Me Made May

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For the last two years I’ve watched other bloggers take the the Me Made May pledge, and followed through the month as they’ve rocked their handmade wardrobe in a really public way (so many people post daily outfit pictures during the month, which feels like a more public way to dress than just to wear your clothes and go about your day). Last year I really wanted to join in, but I knew I didn’t have the wardrobe to do; this year I think I’m right on the cusp. I have a few skirts, a few tops, one lightweight cardigan, and some accessories. I’m not sure it’s really enough to get my through the whole month, but I’m going to try (and I plan to add to the tally as I go along).

Technically, I think I’m too late to make the official pledge, but I don’t care. Having a largely handmade wardrobe is a slow process, so maybe being slow to pledge can also be slow. I want to make this month as thoughtful and useful as possible, so I took my time thinking about what I wanted to get out of it, and here’s what I’ve come up with.

First, I want to really assess my handmade wardrobe. It’s small, so there are lots of holes, but I want to get a real sense of what works and what doesn’t, so I know what to add going forward. I also want to be really aware of what I’ve made so far, how those garments fit, and how they make me feel, because I don’t want to spend time making things unless those things are going to make me feel great later.

Second, I’ve been slowing thinking about my wardrobe in a more holistic sense (hence all those links last week), and I think this will help. I’m not sure how to explain it exactly, but I want to be less haphazard about how I dress. It’s not that I think I dress badly, but I think I can definitely be more thoughtful, and the idea of putting each outfit out into the world will force me to be dress in a way that I’m proud of every day. This isn’t about dressing up, but it’s more about being more precise in my choices, and even if my actual outfits don’t change much in the end (I will probably always gravitate toward jeans + t-shirt + cardigan, and I’m okay with that), I at least want to know that I’m dressing a certain way by choice and not out of habit. (Does that make sense?)

So, here we go:

I, Angela, am signing up for Me Made May 2015 with the goal of building an outfit around something Me-Made 5 days a week (this means a pair of socks won’t cut it, but a great shawl might). I will endeavour to post a photo each day on Instagram.

Left to right: My one and only successful Wiksten Tank, with Grace; and my Shaelyn shawl with New Girl.

Left to right: My one and only successful Wiksten Tank, with Grace; and my Shaelyn shawl with New Girl.

I am surprisingly excited about this challenge, especially since L and I are going away for 10 days and I have no idea how a me-made wardrobe will work for our trip (about which, more later). I’m not going to do weekly roundups, but I will do a sum-up post at the end of the month. Is anyone else doing Me Made May this year? What do you think of this whole thing? (Honestly, as a knitter, I think Me Made March would be way easier to commit to).

Here and There

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Fika! (Nearly) half-done a pair.

Fika! (Nearly) half-done a pair.

One of my favourite things on other blogs is when the writer posts a list of thoughtful links, with little details about each. I read a lot, but I also miss a lot, and it’s nice to get a chance to catch up. It’s also a little window into what that person finds interesting enough to remember days later, so it offers another way to know them, in addition to whatever it is they make/do. So, I thought I’d try my hand at it. I’m not sure if I’ll make this a regular-regular feature, since I think the best of these lists are sporadic and written only when there’s a collection of really good things, but we’ll see.

Anyway, here are some things I’ve been meaning to share:

