Category Archives: finished

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.

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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.

The dalas of my dreams

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I first started scheming about set of accessories featuring dala horses nearly five months ago, right as I was on the cusp of my holiday knitting. It took me a while, but that set is now finished, and it turned out better than I could have imagined.

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Let’s tackle the hat first. This is Karusellen by Erica Knits, from the recent Autumn issue of Pom Pom Quarterly. I wanted a deeper folding brim, so I subbed in the one from Skiff, which, as far as I’m concerned, is the Platonic ideal of a fold-up brim. I took basically no notes about my mods, apparently, but I think I cast on 120 stitches and then followed the instructions for Skiff with one further modification: After I was about an inch into the brim, I realized that my chosen yarn* was, to put it mildly, rather sheepy. That’s pretty perfect for a pattern from Pom Pom’s “wool issue,” but not the most comfortable next-to-skin yarn. So, after the turning row (makes sense in the Skiff pattern), I switched and knit the next 2.75 inches with some leftover Shelter in Snowbound. It’s pretty invisible when I’m wearing the hat, but much more comfortable against my forehead.

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Aside from the brim, I knit this exactly as written and it was a total pleasure. It’s alway fun to watch charts appear in your knitting, and though I did have to tink back a few times when I wasn’t quite paying attention, it was quite straightforward. I made the larger size, for a bit of slouch (and to accommodate all my hair) and I’m very pleased with the size and the big pompom. I can’t remember ever having a pompom hat before (maybe when I was a kid?) but I’m quite taken with this one and think there are probably more in my future.

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Now, the mittens. The pattern is really just a few notes and a chart that you work right-to-left for one mitten and then left-to-right for the other. It’s quite barebones, but if you’ve ever knit stranded mittens before it’s quite easy to follow along.

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I did (of course) make a few modifications. I added length to the heel of the hand (before starting the thumb increases) and then added a few more rows at the top of the thumb gusset, before placing those stitches onto waste yarn. Then, I recharted the top of the hand to add extra length. I added length to the thumb as well, and changed the chart for the inside of the thumb — rather than adding words, I just continued the palm charts up the thumb. I also changed the cuff — just straight 2×2 ribbing, knit in a contrast since the grey came from my stash and I didn’t want to risk running out (turns out I would have been fine, but best to be sure).

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As an overall set, I think they work very well. They all match, but do so without being matchy, if you know what I mean. The dala charts themselves are exactly the same, just knit at very different gauges, which was a nice coincidence, and meant that by the time I’d knit all the horses on the hat I was pretty much a pro when it came time to knit the mittens! They’re quite cozy, and though I know they’ll fuzz up quite a lot (Fresco does that — it looks a little messy, but it does make for very warm mitts), I don’t mind so much. They’re nice and crisp right now, and I’m enjoying them very much.

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*A note about my yarn choice. This yarn is from a sheep farm and dyer local to my parents in Nova Scotia. If I am remembering all of this correctly (dam my scanty notes!), the yarn was milled at the MacAusland Woollen Mills in Prince Edward Island. They sell yarn wholesale, but farmers can also send in their own wool to be milled. All the wool gets milled together, and the farmer receives the same weight back as they sent in, though all the fleeces are mixed. The neutral is an undyed grey/brown and the gold/brown is hand-dyed, both are a wool-mohair blend.

My future self will thank me

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(Note: This is a little out of order, because I’d really planned to follow up my last post with one about my goals for 2016. But, since one of those goals is not to waste momentum, I’m going to get this up now, and then circle back around.)

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When I was growing up, the vast majority of the Christmas gifts under the tree weren’t “wrapped” in the traditional sense. Yes, when all was said and done, we had plenty of wrapping paper to put in the recycling bin at the end of Christmas day, but for the most part, the gifts from my parents were wrapped in fabric bags my mum had made and reused every year. I don’t know when she first started using them, but I can’t remember a Christmas without them, so I must have been very young.

The concept is pretty simple, really. They’re just basic drawstring bags — unlined, no fancy seam finishing — in a variety of sizes and Christmasy prints. Every once in a while new ones would appear, but mostly it was the same ones, year after year, and they say Christmas to me as much as any ornament on the tree or special meal. Every year, after everything is unwrapped, my mum collects all the bags, folds them up, and puts them away for the next year. No one gets to keep them, and there’s no counting at the end of the day. A few years ago, though, my mum made new ones for my middle sister and I, and they were part of our Christmas gift that year: the beginning of our very own set, for the families were starting.

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Every year, I use those bags she made me to wrap my gifts for my family — L and I use them for each other, and I use them for my sisters and parents — and there is perhaps nothing more fitting than placing a hand-knit item or specially-chosen present into a handmade bag. Even people who have never had a gift wrapped that way before love it. L’s dad came to spend the holidays with us this year and loved his Christmas bag so much I felt a little bad asking for it back.

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All of which brings me to the point of this post: Back in October, when L and I were in Toronto for a wedding, I went to the shop to buy some fabric for my own set of gift bags. In the summer, Cotton + Steel released a Christmas-themed fabric collection (Tinsel, it’s awesome) and I took that as my cue. I bought fabric in three prints so I could start building a collection of bags of my own — ones that could maybe be part of the gift in some special cases.

I then waited for a free weekend afternoon to materialize so I could set about bag making.

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But, of course, free afternoons don’t really offer themselves up. Especially when you’re in the thick of Christmas knitting and exploring a new city and seem to be working all the time. Christmas arrived and my fabric was still sitting in the closet (not a disaster, since I had lots of other bags to use) and it wasn’t until Boxing Day that I finally had a day with nothing planned that had to be done. I cut all the bags and sewed up half of them, and you know, I felt pretty good about it.

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Today, we’re going to undecorated the tree and put all our Christmas things away for another year. I was thinking that I could just put away the cut-out bags as they are (I finished the bulk of them, after all), but then I thought about how busy the holidays were this year, and I realized that it’s not going to be any different next year. If anything, it’s going to be busier. So I decided to just take an hour (that’s all it’s going to take, if I’m honest with myself) and sew them all up. My future self will be so happy they’re done and ready to go next Christmas. Thirteen bags, ready to be filled — it’s practically an early gift for myself!

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