Q for You: What’s your favorite travel project?

Q for You: What's your favorite travel project?

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?

(Jen Hewett x Fringe Field Bag and Lykke interchangeable needles from Fringe Supply Co.)

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What are your Fall making plans?

Q for You: What are your Fall making plans?

Q for You: What are your Fall making plans?

Hi, friends. How was your week? I’m supposed to be out of town right now but the universe has been tossing up nonstop roadblocks this week, to the point of also derailing my blog output. So rather than being ready to talk about my Fall making plans, or sharing a meaty Elsewhere list, I’m here asking about yours! (Mine are uncertain anyway — I’m hoping you’ll help get me unstuck.)

So that’s my Q for You for the long weekend: What are your Fall making plans? I want to hear about your knitting and/or sewing goals, patterns you’re fixated on, anything you’re willing to tell me!

And I’m also still hoping to finish crocheting my hat this weekend, even though I didn’t get the road-trip hours I was counting on … I’d love to hear your weekend plans, too!

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What’s your time-worthy detail?

Q for You: What’s your time-worthy detail?

Q for You: What's your knitting time-worthy detail?

In this instant-gratification world of ours, being a knitter at all is an act of rebellion, in a sense — knitting something, stitch by stitch, that others would buy, discard and replace in the same amount of time. And yet even though we’re committed to spending that time, we often still want things to be as quick as possible, right? There are the steps and details we’ll happily avoid or skip altogether, where possible — from choosing seamless designs to leaving ends dangling inside a finished object. But there are also the little details we each feel are worth that extra bit of time they take to elevate our FOs. Things that might be technically unnecessary (like adding seams to a seamless garment) or could be done in some briefer fashion (e.g., a plain neckband versus a folded one), and things that simply look too good not to do.

For me, a no-brainer is the little bit of extra time it takes to do a tubular bind-off on top-down cuffs. (This is my Grace pullover in progress.) The difference in how much better it looks than a standard BO is worth it all by itself, but the additional stretchiness of that edge is just so much more pleasant to wear, and I’m aware of it with every push and pull of the cuff for the life of the sweater. (I like Purl Soho’s tutorial, if you’ve never done it.)

So that’s my Q for You today: What’s the little knitting detail you consider more than worthy of the time it takes?

I look forward to your responses, and wish you a happy weekend!

IN SHOP NEWS: We’ve got the butterscotch Porter Bin back in stock at the moment! While they last …

(Stitch marker, yarn, Lykke interchangeable needles and DPNs, and tapestry needle all from Fringe Supply Co. lol)

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What’s your progress blocker

Q for You: What’s your progress blocker?

Q for You: What's your knitting progress blocker?

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?

(Needles, removable stitch markers and notebook from Fringe Supply Co.)

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What’s your favorite pattern source?

Q for You: What’s your favorite pattern source?

Q for You: What's your favorite pattern source?

I became a knitter in the age of Ravelry, but sometimes I ponder what it was like before. My personal historical equivalent would be going to the fabric store with my mom when I was a kid, sidling up to the long tables stacked with giant binders full of sewing patterns, and beginning the often tedious task of turning every single page in as many of those books as possible to find what I was after. Then locating the actual pattern envelope in its cross-referenced file drawer — that makes me so nostalgic just typing that.

In the days before Ravelry — which created a means for self-publishing — the only way to get a pattern published was through a traditional gatekeeper: Someone publishing patterns had to likes yours and include it in a publication, which might have been a magazine, a book, or a booklet put out by a yarn company. But of curse in the days of Ravelry and other websites, all of those traditional outlets also still exist. It can be a pretty dizzying world of too many choices, and I’m sure we all have our different go-to’s when it comes to filtering through the hundreds of thousands of patterns out there.

So that’s my Q for You today: How do you find the patterns you knit? Are you high-tech or old-school? Do you keep your eyes on a certain designer or brand that puts out collections? Do you start with the vintage pattern booklets or stack of magazines you have at home? Do you go to the library and pore over books? Ask friends for recommendations? Browse hashtags on Instagram? Or do you start with the Ravelry search box and narrow your search from everything to just-the-thing? I’d love to hear about your sources and your methods — and what makes it work for you.

