New Favorites: The perfect leftovers hat

New Favorites: The perfect leftovers hat

Every single time I buy yarn for a sweater, I buy a little more than I think I might need plus one more skein — out of extreme caution heightened by my compact-row-gauge affliction — and every time I think, “If there’s enough left over, I’ll knit a matching hat.” I’m apparently wild about the idea of a matching hat. And yet, thus far, I have never once done that. Which means I have a lot of leftovers, which is why you’re always hearing me speculate about a leftovers blanket or even a leftovers sweater. But the fact is, I do really love the idea of using them to make myself an array of very plain but perfectly coordinated hats — hats that hopefully meet my exacting requirements for a hat, since I don’t have a super hat-friendly head and won’t wear one if it isn’t just right. Enter Whitney Hayward’s Holcomb Hat, an ultra-basic top-down hat pattern written to work for any gauge and intended size. She describes it as ideal for using up handspun (unpredictable gauge) and those mysterious no-longer-labeled stash yarns we all have rolling around, but I love this specifically for project leftovers because you’ve already established your gauge, thereby negating the need to commit any of your yarn to a swatch while simultaneously increasing the likelihood of nailing the fit.

The thing about a top-down hat is it’s the same as a top-down sweater: Trying it on as you go is all well and good, but you need to know how blocking will affect the finished fabric. As long as you remember to count, not measure, you should be good. And a fold-up brim always gives you wiggle room on the length.

I’m hereby swearing to do this when I’m done with my current sweater, leftover yardage permitting.

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Idea Log: Side pocket pants

Idea Log: Side pocket pants

I’m fixating on an idea that might not even be a good idea, I don’t know, but I can’t stop running scenarios in my brain. The final pick for my third Summer of Basics Make-along piece remains undecided. I still want it to be some kind of simple pants, but can’t quite decide what exactly. And of course I’m complicating matters by dreaming and scheming something that would require pattern work on my part, rather than just picking a pattern from the thousands out there. But the idea I’m locked onto at the moment is a pants version of Purl Soho’s Gathered Skirt for All Ages. (Which I’ve made twice unsuccessfully, in different ways — here and here— through no real fault of the pattern.) As we head into fall, my top sartorial priority is figuring out the cool-weather version of my black linen pants I’ve been wearing nonstop since April, so that’s what I want: easy, wide-legged, elastic-waist pants, but in a nice flannel or melton. (I have a lot of charcoal melton at my disposal.) And I love the pockets on that skirt. So I’m trying to work out how to pattern that. This is all slightly complicated by the fact that I’ve never sewn pants so don’t have any reservoir of knowledge or experience to draw on as far as pattern modification. But here’s what I’m thinking:

Couldn’t I take a really simple elastic-waist pants pattern — such as Sonya Philip’s Pants No. 1 — join the front and back pieces into one big flat wraparound piece, and from there work out how to carve out the center strip for the side panel/pocket? Or maybe those pants are square enough, straight-sided enough, that it would be even more straightforward than that to figure it out.

The real question is whether I have enough time for this little project to be part of my SoB 3 … I still have a lot to do on my fisherman and my Archer.

UPDATE: Savvy commenter @jddietrich has pointed to the Tofino Pants from Sewaholic that look like they could be the perfect starting point for this.

(Fashionary sketch templates from Fringe Supply Co.)

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PREVIOUSLY in Idea Log: Indigo kimono jacket

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Books lately

Books lately

In addition to the two gems that went into the shop recently (ALJ and The Artisan), there have been a lot of beautiful, inspiring, thought-provoking books piling up on my table over the last … uhhh .. nine months or so that I’ve been wanting to tell you about. Here they are all at once!

The New Garconne: How to Be a Modern Gentlewoman by Navaz Batliwalla has no DIY angle and isn’t even specific to slow fashion, per se, but the women featured are the sort who take their wardrobes seriously — in the sense that they add pieces with thought and intention and expect to wear them for years, whether they’re bought new or vintage. I.e., the normal attitude from the days when we didn’t need a special term for it! It’s a collection of interviews with a variety of women — artist, fashion editor, perfumer, etc. — about their clothes and their lives (peppered with informal shots of their homes and workspaces), followed by a one-page tribute to each of the key wardrobe elements and a bunch of great street-style shots of additional women of great style. It’s beautifully designed, fun to flip through, definitely on the aspirational side, and I’m rationing the 14 interviews for myself to make it last a while. (Hardcover)

The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees grew out of the wardrobe-planning blog Into Mind, which you may remember me raving about here. It’s an encyclopedic guide to re/building a wardrobe, with guidance on everything from choosing a color palette to understanding what works for you to being a more conscious consumer. It’s quite dense and I haven’t gotten to read any of it yet but have seen lots of raves, and would love to hear below from anyone who’s spent real time with it. (Paperback with French flaps)

