My basic skirt: Summer of Basics #1

Well, I spontaneously purchased a membership to Seamwork. I didn’t set out to do that, but I was looking at their free patterns and noticed their membership perks- two patterns for $6 every month is pretty darn good, and if I determine that I don’t like their instructions/layout or if I use all the patterns I think I’d actually like, I can cancel. Seems like a worthwhile deal to me! The first pattern I downloaded was the Patsy skirt, a lovely A-line peasant skirt that I hope will be the right blend of retro, comfortable, and flattering for me. I mentioned looking for a skirt pattern as one of my Summer of Basics projects, and I think I’ve found it!

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I love the retro feel of this pattern, and combined with this top, it’s perfection. Also, isn’t she the most beautiful pattern model you’ve ever seen?

I tend to favor a silhouette of fitted, knee-length skirts with boxy tops, but I’m expecting that this will fit into my wardrobe beautifully during the hot months in Charleston. I’ll try to use stash fabric for this one, but I’m not sure I have enough yardage of anything in the right weight. If I need to buy a couple yards of fabric, I will likely look for something with a print, probably stripes or a floral pattern. I’ll also need a zipper and interfacing, which are not entirely new to me but still an adventure. I’m imagining my versions of Patsy as a plaid flannel with leggings and boots for the winter, a light vintage floral pattern with a t-shirt and heels for the spring, a solid color like a chambray with a tank top and sandals for summer, and nautical stripes with a lightweight sweater and flats for the fall. How pretty, and how versatile!

Fading Everything

20170527_150307 The “color melting” feature of the Find Your Fade shawl has totally stolen my heart. I’ve thought about making another shawl based on the Find Your Fade, but a LOT smaller (because mine ended up being gigantic) and perhaps with a heavier weight yarn- a quicker, less repetitive, more wearable knit- and I have a few ideas about sweaters as well.

20170530_133141I’ve also thought almost non-stop for the last few months about making a summer top, in some heavier Noro and fancy cotton that have been in the stash for a year or so now. I started a bottom-up somewhat-“faded” racer-back tank that will be lovely as a beach cover-up or a casual evening top.

20170602_142455The “fading” is pretty subtle, since the Noro is striped, but I really enjoyed working with these colors. The two skeins of Noro were worked in stripes so that the color changes were spread out a bit, and I started the arm shaping/straps once I shifted to the plain turquoise cotton yarn. Since the original pattern calls for sport weight yarn, and I’m using something closer to Aran weight on larger needles, I’m following the numbers for the smallest size but the finished product will be much looser on me, closer to how a large might fit.

20170602_142436I’ve shaped it to be pretty A-line and I did a short-row hem in the back, and I’m hoping the fit will be on point for casual summer wear that is still flattering. When it’s finished and washed, I’ll see how long it is and whether I like the straps, racer back, and arm shaping.

20170528_083626If I do, I think this will be a great pattern for additional color-melting opportunities. I have some other beautiful yarns in quantities that would be perfect for combining (in some fun faded stripes) to make tank tops- two skeins of sock yarn will make a lovely top that’s long enough to be flattering but not so long that it sags.

 

Summer of Basics

Once again, Karen over at Fringe Association has hit upon something I’ve been considering for a long time, and has turned it into an event! She is presenting a challenge to the internet’s makers for a “Summer of Basics,” where we are invited to make three basic garments over the next three months. I’ve been thinking about stepping back into sewing, and this is the kick in the pants that I need! I drafted a post about Me-Made May 2017, but seeing as it’s June 1, I clearly dropped the ball… I love the idea of Me-Made May, but my sewing game is sadly lacking and I didn’t get any opportunities to wear wool aside from a pair of ankle socks and a shawl while at work.

I still have a fair amount of fabric in my stash, and of course I have all the yarn anyone could ask for, so I don’t think I’ll need to do much shopping (if any) outside of things like zippers. Since I have a desk/government job, my basics will need to be pretty simple and professional. Here’s what comes to mind for basics for me.

  • Knee-length skirt, likely A-line. Something like this from Liesl + Co. would be lovely, though I might want something a little more fitted to go with the boxy tops below. 
  • Flowy maxi skirt, maybe in a knit fabric. I like this one with the waist tie quite a bit. While I’m at it, those wide-leg pants are pretty cute too!
  • Boxy sleeveless top, perhaps a little cropped. This one might be knit, as I’ve been drooling over the Tegna top for a while now, but there are some great sewn options too. Honestly, the white top shown with the maxi skirt above is pretty adorable! 
  • Button-down top, probably short-sleeved. I have this pattern, and I attempted a dress with it last year, but I think the top might be really cute. It would check the “boxy sleeveless top” box as well.
  • Shirt-dress or other knee-length dress. I probably wouldn’t go for a pattern this expensive, but I do love the pockets and the curve in the hem. This is Fen, from Fancy Tiger Crafts.  

