Sul Tasto - Knitty Winter 2017's Stellen sock pattern
Allegretto - from Pom Pom Quarterly Summer 2017
Toofie - prove that you can find anything on Ravelry!
Yesterday was a terrible, no-good, very-bad crafturday.
To start: my sewing. After two pairs of mostly successful pajamas, I felt ready to move to the next pattern in my book, the Delphine Skirt. This included a few new skills, such as an invisible zipper, and a waistband, and Tilly really encourages you to practice altering your pattern for a better fit.
I had my reservations about this pattern from the beginning. The shape is not one that I would usually wear, as it accentuates my already wide hips. Additionally, I have a very high waist, so this type of skirt sits not-too-far underneath my breasts, which hasn't really been in style since the 40s - and I can't rock the retro look. Thus, with reservations, I went into skirt-making with the attitude of "I will use this as a learning experience.
In the end, I guess I learned to not spend time making something you don't like, especially if it contains so many stupid mistakes that you don't have the emotional wherewithal to try and correct them. The final straw for me was the waistband: after carefully pressing, pinning, and top-stiching the band, I realized that the inner waistband had not been caught by the stitches for most of the band. Thus I had the choice of: (a) unpick the topstitching, re-press, and repeat sewing, (b) hand-sew the waistband, or (c) give up. I picked c. I didn't even get to the hem. Life's too short to sew in anger.
I will live to sew again, although I must admit, I feel less than confident at this point, and worry about learning to hate sewing if my next project is also a cock-up. I have the materials to start my Megan Dress, but I might take a slight detour to the Hollyburn Skirt. The wonderful Miss Lavelli from Inside Number 23 has a series of sew-along videos, and this skirt is one I envision wearing regularly.
My other crafturday fail was not a true disaster, but it certainly contributed to my creative doldrums. After I emerged from sewing in the spare room, already feeling like a numpty I discovered that the ginger cake I had baked that morning, in an obvious effort to imitate the moon, had developed a ma-hoo-sive crater.
Again, it was small change in the grand scheme of life, but enough to make me feel like I needed to quit while I was behind, and just stick to watching Project Runway and Great British Bake Off.
Lest I forget that I'm not always a failure, I did recently complete knitting new jumper, which turned out pretty snazzy.
The wool is gorgeously woolly and alpaca-y, and I simply adore the merlot color. While it took me about 7 weeks to knit, I think it was well-worth the effort, and I look forward to wearing it this winter! The pattern is April by Isabell Kraemer, but I'm a flippin' rebel and I knit it in October/November.
I recently had a "milestone" birthday, and used it as an excuse to purchase a sewing machine. This is not my first jump into sewing: I had to leave my previous machine in England when I moved back to the States. I had planned to sell that machine to another poor student, but my ads on Gumtree went unanswered, so I left her with my in-laws. I don't know if she ended up in a charity shop or not, but I hope she is bringing someone joy.
I am no more than an amateur sewer (sewist?), with my most complex project being a tea cozy that is best described as "functional." This time, I decided to stick to straight edges and sharp corners, and avoid bias edging at all costs*, even though I really wanted to make a potholder again. My most recent creation has been 4 placemats which ended up 3 different sizes. I only achieved uniformity when I decided to create a cardboard template for tracing the last two mats, which also means two of my placemats have the same wonky corner.
Now that I've mastered the rectangle, I do feel ready to try my hand at home actual clothing! My mate Amy once recommended Tilly and Buttons, and I found a copy of Love at First Stitch in the library, which has a great basic pajama bottom pattern (I already ordered my own copy). I'm a little intimidated to start sewing round edges again, but I suspect that if I'm patient with myself and with the process, I can still make something to wear around the apartment.
