Category Archives: in progress

An introduction

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I knit this cowl to completion nearly three times before finally deciding it was done and binding off. After wearing it a few times, I think it needs to be smaller, so I think one more rip is in its future.*

I’ve been thinking about Slow Fashion October for the last year — every since Karen hosted the first one last year — and have been really looking forward to this month and all the discussion it is already generating.

I am such a big fan of the idea, but wow is it hard to write about/articulate. Despite a year of thinking about this in a fairly focused way, I have started this blog post multiple times and ended up deleting everything and trying again. A quick look in my WordPress drafts turns up multiple abandoned posts from this time last year, so clearly lots of thinking hasn’t helped me clarify my thoughts. Strangely, what actually helped was this short magazine piece about why we love Ikea furniture.

The story looks at how the rise in Ikea furniture (and furniture like it) has essentially created a class of disposable furniture. Pieces we buy because they serve an immediate need, look good, or are the right price, but are ultimately also pieces we don’t plan to keep, whether because we know our tastes will change or because we plan to upgrade in the future, or whatever. We don’t get attached to it, we’re annoyed but not surprised when it falls apart, and, in the end, we’re kind of excited about the excuse to replace it with something new.

Last weekend (before the above-linked article was published, let me add), after we got back from our honeymoon, L and I went furniture shopping. We were looking for a couple of specific items, and instead of going to Ikea, we drove out into the country to an antique store. We didn’t find quite what we wanted, but that’s fine, we’ll go back in a couple of weeks — nothing we need is desperate, and although we could go to a store and probably find it pretty fast, we prefer to wait, and we have the luxury to do so.

In a nutshell, that pretty much sums up my evolving slow fashion philosophy. I try really hard to invest in quality pieces whose provenance can be traced — my wedding dress was designed and sewn in Toronto, for example — but I do still sometimes just need a black t-shirt, which brings me to the mall. I am trying to make more of my own clothing, and where possible I try to use materials with ethical/traceable sources, but particularly with sewing (and as a fairly beginner sewer), there is a lot of waste. And, of course, there are financial implications to all of this, because I have the luxury of both time and money to be choosy about what I buy and how long it takes me to get things done.

As I’ve thought about it this more and more over the last year, I have definitely noticed my habits changing. I was never a big shopper, but I shop for clothes even less now, and when I do buy things I tend to spend a bit more for items that are locally made and that I know I’ll wear for years. I’m also much more particular about my stash, both of fabric and yarn. I have a lot of materials on hand, and I have been working really had to prioritize using what I have over buying new things.

And I’m a lot more comfortable with being slow. There’s very little I really need, so what’s the big deal if it takes me a couple of weeks to sew a new shirt, or a a month to knit a sweater? Being aware of that time commitment is actually really gratifying (though it used to be frustrating) because it tells me pretty fast how much I want something: Is it something I’m willing to wait for, or something I just want right now but will likely tire of later? If my excitement can sustain me through a project, that’s a pretty good sign.

Anyway. I’m not sure how precisely I define “slow fashion,” but for me a big part of it is about being thoughtful — thinking through what I need, being willing to wait for it (either because of the time it takes to make it or the time it takes to save for it), and then committing to keep it for a long time.

Have you been following Slow Fashion October? How do you define it (or do you even care?)

*I have been sitting on this post for a week now waiting to get a couple of pictures to post with it. But, that is not happening, and we’re away this weekend, so lest it end up just another draft, I’m posting it with just the one. More pictures next time, I promise.

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Heading for the sun

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A couple three years ago (where does the time go!?), L and I treated ourselves to a little spring escape and flew down to Eleuthra to spend a week with my grandparents (who go every year) and my aunts and uncles (whose visits overlapped with ours). It was, for us, the perfect kind of getaway: Sand, sun, sea, piña coladas, and family. Eleuthra has almost no hotels, and real resorts, so it’s very quiet — perfect if your idea of a vacation is to do your own thing.

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This isn’t a wistful post, though — this is me saying we decided to do it again! The last year (two years?) has been crazy, both in our work and home lives, and really, things are not going to slow down any time soon. When my parents booked their visit at a pretty amazing discount, we decided to just go for it. We leave on Sunday and will have a full, glorious week to soak up sunshine and family stories and generally just relax (whether that’s kayaking, reading, knitting, swimming, playing cribbage, or whatever).

