Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Summer of Basics Make Along

My sewing practice has switched over the last 18 months to 75% planning and 25% sewing as my energy still depletes quickly.  While initially frustrating, this has turned out to be a blessing in disguise and I have slowed down my sewing process.  I now sew French seams in the bulk of my makes and I am making much more thoughtful decisions about what I add to my handmade wardrobe.  I need to ensure that when I sit down at the machine, I'm making something that will be worn frequently and is something I love wearing.

I have been eagerly following Jen's (of Fringe Association) progress on her summer wardrobe planning.  I really enjoy her thorough process and care that goes on behind it.  In a recent post, she linked to Karen's post on the Fringe Association about the Summer Basics Make Along.  This is such an achievable make along for me as the simple premise is to make three wardrobe basics in three months.  Even if I have a flare during that time, I can still finish my makes in time to be enjoyed during summer!  As someone with a chronic illness, this feels like a victory even before I get started!

My local yarn store, Handknit Yarn Studio, has a knit night the first Thursday of every month.  Happily, I was well enough to go this month and I enjoyed myself immensely.  Kate and Tracey, the lovely owners, are experienced knitters and a pure joy to talk with as they are happy to share their wealth of knowledge.  I'm the newest member (I think) but everyone there makes you feel instantly welcome.  I brought my second Fade shawl to work on and received so many compliments.  It made me feel terrific!

Of course, knit night wouldn't be complete without a yarn purchase.  Ever the Cascade lover, I saw that there was a fresh stock of their Hampton yarn, a delectable blend of 70% pima cotton and 30% linen and is a DK weight; perfect for summer!  I chose this fantastic shade of French blue (colour #13).  Isn't it pretty?  Kate even caked it up for me as she knows I don't have a ball winder.  Any suggestions on that front would be much appreciated.  Winding up 450+ yards of fingering weight yarn is rapidly losing it's appeal!

Getting back to the Summer of Basics, I knew I needed a lightweight summer pullover.  I find that now that I'm no longer working, I prefer the comfort of a sweater over a cardigan.  No one is carrying on an extended battle with the thermostat anymore and having a consistent temperature is just lovely. LOL! I knew I wanted to knit something textured with an oversized/boxy fit.  I tend to dress in layers and need a garment will perform well in all seasons.

After a lengthy Ravelry search and falling in love with three new patterns, I chose Clio. Clio is a top-down, seamless knit (my favourite) with dropped shoulders and a wide neckline.  I love all of the texture happening in the pattern!  I plan to knit this with elbow length sleeves to make it more versatile for the warmer months.

For this make a long, I wanted to make an outfit comprised of pieces that look pretty together but also coordinate with all the separates in my summer wardrobe.  To that end, I chose an old favourite pattern for the top: Salme Pattern's Kimono Top.  I love this pattern.  It is so easy to sew and I feel great wearing it.  I'm going to rejig the pattern so that I can sew it with French seams - the preferred making method of sewing turtles like me (ha ha!).

For the fabric, I chose a gorgeous viscose poplin from Blackbird Fabrics which I bought earlier this year.  Following their Instagram feed in an exercise in restraint as every fabric posted is delectable!  It will be lovely and cool to wear during the summer and it works with absolutely every bottom I have. 

The last item on my basics list is a little gem of a skirt from Marilla Walker.  It's also a free pattern!  The Ilsley skirt is a simple elastic waist skirt with hip pockets and a neat curved hem.  Easy for me to wear and easy on my skin and joints as I will inevitably feel the heat and humidity there over the summer.  I love Marilla's patterns and have amassed a perfect collection for my personal sewing workbook.

I'm using one of my most favourite warm weather fabrics for the skirt: linen/rayon blend.  I normally order Robert Kaufman's Brussels Washer Linen (the only fabric I buy outside of Canada) but I found this in my local fabric store 2 years ago.  It's been sitting in my stash ostensibly earmarked for another pair of Vogue 2128 trousers but, on recent perusal, between Vogue 2128 and McCall's 2735, I have 5 pairs of linen trousers already and really don't need more. Linen skirts, however, are in short supply! Like my shirt fabric, this gorgeous teal goes with absolutely every top in my wardrobe.
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So those are my chosen basics!  I essentially live in linen and rayon during the summer so it makes a lot of sense to add these pieces to my wardrobe. I know I will enjoy making them (such a key component in crafting, isn't it) and I will love wearing them.

