Balta

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Oh my gosh, you guys, I actually finished something. It feels like it has been ages (and, according to Ravelry, it has been nearly two months!) since I finished anything, and it feels fantastic. That the finished knit is Balta, my dream summer top, makes it feel that much better.

Normally, I would wait for some proper photos before posting about an FO, but honestly, I have no idea when we’ll be able to take those. I’m working much longer days now, and that plus the unseasonable coolness and general mayhem of summer is making it hard to squeeze in photoshoots (I have a couple of sewn things to post about too, if I ever get photos). All of which is to say, I’m sorry that these are boring on-a-hanger shots, but they’re the best I could do, and at least my hair isn’t covering up any of the pretty details.

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I haven’t really posted about Balta (I haven’t really posted about much, have I?), but I cast on at the end of April and, what with one thing and another, cast off at the beginning of July. I had originally thought I’d squeak this in under the TTTKAL deadline, but that was definitely a faint hope. I’m glad I didn’t rush things though, because giving up on the deadline gave me time to make a few little changes and think about what I was doing, which served me well in the long run.

Gudrun’s design is really fantastic, and the instructions are clear and concise. The front and back are knit exactly the same until the lace, so I knit each piece that far and then decided which one I thought was better and used that for the front. My gauge was a little uneven on the first piece I knit (it always takes me a while to get used to linen), so that became the back, and actually, everything blocked out nicely. For the front, I knit the lace as written, but I was worried about the depth of the neck — it looked … shallow, so I left the shoulders on waste yarn and knit up the back lace, then pinned the two sets of shoulders together and tried it on. And yes, it was too snug (for me) at the neck. I suspect my row gauge was off, so I just knit anther repeat on each side (this isn’t specifically worked into the pattern, but is easy to figure out), omitting the decreases, and perfect!

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Of course, that extra repeat added depth to the armholes and when I finished the shoulders and tried everything on I was convinced I’d made a hideous error. The armholes were enormous, showing, frankly, almost my whole bra from the side (and a bit from the front), and the lace section at the front seemed too narrow and I really thought all was lost. I considered ripping all the way back and reknitting, but instead I did something sensible: I seamed the sides and followed the instructions for finishing the armholes. I just did one side, since it seemed like a lot less work to rip that out than to rip and reknit the whole top of the front, and wouldn’t you know it, they’re just fine. I always forget about the way picking up stitches changes the drape and shape of fabric, and in this case it changed a drooping hole into a nice, tailored armhole. What a relief (and thank goodness I didn’t rip everything out!).

I did add a couple of garter ridges to the armhole, just to ensure there was enough width to cover my bra straps, but other than that I didn’t change anything about them. (I had contemplated adding a couple of short rows to the bottom, to fill in some of the depth, but it wasn’t necessary.)

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I found the perfect little mother of pearl button in my stash to finish the back (and it was a single, so I didn’t have to break up a set), and that’s that. I am really pleased with this top, which is loose and breezy, without being shapeless, and will add some proper modelled shots when I get them.

Details
Pattern: Balta by Gudrun Johnston (from the Shetland Trader Book 2, but also available as a single pattern)
Yarn: Quince & Co. Sparrow in Blue Spruce
Notes: As noted above, I changed the order of construction (knitting both pieces up to the lace, rather than knitting each one to completion). I also added an extra repeat to the lace front after the neck decreases were complete, and added an extra garter ridge to the armhole. Ravelled here.

Here and There

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Funny, sheepy sign above a little restaurant in Villars, Swizerland.

Funny, sheepy sign above a little restaurant in Villars, Swizerland.

Whoa. I did not mean to disappear for so long! It turns out that two trips in three weeks does quite a number on your to-do list, and I’m only just starting to feel caught up (this is my first full weekend at home in five weeks! It feels like magic). Anyway, in lieu of mountain photos (they are coming, even if only for myself at this point) or anything finished (Balta is so close!) here are a bunch of interesting things I’ve read/watched/seen in the last month or so.

