October WIPs

As we re-enter lockdown here in Ireland, I thought that I might share with you some of the fun things that I have been working on! Autumn is definitely in full swing here and I have been really inspired by the beautiful colours changing around me. I might not be able to do anything about our 5km radius restriction, but there’s nothing to stop me enjoying the lovely things within it. I hope that you are able to find something similar. The last lockdown got me thinking about my gigantic bountiful stash and since then, I have been thoroughly enjoying diving into it and putting it to use. This is one such example:

I have always been drawn to this golden mustard colour! This yarn has been in my stash ten years now (!!!). I started knitting Hélene, a design by Veronik Avery for Quince and Co, but the yarn was a bit too dense for the design. (I subsequently did make that pattern, but in a thinner linen – you can read it here. It’s a great pattern! I still have the top and it is one of my most favourite warm weather makes. I still have the skirt in the photo, actually, I love it too and wear it all year round!) Anyway, this yarn is a DK weight, hand-dyed by the lovely Laura of Ellie and Ada. Because I had gotten the yarn to make the Hélene top, I only had 300g of it, so I was reluctant to start anything else in it, in case I ran out. I realise how silly that is! When I was organising things, I pulled it out and decided to just make something from it. I went on to Ravelry, had a search for a top-down sweater, so that I could maximise every last centimetre of this lovely stuff, and I found Summer Halo, a free pattern by Drops. Perfect! The lace yoke is simple enough not to detract from the amazing colour, but interesting enough to want to keep knitting.

Isn’t it nice? And that’s it unblocked! I love the stitch definition in the yarn, and the subtle variegation in the colour. I have been ploughing through this. Figuring that I would just make a short sleeved tunic, I decided to just keep knitting until most of the yarn had run out, and then add little cuffs to the sleeve edges at the yoke. But… I think that I might actually have enough yarn for sleeves if I don’t make the body too long!

You can see how far I am already on the body, and I’m knitting from the biggest ball on the right. The other two balls are 50g balls – one for each sleeve. I might just squeeze it! I think that, since I am already at the waist on the body, I will pause on that and knit the two sleeves. That way, I’ll be able to see how much longer I can make the body. It’s all so exciting – who knows what will happen!!

In other news, I have been reassessing my collection of jumpers. I love all of the jumpers that I have knit. Some of the very old ones now live at home in my parents’ house. Some that are now far too big, or whose colour no longer encourages me to reach for them, I have given to friends (that’s a super thing to do, by the way, if you have some forgotten knits – it is so lovely to see them wearing an old hand knit and being snug!). I have two jumpers lined up to be ripped out and reknit – more on that another day, because that is an interesting process in itself. Following a short conversation with the aforementioned Laura about the length of jumpers and making them as snuggly as physically possible, I was reminded about just how fantastic the tunic length jumper is. I have only one in my wardrobe, the Altheda that I knitted last Christmas. The fact that you can wear it over leggings and be super-snug is very compelling indeed. I considered adapting my other two Plotulopi knits (I knit two plain round yoke sweaters in dark purple and light blue last winter, just as basics for knocking about in), but decided that I have enough leftover to eke out another Altheda.

In the meantime, however, I decided to cut the hem off another old knit and adapt it into a tunic.

I knit this quite some time ago. I recall stalking the colour for perhaps a year before finally deciding on this yarn, Cushendale’s Mohair Bouclé. What a colour palette! As yarns go, it is a little on the expensive side, on the face of it. However, I would point out that its yardage is excellent, at 200m per 100g, and its bouclé nature means that you can knit it at practically any gauge. You could probably get a cardigan out of two balls, if you used something like 8mm needles and an open lacy pattern, such as Old Shale. If memory serves me correctly, I bought 5 balls of this to make the jumper and had two and a bit left over. I knit it using 4mm and 4.5mm needles as well. So it does go far!

