One, two, shuffle my queue (plus a public service plea!)

One, two, shuffle my queue

The shawl is off the needles and on the blocking board! Which means I get to cast on a you-know-what (or three). My mail has been particularly yarny this week, in conjunction with the shuffling of my knitting queue:

The army-green O-Wool Balance up top is not for any of the things I’ve proposed army green for before. Rather, it’s for something I can’t quite talk about. I have a really fun and intriguing pattern in mind for this September’s big Fringe and Friends Knitalong, but there’s one major modification I think a lot of people will want to make. So I’m testing that mod before settling on the knitalong pattern, and will therefore keep this preliminary version under wraps until I’m ready to say more about all of that!

The beautifully farmy silver-grey yarn in the middle is for a pattern I’ve agreed to write, with the knitted garment and graded pattern (eek!) due in six weeks, so that’s an urgent one. And that is the sum total of what I’m able to say about that little project. Also to be revealed this fall.

And then there’s the Hole & Sons. Don’t hate me, but I got lucky and scored some from the second batch — in the new figgy-charcoal color called Shale. Haven’t decided what it will be yet, but I fear whatever it is may jump in front of my long-planned Channel cardigan to become my Rhinebeck sweater. So I’ll need to figure it out in time to cast on this summer.

But meanwhile, I have a pressing need for a good lightweight, neutral cardigan for the aggressively air-conditioned indoors of summer. My friends at Shibui sent me a pile of yarns I’ve had my eye on, so I’ll be squeezing in a swatch for that wherever I can, and hoping to get time to knit it before too long!

NOW — SOMETHING EXTREMELY IMPORTANT I want to talk to you about, completely unrelated: As knitters and sewers of the attentive sort, you’re no doubt aware of the perilous demise of the textile and garment industries in this country in recent years. Mills have largely disappeared. Factories have closed or crawl along with aging staff and no younger generation to pass the knowledge on to. The gravity of the situation has been driven home to me over the past year as I’ve searched for a domestic factory to produce the Fringe Supply Project Bag — it’s a distressingly difficult proposition, and one that shouldn’t be difficult at all. Everyone wonders why I don’t just have it made in China. (All of which also contributed to my proposal for Slow Fashion October.)

You may also be aware that we moved to Nashville last year because of the thriving maker community here. In addition to other disciplines, there is a concentration of small-batch fashion designers, as well as weavers and fiber artists and, now, Fringe Supply Co. Recently, the Nashville Fashion Alliance was formed, with the goal of creating the infrastructure these small companies need to thrive right here. Networking, shared resources, and most important, job training to create a sizable work force of skilled sewers. And there’s a ready employer — a factory with plenty of work for those people. It’s due to a connection between a couple of key NFA players that the project bag will finally be going into production this summer, and not only will it not be made in China, it will be made right here in the city limits of Nashville. Can you hear my heart singing?! I’ll have more to say about that soon, but I want you to know right now that the NFA has a Kickstarter campaign going to fund their efforts, primarily the job training program. It ends today and they need your help, and I want you to understand it’s not just about Nashville. It’s about a movement toward bringing garment industry jobs back to the US. Regardless of where you live, if you care about these issues, I’m asking if you’ll help fund the NFA. Even a few dollars helps! Thank you for listening!

SPEAKING OF Fringe Supply Co, the summer issue of Pom Pom is here!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

May make No. 1: Gathered Skirt

May make No. 1: the Gathered Skirt

We’re already a third of the way through the month and I’m just now at the first of my four pledged makes for Me Made May. This is the Gathered Skirt for All Ages from the Purl Bee and, as expected, it’s way too voluminous. As I was pondering it and cutting it out, I kept hearing my friend Whitney, who looks killer in skirts like this, urging me to embrace the fullness. After scrutinizing the pattern to grasp the logic of the various proportions and how they come together, and deciding to make it once as written and then assess how to change it for the next time, I just couldn’t do it. I made the second size but cut the main panels (the front and back pieces) to 30″ wide instead of 34″, removing 8 inches of fabric from the total circumference, and still it’s too much fabric for me. But is it cute?