  • Google Sheep View! It’s exactly what it sounds like and I can’t get enough of it.
  • Speaking of sheep, apparently Switzerland’s rail line keeps flocks of sheep to “mow” the land near the tracks. We didn’t get to visit them (sad face), but there is a whole blog dedicated to the sheep, and written from their point of view, on the SBB’s website.
  • 3-D printed clothing. I’m really not sure about this (looks a bit plastic-y to me), but it will be interesting to see if this goes anywhere.
  • Fleeced! Etymology is fascinating, and if the medieval wool trade was indeed this corrupt, I’m not surprised that’s a word we still use (albeit rarely).
  • “The first step in the process is deciding what you need, which can be surprisingly difficult.” — from The Life of a Garment: The Planning Process, part of a great little series in Paste by Elizabeth Hyer, about creating a handmade wardrobe.
  • Karen released the latest Fringe Hatalong pattern and it’s a worsted-weight version of Gudrun Johnston’s Hermaness Hat. Although I am not a big hat wearer, I regret that every winter, so maybe I should just buckle down and knit this one, which I like quite a bit (I was already eyeing the original). Is it crazy to be thinking about hats and mitts when the weather is just starting to fully turn to summer?
  • Finally: What do I do with these garlic scapes? I see them every year and am always curious, so I finally bought some. Now what? (I am googling, but I always appreciate recommendations.)

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MMM recap

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I had intended my next post to be a mountain-photo extravaganza, but then I realized that if I didn’t do a Me Made May roundup now, I probably never would. I didn’t do weekly updates here, as some other bloggers did, and at the end I didn’t even post photos to Instagram with any kind of regularity, but I did continue to take them. So, here we go, Me Made May 2015, in one handy, approximately chronological, collage:

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I’m not going to list every piece in every photo — if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll probably recognize all the knitwear, and almost everything is detailed on Instagram (at least when I posted there)/Ravelry or under the Sewing tab at the top of this page. There are a few tops up there that I haven’t gotten around to blogging, but they’re all Scout Tees. Far and away, my two favourites are my Double Gauze Scout (dark blue with white polka dots) and my Chambray Scout (very lightweight, with a pocket — centre of the second row). They’re both easy to wear, fit fantastically (I think) through the shoulders and bust, and stand up well to a full day’s wear (ie: they don’t wrinkle horrendously). It was really too chilly to wear many skirts or dresses, but as summer gathers steam I think another Madeleine skirt is definitely in the cards for me — I love wearing the feathered one I made last year, and I think a second one in a drapier fabric would be fantastic.

Knitwear-wise, there’s a whole lot of orange up there, so you can be sure I’m planning more lightweight cardigans (which I also mentioned in my last post). I also wore both Shaelyn and Flukra a lot, though they didn’t always make it into the photos, so another biggish shawl or two would not go amiss (also mentioned in my last post). One thing my handknit wardrobe is definitely lacking, though, is lightweight knit tops. I have some good winter sweaters, but basically nothing for warmer weather, which is something I really want to change. I’m knitting away on Balta right now, that’s a start, but I was really inspired by the way Natalie layered her lightweight knits (here and here, for example), and it made me reconsider how versatile a knit tank could be. It also makes me think I should revisit my Kit Camisole, which I never wear because I find it about an inch too short and don’t love the placement of the straps — ripping out the top and adding a little length before reknitting would be a pretty easy fix for that though, and then I’d have a new summer top with much less knitting!

In my initial pledge post I stated that my two goals for the month were to assess the handmade wardrobe that I have, and figure out where I wanted it to go, and that I wanted to think more how dressing in general, and why I wear what I wear and why I like what I like. Those two things are definitely related, since obviously what I wear and like will affect what I choose to make, but I did find it useful to think about them separately. For me, splitting those two things apart meant that instead of just saying “I need more lightweight cardigans,” I was able to be more precise about what that meant. So, I need more lightweight cardigans like Grace, which have some visual interest, but are otherwise simple to wear; I really like that Grace is a bright colour, but for the next one I should probably knit in a neutral (warmish grey, I think), and then alternate colour and neutral going forward, so ensure easy layering; etc.