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Are you a holiday gift knitter?

Q for You: ARE you a holiday gift knitter?

Q for You: ARE you a holiday gift knitter?

I always feel like a bit of an oddball this time of year when everyone’s talking about their holiday gift knitting — and I’m blogging about what patterns you might choose — while I’m just not really a gift knitter. In my defense, we’re not a gifty family. Even in years when we’re together for Hannukah or Christmas (we have contingencies that are variously observant of both) we either don’t do gifts or we draw names and only have one person to find something for. And Bob and I established a tradition long ago of either buying something we both want/need for our home or taking a little trip or … nothing.

But even if we were a fervent gift-giving clan, I don’t think I’d be gift knitting. The pressure! I do sometimes knit for other people — like the hats I knitted my sister’s whole family for spring break, or the vest currently on my needles for my husband, above — but we’ve talked before about the fact that I’m what’s known as a “selfish knitter,” and I don’t apologize for it. For one thing, I’m attempting to make most of my own clothes, so my rate of production has mattered. For another, what motivates me to knit is wanting to possess the finished thing. Knitting something for someone without knowing if they even want it is hugely demotivating for me. And the minute I tell someone I’ll knit whatever for them, I no longer want to do it; once it becomes an obligation, the thrill is gone. I’ve happily and successfully knitted things for others, or given things away after the fact; and I’ve knitted things for other people that are languishing in a drawer somewhere. So I know both the joys and the disappointments. But it’s mostly just not what knitting is about, for me. I’m reluctant to use the buzzword “self-care,” but knitting is a thing I do for myself, on all the levels. I’ve had this idea for years that I could start a tradition of knitting one thing each year, one recipient, and cycle through my loved ones. Maybe I’ll try to think of Bob’s vest as the first of those! (To be clear, I have no regrets or complaints about this vest: I can’t wait to see it on him.)

As always, I ask these questions because I love nothing more than how different we all are, and love hearing all the differing perspectives and experiences. So that’s my Q for You today: Are you a gift knitter? And if so, what are you knitting?

Cheers and happy Friday, everyone!

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What sells you on a pattern?

Q for You: What sells you on a pattern?

Q for You: What sells you on a pattern?

It’s one of those elusive things: You see a pattern and feel incontrovertibly drawn to it, and very often you can’t even really identify why. Does it look fun to knit? Look good on a friend? Is the sample in a color you find irresistible, maybe even to the point that the item itself is almost irrelevant? Is it a matter of shaping, or texture, or aesthetic? Is it the photos? (Were they shot in some dreamscape that tugs at your soul?) Does it remind you of a favorite garment you once had? Is it exactly the shape you’ve been looking for? Written for a yarn you’ve been wanting to use? Sister tells you to? Published by your favorite designer or pattern company? Was at the top of Hot Right Now?

There are a thousand reasons why we might be attracted to a pattern, and we all lament the common experience of choosing poorly — casting on for the wrong reason and winding up with an unworn handknit that gives us the guilty feels. And hopefully we get better over time, knitting things that will not only be worn but loved. But that’s my Q for You today: How do you choose? What is it about a pattern that makes you download it and cast on, and are you able to identify the good triggers versus the not-so-good ones?

I was thinking about this over the weekend when it occurred to me that many of my best decisions were the result of getting to try one on, from Trillium to Channel to Cline. After many months of obsessing about a Carbeth Cardigan, I got to try on Shannon Cook’s Carbeth on Friday night — we were housemates in Seattle. It was that thing where you put something on and instantly go I’m never taking it off. It just fits, in all the ways. I woke up Saturday morning wishing that’s what I was wearing that day. And the next and the next and the one after that, which is how I finally knew for sure that it’s the right thing for me to cast on. Just as soon as I stop arguing with myself about yarn …

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: How many clothes do you make/buy each year?

Top photo by Kate Davies; bottom photo by Shannon Cook, used with permission