New Favorites: Chevron hats

New Favorites: Chevron hats

I’ve heard from so many of you that you’d love to knit the Channel cardigan but aren’t sure about taking on the scale of the project. And then there’s me (and others), having worked that lovely stitch pattern and missing it. So for all of us, here are some recent hat patterns with differently enticing chevron stitches to entertain us:

TOP: Braddock by Christina Danaee

MIDDLE: Quill by Andrea Mowry (in the current issue of Taproot)

BOTTOM: Prism by Emily Greene

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Texture by the yard

Swatch of the Month: The politics of knitting

Swatch of the Month: The politics of knitting

BY JESS SCHREIBSTEIN | The day after the 2017 presidential inauguration, as I joined many of you in the streets in protest, it struck me: I was maybe one of the few knitters at the Women’s March on Washington who hadn’t knitted a Pussyhat.

As a long-time knitter, it was both a little startling and thrilling to see nearly everyone rocking a handknit hat. The closest I’ve ever come to seeing handknits worn on that scale was at Rhinebeck, which really says something. The now-iconic pink hat with pointy ears, a project started by Kat Coyle, became a powerful visual sign of solidarity at the marches – splashed across all of the day’s news coverage and even making its way to the covers of both Time and The New Yorker.

I have my own reasons for not knitting a pussyhat (some good critiques of the project can be found here, here and here, but regardless of your politics, it feels safe to say that we may be at the cusp of a new wave of knitting activism.

KNITTING AND POLITICS

Knitting as political commentary or protest is nothing new. Like all art, knitting can serve as a platform for political and social critique. But unlike painting, music, writing or other male-dominated mediums, knitting serves, at its core, a functional purpose: making clothes that keep us warm.

For years, knitting was unpaid labor produced in the private home, not something that would be sold in a public market or valued beyond its functional purpose. Its historic ties to domestic labor and women’s work serve to undervalue its role as a creative art form, to a degree where we don’t even refer to it as art – we call it “craft.” Because of this, any use of knitting outside of its primary role could be perceived as inherently subversive and political.

Of course, all of us knitters know that art and functionality are not mutually exclusive. Like all artists, knitters are creative problem-solvers. We negotiate space, color, organic material, texture and tension in our work. We also know that clothing is a powerful symbol of both status and identity, a fact that many knitters have leveraged to create subtle, but impactful, statements through their designs. Consider the political origins of the Icelandic lopapeysa, or how the Aran Islands have seized upon the fishermen’s sweater as a marker of their local identity and heritage.

One of my favorite recent books about clothing and identity is the hefty compilation, Women in Clothes, which came out in 2014. Through a series of surveys, essays, interviews and photographs, over 600 women discuss why and how they present themselves through their clothes. In its early pages, Heidi Julavits writes:

“I don’t check out men on the street. I check out women. I am always checking out women because I love stories, and women in clothes tell stories. For years I watched other women to learn how I might someday be a woman with a story.”

I love that statement, and I love the idea that everything I wear has a story. But beyond that, I think about how my choice of clothing has its own narrative and can make its own statement in the world, particularly regarding my own commitment to slow fashion. For me, that means increasingly making my own clothes, either through knitting or sewing (I’m slowly learning), and supporting small, women-owned labels with ethical and safe labor and animal welfare practices. It means trying to know more about the origins of my clothing and the fibers I knit with, and the willingness to pay a pretty penny for fewer garments that will last.

There’s a lot to unpack here because “slow fashion” means a lot of things to a lot of different people, and thankfully Slow Fashion October and Slow Fashion Citizen dig into a lot of those conversations. But from my vantage point, the personal is political and our actions – however small – are a vote for the kind of world we want to live in.

Swatch of the Month: The politics of knitting

“CRAFTIVISM”

The word “craftivism” – an amalgamation of the words “craft” and “activism” – was coined by Betsy Greer in her book, Knitting for Good!: A Guide to Creating Personal, Social, and Political Change Stitch by Stitch. The term has been thrown around a lot lately, especially regarding the ubiquitous pussyhat. Greer defines it this way:

“Craftivism to me is way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper and your quest for justice more infinite.”

Her definition is pretty broad (perhaps intentionally so), but because of that remains squishy and, in some cases, problematic. Is this a term that can only be used to define politically liberal or progressive actions, and does that exclude other voices that fall outside that spectrum? How do we define “craft,” or “activism” for that matter?

Beyond questions of semantics, the creation of a word to talk about something that has been happening for generations – leveraging a traditionally domestic art form towards an overt political purpose – seems redundant and a little cute. Regardless of your feelings about the term, we can likely expect to see it a lot more craftivism in the future as more and more knitters explore using the medium to make their own political statements.