All in all, I think the month was a success, and I’m excited about the prospect of tackling it again in a year. Mostly though, I’m excited about the perspective it gave me on what I make and why, and how that will help organize my making going forward. With my sock drawer pretty well sorted, I’m excited to shift my attention more to garment knitting, which is a slower process that I think suits where I am right now.

All right, that’s probably enough about wardrobe planning for one week. Next time: mountains!

Have clothes, will travel

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Clothing — and, specifically, wardrobe building — has been on my mind for a while now, but perhaps never more than when I’m travelling. Somehow, despite reading quite a lot about creating capsule wardrobes and personal uniforms, it never fails that the minute I get wherever I’m going and open my bag I realize that I’ve utterly failed to pack outfits. Instead, I have a bunch of pieces that don’t really go together in any kind of coherent way, soon to be immortalized in all my vacation photos.

Shaelyn and Grace, the absolute stars of my travel wardrobe.

Shaelyn and Grace, the absolute stars of my travel wardrobe.

Typically, this initial panic recedes a bit and I realize there was some method to my packing, but honestly, it’s definitely a make-do situation. How someone who reliably wears the same basic outfit everyday can be this inept I don’t know, but I think that maybe writing it down here will help me remember this failing in the future. Having spent the last ten days thinking about where I went wrong this time, I think I’ve narrowed down where my thought process went wrong:

1. We planned to split our time between hiking and sightseeing, so I needed two totally different wardrobes. I did really well on the hiking side (clearly what I was more worried about), and left the everyday/sightseeing side to chance.
2. Me Made May distracted me. I made the pledge knowing I’d be away for a third of the time, but I didn’t really think about how that would factor into my packing. I was doing really well and wanted to keep it up, but in general, my sewn pieces all require ironing, making them less than ideal for travel. I changed my mind about half way through packing and then didn’t compensate with my usual wardrobe staples.
3. I forgot about colour. My default colour is dark blue, which serves me very well, so why I decided to change it up for a holiday is beyond me. I mean, I packed my Grace cardigan for layering, but then also a pink t-shirt. There is zero logic in that.
4. I made a bad bet on the weather. If Switzerland had been warm and sunny, I think I would have been okay. But the first half of our trip was pretty cool, and since that’s when we did the bulk of our sightseeing (saving the nicest days for hiking), the skirt and dress I’d planned to wear were pretty useless, and the necessity of layering (and thus, the uselessness of the pink t-shirt) was pronounced.

It probably goes without saying that handknit socks are a staple. They saw me through hiking, sightseeing, and just hanging around the apartment. They are the absolute best.

It probably goes without saying that handknit socks are a staple. They saw me through hiking, sightseeing, and just hanging around the apartment. They are the absolute best.

All of this aside, I am thrilled to say that both my Grace cardigan and Shaelyn shawl saw regular wear and I’m not tired of either. I could definitely use some neutral handknits though, so I’m going to have to think about how I want to handle that. I had been thinking about knitting the Sibella Cardigan in a gold colour (I’m partial to Shibui Staccato in Brass, to be specific), but now I’m thinking I’d get a lot more wear out it if I knit it in a tonal grey — maybe Tanis Fiber Arts Slate or Charcoal? My Flukra is already a great neutral (why oh why didn’t I pack it?!) but I also have some Tosh Merino Light in my stash that would be a great neutral colour for an interesting but neutral shawl (Holden or Ishbel maybe).

As I’m mulling all of this over now, I thought I’d ask your advice. What are your wardrobe staples when you travel? Are you ever surprised by what you come to rely on? When it comes to your handmade wardrobe (knit or sewn), what are your favourite or most versatile pieces?

