Ugh, I am so bad at selfies but I’m pretty good at sweaters! And here she is in all her glory: the smock vest I’d been dreaming of, now with the detail that makes her complete. When I was knitting this pocket, I was convinced I’d gotten carried away. I had only the bind-off to do (took it with me on my northern adventure) but convinced myself I needed to rip it out and make it smaller both directions. When I got it back out on Saturday, I decided I might as well bind off and block it and see. And as is often the case, I was worrying about nothing! My original calculations were spot on. Being a big fan of asymmetry, and as is often the case with me and sweater/vest pockets, I decided to stop at one. I’m totally thrilled with it.
This might be technically more of a sneak peek than a true FO, but this “smock vest,” as I keep calling it, is whole and wearable. It just needs its pockets in order to be fully realized, but I couldn’t wait to show it to you even while I’m still knitting those, as I’m really pleased with how it’s turning out.
Going back to the original idea, I wanted a simple, funky, deep-armholed vest that would slip over absolutely anything and keep the back of my neck warm in cooler months. Without its pockets — and on this dress form, to be honest — it’s slightly more prissy than funky, but it will get there! That may be due in part to my decision to leave off the buttonholes and buttons. I debated with myself about that, but was liking the front edge on the narrow side and didn’t want to make it wide enough to accommodate buttons.
It does look a little funkier in person than it does in these photos, due largely to the slight slubbiness of the yarn — and let me say, I am very happy with my yarn choice here. It’s Mungo by my friend Rosa Pomar, a 50/50 blend of recycled cotton and wool. It could not be more different from the 50/50 Balance I use so often — the recycled fiber just has a totally different (much more cottony) texture and hand to it, and knits up into a lighter fabric. But just like Balance, it loves a trip through the washing machine and even a little time in the dryer if needed. And I straight up pressed the finished garment with my iron. Especially when it’s off-white, I love a garment that can take a washing (without being superwash).
So yes, happy on all fronts. Once I get the pockets on it, I’ll take proper modeled/outfit shots. And I know a lot of you are hoping I’ll write up the pattern — I promise to consider it!
I’m just back from a little unplanned adventure! As you may recall, I made the decision a couple of months ago to decline the Maker in Residence position at Squam Art Workshops and ask that it be offered to a maker of color instead — and was happy when Jewell of Our Maker Life accepted it. With Bob’s surgical near-future still in flux, I also had to back us out of vending at the Squam Art Fair. Which left me with no official role at Squam but still with a plane ticket to Boston and a significant need for the time off, not having taken any in six months. And while giving up the residency had been an easy decision to make, I regretted not getting to see Rosa Pomar while she was here (there) to teach — among other loved ones — and wanted to meet Jewell in person. So I decided to keep my flights.
Each time I’ve been to Squam — near Holderness NH — I’ve wished I had the time to wander into Maine, having never been there. It’s right there, but I never get to do it. So when my friend Mary Jane Mucklestone suggested I drive to Portland and crash on her couch, it sounded like the perfect chance. We looked at lighthouses, walked all over the place, ate lobster rolls, and of course, knitted. And then we drove over to Squam for the weekend. There are rooms in a big creaky old lodge building that are set aside for Taste of Squam (weekend-only attendees), and we shared one of them; spent time knitting on the dock and the porch and in front of the fire, and shopped the Art Fair before parting ways and heading home on Sunday.
It was great to see so many people, however briefly, and to say a quick hello-goodbye to those beloved woods — the sad part being that Jewell was unable to make it after all! Unforeseen circumstances forced her to cancel at the last minute. So I hope we’ll have another chance to meet sometime.
