Crazy days of Summer

Crazy days of Summer

It is really crazy days around here right now, emotional rollercoaster days, with events both tragic and thrilling tossing me around. So today I’m taking a deep breath and hoping for one whole day of productivity. The most time-sensitive thing demanding my attention is the deadline (er, yesterday) for my pattern for the undisclosed item pictured above — which I did not knit, by the way. I wish I could tell you all about it, but I’ll be able to later this year! Assuming I actually finish it, that is … so off I go. Wish me luck!

Finishing what I’ve started

Finishing what I've started

I managed to carve out a couple hours yesterday afternoon for doing whatever I liked, and as I was trying to decide how I would use that precious chunk of time, I was a bit tormented by all the stuff piled up in my workroom. Like a lot of people, I like starting new projects and tend to lose focus at the end — my attention wandering off toward whatever is next. As a result, things pile up and bog me down. Which meant part of my precious chunk of time was spent going through the piles, sorting out what really needed attention and what could be eliminated from the mix in whatever way. In the end, I was left with a short list of to-do’s:

1. It’s been my plan to dye my Audrey hat. There’s a bag of avocado pits in the freezer that I’ve saved up for this purpose, but since I won’t have need of a hat for several months, this one can wait for a rainy day.

2. That skirt. While there’s only a 50% chance I’ll like it after it’s modified, I have to know. So one evening when I don’t feel like knitting any of things in my bag, I’ll sit down with my seam ripper and set this in motion.

3. One of my favorite shirts — a linen/cotton button-up from Madewell that I cut the sleeves off of last summer — has reached the threadbare stage. Holes have formed at the corners of the pockets, and I’m wondering if a little visible mending would extend its life a bit, or if it’s too shabby looking to be worn anymore anyway. I hate to let it go!

4. The top-secret green sweater needs buttons and blocking. One of these days I need to photograph it in anticipation of the time I reveal what it’s all about. And I’d really like to wear it! So I guess that’s the top priority on the list.

5. Not pictured is a dress my friend Alyssa made me two summers ago that I never wear as a dress and need to hem to tunic length. Meanwhile, it’s hung in the back of the closet, out of sight and mind.

I’d like to tell you I proceeded to knock one or two of these items off the list right away — progress toward a clean slate! But as happy as I am to have them written down in tackle-able form (out of my head and off of my tables), my life is ruled by lists. So with those two hours I had saved for myself, I started something new. :)

Queue Check — June 2015

Queue Check — June 2015

It’s a weird experience for me to make things I can’t talk to you about, and extra weird that there are multiple top-secret knitting projects going on at the same time right now. Going back to my May queue check, the green sweater is off the needles and awaiting its moment in the spotlight. The grey yarn up top is in the process of becoming. (Becoming what, I still can’t tell you.) The charcoal Hole & Sons and I are still having deep, meaningful, late-night discussions about its destiny. And I still plan to knit Channel this year, but haven’t settled on yarn. So that leads me to that stash of beautiful Shibui.

For the summer cardigan I keep whining about needing, I’ve been imagining some combination of the finer-gauge Shibuis and finally got to swatch for it in the car last weekend. After knitting and blocking the 3-part swatch above, I’ve settled on the combination at the bottom: Ivory Pebble + Ash Twig. The resulting fabric is 45% silk (about half recycled), 23% linen, 18% merino, 8% cashmere, 6% wool — very lightweight and soft and, well, pretty much perfect. So what will it be?

It needs to be the most basic and timeless of grey cardigans, basically, and I’ve been thinking it would be Carrie Hoge’s Uniform, but A) my gauge is quite different, at 23 sts and 30 rows per 4 inches, and B) I’m really craving top-down. Been knitting too many pieced sweaters lately, and I really want to fit this one as I go. Now that I’ve struck on the whole basted knitting approach, I have no reason not to knit top-down. And since my top-down tutorial remains wildly popular (despite photos which really need to be updated!), I figure it might be useful to knit a cardigan version and share my notes. I’m not planning to do a blow-by-blow of blog posts like the original tutorial, since most of the information is the same whether you’re doing a pullover or cardigan. So most likely what I’ll do is post abbreviated notes for each stage on my @karentempler Instagram feed, and then do one comprehensive post here on the blog when the cardigan is finished.

At 23 sts/inch (and with another Fringe Hatalong coming up very soon!) it could take me a little while to get there …

Amanda reunion photos

Amanda reunion photos

I’m back from the trade show, always an incredible time, but the absolute highlight of this trip was the fifteen minutes spent in the company of Amanda Knitalong panelists, wearing our completed cardigans. When I realized all five of us with finished sweaters would be there — me, Anna, Kate, Meg and Jaime (l to r) — I asked if everyone would be willing to pack a big cable sweater in their late May suitcases, and everyone kindly obliged. I really can’t tell you how cool it was to see these sweaters all together — how much the same they are and yet how different. I’m not sure the photos can even begin to do it justice, but I wanted to share them nonetheless. We were really wishing we had all the Amanda sweaters from the knitalong to line the entire sidewalk with.

Then yesterday, a year after this whole thing began, Anna wore hers on a flight to Manchester and my heart exploded.

Amanda reunion photos

Special thanks to Amber for snapping the photos!

May makes No. 3/4: Plus, what I learned from Me Made May

May makes No. 3/4: Plus, what I learned from Me Made May

My third and fourth makes for my Me Made May pledge are a sweater and a bag I’ll have to tell you about some other time. But I wanted to take a minute to talk about what I gained from this little exercise.