But enough about all that! We booked our tickets ages ago, so my real concern right now is about what to pack. Namely, what I want to read and what I want to knit. Sometimes, these questions feel really high stakes on a vacation, but I think I’ve just about made up my mind. I finished Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis the other day (I don’t blog about books anymore, but whoa, if I did…) and then cleansed by palate with Emily Carroll’s gorgeous and spooky Through the Woods. So, I’m due for something new. Right now, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is topping the list (and the stack of books on my bedside table). It’s long enough that I probably won’t finish it while I’m away, but I might still pack a backup…

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Just a few more stripe repeats and I’ll be at the heel. I’m about a third of the way through this sock, I think.

Knitting wise, the choices are much easier. Sibella is flying — if you’d told me a grey, fingering weight, stockinette cardigan would be a speedy knit, I would have laughed, but it’s true — and I’m about a third of the way through the second sleeve. So, I’ll take that and finish it up, likely on the plane ride down. I want easy, social knitting, so I’ll leave the other pieces behind and join everything up when we’re back.

But, since part of a sleeve won’t be a full-trip project, I’m also bringing my stripy Christmas socks. I cast these on in December and have picked away at them, but it’s time to finish them up, so they’re next on my list. If I manage to get them done, I’m packing more striped yarn, this time destined to become socks for L. Starting my holiday knitting early was one of my January goals, and I am on it!

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I can’t believe how good this looks in a cake. I’m excited to see how it knits up.

(I even sewed a dress in time to wear on while we’re away, so I’ll make sure to get some FO shots to show you when we’re back!)

At last!

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I have been talking about knitting Sibella for well over a year now. When Carrie Bostick Hoge released Madder Anthology 1, the Sibella Cardigan immediately jumped out at me. It has a fairly simple construction and style, with an interest yoke detail, making it a lot like Grace, which I wear all the time.

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What a lovely grey! This is Jill Draper Makes Stuff Esopus in Graphite, which I picked up during her studio sale last year.

Since I first mentioned my desire to knit Sibella, I have knit four other sweaters! And every time, I seem to reaffirm my plan to knit Sibella next… I think part of what has been holding me back is that it’s fingering weight, which is eminently practical but slow to knit. And, I couldn’t quite decide on a colour: I needed and wanted a grey cardigan (having lamented numerous times about not having a go-to neutral), but it always seems like it would be so much more fun to knit this in a colour.

But, my desire to have this cardigan in my closet, and the increasing sense that If I just had Sibella done, I’d have the right thing to wear finally pushed me over the edge. Spring is almost here, making this the perfect time to knit a lightweight sweater, and not such a bad time to knit a grey one. That I had the perfect grey yarn in my stash definitely helped.

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I triumphantly cast on last weekend and having been knitting away fairly contentedly since. The gauge is quite loose (and I’m knitting slightly tight, as usual), so I have had to fix a few little blips (I keep purling into the row below, for example), but I can already tell that the fabric will have a nice drape and be comfortable to wear. I’ve just started the waist shaping, which means I’m about a third of the way through the body.

I have a little goal to finish this in time to wear it during Me Made May. May is a nice month, to be sure, but it definitely requires layering, and it became very clear last year that if I want to create an everyday-wearable hand-made wardrobe, I need neutral pieces. Part of the reason I participated in MMM last year (and intend to again this year) was so I could see where the hole in my handmade wardrobe were and then do something about them. I am very pleased that Sibella will do both, though I should probably stop typing and get back to knitting — those long rows of grey stockinette aren’t going to knit themselves.

Here & There: Making it happen edition

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My current in-between socks are these very fun stripes. These were kind of supposed to be my Christmas socks, but I think the colours work year-round. (Yarn is the fantastic Nomadic Yarns Twisty Sock in Grinchmas.)

Every year I think, Finish it up February — yeah! This is the year I pull out my WIPs and get stuff done! and then, of course, some new project presents itself and I decide that it’s more important or more interesting and do that instead. This year, it was baby things — little gifts for a newborn and 1st birthday presents for Amber — and there is pretty much no way to make a case against prioritizing those, right?

Once those were done, I decided to use my time to pick up an old project (my current in-between socks) and finally start sewing something. Slow and steady has been focus this February, and even though that doesn’t offer the same kind of quick-hit joy as finishing a lot of things, I am finding it energizing to give myself time to really sink into a project with no immediate pressure to finish.

So, in lieu of exciting project photos, here are some of the excellent things I’ve read this month — often, truth be told, while knitting away on something or other.