In taking these photos, I realised just how much I have worn this cosy, cosy make and how the colour always makes me happy! So, after trying in vain to unravel the rib (not sure why I even bothered to try to unravel mohair bouclé…!), I just cut it off and picked up my stitches. That took a little time, because it is easy to miss a stitch in such a fluffy dense fabric. I am now half a ball through a ‘tunic extension’ and I am very much looking forward to having this back in my jumper drawer! I will definitely have enough wool left over to add a turtleneck to the collar if I want to. I’m not convinced about that. My Altheda is very warm and I think this mohair is even warmer than the Plotulopi, so it’s possible that a turtleneck would end being overkill. I could always knit a separate cowl to wear with it? That way I could take it off when necessary. Hmm. I’ll let you know.

Before I sign off, you might be wondering about the little label that I sewed in. I am quite lazy when it comes to these things, but my annoyance at repeatedly putting my jumper on back to front won out over my sloth. I made the label using one of Katie Green’s beautiful rubber stamps. You can find the full selection here. I used fabric ink and stamped it onto a cotton grosgrain, then sealed it with heat. I’m not sure just how wash-resistant the ink is, because the labels I have used on clothes have faded, but I may not have set the iron hot enough.

Anyway, I wish you a bon weekend! I will be back soon with a catch up on a very special knitting project that I was beavering away on all the last month that has now been delivered, as well as with an update on what I’ve been sewing lately. See you soon!

Summer Tops: New Look 6483

At some point during the lockdown, I slowly entered into the illusion that summer was coming and with it, the kind of weather that gives the impression that it is summer. The things we tell ourselves! Anyway, the last two summers, I made a small batch of t-shirts – a set of 3 plain t-shirts, and another set of 3 in prints. This has proved to be plenty, because we just don’t get that much t-shirt weather. But I don’t really have any woven tops anymore, bar the few shirts and blouses that I mentioned in my last post. It is funny because now, after many years of exploration, I find myself returning to really solid basics such as the Scout Tee and today’s pattern, New Look 6483.

NL6483 is that kind of pattern that one easily passes over. It is utterly non-descript. The cover has only line drawings and it looks a bit old-fashioned. But it a really versatile pattern! It is for woven fabrics, has three neckline variations (a high crew neck, a jewel neck and a square neck), two sleeveless variations (one where the edge comes right to the shoulder bone, the other being more cut away), and a version with sleeves. The sleeveless version have substantial facings. There is a simple button-and-loop closure at the back and that has a facing as well.

To start with, I decided to make a toile in some lingering, leftover Liberty fabric that I was being precious about. I went with the jewel neckline and the more cut away sleeve line.

The end result is nice but I had to do quite a bit of tweaking. The armhole was way too deep and not really the right shape. I had to put a small dart in on each side and mirror it in the facing as well. I just sort of eyeballed it, so it’s not totally perfect, but for a toile, I didn’t really mind too much.

The shape is really nice at the front, but it is cut away a bit too much at the back shoulder for me. Whatever about showing your bra strap, I find this type of shoulder line doesn’t give enough coverage for sun, or if I am carrying a bag, my skin gets irritated easily.

For my next two iterations, I chose to cut the high crew neckline with full shoulder coverage. The neckline really is quite high – I like it, but if you’re sensitive to that type of contact against your skin there, perhaps an amalgamation with the other neckline view would be better. I am really happy with how this one turned out! The armscye is a different shape on this view and I had no problems with its depth or with gaping.

The fabric came from Quilt Yarn Stitch in Tuam, Galway. I got it from them in May because I thought it was just so fun and summery! I ordered a metre and I had some leftovers. I made the hat (at the top of the post) from some leftover denim and lined it with the lemons. (The pattern, if you’re curious, is Sorrento Bucket Hat. It is a free download from Elbe Textiles and comes in multiple sizes.)

I didn’t use a loop-and-button at the back, opting instead for a hook-and-eye. It’s fine, but I find that when I wear a cardigan over it, it tends to open.

I made the same view again in a different fabric. I just loved this one! Those hens!

Again, the fabric came from Quilt Yarn Stitch and I used just shy of a metre for it. So, it’s a good pattern if you’d like to use a fun fabric but don’t want to get too much of it!