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But what about the knitting! The night before I left, I knitted and blocked a swatch for the Grace sweater I’ve included in my Summer of Basics trio, which I’m not knitting at pattern gauge. While the plane filled in on Wednesday, I measured the swatch (3.75 sts/inch as compared to 2.75 in the pattern), did my math, and cast on in-flight. By the time I got home Sunday night, I was already about 3″ past the divide for the body and sleeves! I know it’s not about speed, but there’s no denying how satisfying it is to knit a sweater that moves that quickly. Imagine if I were actually knitting at the original superbulky gauge — I’d likely have only a sleeve to go. And that’s not even the only thing I knitted. I also finished the shawl collar on my smock vest and wove in the ends. Can’t wait to show it to you!
For anyone new here, Summer of Basics is a very simple concept: Spend the next three months making three pieces your wardrobe could really benefit from. The definition of “basic” is completely up to you — one person’s outlier is another person’s core wardrobe item. You be you! They can be knitted, sewn, crocheted, or any mix thereof. If you take this as an opportunity to stretch your skills, awesome! And everyone is invited and welcome, whatever your age, race, size, gender, ability, you name it — including those in places where we’re headed into winter, not summer. Please don’t let the word “summer” or “basics” deter you!
Remember, this year is Low-key SoB — no eligibility requirements or judging or prizes, just the joy of making good stuff for yourself. You can share your progress — or follow along and chime in — by using the #summerofbasics hashtag on Instagram and/or by posting on your own blog or wherever on the internet and leaving links in comments here for others to see.
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For my trio this time around, I’ve decided on 1 knit, 1 sew and 1 crochet project! (Life circumstances permitting.) Hilariously, they all come from the same color family, which is pure coincidence, albeit born of my obsession with this part of the color wheel at the moment:
1.KNIT: Grace pullover by Denise Bayron Denise is a good friend but I knew nothing about this design until it was revealed a couple of weeks ago as part of the Laine issue that launches today. The instant I saw it, I knew I had to knit it — in the toffee-colored Our Yarn from Fringe — so it was a no-brainer to make it one of my SoB picks. I’ll be knitting at a little bit finer gauge than the pattern (chunky rather than superbulky), but it’s top-down so will be easy to adjust. This will be such a simple, versatile sweater — and in this abbreviated shape, hopefully well worn.
2. SEW: Dress N by Naomi Ito I’ve been obsessed with this Nani Iro dress pattern, simply known as pattern N, since it first crossed my radar last year. I ordered the book at the time — Atelier to Nani Iro, in Japanese — and thought I would brave it. But I’d be lying if I said I weren’t thrilled that the English edition publishes in just a few weeks. I’m determined to form a dress habit this summer (more on that soon) and this one is the obvious place to start. Plus I’ll be using a fabric designed by my pal Alexia Abegg — part of the debut collection for the new Ruby Star Society line launching this summer — which is called She, in a gingery spice color they call Earth. (As it happens, she’s talking about all of this on this week’s episode of the Love to Sew podcast.) Everything about this is a little outside my comfort zone and I am SO excited about it.
3. CROCHET: Joanne hat by Wool and the Gang I desperately need a crushable hat and have never found one that works for me. And I think I’m actually going to try two here — the first being the crocheted Joanne bucket hat from Wool and the Gang (from last summer’s New Favorites), in a tawny colored raffia (the natural was sold out!), and the second being a sewn hat pattern in the Nani Iro book (left image above), which I’m planning to make out of natural canvas, just to see! Hopefully one or the other will actually suit my head and solve my problem, if I can manage to tailor the fit.
There’s also a new Fancy Tiger pattern coming sometime this summer that scratches one my longest-running itches, and I’m considering it a bonus item. I decided to make the hat one of my official 3 instead, to help ensure I actually tackle it!
So that’s my plan, and it seems so doable! How about you — will you join me?
Right after I posted about that pair of bobble berets to which I found myself unexpectedly drawn, I realized I had the yarn for one of them right under my nose. The April Hat (a free pattern) is designed by my friend Courtney Kelley for their Germantown worsted, and I had an almost full skein of it left over, in natural, after my mini Sólbein used so little. So I cast on immediately. And quickly understood that while a good useful stockinette project like my vest-in-progress is the equivalent of a good long walk (with hopefully some scenery along the way), and I love a good long walk, I was desperately in need of an experience more like a gymnastics floor routine — lots of action and fluttery doodads. And this hat nailed it.
