I’m back from my trip and can’t wait to tell you about it, but it’ll take me a minute to organize my thoughts and photos. As a knitter will tend to do, I took too much yarn with me and knitted only a fraction of what I thought I might, but still, I did come back with a good 7 or 8 inches of my green cardigan after doing the math on the first runway and casting on as we took off. I even managed to keep my needles when going through security in India — counter to what some of you and google had warned me — and was relieved to have them for the long trip home.
I mentioned before I left that a top-down sweater is the ideal travel project for me, so while I re-adjust to Central Time and work on that recap, this is my Q for You: What’s your favorite kind of project to travel with, and why?
Do you recognize this yarn? This perfectly green Andorra that’s been on my Yarns in Waiting list since late 2017. I’ve been dying to knit with it but cognizant of how warm it is — a delicious wool and mohair blend — and whether it would be sensible for me to make a sweater in it. At this point, given that I have wanted this theoretical sweater for two years, I feel good about committing to it — at least on the level of “how well-considered is this make,” and “will it really be cherished?”
But there’s still the question of (excess) warmth. As much as I would like it to be a simple pullover, a cardigan would be safer, and after searching high and low for a less-warm green yarn that I felt anywhere near as inspired by — due diligence, y’know — I gave myself permission to just do it. Um, held double. Trying to get a sweater’s worth meant ordering from two different stores, and when a dear friend caught wind of my plan, she reminded me that she knitted a Weekender in Andorra-held-double and finds it too warm for our climate. So she loaned me her sweater, I wore it for part of an 80+-degree morning with the window open and then into some frigid a/c. And I found it perfectly cozy! Granted, this is a far-from-scientific experiment, but I want to knit this sweater and if it turns out I can’t wear it, I will find someone who will love it as much as I do. Which shouldn’t be hard, because it is going to be gorgeous.
So this is my travel project — a simple V-neck, stockinette cardigan, most likely with a shawl collar, knitted top-down over the next two weeks as I travel to and around India. (I’m of the opinion that a top-down sweater is the ideal travel project. You get to do the fun starting bits as you embark, then settle into the rhythm of the yoke during your journey, and it generally doesn’t get unwieldy before you get home.)
I leave tomorrow morning and will be back to blogging sometime the third week of October. I’m hoping to tell you a little bit about the textile workshop portion of the trip when I’m back, but I will be offline until then, fully present for my trip.
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If anyone is wondering about Slow Fashion October, I only alluded to it at the time, but 2018 was meant as my last year hosting it. I organized it last year around the notion of how to build a wardrobe you’re committed to, which is at the core of slow fashion — because loved clothes will be taken care of and kept, not treated as disposable — and left a note at the end saying it’s there for anyone to follow anytime. And that remains true! If you’d like to go through the process, it’s there for you in the feed and the entire history of Slow Fashion October can be revisited here on the blog as well. The conversation is obviously far bigger than me and I encourage you to keep having it, with or without me — feel free to use #slowfashionoctober this month to do so! Or start another and I’ll be happy to spread the word. In addition to everyone who’s ever been featured on @slowfashionoctober, I also recommend adding @thesustainablefashionforum and @melaninASS to your follow list!
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Given that I won’t be available to respond after tomorrow, I’ll be turning off comments while I’m away and will re-enable them when I’m back.
The blocking kit pictured above is via Fringe Supply Co. and I should note that my absence will have zero effect on anything with that — the shop is open and DG will be shipping orders just as efficiently as always!
Not all black clouds are gloomy, it turns out. In fact, this little cloud I’ve made to line my neck with is just the opposite!
Several months ago, as previously mentioned, I cast on an unknown object in the dreamy Woolfolk Luft I had originally acquired for another project. I knew I wanted it around my neck, but not what form it might ultimately take. I simply cast on 3 stitches and began knitting a garter-stitch triangle à la Purl Soho’s Triangle Garter Wrap, but with an undefined end goal. Along the way, I’ve imagined it growing into a giant triangle, a square (with or without some variation in the stitch pattern), a large rectangle on the bias … Basically, I was waiting for it to tell me what it wanted to be. Meanwhile, it’s been handy to have lying around for those nights when you can only manage a row or two of knit stitches … and then may not touch it again for days or weeks.
