to squeeze knitting into all those in-between times in the day (commutes, waiting in waiting rooms and offices, reading, TV time, you name it). It was fun while it¬†lasted… and then not fun at all. Now I try to take it slow and be a bit more strategic about choosing projects.

So I’m all about identifying wardrobe gaps not filled during the time of the knitting frenzy. Simple sweaters, with an emphasis on cardigans, are basically that gap.

This shawl-collared fellow is as simple as it gets (I wrote about the pattern and the changes I made here). Its one stand-out feature is ribbing in the lovely reversible mistake rib. That choice was inspired by a very fashionable three-year-old I once saw who was wearing a very grown-up cabled sweater that had mistake-rib details. What can I say, I take inspiration where I can find it.

Lest you think I only pay attention to precocious trendsetters: I’m finding¬†that my new slow-knitting approach is benefitting from sewing. I reinforced my buttonholes, adapting advice from these two tutorials.

Do you knit? If not, are you interested in learning to knit?

PS: Sewing machine status: still out of commission, and it will likely take a while to get it fixed.

works in progress

 [1]           [2]

[1] Peony by Colette Patterns. As you can probably notice, I played with the pattern a little bit. I changed the shape of the neckline… and a few more details. Specifics to follows when it’s finished. The fabric is cotton sateen from Gertie’s collection for Joann Fabrics. Usually her fabric designs are really not my style but I actually really like this one.

[2] A simple raglan-sleeve cardigan. My gauge matched Stefanie Japel’s Shapely Boyfriend, so I used it to set things up and then did the opposite of what the pattern promises: I skipped the shaping¬†in the body for a looser fit. I still need to decide how long I want the bottom ribbing and then I need to knit¬†the button band. I think a shawl collar might be nice.

What are you working on?

wear report: handknits

About a year ago I gathered my handknits and put together a “wear report,” trying to distinguish between what was fun to make and what I actually ended up wearing the most. ¬†I decided to repeat the exercise this year. The blog gives me a place to share it.

I’ve been knitting for a few years and there have been¬†periods in that time when I was knitting up a storm. I’ve made several sweaters, socks, and accessories for myself and others. Planning is sadly not my strong suit. For me to knit something, the process¬†and techniques involved have to be exciting at that time. What that means is that when I feel like knitting colorwork, I’m not going to enjoy knitting cables, and when I want to have the freedom of ignoring swatching I will happily cast on a shawl but won’t be up to making myself swatch and figure out measurements for a fitted sweater.

In addition to these changeable preferences, there’s also the influence of other knitters and images from Ravelry… In short,¬†I’ve had my share of impulse knitting, and a lot of it didn’t work out well. So I’m trying to be a bit more thoughtful about my knitting choices. Taking an honest look at what I actually end up wearing the most is helpful.

I decided to spare myself a round-up of the least worn items this time, but I know which ones those are and some of them are already set aside for frogging. I’ll focus on the most worn items. (By the way, I’m excluding socks because: a) they all get worn a lot, b) I only knit and wear fairly plain socks, which would be pretty boring to share.)

Cardigans

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The patterns are: [1] Oblique, by Veronik Avery (a free pattern, btw!), [2] Celery, by Veera V√§lim√§ki with a lace insert on the back borrowed from Norah Gaughan’s Nidden, [3] slightly modified Coraline, by Ysolda Teague, and [4] Deco, by Kate Davies.

Oblique is on top of my list again and on a path to getting worn to death.¬†This sweater took me ages and I wouldn’t describe the process of making it as easy, to put it mildly. From the unreliable gauge swatch that lied (well, didn’t quite manage to reflect the dimensions of the final sweater, maybe I shouldn’t assign blame) to the difficulty of sewing it up, it was a demanding cardigan. But, clearly, I need to bite the bullet and make another one. Oblique is¬†both classic and modern, and the natural color goes with everything. The yarn is also my all-time favorite, Ultra Alpaca from Berroco.

What the other cardigans share with Oblique is that they all took a pretty long time to make. Some of them have shaping, they don’t all have the same construction, but they have important similarities:¬†they’re either finer gauge (or lace) and they’re all one color.

Pullovers

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The patterns: [1] no pattern: improvised set-in sleeve sweater inspired by The Black Sweater I Never Had In High School But Always Wanted, [2] Hela, by Védís Jónsdóttir (a free pattern!), [3] Vormorgunn, by the same designer, from her book Knitting with Icelandic Wool, [4] no pattern: improvised pullover with a lace yoke, [5] Sibella, by Carrie Bostick Hoge.

In a nutshell, round yokes rule, as do Icelandic patterns, I’m glad I jumped on the bandwagon with Sibella, and knitting with black yarn is a nightmare worth suffering through.

Accessories
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The patterns: [1] Echo Flower Shawl, by Jenny Johnson Johnen (free!), [2] Give a Hoot, by Jocelyn Tunney (also free!), [3] Spruce Forest, by Nancy Bush, [4] Skeleton Key Slouchie Tam, by Simone Van Iderstine, [5] Heartbreak, by Lisa Mutch.

More difficult to draw conslusions here but neutrals and triangular shawls dominate.

Lessons learned

First of all, I won’t be frogging everything else any time soon, or remaking most of these patterns in natural-colored alpaca yarn (though the latter sounds good!). But what I will likely do is slowly remake some of the items that don’t get worn much.

Some of the wardrobe gaps I’m aware of are not so obvious from this round-up, actually. Sewing¬†is slowly changing my personal aesthetic. For example, I now have more skirts I really like, but no cropped pullovers to wear with them in the winter. That’s one wardrobe gap I really want to address.

But the wear report really helps me understand the difference between what I enjoy knitting in terms of the provess and what I enjoy wearing in a way I can translate into future projects:

  • I really like colorwork, but clearly it’s best place in my wardrobe is in the Icelandic-style yoked pullover (try it cropped, and with a color palette matched to a skirt or two?). Colorwork or striped cardigans don’t get much wear; colorwork in neutrals¬†might perhaps be a good idea for new accessories.
  • Oblique is a design I can learn a lot from in terms of what I recognize as a desirable combination of classic and modern: the cardigan has a fairly simple shape, but the lace creates interest without looking very feminine or vintage (not that these are bad traits — but they don’t necessarily seem to be what I want from a cardigan). I need more cardigans like Oblique.
  • When I’m in the mood for a somewhat challenging lace knit, a triangular shawl with nupps seems like a good idea because I get a lot of wear out of both Spruce Forest and Echo Flower (these are actually both feminine and traditional).
  • I seem to be wearing increasingly more neutrals. (Does it mean I’m growing up?)

That’s all the soul¬†wardrobe searching I — and probably you, too — can deal with right now. If you care to comment, tell me if you do a “wear report” too sometimes. And do share yoru favorite knitting patterns.