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!

New Favorites: Paloma

New Favorites: Paloma

Whether it’s the fact that it’s been so long (almost two months!) since I had a sweater on my needles, or even just talking about October, or the fact that it is FREEZING in our new space, I find myself longing to cast on a really big, really cozy sweater. This is an old favorite — on my to-knit list since the day it released last spring — but it’s top of mind at the moment: Thea Colman’s Paloma cardigan, pictured above. Chunky, beautifully textured, long and snuggly, I’m craving it intensely right now. I even love it in that pale pink!

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Tanks!

New Favorites: Tanks!

New Favorites: Tank sweater knitting patterns

It always amazes me how many ways people dream up to knit a little tank sweater, but these super simple versions are the ones I want right now:

TOP: Aster by Dawn Catanzaro is designed for Quince’s awesome aran-weight linen Kestrel (which I made my striped tank from last year), while …

BOTTOM: Farrah by Wool and the Gang is designed for their Shiny Happy Cotton

Perfect summer staples, knitted up in no time!

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: from Plucky’s Spring Forward collection

New Favorites: from Plucky’s Spring Forward collection

New Favorites: from Plucky's Spring Forward collection

It’s always a pleasure to see the Plucky Knitter sisters and crew at Stitches events, and last weekend I also got to see a lot of the samples from their new pattern collection, Spring Forward. Somehow their crazy-plucky color palette makes me wish I were a color person, and yet you know I’d likely knit all of these things, my favorites of the bunch, in a nice heather grey—

TOP LEFT: Beach Walk by Jill Zielinski, a simple shrug with a nice lace motif up the back

TOP RIGHT: Lake Effect by Amy Miller, a sweet granny-chic lace cardigan

BOTTOM LEFT: Screen Door, an allover textured-lace shawl, which I would like in this green, actually

BOTTOM RIGHT: Tide Chart by Amy Miller (pictured on Amy with her Porch Swing shawl), a good ultra-basic, top-down pullover (if you’re not ready to improvise your own)

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: The hats of BT Men Vol 2

Knit the Look: Elin Kling’s spring shell

Knit the Look: Elin Kling's spring shell

Although it troubles me that people wear jeans to Fashion Week these days, I am in love with this outfit of Elin Kling’s — a classic, gossamer, ivory shell paired with funky jeans and black stilettos. Simple perfection, and a great way to get to wear a sweater in spring or fall. When I saw it, the first sweater pattern that sprang to mind was Evening Calm, from the current issue of Amirisu, because I am more than a little obsessed with it. It’s a bit more textured than Elin’s sweater, with the central cables, but would look phenomenal worn this way. Instead of pure wool, though, I might suggest knitting it in a wool-cotton blend, such as the amazing Bomuld og Uld from Geilsk, in natural.

Check out Vanessa’s original post for more shots of this outfit.

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PREVIOUSLY in Knit the Look: Natalie Joos’ charcoal cap

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Street style photo © Vanessa Jackman; used with permission

Next of the Best of Fall 2015: Major turtlenecks

Next of the Best of Fall 2015: Major turtlenecks

Honestly, there’s so much good in the Fall 2015 collections we could probably talk about it all the way up until Fall. But another strong trend I can totally get behind is the major turtleneck. I’m starting above with the abbreviated version. From Elizabeth and James, these are two renditions of the same sweater: chunky, slightly cropped, split hem, and with a voluminous turtleneck. I might need to work a version of this into my knitting queue.

Then there are the two megas from Theory, below, which is a drool-worthy collection all the way around, including the most beautiful cape. But the turtlenecks! First we’ve got the austere, black wool cloth top with a massive rib-knit turtleneck. I’m still stuck on that idea of a sewing boiled-wool Linden and am now imagining knitting a huge neck like this to attach to it. Second is my idea of the Perfect Sweater, truly: simple grey-and-ivory marl with a neck you could get lost in.

Next of the Best of Fall 2015: Major turtlenecks

And then there’s J.Crew. Another voluminous but thin grey marl number with lighter grey neck and long cuffs. (Seriously, the long cuff idea was everywhere.) And then again with the wool cloth and rib knit combo, only this time in a kangaroo-pocketed pullover jacket-sweater that’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. Heaven.

Next of the Best of Fall 2015: Major turtlenecks

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?