Polar Prep

For a lot of Wisconsin/Illinois/Minnesota residents last winter was a test of patience, stamina, and good old fashioned Midwestern stubbornness. The term ‘polar vortex’ was born and those who experienced it firsthand grew a new layer of already frostbitten skin. Throughout the summer I’ve run into people already complaining about the potential cold of the coming winter and they’ve run away from me in shock and horror when I respond with “I actually really enjoyed the cold last winter.”

Strangers don’t know the context of my liking of the cold weather and generally if you aren’t complaining about the weather in the Midwest you are seen as inhuman. Of course negative thirty degree temperatures are awful and undesirable but those days also gave me a few weeks of excuses for why I would rather stay home knitting and drinking coffee from the comfort of my bed.

IMG_20140906_191720Through these last couple of months of summer I have been prepping for the coming winter by both making garments to be worn in the event of a polar vortex sequel and building a stockpile of supplies to keep me entertained.

This extra wooly vest is made from my souvenir yarn from my trip abroad to Ireland. It is from Kerry Woolen Mills and is delightfully rustic and insulating. The flecks of blue and red tweed against the base purple color add warmth in a visual sense while those colors are complimented by rich leather buttons. The pattern ofIMG_20140822_165835 the garment itself is one I made up as I went along, my first wearable personal design of something other than an accessory. I love its simplicity because it lets the yarn take center stage and as a souvenir piece it personifies my trip to Ireland. I cannot wait to don it over a flannel button up this winter and have already picked out the outfit I will wear with it on the first really cold day of the year.

Apparently I am in a purple groove these days as my three most current projects deal with the entire purple spectrum. I am nearly halfway through with Hillary Smith Callis‘ design Hawkes. It is a youthful pullover with tons of IMG_20140906_155033texture. I’m using Berrocco Ultra Alpaca so the resulting piece will be beyond just warm. This is a really simple pattern and the broken rib texture is a test of my patience at this point but with four inches of the body left to go I think I can make it to the end of the piece. Plus, I know the work and slight tedium of one by one rib stitch rows over about 180 stitches will be worth it once it is blocked, dried, and tried on.

I have a few more sweaters for myself in the works, a sweater for my boyfriend and socks and hats for us both yet to make this winter. I don’t know if I could squeeze all that making into the coming season unless there is to be another month of paralyzing chilliness so bring on Polar Vortex Two, because I have work to do.

Seasons Greetings

I am usually by no means a seasonal creator. I knit, sew, spin, and mess around all year long but this summer has been a different kind of season. It has been so new and unexpected that the swarm of color saturated thoughts that usually cloud my mind have been absent. This summer was my final summer as a student, at least for a few years (maybe someday an MFA will seem useful). This summer was my first as a corporate pawn. This summer was my first spent living with my boyfriend and first time signing onto a lease and paying real adult bills. This summer was a ferocious turning point in my life and it has been felt in all aspects of my being. Combine these monumental adult changes with several complete project failures, this summer turned out to be one lacking in motivation to make anything.

The turn of the season and golden glow of my impending college graduation is helping me get back on track. I’m starting to remember what my hands are good at and learning what they are not. I’ve learned I’m an intuitive knitter and can read a piece of knit fabric as easily as I can read a novel. I cannot read a sewing pattern in the same way and that is something that I look forward to conquering soon. Knowing the scope of my limitations and abilities allows me to concentrate on the strides that can be made within my skill set rather than keeping me focused on the failed projects and attempts of the past.

As the colder seasons approach my list of things to make grows longer every day. My aim in making creating such a large part of my life is to make it a reliable source of clothing and income. By building skills now, I hope to make handmade garments as normal as possible in my life and those around me. Rejuvenating handmade culture even in a local manner is my goal and it is time to get back to it.

Lackluster Spree

The increasing heat, moving to Chicago, and starting a new job have taken their tolls on my motivation to do anything productive lately which really bums me out. I’ve been thinking less, making less, and doing less which really is not so positive. I think it is an adjustment period that will dissipate soon but it is still pretty odd and annoying. And of course at the beginning of every summer it can be tough to reintegrate your body to the warmth so many things crafty fall to the side.

In hopes to reverse this lackluster spree of existence I’ve set some goals and bought some tools. This summer I want to make at least five really and truly wearable garments including one pullover sweater, one cardigan, one skirt, one dress, and one top. Sewing my own clothes is something I have been wanting to work on for a while and right now I just need to jump in and do it.

 

These two patterns are the top contenders for the project.

As for the two sweaters I’ve just upgraded my interchangeable knitting needles from the flimsy and melty plastic Denise needles to the sleek and pretty Knit Picks Rainbow wood set. These new needles have me itching to make something lovely but I’m lacking specific direction at the moment.

