Category Archives: finished

A small thing

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I was going to write about my Fidra hat last weekend, but in the face of so many fantastic pussy hats, it felt weird to write about anything else. And, honestly, I was so busy trying to keep it together in the face of such beautiful, strong, thoughtful protests that I didn’t have time for much else.

Then, I thought I’d write about it this weekend, but after the unconscionable travel ban Trump instituted it felt insignificant. In the face of all the news we’ve seen in the last week, thinking a new hat is consequential is pretty laughable. But.

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This week I have spent more time wishing for the blogs I follow to post content than any week I can remember. I am desperate for inconsequential content — something small to make me feel like there are still good things happening, little blips that remind me that beautiful things are still being made and put out into the world with love. Protests do that for me, but so too do the smaller things like a post about new socks, or a finished sweater, or just a #makenine collage that represents a hopeful vision for the future.

In the last couple of years, there have been a few discussions about the slow but steady drop off in blogging. Instagram is often cited as the reason (it’s so much easier to just post a picture with a long caption), but I wonder if part of it was just that we didn’t need them so much. When the news is good (or, at least, better), we don’t need the same kind of distraction as we do when times are bad or hard. It’s okay to furious and upset about what’s happening in the world and be proud of the new thing you made. We need to take care of ourselves even as we take care of others.

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Pattern: Fidra, by Gudrun Johnston • Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts PureWash Chunk in Meadow.

Last night, I emailed my MP* to call on him to demand action from Canada to help immigrants and refugees affected by Trump’s travel ban. Today, I’m going to tell you about my hat!

I kind of missed the chunky yarn craze that started last winter (maybe earlier), but when these skeins caught my eye during Tanis’s annual Boxing Day sale. I don’t usually go in for impulse purchases (anymore. ahem.) but I can never resist the TFA sale, so I scooped up two skeins of their new PureWash Chunky in Meadow (not a regular colourway, I’m sorry to say) to knit Fidra.

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I have come around to hat wearing in the last couple of years and while I agree that I might not need more than one, it is fun to have choices in the morning! Plus, Fidra is an irresistibly quick knit — I whipped this up in an afternoon and then made that enormous pompom the next morning, just in time to combine this photoshoot with the one for my Halligarth shawl (another Gudrun Johnston pattern). I have worn this hat pretty much every day since then and I remain completely delighted by it.

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The colour is exactly what I need at this time of year, and goes perfectly with both my bright red peacoat and my dark green parka. I even had enough yarn leftover to knit a quick little pair of mitts (I bought two skeins, so didn’t have to hold back when I made the pompom, but if you wanted to get this out of one skein of PureWash Chunky, you definitely could). This is pretty much my ideal Boxing Day yarn purchase: Fantastic colour, immediate execution of a plan, no leftovers. It was also the perfect palate cleanser between Halligarth (which took forever) and my next longterm commitment, Oda, which I am dutifully working away on now.

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I love no-leftovers knitting. The mitts are a modified version of Camp-Out Fingerless Mitts (based on my previous pair).

As the Yarn Harlot often says, knitting is a reminder that actions can lead to results. Sometimes the results are quick and satisfying, other times they take concentrated work over a long period of time, but there are results nonetheless. The work matters. I’m going to email my Prime Minister today, and after that I’m going to pick up my needles and knit.

*To find out who your MP is and/or to get their contact info, you can search by postal code here. If you want to get in touch but aren’t sure what to say or what concrete action to suggest, my friend Ned recommends focusing on the Safe Third Country agreement. If you live in a Conservative riding, please also consider voicing concerns about the xenophobic and racist rhetoric coming out of Kellie Leitch’s campaign. Most Conservatives aren’t bigots, and the party needs to be reminded of that — loudly.

A long time coming

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It only took 2.5 years, but Halligarth is finished!

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Pattern: Halligarth, by Gudrun Johnston • Yarn: GBF Hennessy Lace in “Bala Cranberry”

I have loved this shawl since it was published, ordered yarn for it almost immediately, and cast on for it in June 2014. I can’t remember how far I got, but at some point that summer I put it down without any notes, in the middle of a repeat. When I picked it up again in the winter of 2015 (I think), it took me a while to get back in to the groove with the pattern and, after working a couple of repeats, I put it down again.

