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.


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Goose Eye


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.)


PREVIOUSLY in Idea Log: Indigo kimono jacket



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!


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What are you afraid of?





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.)


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




Make Your Own Basics: The shirt dress

Make Your Own Basics: The shirt dress

In addition to the “little black dress,” I think every closet is well served by the inclusion of a good shirt dress (or shirtdress, if you prefer), whether it’s the ultra-classic knee- or calf-length button-front shirt or any of the million variations thereof in the world. Here are a few good sewing pattern options:

TOP: I’m sure you can find a super standard shirtdress pattern from one of the big companies, or you could lengthen your Archer (the very first MYOB). Grainline has posted a couple of tutorials for Archer+Alder mashups: a super simple one merging Archer on top with Alder on the bottom, or a more involved one fitting the Archer sleeve into Alder’s more tailored bodice (pictured)

MIDDLE LEFT: The Reeta Midi Shirt Dress from Named has a ’70s-safari vibe and drawstring waist

MIDDLE RIGHT: The Factory dress from Merchant and Mills is a popover with a hint of war-era flavor

BOTTOM: And Closet Case Files’ Kalle Shirtdress pattern is a bit trendier box top/shirtdress hybrid


PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The ski sweater





Elsewhere: Yarny links for your clicking pleasure

Having had to take a pass on the chance to visit Shetland with a bunch of my knitting-world friends last month (someday I’ll get there!!), I’ve been living vicariously through Instagram and now Fancy Jaime’s multi-part recap of the trip (photo above left). So that’s my number one recommendation for your weekend reading. Still, more gems:

Bristol’s jaw-dropping Shetland souvenir project

– Stellar piece: Jane Jacobs, Georgia O’Keeffe and the power of the Marimekko dress

– Beyond being therapeutic, knitting might actually deter dementia

– If you’re in Portland OR, please go see Narangkar Glover’s beautiful knitted color studies (photo above right)

Well said: “They come [to learn] also because they understand handcraft as a form of meditation that has a sense of creativity. When you work with handcrafts you oftentimes develop a surge of energy of that creativity, and happiness; fulfillment. A meditative quality, really. It brings in the surge of energy, the qi of creativity, which is a sensation of feeling happy.”

– I hope this comes true: Sketch templates in your own measurements

– Love the needlepoint Eve evolution from this (1822) to this

Natural Dyeing and dye gardening made it into Better Homes & Gardens

I want this poncho

– Have you looked at the #summerofbasics feed lately? So good!

– And I am a surprisingly taken with this Wonder Woman shawl! It’s so beautifully done. I personally can’t deal with red and yellow together under any circumstances, but I secretly want a b/w or tonal neutrals version of this, and then only I would ever need to know what it really is or means.

Have a happy weekend, everyone! I’ll be advancing both my Archer and my fisherman sweater for Summer of Basics. How about you?