Before I get to this round of Elsewhere links, I want to take a moment to reiterate something I said on Instagram last night regarding the Steekalong and indeed all of the make-alongs I host: Everyone is welcome. The kals and other events are designed to be safe, supportive groups where you can try new things and refine your skills and meet new people. Regardless of your skill level, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age or anything else, I would love for you to participate in any event I organize.
Yuko Shimizu is one of many great designers I’ve learned of this past week as a result of the powerful discussion going on about diversity and the knitting community. If you’ve missed it somehow, there’s a good synopsis-with-links on Ravelry. In addition to hopefully opening eyes and minds to ways we can all do better to make the knitting community (and the world) a more inclusive place, it’s bringing a lot of wonderful and talented people into broader view.
I’m super smitten with these sweaters:
TOP: Sunburst is a fantastic little cropped colorwork sweater with full sleeves and some mohair content giving it an unusual surface texture for such a sweater
The speed at which Sólbein Cardigans are flying off the knitting needles in the #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed is truly jaw-dropping. For those who are half done (or already on a second one!), these tips and tricks may come too late! But for anyone who (like me) has yet to cast on, I hope they’ll prove helpful. And they apply to more than just Sólbein:
1. Floats out. Marlene @mnberghout posted about her floats being too tight and how she intended to solve it on a second go, which is one of my favorite tricks I’ve never tried! Let’s see if I can describe this any better than I drew it: Hold your knitting exactly the opposite of how you usually hold in-the-round work. So with it wrong side (float side) out instead of right side out. And with the needle tips away from you instead of toward you, so you’re looking at the right side of the work but in the rear inside of the tube of knitting. Does that make sense? Held that way, your floats have to reach around the longer outer curve of the work, rather than across the shorter inside stretch. And if you still prefer to work with it held the regular way, right side out, try keeping your stitches spread to their natural width on the right needle, which makes it much harder to create a too-short float in the first place.
2. Block that yoke. Several people have expressed concern about their gauge while knitting their yoke, and/or opted not to do a gauge swatch and just cast on. In either case (or if you just want to make sure your colorwork tension is good before proceeding), why not stop and block your yoke? Just put the stitches on waste yarn and block the work like you would a finished object. Once it’s dry, you can measure your real-time stitch and row count and make sure you’re on track for your intended size.
3. Steek first, sleeve later. Every time I see a pic of a finished body, pre-sleeves, I have an overwhelming urge to cut that steek! If you feel the same way, there’s no reason not to go ahead and do that first. Although if you’re one who doesn’t love sleeves, the anticipation or prize of getting to cut the steek when you’ve done them might help?
I also have one gentle reminder or request to make, and this is truly universal. It’s natural to want to slide your pattern into your knitting photos, and a common practice. Please remember that publishing a photo with visible instructions or charts is the equivalent of giving away the designer’s work, and be cognizant of that when taking photos.
For anyone who hasn’t seen the feed and the incredible array of cardigans coming together on the #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed, you really should go look.
I have hurt, angered and disappointed a lot of people this week with my insensitive post about my upcoming trip to India and my handling of the response, and I am deeply sorry about it. I’ve spent the week listening hard, learning (in part about how much more I have to learn), and thinking about all of the things I can do — particularly here on the blog — to be more inclusive and supportive of people of color. I can’t take any of this week back, but I will work hard to do better going forward.
For those who didn’t see anything offensive in my post, I feel it’s important to spell it out for everyone to see and think about, and hopefully learn from:
First, it reads like I’m a tourist looking for an exotic location for my next selfie, which is inherently horrible — India is not a set or a backdrop for white people. It reads that way because I didn’t take the time to talk about why I’m going, which is to meet textile artisans and learn more about their craft. I’m coming to India from a place of respect for the relevance of textiles in the country’s liberation from British rule.
Second, and more egregiously, when I said that to my anxiety-ridden teenage self the offer of travel to India felt like an offer of travel to Mars, I gave the impression that I equate the people of India with aliens — literally alienizing people who aren’t like me. It doesn’t matter that that’s not how I intended it. By being careless with my words, I perpetuated the harmful notion that Indians (and POC in general) are “other,” or even to be feared. People who are the target of racism every day were rightly offended by it, as were others. And I am so sorry.
Third, I compounded the Mars problem by bringing it up again (to say that my grown-up self might even consider space travel if I got the chance) by referencing an interview I had heard about the impending “colonization” of Mars. I brought up colonization in a piece about a country marred by colonialism and didn’t see it. Everyone who was shocked at that was right to be, and I’m shocked at myself.
That’s not comprehensive, but it’s the main thrust of it. It took women of color pointing this out for me to see it — starting with the annotation that @thecolormustard posted in her Story — which is not their responsibility, and I am thankful to them for taking the time. If you’re struggling to understand the response, please just sit with it and give it some serious thought, from their point of view.