In the years that this has languished unfinished in my WIP basket, I wished many times that my past self had been more disciplined about buckling down and finishing it. Without being too glitzy, Halligarth is an excellent fancy-occasion shawl, and we have been to weddings and parties where having it as a wrap would have been ideal. But, apparently, not so ideal that I was actually inspired to pull it out again.

Until now. The week after Christmas — the day, in fact, that I cast on for Oda — I decided to see where I was with Halligarth. It turned out I was in a pretty good place. The last time I knit on it, I did myself the service of finishing the repeat, so starting back in was pretty straightforward, and then it turned out that the lace pattern was much, much more intuitive than I had remembered (my skills have improved a lot since I started it, I suppose).

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After blocking, it measures about 75 inches across and 35 down the centre spine. 

Halligarth is written for two sizes, and when I hit the point where I would start the edging for the smaller size, I weighed my yarn to see how things were looking. Back in 2014, I decided to knit this in laceweight, and bought a gorgeous skein of BLF laceweight from the then-newly opened Georgian Bay Fibre Co. They no longer sell laceweight, though, so I knew I had no way to get more yarn if I ran out. Still, when I hit the small-size stitch count, I had 51 g left. I wanted a big shawl, and it seemed like I’d have enough to knit the big size, so I added a lifeline and kept going.

I won’t lie, I came close to putting it down again. The last few repeats are looooong. And, in laceweight, it takes a while to really see progress. For a while, I really thought I might never finish (or that my yardage would fall short), but I made it with 7 g to spare.

And you know what, it was totally worth it. I love this shawl. It is incredibly light (less than 100 g), nice and big, and elegant without being too fancy to wear with jeans if I want to. And that colour… The yarn in general is an absolute delight and if it were still available, I would definitely buy more. As it is, I am considering order a sweater’s worth of one of the heavier bases before the shop goes wholesale-only. BFL is such a lovely fibre to work with and wear, and it’s hard to come by.

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Anyway. I think it’s hilarious that the first thing I finished this year was started in 2014, but I also think it bodes well. If this is a year about action, what better way to kick it off than by finally finishing the shawl I’ve been wishing was in my closet for years?

When in Iceland

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You dress in layers. If you go during the shoulder season (essentially equivalent to fall and spring in terms of timing, but not in terms of weather, which can be very unpredictable), you wear several layers, at least a few of which are wool. L and I both have a few of those thin, fine merino wool base layers, but what we lacked before this trip was heavier, more rugged wool sweaters. So, I spent the summer changing that.

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I thought a lot about what I wanted to knit myself for the wedding (a wedding shawl seemed like the obvious thing until I realized that I really didn’t want to cover the top of my dress at all) before deciding that knitting something for our honeymoon would be just as special. Plus, as I mentioned previously, I ended up knitting L a pair of wedding socks, so we still had a little hand knit element.

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You can see the extra fabric around the tops of the arms/shoulders, but the colourwork part of the yoke is perfect.

My sweater flew off the needles. I had heard that Stopover, by Mary Jane Mucklestone, was a speedy knit, but whoa. I am quite pleased with the finished sweater, though there’s a bit too much fabric around the shoulders I think. I debated ripping back and changing the pace of the decreases, but the extra fabric didn’t bother me when I was wearing it, just in photos. This sweater was used as a pillow, shoved into bags, worn under a backpack, worn to restaurants and while hiking, and it came through pretty much unscathed (just a little fuzz on the forearms, which can be easily dealt with).

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I’m quite pleased with how this turned out. I’ll need to work on improving the neckline for the next sweater (this one stretched out quite a bit). Maybe I’ll try casting off and then picking up the stitches for the rib, for some extra structure.

L’s sweater isn’t really Icelandic in any way except that I used lopi. The pattern — Galdhöpiggen, by Erika Guselius — was only available in Swedish when I knit this (there’s an English version now), so I spend a fair bit of time with Google Translate and, in the end, mostly winged it. I knit L’s sweater as a looser gauge than the pattern was written for, both because it was faster and because he really didn’t need a dense wool sweater to stay warm. I made sure my stitch counts lined up with the charts and then knit to his measurements, with about zero ease before blocking. It blocked out to a couple of inches of positive ease, and grew a bit more as he wore it and pulled it on and off throughout the day. He wore it every day we were there (every. single. day.)