  • In a knitting club, I found a cure for selfishness and cynicism: An essay about knitting (and knitters) and how generous the community can be: “You may think you know the kind of person who knits her own socks or sweaters, but trust me, you don’t. Gender, race, religion and country of origin mean nothing in the knitting world.”
  • This tweet (I won’t retype it, just click for second) is so, so funny. As a journalist, I know exactly how and why this kind of query would come about, but as a knitter, man, it makes me laugh every time.
  • A ravel of knitting words: Merriam-Webster explores the origins of 10 knitting terms.
  • How Christian Siriano is changing the red carpet: As a former Project Runway devotee, I can’t resist stories about its contestants design life. That Siriano has gone on to not only become a bonafide star, but also to use his talent to design clothing for women of all sizes, is fantastic.
  • Chris Rock answer VF’s Proust questionnaire: “What is your motto? ‘You can’t be great on the side.’ Whenever one of my friends starts telling me about the 12 projects they’re working on simultaneously, I always say, ‘Slow down. You can’t be great on the side.’ “
  • Visions of the Future: A few years ago, when we were in Boston, I went to the International Poster Gallery, which is a collection of old travel advertising posters (it is fascinating). JPL’s new poster series for various planets and moons reminds me so much of that, and I love that they’re all free to download and print as you like. I suspect a few will end up on our walls (my favourites are The Grand Tour, Enceladus, and Titan).
  • The health benefits of being lazy (need I say more?)
  • The Story of a Fuck-Off Fund: Julie linked to this last week and I’m reposting here: Every woman should have one of these (everyone, really, but women especially I think).
  • How do I become … a fabric designer: Well, obviously being a fantastic artist is a good start, but Vanessa Lawes’ story has more to it than that. Her work is gorgeous, though.
  • Five ways to kick-start your sewing mojo: A list I very much needed, even if only acknowledge that my sewing mojo needed a kick. (Karen linked to it in one of her best Elsewhere posts — seriously, each of those links is gold).
  • And, a couple of yummy-sounding recipes that I have yet to try, but want to: Chef’s Showcase: Curried Lentil & Apricot Soup (includes a great story about the chef, Ravi, who is Toronto-famous for his soups) and Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach and Blue Cheese, I see no way that that combination could be anything but delicious.
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I am sewing again! This is/will be a Southport Dress. I’m most of the way finished the bodice, with the rest of the pieces cut and ready to go. I’m very excited to see how it turns out. More details later.

Ticking all the boxes

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Last week, I finished my Dala Mitts (photos coming soon), which meant it was time to dive into some baby knitting. One of my best friends from high school is due this month, and Amber‘s first birthday is in a couple of weeks (I can’t believe she’s a year old) and that means lots of little knitting. When I started knitting again six years ago, I couldn’t understand the appeal of baby things. Tiny patterns seemed to proliferate, and during my brief time working and teaching in a knitting shop, patterns and yarns for babies seemed to be half the business. Maybe it just takes having some babies in your life to get it, but I am increasingly enchanted by tiny garments — both how adorable they are and how much fun they can be to knit.

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Anyway, when it came to choosing a pattern to knit for the new baby (a girl), I knew what yarn I wanted to use (Malabrigo Sock in Dewberry, from deep in my stash) but I couldnt’ quite settle on a pattern. My go-to baby cardigan is Tanis Lavallee’s Sunnyside, which I’ve knit three times and unabashedly adore. I even though I’d knit the lace version this time, which was kind of exciting. This was the plan, so when it came time to actually cast on I was surprised that I felt kind of restless about my pattern choice. Maybe it was the prospect of all that stockinette, I’m not sure, but something sent me searching through Ravelry for an alternative.

And then, I found it: the February Baby Sweater. I’ve owned The Knitter’s Almanac for years, and though I read it cover to cover, I’ve never actually knit any of the patterns in it. Crazy, right? Clearly, though, this was too perfect to pass up: Baby girl, due in February, plus the fact that I would be knitting it in February — clearly meant to be.

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Just about to separate for the sleeves.

I cast on last weekend and, after figuring out some modifications for my smaller gauge (EZ’s version uses worsted- or DK-weight, but I’m using fingering-weight — I’ve outlined my mods here), I’ve just been happily knitting away. After the total pleasure of knitting my Dala Mitts, this little sweater is a worthy successor, and it really does tick all my boxes: I’m using yarn and pattern from my stash, the knitting is interesting but doesn’t require full attention, and in not too long I’ll have an adorable gift for a good friend. Hard to beat that combination, really.