Sewing again has actually been quite bittersweet. Last time I had a sewing machine, I was unemployed and facing a seemingly-unending line of rejection letters, whilst feeling very isolated in a large, unfamiliar city. I used money that was gifted during my Uni graduation to buy the machine, and sewing became synonymous with mornings sent mailing resumes and long afternoons of boredom and frustration. While my fellow students were sharing stories of new jobs and exciting trips, I felt like my free time was not a gift but a punishment for being a terrible student. Most of the time I enjoyed sewing, but buying new fabric and notions used up what little savings remained in my bank account, and even a few quid for a length of fabric felt like a splurge.
So, I can't help but reflect on the status of my life now vs. then. I am much happier in my current life than I was back then, but sometimes the memory of past sadness can follow you around for a few days, and you never really forget the true low points of your life. A mind that has healed from depression still bears some scars.
In addition to sewing, I have made good progress in some knitting recently. A co-worker is having a baby (my office is very fecund) and I thought I'd welcome him with a soft toy. Knitting toys can be very fun, as you move through lots of little pieces which continue to keep your interest. However, success is all in the finishing, and I don't really enjoy sewing-up by hand or stitching features. There are patterns which can be knitted with minimal sewing-up, but I really liked the look of this elephant, so I went with it.
Luckily he turned out pretty cute. I still have to sew eyes (right now he looks a bit creepy, I admit) and I'm debating if I will forgo the tusks included in the original pattern. The baby shower is in 10 days, so I have completed this well in advance! The pattern is simply called Elephant and is by Sarah Keen.
* There is no such thing as a beginner sewing project that includes bias edging
Lately, I wonder if I'm losing my voice.
When I was a child, I was a fervent writer. I wrote stories as a hobby, and loved the excitement of starting a new tale. In high school, I worked up the nerve to submit a few stories to local writing competitions, and in a few cases won prizes.
My career goal had always been science-based, with no intention of publishing any of my writing. I wrote stories mostly for myself, for the sake of enjoyment, and left it at that. At University, in addition to biology, physics, and biochemistry classes, I studied film theory, and loved the essay-writing component. I briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a film scholar, quickly realized that I would prefer more stable employment, and returned my focus to the sciences. I graduated, started vet school, and essays and stories disappeared quietly, now unnecessary in the world of scientific analysis.
My only writing, save for the occasional report at Uni, was in the form of blogging. Knitting really fired me up, so I had a lot to say. I also carried with me a sense that, even when shouting into the vast nothingness of the internet, someone would care what I have to say. And a few did, and I was pleased and grateful. I am just another blog, but I liked writing, and I was too excited about connecting with other knitters to feel much shame about my writing abilities.
Somewhere, along the way, I began to turn my voice off. I would start to write, make it halfway along, then decide that no one cared what I had to say, anyway, and close the window. Lather, rinse, repeat. Lots of finished ideas turned into unfinished essays, stored on Weebly's server but never published. My brain is already designed to overanalyze, which drove me through vet school, but in the "real world" it drives me insane with second-guessing. In addition to my personal self-doubt and self-criticism, the internet has become increasingly nastier within the last few years, and I do fear some sad douchebag deciding to invest his free time in harassing me. Luckily the knitting community is generally filled with kind people, and most t-r-o-l-l-s are too busy harassing minorities to really focus on some nobody's knitting blog, but ... the fear exists. Putting your voice on the internet feels riskier than ever.
I have been designing my own knitting patterns recently. Much like my childhood stories, these are purely for my pleasure, but a big part of me loves the idea of publishing them as well. However, the same insecurity that has caused me to lose my writing voice also challenges my desire to share these patterns with the world. I am not resilient against criticism - in fact, I am terrified of it, even in the mostly peaceful and kind world of knitters. However, having recently entered my 30s, it feels like time to buck up, most on from the scars of teenagedom, and put my abilities on display. I'm starting with baby steps, in the form of an essay. Maybe some more blogging, quietly spoken into the void, will follow. Mostly I just want to open the door - so here it goes.
I had a very special delivery in the mail on Saturday:
My favorite color is probably Yaffle (incorrectly labeled 'squall' above - no bother!) which is a luscious, earthy green. I think green is very underrepresented in the knitting world, and is usually more of the teal or blue-green variety. Personally, I think the deeper and richer hues which imitate the greens seen in the natural world are much more appealing. A blue-green ("Islay") has also been included in the set of colorways, so the spirit of multiple greens has been represented.