I apologize profusely to everyone I hurt, and to everyone who has taken any kind of heat for calling me out on it. I was wrong, and the women who took the risk to speak out were right. I’ll be doing the work, sharing the resources*, and doing my part to raise the visibility and celebrate the actual beautiful diversity of this community.
While doing my usual year-end review posts, it occurred to me one thing I’ve never done is tallied up my yarn usage. I have a tendency to find a yarn I really like and knit with it several times, while yarns I’m longing to try — my yarns-in-waiting, plus — sit and wait. So knitting around more has been on my mind, and knitting so many accessories last year gave me a chance to change things up more than I maybe have in the past. I wanted to take stock to see what, if anything, I could glean from it. Here’s how it breaks down:
Log Cabin Mitts Original: Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, stash+purchased, used before Grey: Hole & Sons, stash, used before (no longer available) B/W: Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, stash, used before Toffee: OUR Yarn DK, via Fringe Supply Co. stock, new to me (no longer available) Black/blue: Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, stash, used before + Harrisville Color Lab, stash, used before Verb kit: AVFKW Range, purchased, new to me (no longer available) Indigo: AVFKW Pioneer, purchased, used before
19 FOs + 1 Partial/sample + 2 WIPs Total number of unique yarns used: 18 (all small/independent businesses) Yarns used more than once: 4 (Shelter, Far, OUR Chunky, Pebble) New to me: 13! Purchased for projects: 16 From stash: 8 Gift/yarn support: 3
I had no idea I knitted with a whopping 13 new-to-me yarns last year.
My ongoing objectives are to find ways to use some of the wool in my stash such that it will work for my climate, and to branch out into non-wools, which means almost certainly new to me. For those not from stash, I want to be more deliberate about seeking out yarns with recycled content and from companies with non-white owners.
[Edited to add: I believe all of the yarn companies listed here have white owners, except for the Snoqualmie Valley. Anna, who owns Tolt, is of mixed heritage.]
Holy moly, you guys, the #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed is a sight to behold! It is, as Mary Berry would say, “cram jam full” of stunning Sólbein cardigans in progress along with a handful of other steekables, and surprisingly few people taking many liberties with patterns. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I think on this one so many of us are just concentrating on getting the color choices right, gathering steam for our first steek — and there are actually quite a lot of people knitting their first sweater ever! All of which I applaud applaud applaud! I couldn’t be more thrilled. And cannot believe how fast some of you can knit! There are already sweaters at or nearing completion, while I haven’t even cast on yet. If you’re still on the fence, please understand you can jump in anytime!
Meanwhile, here’s the first of the standout projects that I want to feature here on the blog, so this is our first addition to the on-the-fly panel for the KAL, and it happens to be the endlessly inspiring Kristine Vejar from Verb. She’s taking quite a few liberties, and wow I cannot wait to watch this unfold!
Yarn: A Verb for Keeping Warm Dawn. I chose this yarn because I love the fabric it makes, and also because I live in a more mild climate, which means I will get to use this sweater more than if it were knit out of Lopi.
Palette: Indigo Blue! I am inspired by this coat by Kapital. In the AVFKW dye studio, we indigo-dyed a range of shades. I will try to incorporate as many of them as possible into the sweater. I have drawn a few ideas for how to incorporate the different skeins of indigo-dyed yarn into Solbein. All of this said, I am prepared to knit and rip, knit and rip, until I get the color combination just right.
Master plan: Taking some large leaps here as I dive into the Fringe and Friends Solbein Steekalong! When interviewing yarns for this project, at the top of my list were Lettlopi and Stone Wool Corriedale. However, when I came across Dawn, I thought Ooooo, this could be really interesting. I have a zip-up hoodie I purchased in Iceland a couple years back, and I wear it on our coldest Bay Area days from about November to January. But, due to Dawn’s cotton content, I could wear Dawn year-round. That being said, there are a couple concerns at hand using Dawn. It is lighter-weight, which means a smaller gauge. And, how would it steek?
Now to tackle gauge. I went to my swatch library and pulled the swatch for Dawn. (I use YO to record my needle size into the swatch). The fabric I like best is 17 stitches and 23 rows over 4”. It has substance not too tight and not too loose. And I believe I can make the pattern work at this gauge.
The pattern calls for 14 sts over 4″. The size I would knit if I were getting gauge would be 39 1/2” (though that is a touch too big). So to compensate for my tighter gauge, I am knitting size 46 1/2″.
By my calculations, the resulting finished size will be approx: 38″ chest circumference 12″ sleeve circumference
I am planning to leave off the buttons / buttonholes, cuff and hem treatment. I would like to knit my “buttonband” running parallel to the sweater, rather than horizontal (which I need to research because I am not sure how to do this).