I like it from the front — I adore the side panels and the way the pockets stick out — but when I actually turn to the side, I appear to be at least three times my actual size. I think a puffy skirt like this looks cute on a little girl, but on a woman my age, maybe not so much. Somehow it’s not quite as horrible looking in the photos as it is in my mirror, and I do think I like the fullness in the back, so maybe I’ll leave this one alone and make another. But what I believe I’m going to do is tweak this one thusly: Remove the waistband and pull out the gathering in the front panel only. Once that’s a flat panel again, I’ll fold it in half and sew a seam down it, a few inches in, then cut away all of that excess. Regather the front and reattach the waistband. So it will have a new seam down the center, which I think is fine with the other vertical seams in the skirt, but with several inches less fabric in the front. Although I can’t help wondering if I couldn’t just carve a wedge out of the front instead of going through all of that. I promise to share the makeover if/when it happens.

The fabric is Robert Kaufman Brussels Washer in, uh, blackish that I bought at Fancy Tiger on our way through Denver last summer — a light and drapey linen/rayon blend. I’m ambivalent about the rayon content and really wish it weren’t made in China. (This is the hardest thing about trying to be a conscientious sewer — and I find it’s much harder with fabric than with yarn.) But I had heard raves about it, it was already in my tiny fabric stash, and I figured it might wind up being my muslin for this pattern. I will say, it is lovely to work with and to wear. It shrinks quite a bit in the wash — I think it’s listed as 54″ wide but it was 48″ after washing. Since the skirt is all rectangles, I folded the fabric in half, got out my t-square and rotary cutter, cut the end of the length so it was clean and perpendicular, and then just lined up my cuts. I made one cut at 30″, then trimmed the two ends so I had two pieces 30″ x 23″. The next cut was at 8″ for the side panels, which wound up being 24″ each (i.e., the full width of my fabric, halved) rather than the prescribed 25.5″ — so my finished pockets ended up being 8″ deep instead of 9.5″, which is plenty. (Note that I top-stitched across the pockets to keep the layers from drooping.) Next cut was at 8″ again, trimmed down to 16″ tall for the two pocket panels. Then a last cut at 3″, with the selvages trimmed off, for a waistband piece 3″ x 38.5″ So I got the whole skirt out of 49″ — not quite 1.5 yards — rather than the 2.5 yards the pattern calls for. I also hemmed it to 23″ with a 3/4″ hem, rather than the 2″ wide, 22.5″ hem given in the pattern. Oh, and my waistband wound up being not quite wide enough for the 3/4″ elastic. So I need to either cut a new waistband if I do the mod, or get narrower elastic if I don’t.

Either way, the big trick for me is just learning how to wear a skirt! Especially a full one like this. Being not very girly, I’m aiming for a sort of Margaret Howell-inspired style. Or Amish, as my husband put it. I’m ok with that!

May make No. 1: the Gathered Skirt

 

A L’Arbre … for my niece

A L'Arbre hat ... for my niece

As I was watching the rainbow of L’Arbre hats appear on the #fringehatalong feed on Instagram, I was debating what color I wanted mine to be. The icy blue ones are killing me, but so are all the jewel-toned ones from the Road to China palette. I’d decided in the swatch phase that I’d be using Purl Soho’s Worsted Twist, of which I have several colors in my stash. (Thanks to the nice people at Purl who sent me that bag last year.) When it came time to cast on, I grabbed the palest pink for some unknown reason. As I was knitting it, I just kept thinking how much my littlest niece would love this hat, not knowing I’d be seeing her again before it was even done.

Bob’s birthday is today, and late last week we decided a spontaneous road trip was in order. So we drove to Savannah, spent a night at a Georgia beach, and then drove to my sister’s house in Florida the following day. She and her husband are away, but the kids are here with my parents. And as predicted, the little miss fell in love with the pink hat. I asked her if she’d model it for me when I finished it, and she thought it needed a flower and to be hers. And so it is.