In Search of the World’s Finest Wools by Dominic Dormeuil and Jean-Baptiste Rabouan is a big, gorgeous glossy coffee-table book — a tribute to the farmers and herdsmen around the globe (from Australia to Central Asia to South America and beyond) who are literally preserving ancient traditions on which we all depend but who are under increasing global pressures. From the intro: “We must never forget that a splendid cashmere garment worn by a model in a Paris fashion show only exists thanks to a Mongolian nomad … . [Rabouan’s] photographs capture the beauty of traditional methods of animal husbandry, amplified by the magnificence of diverse natural environments. However, this beauty must not blind us to the difficulties facing wool growers everywhere. … [C]an we do enough to ensure the survival of the last guardians of these beautiful and rare fibers? Their disappearance would take with them part of the history of human civilization.” It’s stunning from cover to cover. (Hardcover, sent to me by the publisher)

Color Confident Stitching: How to Create Beautiful Color Palettes by Karen Barbé (I love her) is the perfect intro to color for those who didn’t go to art school and study color theory (as I tend to forget not everyone did). It’s not a textbook — it’s slender and beautiful and accessible — but it’s a fantastic overview of how color works and how you can make it work for you, from how to use and think about the color wheel, to how color affects us and our moods, to how to create a palette for your next project, whatever it may be — colorwork yoke, cross-stitch sampler or living-room decor. In the back of the book are a handful of lovely stitching projects, incorporating embroidery, cross stitch and duplicate stitch on knits. (Paperback with French flaps, sent to me by the publisher)

Cocoknits Sweater Workshop by Julie Weisenberger is one I’ve mentioned before but wanted to include here anyway. This is Julie’s master explanation of her modified top-down methodology which leads to sweaters with English-tailored shoulders and set-in sleeves rather than the common top-down raglan method. She describes the process in the front of the book, explains how to calculate and track the numbers you’ll need, and all of that is followed by eight (highly adaptable) sweater patterns and a detailed run-through of the abbreviations and techniques they employ. Another gorgeous book, and I’m dying to try out her method!

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PREVIOUSLY in Books: A Year Between Friends

 

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Great scenes from the Summer of Basics so far

Great scenes from the Summer of Basics

You guys realize next week is August? And you know what comes after August? SEPTEMBER! We’re almost through summer, and already 2/3 of the way through the Summer of Basics Make-along. There have been so many great garments and moments and photos on the #summerofbasics feed so far, and I thought today would be a good time to share just a few:

TOP ROW: From @ashleybennett88, this is such a clever way of solving the tricky problem of shooting pattern+fabric choices, while also spelling out her three-part plan for SoB. (NOTE: She’s just getting started — you can, too!)

SECOND: Likewise, this is such a gorgeous photo and sweet scene by @paddleboatstudio, which also happens to be a killer idea for showing off finished garments. Hannah appears to have been something of an SoB overachiever in June!

THIRD ROW: The “look at my new PANTS!” twins, @bethtais (her intro post here) and @sv_azimuth (her original plan here)

FOURTH ROW: Such a great, summery WIP scene by @hi.hilde, who is knitting her first-ever socks (her full plan here)

BELOW: And proving that “basic” doesn’t have to mean either boring or neutral, there’s this amazing shot of @callmedwj in her rainbow cardigan, which clearly not only thrills her but will work with everything in her closet and get a ton of wear. Basic at its finest. ;)

What are some of your favorites so far, and how are your projects going?

Great scenes from the Summer of Basics

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Q for You: How do you feel about mistakes?

Q for You: How do you feel about mistakes?

Someone recently asked on Instagram for my thoughts on mistakes. And I was like, Where do I start?! Let’s see, here are a few of them:

1) Definitely make them! Early and often. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re likely not trying anything new. (This is a life lesson; not knitting specific.)

1a) All knitters make mistakes — it’s not something you grow out of. (The best gymnasts on earth still fall off the bars on a regular basis.)

2) Fixing mistakes is the absolute best way to learn and to grow your confidence and ambition, so again, make new and different ones so you can learn how to fix them!

3) The most common advice I give people is that you’ll never regret having taken the time to fix something that’s bothering you, but you might very well regret not doing so.

4) But also: Not all mistakes need to be fixed, in my opinion.