You can just about see in this photo how there is a small split hem at the bottom. You might think that it’s not worth taking the time to include this, but actually I found that it is a nice feature and gives a little bit of extra comfort across the hips. As well as that, it’s the kind of feature that looks nice if you choose not to wear it tucked in.

Funnily enough, the item I have gotten the most wear out of so far is the sun hat! It is possible that, after such a damp and cool July, we will have a settled and fine August and September, providing me with ample wearing time for these fun tops before things get properly chilly.

FO: New Look 6394

I went through a period where I mostly only sewed, but now I have hit on a nice equilibrium. It was a really interesting process, to slowly migrate to sewing a lot of my own clothes. I made lots and lots to begin with. Some worked out great, some not at all. Through each iteration, I developed a better sense not only of what I liked to wear, but also to sew. Within that, it has been fun to see what I like to wear vary over time, depending on what I have been doing. Whilst I was working in the university, I enjoyed making clothes to wear to work. I made a lot of day dresses and discovered that a knit dress is one of the most satisfying quick sews you can have. Since leaving that job and returning to full-time studies, not to mention full-time lockdown, I find myself more in need of some more basics.

I like open-front cardigans. They go well with dresses and with shirts and blouses. I have a few shirts in my wardrobe that I love, but I didn’t have any blouses. To me, the main differences between a shirt and a blouse is the collar (a blouse doesn’t have a collar stand), the button placket (a shirt seems to usually have a separate one attached), and the finish at the sleeves. I have patterns for blouses that just finish the sleeves with a simple hem, and others with a cuff but no tower placket. It is interesting to see how many details from mens’ shirts have crossed into women’s wear, and kind of funny to reflect on how arbitrary these gender-specific details are! Anyway, after quite some searching, I found New Look 6394. The cover photo is none too enticing but the details are all there! I liked how it has a tunic length option, as well as the option for a collar stand or a blouse collar.

I got the fabric in 2017 when I went to visit my friend in Paris. I stayed with her a few days and visited the fabric district. I had never been to a proper fabric district before so it was a lot of fun! I really love a bright plaid and couldn’t leave this behind. It was about €5 a metre. I cut the back yoke on the bias:

…and did my best with the pattern matching. I was very conscientious about it for the body but unfortunately neglected to check if the sleeves were symmetrically mirrored. It worked out reasonably well but I wish I had thought of it beforehand.

The buttons I had in my stash. I had only 4 that matched so I left off the 5th bottom one, because I find that usually gets caught in my trousers when I tuck it in anyway! The only other adjustment I made was to hem the sleeves much shorter. It is curious how a too-long sleeve can affect the finished appearance! I found in my search for this pattern that sizes for this type of blouse tend to be inexplicably huge. I cut the smallest size, which gave a finished measurement of a 38″ bust. There have been a few releases from independent designers this summer for a similar style. The Liesl & Co Camp Shirt has a really lovely feel to it, but the smallest size has a finished measurement of about 40″. Helen’s Closet recently released the Gilbert Shirt which has a more balanced size range, and a really nice option for a tie at the front. I had already bought (and made!) this pattern by the time it was released, so if you don’t have access to New Look patterns, they’re two nice alternatives for you with contrasting options.

I love the boyish look that this blouse has and I am pretty sure that I will be wearing this into the winter with a long-sleeved top underneath it.

I have been thinking a lot about what to keep in my wardrobe and the sewing of basics. I lost a lot of weight over the last few years and although that thankfully has stabilised, I find that my shape has changed. This is neither good nor bad, just different, and the more I think about it, the more obviously normal it is. I have gradually purged what I have. In the last year especially, I donated quite a lot of very old handmades. In the process of doing that, I chose the items that I loved but were now unwearably big and over time, adjusted them and have since readmitted them. Although a chore, this is very satisfying to do! I had a lovely button-down denim skirt made from a fantastic Japanese selvedge denim, for example, that I could take off without opening the buttons. Now it is back on a hanger! So although I am making less clothes, I am investing more time into saving makes that I know that I will continue to wear. I have no problem donating handmades as it makes me very happy to think that someone else might enjoy wearing it as much as I did.