Are you joining in the Summer of Basics Make Along?  What basics are you planning on making?  I do love to read about what you're all making.  I find you all so inspiring :)

Now, I'm off to put up my swollen feet and work a few more rows on my Eugenie sweater.  I want to finish that, as well as my rose print New Look 6340 before starting these new projects.  Until next time, friends!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Sock Drawer Update

One of the amazing things I've learned so far this year is sock knitting.  I am enchanted by it and have fallen in love (as well as fallen down the rabbit hole) of sock yarn.  Self-striping preferred.  It's been raining for days here and there's no decent light to be had for love nor money.  I had to lighten these photos quite a bit, so if they look wonky, that's why.

The turning point in starting to knit socks came when I reread Christine, aka Winwick Mum's, free basic sock pattern where she listed tiny 30 cm circular needles as the main tools with DPNs only coming in at the end to knit the toe.

Let me tell you, the heavens opened and the angels sang when I read that.

I have always wanted to knit my own socks but my hands and fingers cannot tolerate using DPNs for an entire project.  As soon as I saw that it was possible to knit socks with circulars (my personal favourites), I whizzed online and bought a pair, as well as a skein of beautiful yarn. Then I stalked our poor postman until they arrived.

I was instantly hooked.  Since casting on my first pair, I have knit a total of 10 pairs since January!  I am amazed at myself and how easily I picked up this new skill.  Much of the credit is due to Christine and her exemplary pattern writing skills, step-by-step blog posts, and her inherent faith in you, as a knitter, that you can do this.  I really needed that.

Once I had finished my second pair, my daughter became very interested in handknit socks.  I have always made a lot of clothes and accessories for her but when she saw the colours and patterns available, she asked if I would make her some.

I made it a point to try several different sock yarns to see which one suited my hands and feet best.  I am amazed and enchanted by the sheer volume of choice available - both through corporate and independent dyers - and it's Opal Sock Yarn that has really captured my heart.  I love, love all the self-patterning options, the warm wooliness of the yarn, and the saturated colours; it's happiness in a ball for me! 

My daughter, on the other hand, is an avowed superwash merino fan.  She has sensitive skin and the superwash merino feels like heaven on her feet (her words).  Her favourite yarns are Knit Picks Felice - she adores the rainbow colourway - and Knit Picks Stroll Handpainted.  She loves choosing her own yarn and watching the stripes appear as I knit.

Sock knitting has been more than just a joyful new skill for me.  What I haven't mentioned before is that my PsA flared significantly in November, which has impacted my mobility and my creative abilities hugely.  I thank my years of typing and sign language interpreting for giving me strong hands which spared me some of the pain and swelling of the rest of my body.  I also have anxiety and it became active during this time, leaving me another factor to contend with.  Even when I could not do more than sit up in bed (and that took me over an hour to achieve), I could still knit a row or two on a sock and feel like I accomplished something that day, which went a long way in calming my personal dragons.  Without this, I would have most surely gone mad.

I seem to always have a pair of socks on the needles now, which I find quite satisfying.  Before this, my knitting projects were most often cardigans or sweaters which aren't as portable as socks.  I have spend a lot of time at various doctors' appointments lately and being able to bring my socks not only helped to pass the time but improved my overall mood.  I even found out that my family doctor is a knitter, too!

Both my daughter and I wear our socks daily, unless the weather is too warm.  My feet have been nice and toasty for the first time in years!  I wanted to post photographs of my daughter's socks, too; however, they're either on her feet or in the wash. 

Our handmade socks are joyfully coloured and patterned and are already showing signs of love with some pilling.  I thought of getting one of those knit shaver gadgets until my daughter reminded me that pilling isn't a big deal.  She's right.  For isn't that one of the joys of making?  Seeing your creations becoming worn and loved?