I’ve struggled with perfectionism (and “perfection paralysis,” as one of you said the other day) all my life, have been really working hard on it in recent years, and the fact that I just said “not all mistakes need to be fixed” is evidence of how far I’ve come. The initial question had been prompted by my admission to another person that I had left in a mistake, visible in the photo and in the one up top here, in the very first cable cross in the lower right. I knew it when I made it — I was right there and could have fixed it in two seconds, but I chose to leave it. The person who asked the question described herself as a perfectionist and talked about a project she had completed that was disappointing because it wasn’t perfect, which I obviously could totally sympathize with. My Instagram-sized response to her was:

“I mean, everything is fixable. You could pull out your I-cord and redo it, right? My rule of thumb is just if something will bother me in the end, I fix it. If not, I don’t. This tiny little thing, to me, is like getting that first ding in your new car — now that’s out of the way! I’m a perfectionist in life (it’s something I battle) but I don’t really believe in perfection in knitting. That tiny mistake I left makes it not only handmade, but uniquely mine.”

There are commonly cited legends of Persian rug-makers and Navajo weavers (etc) who hide a small flaw in their work on purpose because only God is perfect (or some variation on that). Someone else said something recently that I can’t track down now [EDIT: found it], but I think she said her grandmother would call a mistake a “humble spot,” which I love. LOVE. But for me it goes back to what I first fell in love with about William Morris and the Arts & Crafts movement when I studied design history in school — their notion of placing value on the “presence of hand” in an object; evidence that it was made by a person and not a machine.

Here’s the rest of what I said that day, which is a newer thought for me, and one I haven’t fully fleshed out yet:

“I think there’s getting something right and getting something perfect. I’m only interested in getting it right. And only I can define any of those terms, anyway.”

You all know how much effort I put into getting things right — by which I mean getting the yarn and colors and fit and length and neck-shaping exactly (or almost exactly!) how I want it. But perfection doesn’t interest me. Just like the rift in the moss stitch and the misplaced black stitch in the colorwork pictured above — two other recent mistakes I’ve deliberately left — those two mistwisted purl stitches on the inside of my wrist will be my favorite thing about this fisherman sweater when it’s done: the inside joke or wink-wink between me and my genuinely one-of-a-kind sweater.

So that’s a lot from me, but I wanted to put the same Q to all of You: What’s your attitude toward mistakes? How do you decide what to leave and what to live with?

I’m looking forward to hearing from you on this, and wish you all a happy and relaxing weekend!

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New Favorites: Goose Eye

New Favorites: Goose Eye

Holy moly. A new book arrived from Isager (of The Artisan fame, etc) for the shop yesterday and it is a stunner — packed full of gorgeous patterns I’d love to knit — but the one that immediately affected my heart rate and breathing is this big colorwork pullover called Goose Eye. The book is called ALJ: Ase Lund Jensen — a Danish knitwear desiger, and it’s a tribute to and history of the founder of the company we know as Isager. Goose Eye is one of the patterns that was adapted from an original ALJ design by Marianne Isager. It’s a drop-dead gorgeous motif, and I love the detail of what happens at the raglans and along the underarm (seen in that last image), and while I’d go not-so-oversize with it, I think this might really truly be the one that finally gets me to commit to an allover colorwork sweater. (I know I’ve said that before, but JUST LOOK AT IT.) I can’t cast on anytime soon, so I have time to mull: ivory and grey, grey and black, black and navy, ivory and black, ivory and camel …?

You can see more of the patterns and order a copy of ALJ at Fringe Supply Co. (Or if you’re quick and on Instagram, you can see a full flip-through in my Story this morning at @fringesupplyco.)

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Veronika

The rest of the Best of Fall 2017: Scarf season

The rest of the Best of Fall 2017: Scarf season

Random observations on the Fall 2017 collections: It’s a very strong army-green season, which happens every few years and always feels like home to me. (It’s always army-green season in my world.) There’s a tremendous amount of denim in the shows — deconstructed/reconstructed pieces of all kinds everywhere. Celine says it’s safe to take your blankie with you. This might be the best twinset ever. Conversely, the one-armed sweater is back. But what I really want to talk about are all the scarves (and matching scarves and sweaters) and the button-up ruanas — scarves-as-garments — which I’m compelled to called scarfigans: Exhibit A, the army version, at Apiece Apart (above). Exhibit B at M.Patmos. And a non-knitted, big-pocketed variation, Exhibit C also at M.Patmos. Among others. The best of the best of the scarves is the one below, from endless-summer label Lemlem — a show full of appealing mash-ups of fluttery tops and sweatpants, the best of both worlds. But it’s the garter-ombré-stripe effect of the scarf, seen also on a hoodie, that I can’t get out of my head. I did something slightly similar with a scrappy cowl when I was very first knitting and I’m now re-pondering all that for my long-planned leftovers sweater.

(Speaking of army green: The army Porter Bin will officially be back on July 28th!)

The rest of the Best of Fall 2017: Scarf season

PREVIOUSLY: First of the Best of Fall 2017: Simple shapes and sweaters

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