One of my favorite artists working in this way is Lisa Anne Auerbach, an L.A.-based knitter, photographer and cycling advocate. I first heard about Lisa from a friend who took her photography course at my alma mater, USC, although I’ve never met Lisa myself. She creates bold, irreverent sweaters (they’re machine-knit, not handknit) with political statements splashed across an otherwise traditional motif. During the final days of the 2016 presidential election, she also participated in the I-71 project, a billboard exhibition curated by the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. As part of that project, details of her sweaters that she created in 2008 were featured on billboards across Cincinnati.

I’ve always been especially taken by Lisa’s work, and not necessarily because of her political statements. (To be clear, my sharing of her work is not an endorsement of her politics.) I appreciate her work because she does what all effective artists do – she makes us think. We’re free to agree or disagree with her, but her work forces us to ask tough questions and start a conversation, and I think that’s a good thing. The bigger questions – Does art make a difference? Does it change anything? – are open for debate, but taking a hard look at the challenges we face as a society is a place to start.

Swatch of the Month: The politics of knitting

THE SWATCH

With Lisa’s work in mind, I wanted to create something with a clear and simple statement that could be adopted and worn by many. Enter, the RESIST hat. I’m not really a fan of swatching in the round or swatching for a hat, so I skipped over the swatching part of this Swatch of the Month post (oops) and just went straight for the full design.

After sketching out the chart and playing with the math, I picked out a couple colors from my stash of Quince and Co Finch and started knitting. I’m a big fan of Finch (I wrote about it previously here), and it provided a crisp read of the lettering (important) and a light, smooth halo when blocked. And while I chose the colors Clay (main color) and Canvas (contrasting color) as a nod to the pussyhat (and also because I’m a sucker for that earthy pink color), one of my favorite things about Finch is that it comes in dozens of colors that let the knitter choose the mood and tone of his or her own RESIST hat.

Swatch of the Month: The politics of knitting

Yarn: Quince and Co. Finch in Clay and Canvas colorways
Needles: US2 / 2.75mm metal needles
Gauge: 33 stitches and 38 rows = 4″ in stranded colorwork pattern

M E T H O D

The pattern is my own and is currently in testing! Keep an eye on my Instagram for a release date this April.

Jess Schreibstein is a digital strategist, knitter and painter living in Baltimore, MD. Learn more about her work at jess-schreibstein.com or follow her on Instagram at @thekitchenwitch.

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PREVIOUSLY in Swatch of the Month: Norah’s cables

New Favorites: Colorwork practice

New Favorites: Colorwork practice

Every time I knit a stranded project (meaning, about once a year) I find myself lecturing myself about how I really need to not let so much time pass between efforts. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be more fluid at it? To venture into projects that are more than just a few rows of colorwork in a sea of solids? After more than a year hiatus, I finished the stranded portion of my St. Brendan-in-progress very quickly and I am hereby swearing not to go so long before I do it again! The solution: hats between sweaters.

TOP: Coronal by Erica Smith

MIDDLE LEFT: Banff by Tin Can Knits

MIDDLE RIGHT: Verso by Bristol Ivy

BOTTOM: Northdale Hat by Gudrun Johnston

The only trouble is I want them all to be black and natural …

For colorwork advice and pattern recommendations, see: Colorwork for first-timers

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Bulky cardigans

Favorite New Favorites of 2016

Favorite New Favorites of 2016

I never feature anything in New Favorites that I don’t truly love, but it’s always interesting for me, at the end of each year, to scroll back through them all and see which ones make my heart race and my fingers twitch the most. Or which I admire greatly versus really wanting knit and to have in my possession as finished objects. This year was not absent socks, scarves, shawls and blankets, but it was light on those things, and none of them made today’s list somehow. But what follows are my Favorite New Favorites for 2016—

PATTERN OF THE YEAR

There was only one pattern this year that had me lying awake at night thinking about it, and that’s Vidje by Kristin Ford, pictured up top. I’ve declared a year’s-best-pattern three times before — Stonecutter in 2013, and Aspen Socks (pattern of the year) and Marshal (sweater of the year) in 2015 — and I’ve yet to knit any of them.* But Vidje is the new Channel Cardigan for me — as in, the one I won’t stop fantasizing about until the day I’m wearing it, that I’ll spend months or possibly years knitting, and that I hope to love and wear for ages. You can read my previous remarks (and modification plans) on this one in New Favorites: Every stitch of the Tov collection.

*Stonecutter looks terrible on me, unfortunately; Marshal still occupies my thoughts on the regular; and I conceded at the time that I would likely never manage to knit Aspen.