As mentioned, the first pattern is due out this Friday. Luckily my weekend plans include some dedicated knitting time!
*Let's pretend that I didn't get up at 5am to purchase yarn....
Nearly everyone in their pattern comments on Ravelry mentions that this was a poorly written pattern, and I can't disagree. There were a few sections which I completely improvised, and I still don't understand what the pattern actually wanted me to do. But, no matter, because the end result is adorable, and if my coworker's son never wears it, I wouldn't be too upset.
The buttons are actually a little trompe l'oeil: they are sewed directly on the front of the jumper, and the neck opening is actually secured with snaps. I am always fearful when it comes to sewing small items on baby clothing, but I do think that mom will appreciate the simplicity of snaps versus having to do up buttons with a (potentially) screaming and wiggly baby.
Ravelry link: Baby Taylor
I've placed a personal moratorium on knitting sweaters for myself. The reason is a bit boring, so let's skip that part, eh? The point is, the itch to knit a body, two sleeves, and yoke still remains, which is partially why I decided to knit a baby sweater for my coworker, who is expecting.
This project has not gone very smoothly. Here's a list of major mistakes which led to frogging and subsequent re-knitting (so far!)
I have a little mantra I've been repeating to myself recently: sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something*. I don't think that I suck at knitting, but I do suck at measuring sleeves and casting on in the round, at least right now. But I finished those sleeves, and I'm now working on the yoke. I think I'm going to suck at the collar. Probably on the third attempt, I'll be sorta good at it.
* Life lessons from a cartoon dog
My husband gave me a copy of Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting, by Ann Hood, for our "paper" anniversary this year. Already very successful within the knitting community (and maybe beyond?) since its release in 2013, a follow-up, Knitting Pearls, is due later this year.
After reading several essays, I can happily say I'm enjoying this book, although I have noticed a trend: an awful lot of these stories are by people who don't knit, and even worse, often don't want to knit. Whether due to fear of learning, a sour relationship with a knitter, or association with personal tragedy, these writers don't have exactly glowing reviews about knitting. Instead, they write as if trying to apologize for being a non-knitter in a book clearly intended for the yarn-inclined.
An essay from the follow-up was published online this week, and I was completely captivated reading it. The writer, Stephanie Danler, doesn't knit per se, but she can unravel: "I can undo years of careful stitching in fifteen gluttonous minutes,' she says. I particularly loved this passage:
Wait, when does a blanket become a blanket? Aristotle would need it to fulfill all its Causes. The first cause is material—the yarn, in this case. The formal cause would be the spread of fabric, the blanket in the sickroom. The efficient cause—or moving cause—would be the knitters, their hands specifically, which cause the material to take form. You would think that makes a blanket.
Like with many themed anthologies, essays about one topic are generally an excuse to talk about another. A book filled with sappy stories about how much the author loves knitting would be very boring indeed, but I couldn't help but wonder: in what ways do we talk positively about knitting, and are any of these new? There is a tight-knit online community of knitters which is growing every day, and acts as an extension of the long tradition of knitting circles. The ethnic history of knitting survives, and can now be admired and repeated by knitters from other, and perhaps distant, cultures. A large population of designers are businesswomen, and indie yarn shops are owned and managed by women more often than not. People use knitting to quit smoking, to meet new people, to pass the time, to deal with grief, and for any other number of empowering, creative, and meaningful reasons.
There are several writers included in Knitting Yarns (including Sue Grafton!) who do knit and enjoy it, celebrate it, and want to share it. The writers who love knitting are preaching to the choir here, but personally I'm happy to hear them singing its praises.
If you happen to pass by this blog, please share your essay about knitting - where it comes from, what it means, where it takes you, where you want it to take you - good or bad. I won't set a word limit for this essay!