Once again, it’s been fun to knit along with so many of you. I especially love all the comments from people who would have shied away from this stitch pattern and were thrilled to find it so simple and satisfying. I want to say a huge THANK YOU again to Cirilia Rose and the fine folks at STC Craft for giving us this pattern for the knitalong! If you haven’t cast on yet, there’s plenty of time! I’ll announce the next Fringe Hatalong Series pattern pick in June, and I’ll tell you in the meantime that it’s a very simple little lace pattern. So if you’ve never done a yarnover (on purpose) or knitted from a chart, this will be a good chance. But meanwhile, keep those Audrey and L’Arbre hats coming! And keep tagging them #fringehatalong so everyone can see.

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PREVIOUSLY in Fringe Hatalong Series: No. 2: L’Arbre by Cirilia Rose

The day I tried block printing

The day I tried block printing

Y’all remember Jen Hewett, who created those amazing limited-edition project bags for the webshop. Well, a few months ago — knowing how much I regret not being able to take any of her Bay Area classes — she told me she was launching an online course on block printing, Design, Carve, Print, and asked if I’d like a pass. Hello! Yes. So on a cold weekend in mid-February, I set aside time to watch the tutorials. It’s interesting the way she’s set it up — it’s a sequence of short videos and written tutorials posted to her website (password protected) that take you through the process step by step. So, for instance, she’ll talk about how to draw your pattern and transfer it to your block, then gives you an hour or something to go do that, then the next video goes up showing you how to start carving the block, and so on over the course of two days. OR, you can just watch it all on your own schedule after the fact.

I’m a painfully methodical person, which makes me sort of pants at classroom situations. I’m nearly incapable of diving right into a process without planning (or designing) what my outcome is going to be. So this was perfect for me — instead of doing each step along the way, I just watched and thought about what I would want to make. And I also followed along on Instagram as the other students posted their incredible works-in-progress throughout the weekend. (Check out the #designcarveprint hashtag — it’s awesome.) The thing is, I’m not really much of a pattern person, so it was a challenge to figure out something me to do with this process. I spent time asking myself what I like (other than stripes) and looking back through the blog archives and my Pinterest boards to see what kinds of patterned things have caught my attention in the past. Turns out my favorite thing, when it comes to pattern, is traditional quilt motifs. And one of my very favorites is the old interlocking crosses pattern.

So in the end, I didn’t do any carving! Rebekka and I got together one day at her house to print. She dove right in and printed yardage of a sort of abstract stripe she carved, while I simply cut my block into a cross. I’ve got a cache of these plain burlap-ish pillow covers from Ikea that I bought specifically because they looked like blank canvases to me — I could imagine embroidering, printing, dyeing them all sorts of ways. And so one of them became my canvas for the block printing foray. After cutting the block into my cross shape, I traced around it crudely on the pillow cover with one of those blue seamstress pencils that are supposed to fade or wash out. And then I thumbprinted which ones I wanted to be white or black, with the bulk left unprinted. I wanted it to be a little bit abstracted, unregimented and imperfect, and wound up loving the blue lines peeking out here and there, so I’ve never washed it — and maybe never will!

The whole thing makes me wish I were more of a pattern person because block printing is good times. There’s likely more of it in my future — I just need to figure out what. If you’re interested, the next session of Jen’s Design, Carve, Print class starts in mid-May. Or if you’re in the Bay Area, check her schedule for upcoming live workshops.

Thanks for teaching me some new tricks, Jen!