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Handknit hat, cowl and sweater. Pretty good look, I’d say.

I haven’t quite gotten around to washing and re-blocking these sweaters since we got back (and they do need it), so I’m not sure if they’ll shrink back at all, but let me just say: lopi stretches. It doesn’t have any of the bounce of merino or even BFL, so when it stretches it just stays stretched. I’m hoping a slightly warm soak will help get things back in place, but that is definitely something I’ll be keeping in mind when I knit our next round of sweaters (of course we bought wool for one more each while we were there).

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L’s eventual sweater is on the left, mine is on the right. I thought I’d go for colours too, but I couldn’t decide, and in the end decided I couldn’t go wrong with neutrals.

L’s sweater actually took a lot less time to knit than I anticipated, so I had time to knit a few other things in addition to his socks. He is actually quite well equipped in terms of cold weather hand knits, so I did a quick survey of what I needed and in the three weeks before our wedding knit myself a headband, a cowl and a pair of fingerless mitts. Of the three, the mitts were the most successful and have taken up residence in my purse because they are perfect for the rapidly warming and cooling temperatures of this time of year. The headband is great too, though I find it a little itchy across my forehead. I’m going to try soaking it with a little conditioner to see if that helps. The cowl I knit three times and I’m still not quite happy with it. It’s just a bit too loose to really keep me warm, so I think I might rip it out one last time and knit it up with 10 to 12 fewer stitches. It’s a quick knit (I knit it twice in one day), so I’m not too worried about that being a major undertaking.

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Kind of a ridiculous picture, but the only one in which headband, cowl and mitts are all on display. (I meant to get some proper pictures of each, and then forgot.)

Of course, not everything we took to Iceland was new. L wore his cowl, gloves and this hat regularly. I stuck my Norby hat in my bag at the last minute was so glad I did, since I actually wore it quite a bit. My Epistrophy sweater was in regular rotation with my Stopover, and on a couple of the warmer days I wore my Stasis sweater. Plus, we both wore hand knit socks every day.

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Epistrophy was a perfect mid-weight sweater to bring. I actually layered it under my Stopover a couple of times!

The Slow Fashion October theme for this week is “Long Worn,” with the idea being a celebration of garments long loved — hand-me-downs, thrift-store finds, pieces you’ve refashioned, etc. — and I really had planned to write about a couple of my oldies-but-goodies, but as I was writing this I realized that in some cases, long worn starts with the making. Barring some very unfortunate accident (looking at you, washing machine), we’ll be wearing these sweaters for decades. They are well made, using good quality wool, and they’re not really tied to any particular trend. They aren’t long worn yet, but they will be, and knowing that is part of what made the knitting so rewarding.

Part of planning any trip

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Is planning what to wear while you’re away, right? Well, in less than two months, L and I will be on our honeymoon in Iceland, so it seemed only sensible that we have lopapeysur to wear while we’re there.

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Pattern: Stopover by Mary-Jane Mucklestone • Yarn: Istex Lett Lopi in # 86, #9412 and #1407, plus some of the leftovers from my Karusellen hat

I knit mine first, partly because I knew what I wanted, which made starting easy, but also because I have yet to knit L a sweater, and lopi isn’t exactly soft. It’s not unduly scratchy either, I don’t think, but it’s not merino, so I wanted to make sure he could get a real sense of the fabric before I knit him a sweater. (I see no sense in knitting him something he won’t wear, so this was a no-pressure, no-surprises knit. He chose the pattern and colours for his sweater, has been trying it on as I go — just sleeves so far — etc. Kicking off our marriage by knitting him a sweater he wouldn’t wear and that I’d be annoyed he didn’t wear seemed like a pretty bad idea.)