As for basics, I have been thinking a lot about fast fashion and the ethics of the manufacturing process. The lockdown exposed some of the horrors that continue in countries such as Bangladesh and Indonesia. I have learned, through Garthenor Organics, how important certification such as GOTS and OEKO-Tex are. It is not just about environmental sustainability but also making a conscious decision to be mindful of fellow humans living and working in other places. For example, the GOTS certification also ensures that the people making that product are paid at least the minimum wage. I haven’t bought anything fast fashion-y for a few years now and when it comes to basics, like bras, knickers and t-shirts that I would normally buy in M&S or Penney’s, I am slowly teaching myself how to make these things and use up my fabric scraps. The t-shirts and knickers are easy enough. I have found a pattern for both that really work for me. As for bras, this is more complicated and I am in the process of trying out a Jalie pattern. More on that another day! Thanks for reading.

FO: Lucy

As we tentatively emerge from lockdown, many of us reflect on our individual experiences. A lot of people had the experience of that one thing. The little side project that they’d always wanted to try out, that gradually became anything between a minor fixation to a full-blown obsession. Some of us found gardening, others found bread-making and sourdough starters. I found fleece!

As I waxed (at length) in this post, I received a carder for my birthday at the beginning of May and shortly thereafter, procured two Jacob fleeces from north county Sligo. You can read all about the process of sorting it out and carding it all up in the post I linked there. My spinning has seen quite the rejuvenation this year! This is in part due to an overall creative replenishment, which the lockdown definitely did not diminish, and in part to a review of my approach to spinning. I thoroughly enjoy spinning specific yarns for a specific project, even if that entails a lot of ‘plain’ work.

I used the Unisex Yoked Pullover by Hannah Fetig as the base for my jumper. I have knit many jumpers from this pattern and have tweaked it gradually over each iteration. I prefer a closer crew neck, with a good 5cm depth of shortrows across the back of the neck to raise it up. As well as that, I omit the final increases across the back section of the yoke before I separate the sleeves off. This is easily done as it is knit from the top down. I have found that leaving out those increases along the back gives a good fit and reduces the ballooning at that point of the body that seems to be so common in round yoked jumpers.

I really like how the pattern on the yoke falls across the shoulder. I wish I could tell you that it was down to meticulous planning but it really was not.

The pattern seems to be fairly well centred so I will be happy with that! The pattern is an amalgamation of two stitch patterns that I found in one of my Barbara Walker dictionaries. One was just for the purled triangles, and the other was for the ‘lattice’. In her directions, you simply change whether you make a knit or a purl stitch to get the lattice effect. Because I wanted to have the contrast in texture between the purl and knit triangles, which would mean having some of the lattice on a knit section, I decided to use travelling stitches instead. In other words, when I came to make the row for the lattice go left or right, I would swap the order of stitches on the needle, much like for a cable. This makes the travelling stitches stand out really well.

I was intrigued during the knitting of the body. I mean, the yoke was immense fun. Between the excitement of casting on and the interest of working the stitch pattern, I had the yoke completed in an evening or two. But the body, though plain, had its own appeal. Only then could I see how the fabric of the fleece truly was. It is much browner than I anticipated; it has pooling of colour – something I did not expect at all from such a supposedly plain fleece; the ‘kemp’ and bobbles that I worried so much about during the carding and spinning process now give it a gentle texture that is so cosy.

You might like to know some real details! I knit it on 3.5mm needles and it gave a pretty dense fabric. The yoke, with its texture and high neckline, is extremely warm. I knit the collar, cuffs and hem on 3mm needles. I had to abandon my all-weather wooden needles and switch to metal ones because there was still so much oil in the yarn from the fleece and it was sticking like mad. I knit the 32″ size of the pattern which, with my gauge, gave me about a 33-34″ finished size.

I know that some people have perhaps grown tired of baking bread, or watering flowers. Or perhaps they have developed that kernel of interest into broader things like cakes and cucumbers! As for me, I am dreaming of what to spin my other fleece into.