I have sweaters and casual clothes, and I have a lot of clothes that I don’t like very much. I don’t shop very often, so things fall through the cracks and I often feel pretty bored by what I have in my closet. Stashdown2017 is going strong in my yarn stash, but the fabric hasn’t been touched yet- so here we go!

Deciding what to make

I am a regular reader of Karen Templer’s site, Fringe Association, and I love her periodic series “Q For You.” She occasionally asks questions that stick with me, and this is one that I’ve thought about many times. How do you decide what to make? What drives the decision to actually cast on a project? Is it the desire for the finished thing, the desire to learn or use a new skill, the desire to use a stashed yarn? Is it a very considered choice, or is it more of a casual, impulsive one?

I’m a process knitter, without a doubt, which can sometimes lead to the creation of things that I will never wear or that are somewhat impractical. As you’ve heard me say many times, I only need so many pairs of socks, so many shawls/scarves/wraps, and so many sweaters, particularly here in the south. I tend to get caught up in the making, rather than considering what that finished object’s place will be in my wardrobe. I think this is why I prefer to knit for others- I feel most comfortable and personally productive when I have a couple projects on the needles, and making socks or dishcloths or hats or other small things for people I care about is a good way to continue knitting, in a productive manner, while not bogging myself down with the hard truth that I don’t need anything new in my wardrobe. I am a fast knitter, and I am a constant knitter, and that unfortunate combination means that I produce more crap than someone who approaches their crafting with more intention and contextual awareness. I make things based on what I have in my stash and what patterns catch my eye, rather than what I need.

This top, the Amors Arrow I made last year, is a prime example. I loved the experience of modifying the pattern, knitting it alongside my dear friend, and I actually think the finished product is quite cute. However, in nearly a year, yesterday was the very first time I wore it. I just didn’t think it was quite my color scheme, and the cut didn’t seem quite right, and it’s a weird weight for the sleeveless style. Could I have made it in a different color or with a different fiber to make it more appropriate for my style? Maybe, possibly, but I wouldn’t trade the experience of making it the way I did. Wearing it yesterday with cropped, wide-leg black pants made a perfectly stylish and comfortable outfit, and now that I’ve actually worn it, I’m a fan, but there’s no question that it was made on impulse rather than out of a considered plan.

Should I adjust my approach to crafting? Should I plan better, consider more, choose more wisely? I’m not sure that I can. I don’t think my brain works that way, particularly since I use knitting (and spinning, to a degree) as stress-relief, and as I finish one project I need to cast another on right away. I feel uncomfortable if I don’t have a couple things going at once, and so I knit whatever comes to mind.

Fading my Stash

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I am so happy with my Find Your Fade shawl. It’s been perfect car/lunch break/TV knitting, and it’s a wonderful use of stashed sock/fingering weight yarn that, let’s be honest, I was saving for sentimental reasons and not necessarily practical ones. It has decreased my stash by nearly five and a half skeins, making it the ideal project for Stashdown 2017.

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It will also be the perfect addition to my wardrobe when it’s finished, both because a shawl/light throw is the best layer for the A/C chill in my new office, and because the colors complement so much of what I wear on a regular basis. Black, teal, oatmeal, gray, and navy tend to be my go-to colors, and there isn’t much in my closet that won’t go well with this piece. I wasn’t exactly strategic in my color choices, but it turns out that my stash is relatively coordinated!

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Two other knitters in my knit group are working on this pattern as well. They’re both using pre-packaged kits of gradient yarn, which makes for some fascinating color play, and I’m excited to see how their projects come out when they’re finished. There’s certainly added drama when the yarn you’re using changes colors as you knit. It’s been fun watching the color blending come together over the last few weeks, and I love the variation in style, speed, and gauge between three different knitters working on the same pattern. I’m using needles one size larger than the pattern calls for, and it’s incredible how much looser, heavier, and wider my shawl is than the others. I’m using a bit more yarn than they are, and I’m going to end up with a blanket shawl rather than a scarf shawl, and that’s perfect.