  • First, an on-the-needles update, since I’ve been bad at that. Above, the first Fika sock. I subscribed to PomPom last month after years of thinking about it (should have just done it ages ago, there are always at least two patterns I want to make) and cast these on almost as soon as the issue arrived. At the bottom of this post you can see the start of a swatch for Balta. I realized I don’t really have many warm-weather knits, and I want to change that. I bought Gudrun’s book when it came out, and though I didn’t anticipate this would be the first thing I made from it, it’s nice to be surprised.
  • I am very interested in the idea of capsule wardrobes, and this GGC post pointed me over to this new-to-me blog, where I entered a capsule rabbit hole. I’m not sure I could do it (or want to do it), but it turns out I can read a lot about it.
  • Further to that, Karen’s wardrobe planning posts inspired me to not only go out and purchase myself a Fashionary (from her shop, of course), but to actually sketch in it! This is a magic book, because I am not very good at drawing and all my sketches look good (to me, anyway). I’m not sure yet how I plan to use this book, but for now it’s quite fun, so no plan is necessary.
  • Okay, last fashion-y one: This Into Mind post on why dressing for your “body type” is bullshit was awesome. It hits so many important points, and for me, made me rethink the way I think about shopping and clothes in general: Am I wearing what I want to wear or am I wearing what I’ve been told I should? Who decides what’s flattering? Etc. Anyway, it’s a great (not too long) read, and I found it empowering.
  • I had to go over to my Twitter to find the link for that last one and I was reminded about this amazing looking salad that I now want to make this weekend. Perhaps my favourite thing about this recipe, though, is the write-up that introduces it, and in particular this bit, about our tendency to search out all the good parts amid the filler: “We’re all a little hard-wired to eat like slightly deranged miners, pioneers panning for gold and the lone, lingering pine nut. We’re selfish, eyes-on-the-prize creatures—especially when we eat, when we are at our most creature-like.” YES.
  • Also food-related, this is what I’m going to make for dinner tonight (provided L picks up some pearl barley, which I foolishly forgot earlier, even though it was on my list.) I work weird hours and don’t cook much during the week, which makes me very recipe conscious on the weekend. (I’m going to make this salad to go with it — I make it all the time for lunch and it’s delicious.) (**Edited to add: The mushroom-barley porridge was delicious, but use more mushrooms than the recipe says. I used a whole bad of shiitakes and was very glad I did so.)
  • Let’s end on an adorable note. Sam posted some new pictures of baby Amber and she is so cute I can hardly stand it. (Also, check her out in her little sweater! Such a good fit right now.)
  • **Late-breaking addition: Six years ago my sister and I went to Nepal to volunteer in a daycare. The daycare allowed mothers to work outside the home (and taught the children both English and Nepalese, as well as giving them a big healthy meal) which meant greater financial independence for women, thereby allowing them to contribute to their families and/or leave abusive situations. We went there with The Mountain Fund, an organization whose progress I’ve followed ever since. There are lots of ways to help victims of the recent earthquakes in Nepal, all of them good, but if you’re wondering how to ensure your money goes directly to help, this is a safe bet. They’re on the ground and already working to rebuild. You can follow their progress and challenges here on Twitter.**
Swatching for Balta. (And yes, that is a personalized yarn bowl. My LYS is the best!)

Swatching for Balta in Quince & Co. Sparrow. (Yes! that is a personalized yarn bowl. My LYS is the best!)

Spring Scouting

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When it comes to writing about sewing, I am terrible. Part of it is definitely a practice issue — I am definitely a seasonal sewist — but part of it is also that sewing is so much quicker than knitting, which means I have less time process time during which to think about what I’ll eventually say. The result, of course, is a back log of projects, which I find weirdly intimidating to write about (as if, since they’ve been kicking around, I should have more to say). ANYWAY, this preamble is just more procrastination, so I will just jump in.

This was meant to be a test shot, but I actually kind of like the angle. Anyway: I'm not sad, is what I'm trying to say.

This was meant to be a test shot, but I actually kind of like the angle. Anyway: I’m not sad, is what I’m trying to say.

As I said, I am a seasonal sewist, so when the warm(ish) weather arrived about a month ago, coinciding with Felicia’s simple sewing series, I was inspired (inspired!) to revisit Grainline Studio’s Scout Tee, which I had tried before but never quite gotten right. I read lots of sewing blogs over the winter, so I was feeling vicariously confident in my skills. I pulled out the pattern pieces, made some alterations, and whipped up this pink floral top. (Would I have said this fabric was my style before this shirt? Maybe not. Why did I have it in my stash? In a fit of spring fever a year ago, I bought four metres of it! Thank goodness I like it so much now).

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This spring fever Scout is a very, very wearable muslin. It does billow a little in back, so I made a few tweaks before making a second one.

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I love this fabric. Love it. And it’s even better for being navy — my go-to neutral — since that makes an otherwise whimsical print very easy to wear. I am a big fan of elbow-length sleeves (I often roll my regular sleeves up this high), and it’s a great length for spring. These sleeves are slim enough to fit comfortable under a cardigan, but still have enough room to move around in. I suspect I’ll make a couple more tops in this style for the fall, though its probably safe to switch over to t-shirts for now.

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Another test shot that worked out pretty well!

So, what do you think? I have two more of these to blog about (I don’t have photos, or I’d have lumped them all in here together), so I hope it isn’t deadly boring. Is anyone else feeling the urge to sew as the weather warms up?