I’ve got myself to a place where I want to be really specific about what I’m making, and I’m with my sock drawer in good shape, I’m especially interested in garments and accessories. With Me Made May ending today, I will for sure be writing more about this in the near future, but with travel top of mind, I thought I should pull this out as a separate post.

In the mountains

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I really thought I’d have time to post before now, but there’s something about going on vacation in the middle of the week that makes life crazy. I am in no way complaining though, because now we’re here, and it’s wonderful. L and I have been planning this trip to Switzerland for months, and it almost doesn’t feel real, but then we think about what we’re going to do tomorrow and it involves hiking to 2,000 metres in the alps and well, there’s no denying the reality of that (or the reality of how stiff my legs will be afterwards!)

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Anyway, there will be a more exciting, detail- and photo-filled post later, but I couldn’t resist posting these evening shots L took last night. This is the view across the valley (amplified with some zoom) and even though the clouds have been hiding the tops of most of the mountains, they work in our favour at sunset.

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Ah. So lovely. And more to come, I promise.

The Lovely Fika

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I am a big fan of treating myself on my birthday, and today I think I started a new little tradition along those lines: a new pair of hand-knit socks. I love fresh-off-the-needles socks, when they’re still all firm and unstretched, so when I finished these on Monday I decided to save them until today. It was such an easy, nice little thing to do for myself, and I’m glad I thought of it.

These are Fika, from the spring issue of Pom Pom Quarterly, which I finally subscribed to. Every new issue of Pom Pom has at least one pattern in it that I love, and every time I wish to myself that I was a subscriber, so I finally just went for it and I’m so glad I did. Besides being the source of lovely patterns and other writing, it’s beautiful to look at, and the paper stock and printing make it feel almost like a little book. Anyway, the spring issue was the first one I got as part of my subscription, and it just made sense that Fika would be the first thing I cast on.

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I’ve had this Koigu in my stash for ages (years, maybe even) and although I was originally thinking it would work well for a pair of Smokestack Socks, I’m really glad I used it for Fika. The twisted rib is a great way to both show off and break up the fun speckled colourway, and all the colours in the yarn made choosing the contrast stripe really fun (originally, I had planned to use red, but then I saw this picture and changed my mind.)

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I knit these at my usual gauge, which was a bit of a miscalculation on my part, since the largest size has you cast on 64 stitches — four fewer than I’d usually go with. I thought to myself: What’s four stitches? And knit along quite merrily, making up for the deficit by decreasing fewer stitches at the gussets. As you can see, the socks fit quite nicely, but they are hard to pull on! The upside, of course, is that they don’t sag. The next time I knit these, I’ll just go up a needle size, which will give me the wiggle room I need. And there will certainly be a next time, because as I knit blissfully away on these I went into a kind of autopilot and, after casting on, didn’t refer to the pattern again until the toe, which means the missed the novel heel shaping! I’m intrigued, though, so another pair is certainly in my future.

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Details
Pattern: Fika by Maribeth White
Yarn: Koigu KPPPM in P336 (the contrast is Koigu needlepoint yarn in #3332 — this is sold in 10-yard mini-mini skeins, which is perfect for this sort of detail)
Needles: 2.25mm
Notes: Just what I mentioned above about ignoring the heel shaping and doing fewer gusset decreases. I actually also knit the heel in a different yarn, because although I really love Koigu for socks, I’m hard on my heels, and it wears through a bit more quickly than a yarn with nylon reinforcement. I chose a low-contrast colour though, so it didn’t compete with the rest of the design and I’m quite pleased with the overall look (you can see just a hint of grey heel in the photo above). Ravelled here.

Me Made May

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For the last two years I’ve watched other bloggers take 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 so; this year I think I’m right on the cusp. I have a few skirts, a few tops, one lightweight cardigan, a dress, 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 deciding 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 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).

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