Vintage waistcoat glamour shots (with bonus Modified Wiksten 1a)

Vintage waistcoat glamour shots (with bonus Modified Wiksten No. 1a)

Here’s why this vest makes my heart sing:

1) The marriage of yarn and pattern. Feeling very lucky to have scored a bag of Hole & Sons wool, I was determined not to squander it. I wanted to knit something pragmatic and hard-working. Old-school. Maybe a little bit British. Something a lot like the yarn, in other words. Being a life-long vest lover, and this being vest season (waistcoat season, as the Brits would have me say), I thought a vest was in order. And when I stumbled across this WWII-era, British, knit-for-the-troops waistcoat pattern, I thought it might be just the thing. And I was correct! As I was knitting it, it felt almost like the yarn was becoming the thing it was destined to be! It also taught me something, in that without that pattern I would never have thought to try this DK-weight yarn on US9 needles, but this particular DK is very happy at this gauge. I believe it will bloom and relax and soften beautifully over time — much better than at the tighter gauge I would have chosen to knit it at.

2) Fun and successful mods. After posting about how I didn’t quite love the swatch — the stitch pattern, in this yarn, felt a tiny bit frumpy to me — and that I was contemplating stockinette, Annri in the comments suggested trying 2×1 garter rib instead of 2×2. The minute she said that, I realized 3×1 was probably the thing that would please me, and it was! (Thank you, Annri!) Of course, that’s an asymmetrical pattern, 3×1, and a vest is a symmetrical object. So I had to do a little bit of finessing to get the pattern to match up correctly at the side seams. In order for the front edges to be symmetrical, while keeping those side seams perfectly matched, one front piece needed one more stitch than the other and I had to adjust one of the armholes by one stitch so that the armhole edges would match, as well. (They don’t quite on the back because I didn’t think about the armhole aspect until after I’d finished that piece and was casting on the first front.) I also tinkered with the armhole depth, and changed the pocket edgings and armhole edgings, not liking the way they were in the original pattern. Fortunately, I’m happy with the outcome on all of those questions.

3) New tricks. In addition to my first inset pockets — my new favorite knitting trick — I finally knitted a vertical button band, after preaching their merits for how long? It took me a full week to knit that 52″ band and seam it on (I elected to knit it on 5s), whereas a picked-up band would have taken an evening, but it was 100% worth it. Look at it! So this simple little vest included multiple new triumphs.

4) Wardrobe appropriateness. As we’ve been discussing here for awhile now, making one’s own clothes is hard. Countless people (me included) have lamented our collective tendency to make things we want to make, which isn’t necessarily the same as things we want to wear. It’s a hard (and costly!) lesson to learn, and the wardrobe appropriateness of this vest — the fact that it will work for me for as long as it lasts, which I expect to be a good long time — gives me hope for my ability to choose well more and more often.

In short: I nailed it on all of those counts. And if that sounds like I’m bragging, please understand I’m not! I’m just so happy to have gotten it right this time of all times. Because if I’d gotten to the end of this project and it hadn’t been right, I’d be heartbroken, given the specialness of the yarn.

There was a moment where I thought it was not quite right — and not quite right enough that it might not get worn. The back neck is narrow enough, and the shoulder shaping straight enough, that it was sitting a little awkwardly on my shoulders, almost like a halter. And I’d also seamed on a little too much button band fabric on the first stretch of it (learning as I went, of course). But as is so often the case, blocking saved the day. I was able to stretch the back neck and shape the shoulders a tiny bit, and blocked the body out a little longer so the button band seems fine. It means the sweater wound up being slightly longer and slightly broader in back than I had hoped, so I may wear it a little differently than I had initially envisioned. But it’s still immensely wearable. And I can’t wait to watch it age.

And now since I’ve gone on about this one quite enough, I’ve put all of my modification notes and details (and more photos) on Ravelry.

Pattern: Spiral-Spun Waistcoat by Jaeger (free vintage pattern)
Yarn: Hole & Sons first batch in Fog
Buttons: Blackened brass from Fringe Supply Co.