Edited to add: I completely left off the usual Details part of this post. Maybe if I treat sewing FOs the way I treat knitting ones, the blogging will be a little easier? Hmm. Anyway, here it is:

Details
Pattern: Scout Tee by Grainline Studio
Fabric: Anna Maria Horner Voile in Cell Structure in Americana (from Field Study) and Cotton + Steel Lawn in Window Vine (from Homebodies)
Notes: I honestly can’t remember what size I started out with, so I’m not sure helpful these modification notes will be (I think I may have started with a size 8, based on the finished garment measurements). Anyway: Initially I did an FBA and graded the side seams in two sizes at the waist. I noticed that I had a lot of extra fabric at the centre front (a lot), so in a move that worked for me (but might not for you!) I cut an inch off the pattern piece (thus taking two inches out of the centre front; as I said, there was a lot of extra fabric just sitting there, yet the top didn’t fit properly at the sides without the FBA). I then re-drew the neckline and did a slight broad-back adjustment to make up the difference. I also added an inch to the length and did French seams where I could.

I should note that because I started all these alterations months ago (there was another muslin somewhere around the holidays) that part of the reason everything is in a jumble is because I didn’t really know what I was doing. Undoubtedly choosing a more appropriate size from the get go would have lessened the alterations. This really is a simple and straight-forward pattern if you don’t go crazy overthinking it (as I sort of did). In the end, though, I’m happy with the pattern pieces I have, which is the main thing.

Light it up

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It never fails to amaze me how quickly I can get something finished if I just focus on it. A few days after I posted about my current socks, I noticed a hole in the heel of one of my favourite pairs. The next day, I found a hole in the heel of another pair. Despite those holes being entirely unrelated to the pair on my needles, finding them lit something of a fire under me, and barely more than a week later I finished that pair.

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I actually would have been done sooner, but I made a very foolish yarn calculation when going away for Easter weekend and ran out of yarn (I know better than this, and yet…) Oh well. They’re finished now and they are as fun as I hoped they would be.

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Originally, I’d only been planning contrast heels, but then a couple of you suggested contrast toes too, and I’m so glad you did. They are the perfect touch. For more fun, I alternated the stripe sequence between socks. It’s subtle, and a nice little twist on perfectly matched stripes. (I’d already planned to do this, but it came in extra handy over Easter since it meant I didn’t have to waste any of the yarn I had with me.)

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There’s not much to say about these. They’re my standard 68-stitch, top-down sock. The stripes ended up being a perfect width to base measurements on, which doesn’t always happen, but definitely makes lining things up from one sock to the other much easier.

Details
Yarn: Knit Picks Felici in Lighthouse (with leftover Sweet Fiber Super Sweet Sock in Spanish Coin for the contrast)
Pattern: Old faithful
Notes: No change from the usual, though I will say the choice of contrast colour was inspired by lighthouse lights. That subsequently led to my project name, which meant every time I picked these up this song would pop into my head, making for quite an enjoyable project. Ravelled here.

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Clothes for a sheep

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Amber4

Six weeks ago, two of our best friends had a baby. I already knew I was going to love this kid (her parents are the best — how could she not be!?) but when she held on ten extra days just so she could be born on Chinese New Year, I knew she was a kindred spirit. This is the year of the sheep (or goat), and any baby who wants to be a sheep that badly is clearly going to be showered with knitting. (Also, be warned, there are a lot of photos in this post. Between her inherent cuteness and her dad’s fantastic photos, I couldn’t resist.)

Two days old, already hamming it up.

Two days old, already hamming it up.

We met little Amber the day she came home from the hospital, and as soon as I knew we were going I decided that whip up a little something to bring with us (besides, of course dinner and treats for her parents). I decided to go with a hat, for both speed and immediate practicality. It was friggin’ cold the week she was born (down around -40C with windchill some days), and as most Canadians learn early in life, a hat is indispensable in the winter.

About a week old.

About a week old.

I thought about going with a hat I’ve already made, but where’s the fun in that? I did a quick search through my Ravelry favourites and decided to go with the Garter Ear-Flap Hat from Purl Soho. It’s ridiculously cute with the little ear flaps, and the funny tassel on top was a huge hit. I knit the smallest size, in lighter weight yarn, and it still came out pretty big for a newborn. It will get her through her first winter though, so I consider that a success.

Details
Pattern: Garter Ear-Flap Hat by Purl Soho
Yarn: Tosh Merino DK in Candlewick
Notes: I sped up the decreases to get a (slightly) smaller hat. You can see my notes (such as they are — I knit this quickly and a little on auto-pilot) here.

She loves it.

She loves it. (Also, maybe I should whip her up some tiny mittens?)

These days Amber is also rocking the Wee Envelop sweater that I knit her months before she was born. I was worried at the time that it might be too small, but it turns out it’s the perfect one-month size, and a big hit.

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She’s just over a month old here. 