I pledged to make four things in May, and three of those wound up being sewn goods. It’s the only way four things are going to get made in one month, but also a deliberate choice. I’ve been saying for awhile now that I want to be more focused about sewing. After a lifetime of sewing sporadically and at a beginner level (I was at my most advanced as a sewer in junior high), I’m determined to sew more, to take more time with it, and to advance my skills. In other words, to act like I have with knitting these past few years. With these three projects (the skirt, the top and this bag) on the heels of the ten booth drape panels I sewed last month and the two Wiksten tanks before that, I’ve spent more time with my machine this spring than I have cumulatively in the 18ish years I’ve owned it. And it shows — in everything from my comfort level (way less cursing and fighting with the machine) to my craftsmanship. I’m getting somewhere.

But I still have a lot to learn, both skillwise and project managementwise. I can only work on a sewing project for a couple of hours before I grow weary and need to step away, but I don’t. All my life it’s been the case that I needed to power through something and finish it, at great discomfort and no matter what, because it might be a week or two before I could work on it again and I couldn’t leave everything on the kitchen table in the meantime. Now that I have a dedicated space for sewing, I can’t seem to break that mindset. Instead of walking away when I’m getting sloppy, I keep going … and things go south. So I need to learn the lesson of not trying to sew things in one sitting.

And I also obviously still have a ways to go before I’m as good at choosing materials and patterns as I am (or am getting to be) with knitting. Just like knitting, it’s a trial-and-error process, something that requires practice. So I will keep practicing. But as anyone who sews knows, it’s a little more brutal to get things wrong with sewing than with knitting — you don’t generally get the same kind of do-overs as knitters do.

So despite the fact that there are no new usable garments in my closet — the skirt and top having both come up short of wearable for me — I’m thrilled with my bag, my sweater and most of all the advances I’ve made. The growing feeling of confidence I have when starting a new sewing project is gold to me.

May make No. 2: the Raglan Tunic

May make No. 2: the Raglan Tunic

I really debated whether to post this photo or not, but you guys tell me all the time you value my sharing my misses as well as my hits. And I do think it’s important, having learned so much from others that way, so even though this is making me a little queasy, let’s talk about this top — the second of my pledged makes for Me Made May, and another near-miss. In the sketches, you can see what I’m wanting (thank you, Fashionary) — a floaty, loose-fitting top for summer that can be layered over in fall. I don’t know of a pattern for the exact thing I’ve sketched, so as with pretty much all of my knitting and sewing, I’m picking a pattern that’s close and adapting it to my liking. In this case, I decided the first thing I would try was Purl Soho’s Sewn Raglan Tunic. The Purl top is cut a little more straight up and down than me or my sketches, but it’s pretty close, right? To make it a bit floatier, I cut the third size but graded it outward at the side seams to the fourth size. I also cut the front tunic length for back and front, rather than a dropped hem, and I drafted sleeves that were wider/poufier and elbow-length, rather than choosing between super-short sleeves or 3/4 length.

Apart from that, I made one significant modification: The pattern calls for an elasticized neck binding (and same with optional sleeve treatment). An elastic neckline is not what I had in mind, but it also seemed unnecessary to me, since there’s a slit at the back already for your head to go through. Instead, I gathered the fabric at the neckline and sewed the bias facing on flat, so the fabric is gathered but the binding is not. And same for the sleeves.

I’m super proud of the craftsmanship on this one — it’s a big step forward for me — and I also enjoyed every minute of making it, which is not typical of me and sewing. The pattern is very well written and I had fun tampering with it. So I have a lot of good feelings about this garment — I do! Here’s why it’s a near-miss for me instead of a win:

1) The fabric is all wrong. I knew I needed to make a muslin of this, given how much I would be changing, but didn’t have any actual muslin handy. What I did have was this Brussels Washer (same fabric as that skirt) in olive, which Rebekka had given me. There were a lot of flaws in this cut of it, but I worked around them as much as possible on the off-chance the shirt turned out to be a winner. Unfortunately, in this color and fabric, the finished top looked super drab on me (as you can see). It needed to be with someone who would accessorize it, so it’s gone to live with Meg, and it looks perfectly darling on her.

2) The critical difference between this shirt and the sketches is the neck. I want a smaller, higher neckline, and could have had it here — again, because of the slit at the back. But because I had gone with a larger size, it was a lot of fabric being gathered at the neck. Even having left the neck a bit wider than I wanted, it’s just too much fabric gathered up around my big shoulders; had I kept going, it would have been ridiculous. So if there’s a second attempt with this pattern, I’ll cut a smaller top but still grade it outward toward the hem, for the same basic silhouette as I achieved here, but with less fabric at the neckline.

3) Not sure about the sleeves. In my mind and the sketches, the sleeves are a little bit poufy, which means they are at least minimally gathered, not just hemmed. But maybe a hem would be better, or again, just less gathering. That’s one to play with once I sort out the fabric (next attempt will be heavy 100% linen) and neckline issues.

But I’m not sure if the next attempt will be with this same pattern as the starting point. The other key difference between it and my drawings is the gathered sleeve tops. I’m only envisioning the little gathers or pleats at the front of the shirt, not all the way around the neck. I think that’s just never going to work with my shoulders, nor look like the top in my head. So it might need to be a modified woven Linden instead, or some kind of hybrid of the two.

Regardless of the fact that I don’t have a finished top in my closet after the seven or eight hours I spent on this (did I mention I’m slow?), sewing this one was a great experience from start to finish. Technically and design-wise, I know it put me one step closer to being able to make the top I’m dreaming of. So it’s all good!

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p.s. I got in some more of the red vintage fiber mill spindles on Friday and managed to get a photo this time! And if you were here Friday morning before Knit Wit Issue 2 arrived, there are now photos in the shop of that as well. It’s a truly stunning issue — multiple fantastic studio visits, among other things — and I can’t wait to have a good sit-down with it. Go have a look!

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PREVIOUSLY in Me Made May: May make No. 1: the Gathered Skirt

 

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!