As it reached a certain mass and I took to wrapping the super-soft WIP around my neck, I was reminded of the little kerchief I knitted for my mom many moons ago when I was a brand-new knitter. I’ve always wanted to repeat it for myself, and given Luft’s extreme lightness and softness, it seemed like it might be just the thing. Rather than leave it at pure garter stitch, I knitted a wide 2×2 ribbed edge, which gives it a little more grip, less slip. And I ceased increasing when I started ribbing, as I am not fond of the pointy ends on triangle shawls/shawlettes. It may block out a bit bigger, but at present it’s 18″ x 36″, and used 140g of Luft.
In the end, it’s a little gem of a thing and I can’t wait for the first day cool enough to leave the house with it draped around my neck.
I’ve been referring to my summer sewing extravaganza as Linenpalooza 2019, but it could also be called Fen Fest for all the Fen mods I’ve sewn. This (last?) one is the most straightforward, and a great transitional piece for Faux Fall dressing given the dried-leaf color (the same as my toffee Robbie pants).
For this one, I cut a size 12 with the same hemline mods as my blue striped one a couple years back, but I also moved the neckline in 1″ at the sides for a less-wide neck opening. I gave it a center-front seam (looks great, saves fabric, win/win), did the prescribed Fen neckband, and added a chest pocket to give it a little more of a t-shirt vibe. It gives me a hint of that Fall feeling for now and will be great for layering if it ever starts to cool off.
I’m totally stunned that this worked. A) I’m not a frequent or experienced crocheter. B) I have never attempted to crochet something that had to fit. C) My gauge was totally different from the Wool and the Gang “Joanne” pattern I bought for this, so I had to wing it. But really the most amazing part isn’t that I crocheted a hat that fits — it’s that I made a hat that actually doesn’t look bad on me! Incredible.
The instant I laid eyes on my friend Denise Bayron‘s Grace pullover in Laine magazine’s IG feed, as you know, I knew it would be one of my three Summer of Basics projects, and it didn’t take long for me to decide to knit it in OUR Yarn, in Toffee. A chunky wool sweater is not on the Approved Closet Additions list, but I’ve wanted a pullover in this single-batch yarn ever since acquiring it for Fringe, and this was the perfect sweater for it — simple yet interesting. My hope was that the somewhat abbreviated shape would make it more wearable in my climate than a more voluminous bulky sweater would be, but that remains to be seen. Meanwhile, I love it.
So this is the first of my three SoB picks to be finished. I’m still hoping to finish the hat before this week is out. And while I don’t yet have the fabric for the dress to complete my proposed trio, I have sewn myself three dresses this summer! So I’m feeling good about that.
But back to Grace: Knitting it in this yarn meant doing my own math, since the gauge is different — I’m at 3.75 sts/inch vs the pattern gauge of 2.75 — but that was easy to do since it’s top-down. (Of course, I bought the pattern — the magazine — to compensate the source, even though I knitted it my own way. If you can’t get ahold of this issue, I believe Denise will be releasing the pattern for individual download sometime in November.) The challenge was only in maintaining Denise’s design details and silhouette while making up my numbers, and the only real trick in that was the neck. I really love the little retro slight-funnel neck, and wanted to preserve it, but more than that I love the way the cable panel not only runs right up onto the funnel but actually spans the full width of the front neck between the two raglans. Since knitting at a finer gauge would automatically mean my cables would be narrower, I had to choose among a few options: widening the cables, increasing the number of cables, widening the reverse stockinette field, or not having it fully span the front neck like that — none of which I wanted to do, but I could live with the first one.
By just slightly widening the cables (from 3 stitches to 4, which does create a different look for the cables themselves, unfortunately) and by shifting more of the stitches into the shoulder tops than what Denise starts with, I was able to preserve that key design detail. I also did an extra set of short row turns for the back neck, and placed them a little differently, given the gauge difference. When it came to the sleeves, in addition to knitting them flat, like I do, I did a thing I’ve always wanted to try, which was to put short rows in at the edge of the sleeve caps. (I’ll post more about that in a separate Details post!) In making my sleeve tweaks, I forgot to look and see what clever thing Denise had done with the decreases, so that part got left out. But otherwise, it’s pretty much as designed!
After finishing the sweater on Sunday afternoon, I was dying to wear it (for the length of a photo) with my striped linen pants … which were still just a stack of parts on my table. Thus motivated, three hours later I had these beauties. You’ll recall these (yet another pair of modified Robbie pants) were cut out of what was left of the Merchant and Mills stripe from my glorious caftan, and working out the stripe placement was tricky! I managed to use only the multi-stripe portion of the fabric and was able to place the pattern pieces in such a way that the adjacent black stripe disappeared into the seam allowances at the crotch and outer leg. The gaps left between the stripes at those seams are close enough to the original gap between them, as woven, that I don’t think you even notice! My big concern was how it would look where the stripes collide in the rear, but I figured worst-case scenario I’d have to always wear a long top with them. In the end, the butt is my favorite part! And how often can one say that in life?