I wrote about this little sweater in the fall when I was knitting it, but I never got proper photos of it before I gifted it, so it didn’t really get its due here. Seriously, though, what a fun knit. I’ve still only knit the one, but it will definitely become a go-to pattern for future babies (and perhaps for Amber, since there’s a generous size range in the pattern).

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I love a good top-down raglan as much as anyone (and my love of Sunnyside has not yet abated), but it’s fun to knit something a little different, and the construction of this sweater is clever in the best way — that is, it’s fun to knit without being needlessly complicated. I also love that, because you knit the sleeves and yoke first, you can knit the body until you run out of yarn (if you want). That, plus the potential for fun buttons, makes this such a winner for me.

Details
Pattern: Wee Envelop by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Indigodragonfly Superwash DK in My World is All Askew
Notes: I knit this so long ago I don’t really remember if I changed anything. I knit it at a slightly smaller gauge, so I did make some modifications to accommodate that, but nothing that changed the overall look or construction. Ravelled here.

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In progress

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Stockinette is not the most exciting fabric to look at, but it’s all I have to offer at the moment.

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I cast on Epistrophy a couple of weeks ago, and after a bit of a false start (the errata wasn’t linked to the project page, though it is now), it’s been going alone quite nicely. I’m adding 2.5 inches to the length of the body, so it’s just as well I’m enjoying all this knitting. I’m getting quite close to the point where I need to join the sleeves, which of course means I’m getting quite close to the point where I need to actually knit the sleeves. I’m hoping the anticipation of the fun yoke knitting will keep me going through the sleeves so I can get this done before it really is too warm to wear it (it’s snowing right now, so I think there’s a good chance I’ll be able to wear this before the warm weather really arrives).

I couldn't resist the contrast heel.

I couldn’t resist the contrast heel.

And of course there are socks. Usually I keep plain stockinette socks as background knitting, as an alternative project for when I’m working on something more involved. At the moment, Epistrophy isn’t all that challenging, so these have languished. They’re quite fun, though, and I suspect that once I decide I need a break from all that treacle-coloured tweed they’ll be quite  palate cleanser.

For sure, though, one of the reasons I’m so content to just sit and knit stockinette for ages on end is that I’ve been sewing. At the moment, it’s the perfect balance of getting the satisfaction of both finishing things and having a longtime project. I’m hoping to get some proper photos in the next few days so I’ll have some actual finished things to show you soon!

An unplanned pair

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When I wrote that rambly, chatty post about socks, I really didn’t intend to turn it into a series. But then lots of you commented, and I got emails and Ravelry messages, because (of course) I’m not the only ones with thoughts on socks. Lots of you got in touch with notes of sock solidarity, but there were also quite a few questions about how to get started with sock knitting, or about fit or care, so I thought I’d do a little follow-up covering all that stuff. This is, of course, just from my own perspective, so please feel free to chime in in the comments if you have tips/tricks/patterns to add to this sock primer.

Getting Started

One of the best things about being a beginner, in my opinion, is not know what’s supposed to be “advanced.” When every project means learning a new skill, everything is equally advanced, so don’t be afraid to go for socks right away if that’s what you want to knit. I knit my first socks in worsted-weight yarn, which was good for speed (and being able to see the stitches), but I didn’t know all that much about what I was doing, so the fit isn’t the best. Socks were my third knitting project. I knit a scarf, I knit a cowl, and then I knit socks, which just goes to show that you don’t have to be super advanced, just open to trying something new.

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The first pair of Stepping-Stones I made (for my mom), knit in Malabrigo Rios. (These were not my first socks. I still have my first pair, but I don’t have any photos for some reason. )

If you want to just knit a pair of socks to figure out construction, and you live somewhere where a pair of worsted weight socks will be useful at least once in a while, Clara Parkes’ Stepping-Stones pattern (it’s free) is a good place to start. It’s more interesting than plain stockinette, teaches you basic construction, and comes in a couple of sizes. I’m wearing a pair of these socks now, actually, so I can attest to this being a good pattern.

For lighter-weight socks, both Glenna C.’s A Nice Ribbed Sock and Kate Atherley’s Peppermint Twist Sock (stripes optional) are great for beginners. Both of these socks use a flap heel (they’re both knit top-down) and the Nice Ribbed Socks include instructions for a slip-stitch heel (my personal preference), which creates a thicker, more friction-resistant fabric excellent for heels.

I really dug into the archives for this one! Behold a slip-stitch heel in al its glory.

I really dug into the archives for this one! Behold a slip-stitch heel in al its glory. (The rest of the pattern is Hermione’s Everyday Socks, which is great.)