DSCN9984I’ve also completed spinning about 200 yards of springy thick and thin (bulky to dk) 2-ply Polwarth yarn so I am on the hunt for a pattern that will highlight the texture of the yarn. Any suggestions for what to make would be amazing! I haven’t knit much with thick and thin yarn so I’m not sure what it will look best as.

For now, I’m slogging through some boring projects in order to clear my WIP conscience so I can purchase some new patterns and materials and rekindle my drive to create.

Keeping Cozy During the Never Ending Winter

I swear I have some real content a-brewing but for now I’ve got project updates galore. I’ve gotten into the habit of always having a pair of socks on the go for travelling/at work during downtime and I just finished a pair for my sister and promptly cast on another for my brother.

DSCN0084They are both in a dk weight acrylic knit on size 4 needles. Although I have come to see that knitting with acrylic really isn’t the most luxurious of experiences, it is a hard-wearing and cheap material that is great for making things that are likely to be lost by (relatively) small siblings. The purple stripes are for my sister and the blue for my brother.

 

DSCN0092After completing the Beurre shawl I began the infamous French Cancan shawl. I have had this shawl pattern on my radar for at least two years and finally decided to conquer it. I am using a soft grey wool/acrylic blend that I had left over from a Christmas sweater. Though this shawl won’t have quite as much drape as the original it will be incredibly cozy and perfect for wrapping tightly around your shoulders.

IMG_20140301_153952Moving beyond knitting, I finished the first half, about two ounces, of the Lemon merino. I ended up with 294 yards of fingering weight yarn. It is my most even spin to date and highest yardage from two ounces of fiber! I’m going to begin the other half this evening.

I have a question for other spindle spinners out there, have you ever used a Russian support spindle? What was it like? What fiber did you use? What fiber would you recommend? Do you recommend a certain spindle maker? I am really interested in trying a new spindle breed and am captivated by the action of spinning supported. Let me know if you have any tips or tricks!

Beurre In Progress

beurreLast Sunday I cast on for the shawl, Beurre by Hillary Smith Callis and have been hooked ever since. It combines super simple lace, garter stitch, and short rows so it is easy enough to work on while relaxing after class but retains my interest.

When I bought the pattern I was dismayed by the minimal instruction but I found that the simplicity worked as I went on. The most challenging part of the piece is the first step, casting on over 600 stitches. This really tested my patience and continually counting and recounting the stitches was such a hassle. After that step it was all smooth sailing.

IMG_20140208_151243I’m making my version out of some leftover beige aran weight wool/acrylic blend yarn so it is a bit denser than the original version (original is knit in dk). It keeps my lap warm as I work on it and the yarn is really shiny so it looks much more luxurious than it cost to make.

I’ve completed the lace bits and am about half way through the garter stitch and I’m sort of sad to see it so close to completion. I may have to line up a new yarn to make another version of this toasty shawl.

Adventures in Handspun

DSCN0058I just recently finished spinning the purple/blue fiber I acquired at the Knitting and Stitching show in Ireland and it is so soft and rich that I’ve been keeping it near my desk so I can occasionally pet it when the mood strikes. I ended up with one 50 gram bundle being 210 yards of fingering weight yarn and the other 50 gram bundle being 235 yards of fingering weight. The smaller bundle turned out much more blue than the larger one but they still coordinate really well and should make a lovely garment.

I’ve decided to make a shawl but I can’t decide which shawl pattern to choose. I feel like this is a really momentous decision because I have not made a usable garment from my own hand spun yarn before. I have made a small pair of rainbow hand spun mittens (child size) but they adorn my yarn board as decoration rather than a functional item. I’ve picked out a few patterns I might use and will spend the week deliberating. Let me know which one is your favorite because I need all the help I can get with this decision!

IMG_1366Henslowe by Beth Kling

I adore this delicate shawl and apparently so do 1562 other knitters. With so many projects it is easy to tell that this pattern is one worth making. The crescent shape of the shawl is really sweet and really compliments the soft lace edging.

 

 

 

 

The Birthday ShawlThe Birthday Shawl by Kate Twirl

I really dig that the lace edging is knitted onto the main triangle piece of the shawl because I am a newbie to lace work so the thought of ripping back, in case of a likely accident, a few stitches as opposed to hundreds is really appealing. It is also a really traditionally shaped and designed piece so it would be a nice addition to my collection of knitted items.

 

IMG_1610Momijigari by Beth Kling

The size of this shawl is great because it can be worn draped over the shoulders or as a scarf with minimal awkwardness. Shawls can be hard to pull off in an everyday setting because of their shape but this shawl would not be a challenge to wear at all. The lace pattern is also really intriguing.