Anyway, this isn’t about L’s sweater (which I’ll write more about later), this is about mine, which is finished. Finishing a lopapeysa in mid-July is a bit strange, to be honest. This must be the first time I’ve finished a sweater and not been excited to put it on! I knit it through a wave of very hot and humid weather, and it took days to dry after blocking because their was so much moisture in the air. Needless to say, this was a quick little selfie photoshoot because, a) It was too hot for more than that, and b) There will be time during our trip to get proper photos of it in suitable weather.

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I knit Stopover, by Mary-Jane Mucklestone, and it really is as quick as you’ve heard. My gauge was a bit tighter than intended because they don’t make 7.5mm needles (really!), and even that didn’t slow me down. Time from start to finish, without any rush: less than a month. At that speed, there may well be another in my future, especially since the lopi softened up quite nicely. I’m just wearing it with a t-shirt in these photos, which probably isn’t how I’ll wear it usually, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. I most concerned about the neck, where I can be a bit sensitive, but it was fine!

So, that’s one down, most of one to go, and a little more than six weeks. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I am feeling pretty good about those odds. (Just don’t remind me that I also have socks on the needles for L, the colour of which that he says would go really well with his suit. No pressure at all.)

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Sloooowing down

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Well. I really didn’t mean to disappear like that, but I think I just needed to take a step back. One of the funny things about having an online space is the feeling that you need to maintain it, and I get a little overwhelmed sometimes trying to find a way to balance everything in my precious free time. For the last month or so, I’ve been in total making mode, which for me means a flurry of activity with no time for documentation.

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I finished these in April! It’s a Christmas colourway from Nomadic Yarns, but that chartreuse is bright enough for year-round wear, I think. (Details here.)

Sometimes, I take a break from blogging because I have nothing to show you, and now I have a ton of stuff finished and no photos! (I am going to work on that, though.) Actually, one of the nice things about this whole time has been not feeling any pressure to finish things just so I can post about them. Not that I really feel that pressure most of the time, but it has been really nice to just go entirely at my own pace. And, it turns out that my own pace is actually still pretty productive.

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Scout Tee made in May. I’ve sewn a few things since then, but I don’t have photos yet, and I don’t need more excuses not to blog.

In the nearly two months since I last blogged, I’ve knit two sweaters (one baby, one adult, both started and finished in that time)  and sewn a dress and a skirt (plus several muslins). That actually doesn’t sound like a lot I guess, but it feels like just the right amount. No rushing, no stress, and a good balance between the two, which is something I’ve been trying to achieve.

I’ve written before about sewing can feel like a bit undertaking, but the more I actually just do it — whether it’s tracing and modifying a pattern, cutting fabric, actually sewing, or whatever — the easier it becomes to do it again. I’ve been trying to set aside a few hours each week to sew, and it has made a big difference both in the quality of what I’m making and in my confidence. When I started knitting I knit constantly, and got that confidence quickly; it has taken longer with sewing, but I’m finally starting to feel it.

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Another long-finished project. These are socks for L, knit and tucked away for Christmas (which makes me feel so on the ball to say.) Details here.

But, I have missed writing here. So, just as I’m making time each week to sew, I’m going to try to carve out time to blog. The posts may be shorter that in the past, but hopefully they’ll be more frequent!

I made it!

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All images in these collages are pulled chronologically from my Instagram (which also details what the various patterns are). You can see how much better I got at selfies over the course of the month, though I clearly need to work on a more interesting pose!

Of the 31 days in May, I wore a me-made garment on 28 of them. That pretty much blew my stated goal out of the water, which is pretty exciting for me. That I managed to do it without also doing a constant cycle of laundry is even better, since it means the handmade part of my wardrobe is now at the point where, on any given day, I ought to have a handmade option clean and ready to go.

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Those baby-holding pictures weren’t posted on IG, but because I was busy hanging out with our nephew (and his wonderful parents) and friends, I didn’t take an “proper” photos that whole weekend.

The caveat to that, of course, is that it really only applies to tops. I am seriously lacking in dresses and skirts, something I become acutely aware of every time the weather warms up. I had an unofficial goal of wearing a skirt or dress at least once a week, and I didn’t quite make it. If we leave aside my New Girl skirt, which is knit in wool and short enough to require tights (for me, that is, everyone has a different comfort level), and my Endless Summer Tunic/Dress, which I also prefer to wear with tights, I really only have two handmade skirts! And, even including RTW options, I am sorely lacking in skirts and dresses that I would wear to work (and my office has a very relaxed dress code).