Favorite New Favorites of 2016

WOMEN’S SWEATERS
top: Sourcebook Chunky Cardigan by Norah Gaughan (as seen in Exceptional shawl-collars)
bottom left: Bue by Nele Redwieck (as seen in Every stitch of the Tov collection)
bottom right: St. Brendan by Courtney Kelley (as seen in Finn Valley and St. Brendan)

Favorite New Favorites of 2016

MEN’S SWEATERS
top: Tamarack by Jared Flood
bottom left: Carver by Julie Hoover
bottom right: Auster by Michele Wang
(all three as seen in For Bob — or himever!)

Favorite New Favorites of 2016

LOUNGEWEAR
Crazy Feeling Sweater and Heartbreaker Shorts by Wool and the Gang (as seen in WATG knitted denim jammies)

Favorite New Favorites of 2016

HATS
clockwise from top left:
Divide by Emily Greene (as seen in Bulky hats)
Sourcebook Balaclava by Norah Gaughan (as seen in Hoods)
Rille by Olga Buraya-Kefelian (as seen in Every stitch of the Tov collection)
Earlyrising by Annie Rowden (as seen in For the hat list)
Halus by Jared Flood (as seen in Mad hatting)
Buck’s Hat by Thea Colman (as seen in Mad hatting)

Favorite New Favorites of 2016

MITTENS
top: Ossify Mitts by Whitney Hayward (as seen in Mitten mania cont.)
bottom: Handspun Dreams Mitten by Hannah Fettig (as seen in Mitten mania cont.)

Those are my picks — and in this year’s case I actually already have yarn and plans for several of them! (More on that to come.) What were your favorite patterns of 2016?

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Bulky hats

New Favorites: Bulky hats

New Favorites: Bulky hats

I’ve got that certain combination of an itch for a quick finish and a few different skeins of bulky in my stash that I’m dying to knit with. And as it happens, there are also a couple of bulky hat patterns I’m dying to knit!

TOP: Divide by Emily Greene (her first pattern, apparently?) is the best hat I’ve seen all year, and will be mine

BOTTOM: Lancet by Jared Flood is written for both bulky and DK versions and looks great both ways

… and I’m still carrying a torch for Fidra and Halus, too, which has been going on since February.

By the way, one of the bulky yarns I’m dying to knit with is the TN Textile Mill yarn I posted about last Monday. I got news late last week that it is now available for purchase on their website, along with the matching DK, for those of you who were interested.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Mitten mania (cont.)

Someday vs. Right Away: A spot of colorwork

Someday vs. Right Away: A spot of colorwork

We’ve talked about how eager I am to knit this sweater, St. Brendan by Courtney Kelley. It’ll be a while before I get to, and I’m also aware I’m in jeopardy of having done no colorwork at all in 2016 at the rate I’m going, which makes me sad! So my eyes lit up the other day when I saw Courtney had posted a free pattern for a hat version (“a swatch”) of it. If I had a minute to do that, would I rather knit the hat and have the fun of finishing something, or put those stitches toward my first sleeve? And if it’s some quick and striking colorwork I’m after, I’ve still never gotten over Kathy’s hat-sized rendition of Jón.

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PREVIOUSLY in Someday vs. Right Away: Cables, please!

Hats for skill-building and gift-giving

Free hat patterns for skill-building and gift-giving

It’s that time of year when two things are happening: new and beginning knitters are looking for ways to learn, and knitters of all skill levels are looking for great hat patterns for gift and charity knitting. (Not to mention those of us who are just always on the lookout for a great hat!) As it happens, there’s a whole series of free patterns right here on Fringe Association that can satisfy all of the above! Last year, I had the idea to do a hat knitalong every other month, mostly to force myself to knit something other than sweaters — and have your company doing it — but the collection evolved into a pretty amazing little master class, as these hats escort you from the most basic knits and purls up through lace, colorwork and cables, with lessons in swatching, chart-reading and stranding along the way! So whether you’re looking to fill out your skill set or your gift pile, we’ve got you covered—

1. KNITS + PURLS: Audrey by Jessie Roselyn

2. KNIT-PURL TRICKERY: L’Arbre by Cirilia Rose

3. LACE: Hermaness Worsted by Gudrun Johnston

4. STRANDED KNITTING: Laurus by Dianna Walla

5. CABLES: Seathwaite by Kate Gagnon Osborn

6. CLEVER CONSTRUCTION: 1898 Hat by Kristine Byrnes

Or scroll through the entire Fringe Hatalong Series. Depending on yarn choice, nearly all of them are unisex, and I can personally account for their popularity: My Audrey is one of most repinned posts in the history of the blog; my niece kept my L’Arbre; and my husband laid claim to my Laurus.

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PREVIOUSLY in Holiday Knitting Cheat Sheets: A hat for every head / Cowls all around / Warm hands, warm hearts