Vintage Waistcoat glamour shots (plus bonus Modified Wiksten No 1a)

Now can we talk about my top? When I showed you my striped Modified Wiksten No. 1, I mentioned I wanted to cut the same exact pattern in a drapier fabric. This is the magnificent Merchant & Mills linen, which I ordered from Verb having seen only a photo and a name in their newsletter. It’s called Knapsack and I expected it to be a perfect “army drab” green, but when I pulled it out of the envelope it was this dull, dark grey-brown. Oh well, good fabric for testing my redrafted pattern, so I cut.

I’m very happy with this top, don’t get me wrong. But the verdict on my redraft is that it’s still not quite there. When I pulled this on before it was hemmed or the neck and arm edges finished, it was my ideal shape and length. The little bit of loss at each of those edges makes it slightly less so. So I’ll be tweaking it again. But meanwhile, I’m in love with this fabric and color, and the top will get tons of wear.

Here’s the funny thing: I was debating doing exposed bias facing at the neck and armholes, thinking maybe it would add a little bit of interest. I decided against it, did the armholes correctly, then accidentally attached the neck facing on the wrong side. The universe overruled me again! I realized it after sewing the first seam, while I was pressing it open, and decided to go ahead and finish it and see how it looked, fearing it would look all wrong being just the neck and not the armholes. Plus I knew this meant I was going to have to do my top-stitching that much more perfectly, and that much closer to the edge, so it would look finished and not flappy. After letting out several of my favorite curse words, I took a deep breath, sewed that edge verrrry slowly, pulled it on, and it’s perfect. Thanks for stepping in, universe!

Question for you sewers: Why do my hems on these always flare so?

Seeing purple

Seeing purple

My grandmother’s 90th birthday is now one week from tomorrow and I am still debating about her shawl. The yarn selection seems much more critical to me than the pattern and I’ve been agonizing over it. The 100% silk I had thought I would use turned out to not float my boat when I swatched with it. What I really want for her climate is a wool-linen or wool-silk-linen blend, and what I think I am officially settled on is this Shibui Staccato (70% merino, 30% silk) and Linen held together and knitted at a slightly loose gauge, on 5mm needles. I bought the yarn online without having seen this color, Velvet (best name ever), in person. Turns out the color looks a little more raisin-y on the linen base than on the wool-silk blend, but held together it works — it gives the purple a little more depth.

I’m not sure it will be a joy to knit with — it’s a massive departure from the wonderfully sticky, rustic Hole & Sons I’ve spent the past month with — and I cannot knit it on my beloved Dreamz circs because of the abominable color-coding. Dark purple yarn on dark pink needles? Not only does it offend my delicate sensibilities, I can’t see my stitches at all, which is a little bit of a problem when holding linen filament double with something. So I’ll have to knit on bamboo, which is fine!

Between that splitty-fiddliness and its being a pain to put back on the needles if any ripping were required, I’m also giving up on the idea of doing anything lace with it — not when I’m already under the gun here. But along the way I also saw Ashley knitting a dark purple Orlane for her mother and let out the biggest sigh of envy. I told myself it would be silly to knit Orlane’s Textured Shawl for a third time when there are so many great shawls out there, but if that’s my favorite shawl of all time, is it not exactly what I should knit for her?

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UPDATE: I cast on late last night and this is definitely the right decision—

Seeing purple

Q for You: What thrills you?

Q for You: What's your favorite little knitting thrill?

The three pieces of my Spiral-Spun Waistcoat mod are on the blocking board as I type, drying in the freakishly summer-like breeze blowing through the windows. There’s a lot of finishing yet to do, but it’s been a joy of a project — from the dreamy yarn to the challenges I inadvertently set for myself with my modifications, to the chance to knit my first inset pockets. You know I love to do something new with every project, if at all possible, and I don’t know how I made it this long without knitting an inset pocket, but it’s now officially my favorite thing to do. Just like cables: so simple and yet so magical!

Knitting affords a world of cheap thrills — for some people it’s the magic of mattress stitch, for others turning a heel, for me right now it is knitting an inset pocket. So that’s my Q for You today: What’s your favorite little knitting thrill?

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: How do you close out a project?