Sock Literature*

Book-wise, there are a ton of great resources. As far as reference books go, I have both Sock Knitting Master Class and The Knitter’s Book of Socks, and would highly recommend both. Master Class is filled with really excellent information about technique and construction, and includes both toe-up and top-down patterns, with lace, cables and colourwork included among the options. It also has a DVD of some of the techniques, which I found really helpful when I was starting out.

The Knitter’s Book of Socks has lots of patterns as well, but the main thing it will teach you is how to choose the right yarn. There are so many different yarns marketed for socks, and I found the way Clara Parkes breaks down different yarns’ characteristics totally fascinating. It has given me a whole new way to analyze my stash, and it makes me consider yarns differently when I’m in my LYS or planning a new project.

Willowherb, from Coop Knits Socks.

Willowherb, from Coop Knits Socks.

For pure fun, I’m also a huge fan of Rachel Coopey (as you no doubt know) and her book, Coop Knits Socks, is full of great patterns. They’re more advanced, and the instructions are less hand-holding, but if you’ve knit a pair or two of socks, you’ll be fine. Her new book, Coop Knits Socks Vol. 2, actually includes a plain pair of socks (named Dave, because everyone knows a Dave), so it has the base and all the fun.

Operation Sock Drawer

Wherever you start, don’t be afraid to tweak a pattern until it suits you. Personally, I like a tight gauge (9 sts = 1 inch is typical for me), which means I have to knit more stitches on a smaller needle, but that’s okay with me. It also took me ages to figure out exactly how long to knit my foot and then how wide a toe I liked. Each pair is a little experiment, and although I think I have it figured out now, I’ll probably try something a little differently one of these days and then tweak things a little more. That’s what makes it fun.

I also tweak the socks I knit for others: These were my dad's Christmas socks, mostly the same as last year's, but with a few subtle changes.

I also tweak the socks I knit for others: These were my dad’s Christmas socks, mostly the same as last year’s, but with a few subtle changes.

Some tweaks are built into a pattern: You can decide for yourself (usually) how much ribbing you want at the top of the leg, how long you want the leg to be, how long you like your heel flap (and how to knit it, or whether to swap it out for a different heel), where to start the toe, etc. One thing I would recommend if you’re new to sock knitting and go the heel-flap route is to more or less ignore the number of stitches the pattern says you have to pick up along the gussets. If you knit a longer heel flap, you’ll need to pick up more stitches (one through each selvedge, and then one or two extras at the top, to ensure you don’t have a hole; if you have a high arch, for example, a longer heel flap and longer gussets are going to make for a better fit). The main thing is to ensure you pick up the same number on each side and then decrease until you’re back to the right number of sole stitches.

I also convert basically every pattern’s decrease directions so that I can use Cat Bordhi’s Slim and Trim SSKs technique (which I just think of as the “hungry stitch method”). It does require both a set-up row (the initial slipping row) and then a closing row (feed the stitch, then knit it), but I love how clean it looks and how easy it is to incorporate into the gussets and toes of my socks.

I love how well the SSKs and K2Togs match, even if the dyelots don't.

I love how well the SSKs and K2Togs match, even if the dyelots don’t.

Wear and Care

As far as washing goes, I sometimes hand wash and I sometimes throw my socks right into the laundry. For hand washing, I just fill up a basin with cool water, add some rinseless wool wash (Soah Wash, Euclan, and Allure are all good ones), and let them soak for a half hour or so (when I add the socks to the water, I squeeze them under the surface, to make sure the water and soap really gets in there, but that’s the extent of the work I put in). After they’ve soaked, I press the water out (squeeze, but don’t twist or wring), roll them up in a towel to get more water out, and then hang them to dry. When I throw them in the laundry, I make sure they’re in a load without towels (or other items that might encourage felting) and make sure the water is cold. Then I hang them to dry. (I don’t do anything fancy when I hang them. Just straighten them out so they aren’t all twisted up and then hang them on a clothes rack or the towel rod.)

Once you start wearing your socks they will, probably, start to wear out. There are lots of great darning tutorials, though I love this one from Twist Collective and have used it to great effect. Some brave people actually cut out the toes or heels and then reknit them and graft them into place, but I have yet to try that (it hasn’t been necessary). Of course, you can always use a worn out pair of socks as an excuse to knit something fun and new, and I would never judge you for it.

Anyway, there you go! What did I miss?

*My friend and I went to the Textile Museum of Canada last week and there was an exhibit of rugs that kept referencing “rug literature,” which I thought was both hilarious and awesome.

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