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What are your favourite sock patterns?  Do you like to knit toe up or cuff down?  Let me know in the comments below - I'd love to know.

I like cuff down as my cast on is always stretchier than my cast off.  Plus, I find making the heel flap very satisfying.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Queen of Tides

Hello everyone! If you've come over from Rhinestones & Telephones, it's lovely to see you and I'm glad you're here.  Today I'd like to share one of my recent makes, which is, quite frankly, a personal knitting triumph.

Like many others, I was captivated by the Find Your Fade shawls as soon as yarn combinations and WIP photos began popping up on Instagram. It took me a little while to cast on my own as I was quite a bit intimidated by the sheer size of the shawl and the fact that it was knit with fingering weight yarn; over 1000 yards of it! I needn't have worried though, as this has been one of the most satisfying knits I've ever done.

The pattern is by Andrea Mowry of Drea Renee Knits and is beautifully written.  There's no getting around the fact that this is a big project but Andrea keeps it interesting and fun by breaking the pattern up into manageable pieces.  Even knitting just a few rows feels and looks like progress.  The garter stitch sections are squishy and bouncy and the mesh lace is simple enough that I knit much of this watching Netflix in bed!

Half the fun is deciding on which yarns to use for your project.  It makes a good stash buster for those of us with large fingering weight stashes - mine is still modest and consists of mostly self-striping sock yarn.  I did; however, use a blend of high end and budget yarns in my shawl.  I had a couple of false starts before deciding on my colour scheme. 

Being relatively new to the sock yarn / fingering weigh yarn world, I wanted to try something nice to knit with but not too expensive, just in case I didn't like the experience.  I chose a beautiful Knit Picks yarn called Hawthorne Speckle Hand Paint in Aquatic Speckle.  The soft mint colour reminded me of sea glass (a favourite of mine) and it was the starting point for the whole shawl.

For Christmas, I was so lucky to receive a large bag of yarny goodies from my lovely friend, Theresa.  She filled it with such love and thoughtfulness that I was moved to tears and I wanted to be sure to choose projects that did justice to both the beautiful yarn and her kindness.  This shawl was ideal. In the end, I used a blend of Knit Picks Hawthorne yarns and Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock.  The high twist and lush colours of the Hawthorne yarns (I used yarn from the Hand Paint, Kettle Dye, and Multi lines) really played well with the Sweet Georgia.  Believe me, their reputation for excellence is well-deserved!

It took me approximately 7 weeks to knit the entire shawl and then blocking it was an adventure in itself.  It was so big that I had to block it in my bathtub - a first for me - and it was larger than my entire worktable, which is over 5 feet wide  I'm a loosey-goosey blocker but I think I did end up with the suggested wingspan of 100 inches from tip to tip.

I love wearing this shawl.  The fact that it is essentially a socially acceptable blanket is a definite point in its favour.  The merino wool is butter soft and it is breezy light to wear but still warm and cozy.  Every time it gets an outing, I receive compliments.  Even my family doctor loved it and after all the years she has cared for us, I finally found out that she is a knitter, too!  Who knew?

This is by far the largest and most ambitious project I have ever completed.  I worked on it at a nice steady pace and enjoyed every minute.  I liked this project so much that I have cast on a second Fade shawl and I'm approximately half way though. I tend to post WIP photos on my Instagram, in case you're interested. 

If you've been curious about knitting shawls or are looking for an interesting pattern, I highly recommend Find Your Fade.  It's knit asymmetrically so you're not left with 4 million stitches on the needles; something that feels like a slog to me.  Don't be put off by the light weight of the yarn, either.  I am normally a worsted weight knitter but I felt comfortable with the 3 mm circular needle and yarn quite quickly.  It felt natural and satisfying as I was working with it.

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What's on your needles?  Do you have a pattern to recommend?  I'm still working away on my socks (10 pairs since January 2017) and I think I may try cables or lace soon.  I do find knitting with self-striping yarn to be enormously satisfying!
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