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Yes, I said 28 out of 31 days, and yet only 27 photos… That’s because 27 was easier, collage-wise, and because I wore my blue and white Endless Summer Tank (row two, photo 1, above) on the last day as well, and the photo is almost identical to the one above.

Luckily, that is something I can do something about! In my original post, I said I wanted to make two garments this month, and because a few things fell into place rather nicely, I actually managed to make four! All are shirts, but they represent three different patterns in four different fabrics (two Scout Tees, one in Nani Iro double gauze and the other in a Voile; one Endless Summer Tunic, sewn as a tank, in Liberty Tana Lawn; and a Southport Dress, also sewn as a tank, in rayon challis), which is pretty good, I think! And, it has just about filled in the holes in that part of my summer wardrobe, though another Endless Summer Tank or two wouldn’t go amiss (I’ve been wearing the two I have quite a lot!) I’d also like another knit summer top or two — I’ve been eyeing Vasa lately, and I could see myself knitting another Balta.

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The top fabric is Cotton + Steel Rayon in Zipline (purple) and the bottom one is a drapery-weight linen (or maybe a linen blend? I can’t remember)

Anyway, skirts! I am looking sewing up a couple of Zinnia skirts for the summer. I am thinking View A (with the button fronts) in the purple rayon, and View B in the floral linen, which I have a ton of and my well need to be lined. The two skirts I have sewn in the past are both ones I like, but I want to try another pattern, and I like how versatile Zinnia is. I also have a few summer dress patterns I’d like to try, but we’ll see how much time I have to sew.

Sibella

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After years of planning, and a few weeks of knitting, I finished my Sibella cardigan a couple of weeks ago. It is almost perfect. Almost. And because of that, this isn’t a post about a perfect sweater, it’s a post about why I’m going to rip a bunch of this back and reknit it.

There. Now that I’ve written what I’ve been thinking for the last week (making it out-loud official), let me explain. I chose a size for this cardigan that would give me a little over three inches of positive ease. I wanted a good layering cardigan — something that would fit equally well over a sleeveless top, t-shirt, or button-down shirt without pulling at the bust or bunching in the sleeves. Basically, I wanted a second Grace-like cardigan, but with a bit of ease (I knit that one with no ease, and wouldn’t change a thing about it, but in an effort to add versatility to my wardrobe, I wanted Sibella to be a little different.)

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Just look at that sleeve bunching! And they’re not even pushed up very far.

In the end, the stitch gauge worked out exactly as I had hoped, and the cardigan has a comfortable amount of ease across the bust and hips, and through the arms. Loose, but not saggy, with the option to wear it buttoned up all day or open. But, the damn thing grew like crazy when I blocked it — we’re talking an additional two inches in length to the body and sleeves — and that, when combined with the ease in width, just makes this look and feel too big. Not in an intentionally oversized way, but just in a too big way, and that was not the look I was hoping for.

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I actually think I could live with the added length through the body, but the too-long sleeves are driving me nuts. I’ve worn this sweater a few times, just to make sure, and I know that those sleeves will keep me from wearing this. I typically prefer bracelet-length sleeves or, at the longest, stopping just below the heel of my hand, but these pull all the way up over my hand to the base of my thumb. Pushing them up (as I typically do anyway) results in a huge bulge of extra fabric above my elbows, which is a problem.

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I may also go down a needle size for the top two lace repeats, just to add a little more structure to the yoke.

But, the good news is that all of this is a relatively easy fix! I will pull out the buttonbands and yoke, and then take 1.5-2 inches off the body and the sleeves, and then join everything back up and reknit the yoke and buttonbands. Yes, it’s annoying, and this sweater is so close to perfect that it would be foolish not to just suck it up and rework it. Leaving it alone now would leave me with a sweater I sometimes wore, but was always a bit unhappy with, and what’s the use in that?

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This is definitely not the last you’ve seen of Sibella! I’ll be back in a few weeks to show you the re-knit version.