20170517_093727I have one more color to add after I finish this section, and I haven’t yet decided whether I want to use the tan or the teal. I think the tan will make more sense with the color progression, since the teal is so similar to the variegated teal swath in the widest part of the shawl, but the teal is so lovely that I want to showcase it. Perhaps it should be saved for another project where it can be front and center.

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April’s Stashdown update

The top left is angora, and the rest is some mystery longwool that I picked up at a gathering at some point in the last few years.

I’ve been keeping track of my efforts to use up my stashed materials and to avoid acquiring new ones, and so far that has in a large part manifested as spinning. I finished spinning three skeins (of varying lengths) of wool that had been hanging around for a while, all dyed as roving or locks. These skeins are all in my “for sale” box, rather than in the fiber stash, so I consider it a success.

I received a care package from my dad with some gorgeous alpaca fiber, which unfortunately needs to be added to the stash, but since it’s so lovely I doubt it’ll stick around long! He sent two ounces of a light chocolate brown alpaca, and an ounce of similar-colored Romney top.

I also received a very sweet, generous Fibreshare package last week. My Fibreshare partner sent some KnerdString fingering weight yarn, some fingering weight yarn that she dyed herself, a cake of NatureSpun yarn, and some Unicorn Tails from Madeline Tosh. She also included a couple of very sweet pins (one in tribute to Kumquat, and one from Fancy Tiger Crafts), an adorable succulents-themed coloring book, some tasty caramels, and a FibreShare drawstring bag. What a lovely and thoughtful package!

From left to right: Knitpicks Stroll fingering in Thunderhead, Leading Men Fiber Arts’ Show Stopper in Industrial, Knitpicks Hawthorne Kettle Dyed in Blackbird, hand-dyed fingering from my Fibreshare partner, Knerd String 4-ply fingering in Rhymes w/ Seal, and Knitpicks Stroll hand-painted in Koi Pond.

The KnerdString and hand-dyed fingering yarn will join some other stashed yarns to  become a Find Your Fade shawl. I really love the design, which is no surprise since I think that Andrea Mowry can do no wrong! I’m not usually one to buy patterns or to knit what others are knitting, and I suppose I have a reputation for tinkering with patterns and making things up as I go along (I think I’ve earned that), but sometimes I go along with trends. I plan to follow the pattern relatively faithfully, with the exception of the ‘color-melting’ section between my first and second colors. I had enough of my first color for a few extra rows, and rather than let the last few yards of it languish in my stash for who knows how long, I added a couple additional rows of the color melting before continuing on with the second color. This is going to be a fabulous stash-busting pattern!

Sweater knitting

I finished another sweater last month, and while it’s gorgeous and I’m very happy with it, it’s highly impractical for Charleston… The original pattern is a steeked cardigan, with small cables running down either side of the front. It’s an attractive pattern, but the cables really didn’t do anything for me. I thought about making it a cardigan in my usual fashion, knitting flat rather than attempting the steeks, but the idea of a pullover sounded really nice. I wasn’t sure how the yoke would turn out, so I decided to make the sweater inside out- from the center up, then the center down. I made a provisional cast-on for the yoke, making the appropriate number of stitches for a size between small and medium (without the extra couple of stitches for the steek), beginning just where the sweater would be separated for the body and sleeves. I then followed the yoke pattern as written (more or less), and tried it on to make sure it was the right size and depth.

Once the yoke was finished, I picked up those provisional stitches and finished knitting as though it were a top-down sweater, separating for the sleeves and shaping a little at the waist. In the photo above, you can see (beneath the kitty, who loved snuggling with this when it was a WIP) the sleeves on holders and the body half-finished, with the yoke complete. I made some medium-length cuffs and a matching length hem, and aside from its Charleston-inappropriate weight, it’s a lovely sweater and it fits beautifully!

It’s strange to wear a Lopi sweater with shorts, but the cat seems to approve.

I wrote about my intentions to make this sweater a while ago, and I wonder if the time has come for it to be a reality. I have a couple other things on the needles, namely my colorwork socks, but I’d like something large and mindless to work on while listening to podcasts or in the car. I plan to knit this in the same manner as the Lopi sweater featured here- inside out, with the yoke as written, then finishing the body and sleeves top-down. I also plan, at this point, to make it as a pullover rather than as a cardigan. If I end up making it as a cardigan, I certainly won’t do the steeking. As time-consuming as it is, I’d happily purl in colorwork rather than cutting into something I made! It’s too permanent. Even the most well-worn of garments has the potential to be unraveled if necessary, as I’ve been experiencing with my navy and yellow socks, but once something is steeked, it’s beyond all hope!