My last post described a baking mishap, and included a fair amount of whingeing and self-pity. I can only assume that the universe was quite annoyed with me, and decided to teach me a little lesson, or at least try to (literally) knock some sense into me, because the following morning I tripped on some uneven sidewalk while running, and ended up with a nasty case of road rash. In additional to scuffing up my left arm and both palms of my hands, I also have my first ever black eye and a thick scab under my eyebrow.
Normally, I enjoy posting photos of life more than writing about it, but I will spare you the visual of my wounds. Over the past 48 hours my damaged skin has been starting to heal, but everything is still quite sore, and the wraps on my hands are not conducive to knitting! Still, I feel very lucky that my injuries are really minor, and that The Fall happened over a long holiday weekend, so I didn't have to power through work with fresh wounds.
I did manage to do some knitting today. Lately I've been trying to understand more of the mechanics of knitting and design, and I've also made a personal pledge to learn new techniques. To this end, I created a simple, geometric print with three colors to knit in the round, and cast-on for a swatch. The mess of threads below is the back of swatch, and it looks as confusing as it was to make.
Toward the final rows, I was much more comfortable with handling the three strands of yarn, with far less twisting and jumbling than when I cast on. The yarn is an inexpensive acrylic which is well-suited for throw-away work, but I know that some wool content would have made the stitches appear more even. I must admit I'm disappoint with the unevenness of the stitches, so this is a technique I must practice more before introducing to a finished item.
Inspired by a new season of The Great British Bake Off, I decided to bake a chocolate cake this evening, with the intent to ice it tomorrow morning, and enjoy it after our Labor Day lunch celebration. I generally consider myself to be a competent baker, with a moderate - although certainly not thorough - understanding of technique and the theory behind it.
Thus, I was quite disappointed that my cakes turned into total disasters this evening. The creation of the batter went smoothly enough, but things went awry once the cakes made it into the oven. To start, my standard 9" cake rounds were apparently too shallow for the baker at Williams and Sonoma who wrote my recipe. The batter bubbled up and over the edges with as much gusto as a volcanic hot spring bursting unceremoniously through a rocky hillside. This batter proceeded to spill over the bottom of my mother's oven, resulting in a nice smokey glow when I peeked through the oven window. On opening the over door, said smoke rapidly filled the kitchen, and it was apparent that the cake was still very, very unbaked.
After 20 minutes of extra baking time, I ended up with two rather dumpy looking cakes, and a kitchen embellished with smoke. I'm not completely sure what went wrong. Initially I was concerned that I had overbeaten the egg whites (and I probably did) but that would have prevented the cake from rising, or limited its rise. Thus, my baking autopsy suggests that the recipe author was smoking something when writing it.
Bubbling over the sides meant that the batter adhered to the rim of the cake pan. When attempting to turn the cake out of the pain, the area that was stuck to the pan cracked :(
I think the the cake will still taste nice, in the end. I learned a lot of lessons from this recipe: don't overbeat the eggs, place a baking sheet under your cake pans in case of explosion, and do not apply to go on Bake Off.
In other news, I have been on the road and living out of a suitcase for the past few weeks, so I am trying to keep zen by mindfully appreciating the craft things around me. I am inspired by my collection of buttons, lying like little soldiers at the wait, ready to be called to duty.
And amused by knitting books with humor.
From Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti
I am enjoying pretty cards from family and friends in celebration of my first year wedding anniversary.
Pardon the cliche, but an entire year has passed? Where has the time gone? This anniversary completely snuck up on me (which is why I was getting the other half of the anniversary equation his card on the very morning.) To celebrate the occasion, we drove to a pretty town by the sea, which included a cozy little local yarn shop. I came home with sand in the cracks of the car, three skeins of Rowan Cashsoft, and a mental plan for a hat.
However, the luxury hat will have to wait. For now, I shall continue to slog away at the blanket, and maybe squeeze in a jumper for a baby only two months away from joining us.
Mo Made This!
Knitting, crochet, sewing, baking, reading, and other domestic pursuits.