In A Funk

I haven’t picked up a needle, a spindle, or a hook for over two weeks. It has been a really long time since I went this long without some sort of project in my hands. Since New Year’s my life has been a little out of sorts and is finally reaching some normalcy now that I am back in my own space at school. Though I’ve been able to achieve some normalcy I am once again completely bummed out because I am at school. I can’t stop thinking about all the work that is ahead of me this semester and how far away graduation seems at this point. Being bummed out and anxious about work really puts a damper on my creative outlets. This apathy towards crafting has in turn forced me into a quiet blog spell, something I hate to have happen. To chase away the blues I’m going to pick out a few pieces that I hope to make once this funk goes away.

Grover’s Mill-Kristen Kapur Designs
Grover's Mill

I love the cabling on this sweater. It is the perfect combination of simple cables making it a great mindless but still impressive knit.

 

 

 

 

 

Uniform Cardigan-Madder Made
uniform

This cardigan is a gem. A wonderful, cozy, customizable gem. I fell for this pattern when Karen Templer of Fringe Association posted about it a bit ago. I’ve been coming back to the calm neutral photos ever since.

 

 

Iberian Discovery-Stephen West
Iberian Discovery

West’s designs are great because they are full of texture and unconventional design elements. This one looks entertaining and like it would be a really cozy finished product if it was made in the right yarn.

 

Now it is time to force myself to knit a few rows to see if it will cure me of the funk. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

25 Days

DSCN0678The second sweater in my Christmas gift sweater project took me a grand total of 25 days to create from start to finish. Okay, technically its not quite finished, it needs to dry and then have its buttons put on but it is close enough. Slade was such a simple knit that the pieces of the sweater took me only two weeks to complete. The real challenge was in the finishing. The collar with, 258 stitches, took me ages to complete and don’t even get me started on the seaming. I despise seaming, especially the armholes! All things considered I quite like the finished piece and can’t wait to see if it looks as nice on my dad as it does pinned out on my bed.

Thankfully the next sweater I’m going to make is of the seamless top-down variety, my favorite!

The Ultimate Sweater

Boden_10_medium2Today I stumbled upon my dream sweater whilst partaking in my usual morning Pinterest exploration (its like reading the newspaper for me). I rarely make anything for myself but I absolutely MUST indulge my selfish side after I finish my Christmas knitting and make this. It is called Boden by Amy Miller and looks to have been recently released. I love her other designs as well but this sweater is her finest work. It is simply constructed and thoughtfully crafted to maximize its timelessness.

I’m a sucker for a hi-lo hem and the shlumpy but chic shape of the piece really makes me want to curl up with a cup of tea and a good book. I also really love that this cozy sweater could be transformed from a slouchy cuddling at home piece into a great casual date piece with the addition of some sleek skinny jeans and heeled booties.

In other knit news I’ve finally completed my boyfriend’s socks! I’ll have him send me a picture of him wearing them once they are delivered to him. I’m also onto the fifth and final piece of my Slade sweater. This weekend will consist of finishing that piece, blocking, and picking up the collar stitches. Hopefully I’ll have a finished sweater to show you sometime next week!

What are you working on this weekend?

Catching Up

Last week my good friend Lara joined me in Galway for a weekend of exploring, pub hopping, and sweater shopping. Lara was a German foreign exchange student at my high school when I was a junior and over that year we became great friends and it was so exciting to reunite with her after three years of separation! We spent some time in Galway and then embarked together on a journey to Dublin for a couple of days. We had a fabulous time catching up, walking around the city, and eating amazing food.
The next time I will be in Dublin will be for the Knitting and Stitching Show!

On the knitting front, thanks so much for all of the lovely comments on my last sweater post! I want to update you all on my latest progress on Sweater #2 Jared Flood’s Slade. I have chosen this yarn.

DSCN0665

It is an aran weight charcoal toned tweed. It is 75% acrylic and 25% British wool. The resulting fabric is really fun but still very sophisticated and smooth. So far I have finished the back and left front pieces of the sweater with the right front soon to be completed as well. I can’t wait to see this piece all worked up! I’m a sucker for simple cardigans.

DSCN0668I’ve also managed to make some major headway with my socks in progress (for my boyfriend). I mainly knit on these whenever I am away from my home base so they have been knit with stolen time between classes, at my knit group, and at cafes alongside a pot of tea. They have been a lovely companion project that I can rely on to entertain me when I have some down time. They also have been in progress since the day I left the US so I am ready to complete them and ship them to their recipient.