. . .
I feel like I might need to hire one of you to distract her when she’s finished, if you know what I mean! But I also feel that way about sooooo many of the other sweaters on the feed. I’m not sure I’ll be able to resist casting one on in my own size …
After a lifetime of mostly thinking January 1st is irrelevant and spurning the making of resolutions, this year I find myself so awash in thoughts and wishes and goals and reflections that I’m having trouble even beginning to put them into sentences, much less paragraph order. Not to mention I’ve had my hands (and brain) so full these past few weeks with holiday business and the new Fringe Supply Co. website and the launch of the Steekalong (etc, etc) that I haven’t been able to look any of this squarely in the face, or sit still with it, or let it talk back to me. So bear with me as I try to say at least some fraction of what I want to say.
The bottom line will be: I’m different.
I’m older than I was a couple of weeks ago. As in, the dawn of a new decade. And I have an older husband. A couple of years ago, having made it through assorted health scares and setbacks, and having my fun-loving husband back on his feet, I became wide-awake aware of the fact that I’m not going to live forever and I have not seen the world, and neither had he, and we want to see the world. A big part of moving from San Francisco to Nashville is we wanted to see the world. Living there, far from our families, and spending all of our money on the cost of living there, pretty much any travel we were able to do was to see family — and even that was getting harder and more expensive. How were we ever going to see Paris or Istanbul or the Congo? So we moved to where it’s easy enough to see family — just hop in the car — that we could do much more of that, but also save money and spend it on travel. (This was one of many factors, but a big one.)
People who know us would likely describe us as gutsy and adventuresome. We’d been all up and down the west coast hiking backcountry trails and climbing rock walls and whatnot. We’ve both seen most of the U.S. But when it came to international travel, we … well, I guess we just didn’t know how to say yes to that. It seems so daunting. So foreign! And it might have been, twenty years ago, but now with debit cards and iPhones, there’s not a lot of difference between traveling to Paris Texas and Paris France, functionally speaking. Except we didn’t know that because we were too nervous to try it. (Or “too busy” or recovering from surgery or, you know.) It was so much easier to just keep not going. Until one day we decided we didn’t want to find ourselves old or infirm and wishing we’d gone while we could.
So we decided we would go to Paris. Keep it simple, just one city, and I kinda know the language. And if we only ever made it to one place, hey, at least we’d seen Paris! We still thought we didn’t know how, but we decided if we just picked some dates and bought some plane tickets, we’d be forced to figure it out, so that’s what we did. And in April of 2017, we went to Paris. Other than the cost and length of the flights — and ok, the fact that some people couldn’t understand us and vice versa — it was just like traveling to any other big city we’d ever been in. And that was pretty thrilling and emboldening, but like we walked everywhere (took a cab twice) and never left the city. And I kinda know the language. Everywhere else still seemed sort of daunting! But we loved it and we made a pact that we would leave the country at least once a year for as long as we’re able. Which we half-did in 2018.
When I got the chance to tag along to Portugal last June, it wound up being at the expense of Bob leaving the country. (We almost went back to Paris for my big birthday last month, but decided on the desert with loved ones instead.) If you ever have the chance to travel with friends who are really good at it — or this is why people do group tours, I now understand — you should do that. Again, what I learned is it’s not that hard or different, in this day and age. And although the flights can be more expensive than domestic travel, it can be cheaper overall. My elaborate trip to Portugal was a bargain compared to our few days in SF in September. But this time I was with people who simply rented cars and plugged an address into Google Maps, just like at home, and off we went all over the country. What I got to experience there, as I mentioned at the time, left me SO hungry for more.
I want to see the world. And more important, I want to be a person who says yes more.
So far this is a long way of telling you I plan to wear more color. This year’s resolution: Wear color. Be color. Live in color.
I didn’t wear makeup for about twelve years. I simply didn’t want to. I had loved makeup in earlier years, but had started to feel like the only time I looked in the mirror and thought “ahhhh, that’s better” was when I looked up from washing my face. So I just stopped one day (the day I returned from my first backpacking trip, actually), and over time I decided I wouldn’t start again for any reason other than that it felt appealing and fun to me. I wouldn’t succumb to any external pressure to do it — because we are expected to, and you have to explain yourself if you choose not to, which seems really backwards to me. (I have a whole book of thoughts on this subject.) But eventually I did find myself actually wanting to wear a little bit of makeup, and so now I do.
Likewise, I used to wear more color than I do now. I’ve never been an Anna Maltz or a Libby Callaway or even a Meghan Fernandes — to name just a few friends whose facility with color I admire — but there was color. In particular, pink.
