Then just like that, a sweater

Then just like that, a sweater

This felt like a miracle, after all the stress and distraction and feeling so disconnected from my making. While I was writing Friday’s post about not knowing what my next sweater project would be — about not knowing what my Hole & Sons yarn would be — I pulled my copy of Rowan Pioneer off my shelves, which is always a joy to spend time with. The leading contender for the H&S yarn is Dwell, from that book, but I have concerns about the armholes and wanted to look at the pics vs the schematic. On the next page is a sweater I hadn’t really taken note of before, Hearth. I don’t like it much — the waist shaping and the little ribbed cap sleeves and the cowl-ish neck put me off — but it brought to mind that Elizabeth & James sweater I praised here awhile back, and then I couldn’t get those photos out of my mind. Friday afternoon I had a much needed few moments of calm and focus, gazing at the various photos, imagining my own version and how I would wear it. And sketching it into the queue in my beloved Fashionary notebook, knowing for certain what my next sweater would be.

Friday night I wound three skeins of my camel-colored Shibui Merino Alpaca into one giant cake and cast on. At first, I thought I might loosely adapt Hearth, just leaving out the sleeves and the waist shaping, but after closer inspection I realized the only part of it that works for me is the cast-on count. So I’m winging it — working straight to my desired dimensions and writing shaping for almost slit-like armholes and a turtleneck that’s big but not enormous. The photo above is the first pass at the armholes — too cut in for what I want here — so I ripped back and redid it. I had knitted that entire back piece in two evenings, so I didn’t mind a bit.

Queue Check — July 2015

Queue Check — July 2015

It’s possible I spoke too soon about that house we have under contract. We got a not-so-good inspection report this week and now the whole thing is up in the air. So instead of marching through the steps toward closing, I’m in limbo, daydreaming about it. All I can think of when I think about that house is that it will be Fall there. It’s almost like I think that will somehow be true on the day we move in! I imagine the leaves turning on the all the big trees, and picture sitting out on the covered patio (in the rain!) when the temperatures get milder and the humidity packs its bags and shoves off. For when it gets colder, I have visions of knitting in front of the fireplace. A fireplace! Then there’s that screeching sound in my head as I remember the fireplace needs extensive repairs before that can happen. Anyway, somehow that house and Fall are inextricably entwined in my mind, and it makes me want it more than I want to want it when it may not happen.

Between all of that and the fact that Fall really is coming soon (it is! it is!), I’m rethinking my knitting queue. June mayhem didn’t allow for that summer sweater to get cast on, and now it seems too late to start. Time to start in, instead, on the sweaters I want to be done with in time to wear them on that covered patio, right? But my plans feel a little scrambled. All of this secret and required knitting the past few months has amplified my aversion to knitting that feels in any way like an obligation, to the point of making me a tiny bit allergic to my own to-knit list. Next up was supposed to be whatever that dark grey Hole & Sons is meant to become, but I haven’t solved that riddle yet. And next after that was supposed to be my Channel Cardigan, finally and again, but there too I’m on the fence about yarn. My latest theory has been that I would use the camel Shibui Merino-Alpaca I stocked up on when it was discontinued, but I fear it will be too hot and heavy with all that fisherman’s rib and textured stitch. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few years, it’s not to cast on a sweater before really knowing it’s right and worthy, but these past couple of months without a sweater on the needles have been agony! So for the moment, I’m enjoying my Hermaness Worsted (have you seen all the #fringehatalong hats?) and pondering the notion of turning that Merino-Alpaca into a Linda. A big cozy fringed scarf might not satisfy me in the knitting like a sweater does, but it would in the wearing.

I hope you all have a magnificent weekend! We got a fresh batch of Yarn Pyramids in this week, and there are tools allegedly arriving this afternoon — bonsai scissors and counters and crochet hooks, among other things — so if you’ve been waiting, check in later today or tomorrow morning! xo

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: June 2015

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.