An Update on WIPs

It is surprisingly difficult to write an update on my works in progress, after not having written one in so very long. As one project ends, another is begun; invariably I have two or three projects in various stages of completion at any one time and it can be difficult to know when a good time to dip in and share progress is. It is curious how such small things can create resistance, and curiouser still how the rumination on such curiosity creates a self-perpetuating procrastination. Even that sentence is a procrastination. And this one!

How about some progress on Lucy? I got the body finished!

I cannot remember if I mentioned that my wooden needles were slowly doing me. The wool is still very oily from the fleece (deliciously so! It smells amazing! And not in a bad way either) and it was sticking to the needles. I took myself along to This is Knit, got myself a pair of metal tips and I haven’t looked back. (It was so nice to visit there again! You can make an appointment so you don’t have to queue or anything to have all those lovely wool fumes to yourself). I have since started…

..and finished a sleeve. There is a lot of knitting in a sleeve but thankfully, from the top down, they get smaller as you go so it’s a bit like going down the hill on your bike. I also tried the jumper on when I finished off the body and how glad was I that it fit so snugly! I expect that when I wash it in some wool soap that it will loosen out a bit and fluff up, so a bit of snugness is no bad thing. It is incredibly warm. I cannot wait to finish it!

As I near the completion of one thing, I think forward to the next. I have been mulling over Kate Davies’ Seavaiger since May. A drapey batwing sweater with two colours of stripes, I think the design was published in the Spring of 2019. It is interesting to consider the role that colour plays in the portrayal of a design – it can really make or break an otherwise excellent pattern. Case in point with Seavaiger, I think, as the original colourway was so disinteresting to me that I passed over it completely. She updated the pattern this Spring in a different colourway: two shades of teal and worn with a orange red skirt (more on that in a minute!). I was instantly hooked. Sometimes I am drawn in by the quirk of an item but on further consideration, conclude that it is not really my thing or not something that I would ever realistically wear. Testament to this design is the fact that I am still obsessing over it nearly three months later.

So, what of the orange red skirt? The colour has been another preoccupation of mine this Spring. It is one that I fall in and out of love with regularly. Being such a strong colour, I think that I struggle with what to pair it with, but seeing it with teal (a colour I wear a lot) really clicked for me. And let’s face it: there comes a time in your life when you have to accept that not only do you want an orange and pink jumper, but that you want the orangiest and pinkiest jumper – in the world – ever – since the dawn of woolkind!

I have spent the last three months searching for the perfect orange, which is in fact neither orange nor red. Does anybody know the name of that colour? Tomato red? Killer Flamingo? Let me know. Anyway, I finally found the colours in a new-to-me 4-ply at The Constant Knitter. It’s from a brand called Rial Filati. This 4-ply, Baby Supremo, comes in a fab range of colours, and you can’t really go wrong with 200m for €3.99. My only criticism, if you could call it that, is that it is extremely soft yarn. Great for a drapey batwing jumper, and for baby knits, but maybe not so great for a jumper that you’d be knocking around in. Really looking forward to starting this and it will be the perfect antidote to the oatmealiness of my Lucy jumper.

Yet more colour to finish up for today: a pair of colourwork socks. Despite my longstanding love for knitting colourwork mittens, I had not to date tried a pair of socks in the same fashion. About two years ago, I happened upon a book on Ravelry called SoxxBook by Kersin Balke. It is in German and published by a company called Topp. As you’ll see from the Ravelry link there, it is full of vibrant colourwork designs with a warm, retro aesthetic. It has since been published in English but seeing that it was quite expensive, as a hardcover edition, I forgot about it. Imagine my delight then, when I happened upon the paperback edition quite by accident in the Liber bookshop in Sligo when I was last there! Obviously it had to come home with me and obviously I had to cast on immediately.

The red is a Drops Fabel, the turquoise is West Yorkshire Spinners 4-ply in Bubblegum and the purple is Schoppel Admiral. All very affordable and the latter two come in big 100g balls so I will have enough for probably two more pairs! I must admit that I was concerned about my gauge and how the colourwork might make them unwearably tight. But no, they fit great and I have half of the second one knit already. More soon!