The weekend before last, I sewed myself what I thought was the best summer frock I’d ever owned: a blurple caftan made with Merchant & Mills Indian Ink linen and some simple mods to the Fen top (details below). In addition to the color being completely amazing — rich and shifty — the fabric has an incredible heft to it and is a joy to wear. So when it came time to cut my next piece of linen this past Saturday — M&M’s Bonita stripe this time, which I’d bought from Fancy Tiger with pants in mind — I couldn’t stop picturing it as another caftan just like ol’ blurple. Only I had no idea how much more magnificent it would be. I’m thrilled with them both, but the striped one is pure magic.
The challenge of this fabric is that it’s an asymmetrical repeat — two multi-stripes, then one wide blank stripe, repeat — and I had debates with myself and among friends about how best to position it on the dress. After they pleaded for symmetry, I decided to place the wide blank stripe dead center, so my inverted pleats (front and back) would simply pull the two black stripes closer and then it’d fan out below the pleat, with the multi-stripes on either side. What I could not possibly have planned for even if I had tried was that this left the hip pockets I had mapped out on the blurple version perfectly centered over the multi-stripes, with the next set of multi-stripes (at the edges of the front and back) meeting perfectly in the center so they create a double-wide multi-stripe at the side seam. Cutting it out — flat, on the living room floor, so I could make sure I had every single stripe straight and identically positioned — was a job. But from the minute I began sewing, it started revealing all the other magic it had cooked up without me, and I was completely under its spell.
It might be the single best experience of my sewing life, and I’m madly in love with it. Hence the million photos.
Here’s how I made them, and how you can too:
Start with Fancy Tiger’s Fen top and dress pattern — you just need the two pieces for the top: front and back. Pick a size that’s a lot or a little big on you. I’m wearing this with a ton of positive ease, but I think it would look even better on a fuller figure with a bit less ease. All of this also applies to my black tunic version that preceded the dresses, by the way.
1) For the front pattern piece, trace the round neck (I might have raised it a bit when I first traced off this pattern a few years ago) and shoulder, around the sleeve, and down the side to the widest part of the curve. Then draw a line straight down from there to your desired length plus hem allowance. Mine is cut at 52″ from the highest point of the shoulder, at the neck edge. I’m about 5’8″ for reference. Do the same for the back pattern piece. (I traced the size 18 shoulder line out to the size 20 sleeve edge, and the rest is size 20 down to the hip flare. That makes it 14″ wide from the hip down.)
2) Cut both pieces on the fold as marked and keep them folded, with right sides together. On the front piece, draw a line 1″ in from the fold (parallel with the fold, in other words) from the neck edge down 11″ and same thing on the back from the neck edge down 5″. Stitch along that line, then press the fold open on the wrong side to create the inverted pleat. Top-stitch in place.
3) Cut pockets as desired. My hip pockets are 8″x10″ (the size of a piece of chipboard I had handy!) pressed to 7″x7.5″ — half inch on the sides and bottom, and an inch twice at the top. And my chest pocket is 5.5″x7″ pressed to 4.5″x5″ — half inch all the way around plus another inch on top. Hip pockets are placed 2.5″ from the Center Front and 15.5″ from the neck edge. Chest pocket is placed 1.75″ from CF and 5″ from the neck edge. Top-stitch in place.
4) Sew the shoulder seams together as indicated/desired. Sew the underarm/side seams together as indicated/desired, leaving a split hem if desired. Both of these have split hems on both sides, measured 17″ (blurple) and 15.5″ (stripe) from the bottom edge. Finish seam allowances however you prefer. I French seamed the blurple one down to the split, clipped the seam allowance at that spot, then pressed the split hem open and under before stitching down. Same for the striped one except it’s serged instead of frenched.
5) Finish the sleeves, hem and neck edges as indicated/desired. I did a visible bias facing on blurple and the Fen neckband on the stripe.
For this length, using 60″ wide linen and the size 20 pattern pieces, I was able to get all of the dress and pocket pieces out of three yards, or that plus a pair of pants out of 4 yards. Yes, I now have pants cut from both of these fabrics! And can probably still squeeze a little tank out of the blurple scraps. Which means Linenpalooza ain’t over yet!