Here are three of my favorite outfits of my life:
1. Going off to sleepaway camp for the first time at age 12 or so, and feeling even more pressure about what I wore than any first day of school, I wore a tube top in a hot pink and white awning stripe under pale pink overall shorts with white Keds. 2. Working at JC Penney in high school while there was a trendy co-branded collection with a hot British brand (these were early Madonna days), I bought the hot pink sleeveless cotton mock-neck sweater and — how did I never make this connection before — a long tube skirt in hot pink and white awning stripe. And I had a perfectly matched pair of hot pink flats. 3. Heading to family-friends’ house for Christmas one year when we were all alone in CA, and feeling kind of glum, I wore my security-blanket grey sweatshirt with my raspberry pink chinos and black boots. I called those my happy pants.
I had fun getting dressed when I was in my teens, twenties, even thirties. I was more playful with color and shape — easier because, as we’ve well established, I was constantly refilling and reinventing my closet. Ever since committing to making more of my own clothes (and thus wanting the effort to pay off) and trying to be more mindful of what I’m putting into my closet, I’ve been playing it safe. Partly it’s because I moved across the country with so little and had to reestablish those basic building blocks of a functioning closet — all the more important in a small closet with slow turnover.
Are you still with me? Here’s what all that travel stuff had to do with this: I’m going to India this year.
I’ve wanted to go to India for as long as I can remember. I’ve a lifelong obsession with the literature and history of the continent. Photos of India fill me with longing like no other place. One of my closest friends from that pink-striped tube skirt era (we originally met at JC Penney) is Indian, and her family had offered back then that if I ever wanted to go with them on one of their trips, I could. To a suburban midwestern teenager with a severe anxiety disorder, that was like being offered a seat on a flight to Mars. It was fun to think about, but are you kidding me? I was so young and dumb then that I didn’t even partake of her mother’s Indian cooking. (Talk about regrets!)
In recent years, my wish to go there had intensified. And then there came a point where I decided it just wasn’t meant to be. Bob has no interest, and it’s not like I’m going to go by myself. So when? How? I’d have to content myself with books and movies, and it was sad to think that way. Then about six weeks ago, the opportunity presented itself — a chance to go with a friend who’s been. I talked it over with Bob and we agreed I should do it. And I took a hard gulp and pushed a button. I said yes. And I felt like the top of my head was going to fly off, I was so indescribably excited. Within 48 hours, three of those friends of mine who are so much better travelers than me — but who are all equally humbled at the idea of actually going to India — also said yes. There has hardly been a single day since that I haven’t said in disbelief, either in my head or out loud, I’m going to India.
I’m not sure which is the chicken and which the egg, but I feel color coming on, and it feels very much related. I find myself desperately craving not grey but pink. I want those raspberry chinos back, and to figure out how to make more vibrant color work for me again. If I can go to India, I can do anything — I’m pretty sure. (Honest to god, I was listening to an interview on NPR the other day about the inevitability and nearness of colonizing Mars, and I was like “I’d book a seat for that.” Ha!)
If there’s one thing I truly believe it’s that we never really know what we’re capable of. Deciding to wear pink pants is nothing compared to deciding to go to India. But I think it’s important to listen to ourselves and hear those rumblings. To never box ourselves into our own or anyone else’s narrow definition of who we are. We contain multitudes.
So here’s the other thing I want to say, and I wish I had gotten to it sooner than the end of a remarkably long piece of writing. Last month I was reading this post about self-care on Mason-Dixon — about negative self-talk and specifically about negative body talk. I don’t really do the latter — or haven’t in the past decade or so — but I do have an inner nag. She’s mean and demeaning and she almost never shuts up. I am really not living up to her standards on a daily basis. But what I realized while reading that particular article is that my inner bitch is not just mean; she is specifically a fearmonger. I’ve been through a lot in the last thirty years — divorce, failed business, toxic work situations, foreclosure — all of which I treasure as growth experiences (I wouldn’t be where I am now), but I have a certain amount of PTSD. Since our ability to feed and clothe ourselves right now depends entirely on the continued success of Fringe Supply Co., she’s always taunting me about what will happen when I figure out how to screw it up, which of course she feels certain I’ll do.
I know from living this long that things are good and then they’re not so good and then they’re good again and then they’re bad again … — it’s cyclical, not a straight line through some difficulty to happily every after, as Hollywood would have us believe. So she spends every day lying in wait for the moment when it goes bad next, and reminding me it’s coming. Which makes it hard to just enjoy the good while it’s good, you know?
So once I realized all of that, I punched her in the face. I’ve booked a trip to India. I put our house in order, figuratively speaking. (Still working on the actual piles!) And in 2019, you’ll see me wearing pink pants.
RIP, fearmonger — I’ve got a life to live.
. . . Here’s the too long / didn’t read version of my 2019 Resolutions: -Experiment with wearing more color -Travel to India -Say yes to more things that make my head explode with joy