The brim is an easily memorized lace pattern that was fun right out of the gate. The floral bits on the body of the hat are a combination of puff stitch and bobbles. I’ve knitted bobbles before but had no idea what I was in for with puff stitch — the puff-stitch rounds were almost comically slow for me, although I did get faster each time. Like anything new in life, it’s awkward until you get used to it, but it’s one of those fabrics where you just can’t wait to get to the next repeat because it’s so fun watching it develop.
I’m rarely one to swatch for hats, especially one I don’t expect to wear myself. Having knitted Courtney’s patterns before, I know that she’s a looser knitter than me, plus the dimensions are a little on the small side and I didn’t want it to come out even smaller. So I threw caution to the wind and went up from the recommended needles to a size US8 for the whole thing (same as I had used on the Sólbein), brim included. After blocking, it clocks in at pretty much exactly the pattern dimensions. And I’m excited to send it off to another of my little nieces, who I feel certain will love it.
The only point of debate for me is the pompom. I imagine she’ll like it, and it is definitely a cake topper to go with all this icing, but I love the way the crown comes together and regret that the pompom covers that up. So as I’m wont to do, I’ve tied it to the inside with a bow, so it can be easily removed by the recipient.
It’s been two months since I cast on this simple little vest and I’m finally nearing completion. After letting it sit for weeks unassembled and then postponing the pick-ups, I made great strides over the weekend, when I ripped out the false-start first armhole edge and knitted them both, then picked up stitches for the neckband. After crowdsourcing armhole edging ideas, I wound going with Norah Gaughan’s suggestion, which was to pick up, knit one round, then bind off in purl. It’s a bit like a single garter ridge, but set off slightly, which felt like it’ll be a good companion to the garter-stitch shawl collar I’m planning.
I still have two key decisions to make: 1) will this have button/holes or not, and 2) still debating sewn or knitted pockets. As soon as I decide those things, the finish line is mere days away, so of course now it’s in the 90s — but still, this is a great a/c defense tool. (Yarn is Mungo.)
Meanwhile, needing a major departure from stockinette, I cast on the April Hat from my recent bobble berets post. I’ve never knitted anything like this, am having a great time with it, and will say more about that when it’s finished! (Yarn is Germantown.)
I’m pretty sure “stuck on sleeve island” is the most frequent lament among knitters (which you know I don’t understand!) but I suspect we have a wide array of idiosyncratic responses as far as what part of the knitting process stalls our progress or even robs us of mojo, in some cases. No doubt for a lot of knitters it’s seaming, and thus the need to seam is avoided altogether. That’s another one I don’t get — seaming is like performing a little magic trick, although it does tend to put a halt to progress in that I only do it during daylight hours. So unless I happen to finish something on a Thursday night, have it blocked and dried by Saturday morning, and have a corresponding chunk of free time that very weekend, there will almost always be a lull while something awaits seaming. But the real mojo thief for me is picking up stitches.
Picking up stitches is the other thing I only do in daylight, so there’s that, but I don’t actually dislike it. In fact, the neat-freak part of me takes pleasure in that nice tidy column of stitches running up along the needle, in marking off matching sections and making sure I’m picking up identical numbers of stitches for perfect symmetry. I honestly have no idea why I dread doing it, and yet it is almost always the source of a disruption in forward progress. This poor vest spent three weeks waiting for me to have the right spot of daylight to seam it, after which I forged right into picking up armhole stitches in hopes of avoiding a cessation, but I picked up too few in my haste, and now I wonder how long it will be before I pick it up again. And I really want this vest!
So that’s my primary progress blocker and my Q for You: What is yours?