In for a penny

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In a for a pound, or so the saying goes, and which is really just my way of saying that the dala set I started with Karusellen is really and truly happening. And, look! I even have half a pair of mittens to prove it.

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The colours are not an exact match for the hat, but the scheme is the same, and they both feature dala horses, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to consider them a set. The first mitten flew off my needles (sans thumb) over the weekend, and the second one (despite appearances here) is well into the thumb increases. If I’m very lucky, I’ll have a finished pair by this time next week, which would be very good. I had to mend my old mittens again the other day, and they are in no shape to see me through the cold days to come.

Fashionably late

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Karusellen, off the needles and destined for blocking and then finishing (I can’t wait to sew on that pompom!)

The time has come! I know it’s late for the traditional intentions/goals/resolutions setting, but there are still 50 weeks left in 2016, so I think I’m safe. Anyway, without any further ado, here is where I see this year going, and what I want to prioritize as it unfolds, when I look out over the (mostly) empty pages of my calendar.

  1. More winter accessories: At the moment, I have one hat, one pair of mittens, and one cowl. I live in a place that gets approximately six months of cold weather a year, and probably half that time is really cold (-10C/14F or colder), so what the heck!? If I am going to spend half the year wearing mittens and hats and scarves and cowls, I feel that my hand-knit wardrobe should reflect that a little more. I’m just finishing my new hat (Karusellen, above), and have plans for at least one more. I’d also like to knit a couple pairs of mittens, another pair of fingerless mitts, and maybe a couple of cowls. These projects will also be excellent ways to use up the odd bits in my stash, which brings me to…
  2. Knitting up my stash: I actually think I did pretty well with this last year (11 of the the garments/items I knit were knit from stash), but I also think I added more to my stash than I knit, which is a problem. I don’t want to get rid of my stash by any stretch, but I think keeping the yardage at neutral is a reasonable goal for the year, and using up yarn I have rather than buying more of the same is just sensible.
    2b. Use what’s in my stash as a basis for choosing projects. In the past, I’ve tried to shoehorn my stash into projects I want to make, and that has not been a recipe for success (as a recipe for buying new yarn, though, it has excelled). This year, I’m going to try harder to think about what yarn I want to knit with, and then look for a suitable project.
    2c. NO MORE SOCK YARN. That’s in all-caps, because I’m yelling it at myself. I have a ton of sock yarn, and the rate at which I knit socks has decreased by quite a lot as I’ve started prioritizing larger garments. I have more than enough to see me through several years, so I can certainly go one year without buying more. This is my one hard-and-fast resolution, and I am going to be militant about it (aside from gifts, of course).

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    L will get at least two more pairs of striped socks this year. The top yarn is one he chose, Zitron Unisono #1210, and the bottom two are Knit Picks Felici in Baker Street.

  3. Knit more socks for L: This is a pretty easy one even with the above injunction. I have lots of man-specific sock yarn in my stash (purchased with L in mind) and this winter he has really embraced hand-knit socks. He was always appreciative in the past, but maybe moving to a slightly colder city has had an affect — he wore the pair I gave him for Christmas for four days straight. And then picked out yarn for a new pair the next time we were in an LYS. So, yes, I would say he’s onboard, and there’s nothing like an appreciative recipient to encourage output.
  4. Spread my holiday knitting throughout the year: I desperately need to stop the routine I’m in of not starting anything until mid-October. It’s crazy, and stresses me out way too much. This year, I’m starting in the spring and want to be half done by September. Totally doable.
  5. Sweaters! I have yarn for four, and if I finish two I will be very, very happy. I’d like to knit at least one cardigan and one pullover this year (maybe two pullovers, if I get my act together early). The next week or two are for swatching, and then the fun begins.
  6. Actually sew: I get so in my head about how time-consuming and labour-intensive sewing is, and as a result I spend more time thinking about how much work it will be than actually just doing the work. It’s ridiculous, and the only way to stop that spiral is to just do it already. I was given the pattern for the Gallery Tunic & Dress and I have the fabric for it, so that’s where I’m starting. Today I plan to trace the pattern and cut the fabric. If I don’t get farther than that, fine, maybe the secret to sewing is not trying to cram everything into one long exhausting session. I really do want to sew, but I’m so intimidated!
  7. Stop worrying about productivity: It can be hard to read blogs or check Ravelry and see people who are able to churn out one or two finished garments a week (or, more astoundingly, seven or eight sweaters a year). The why can’t I do that? question sometimes rings in the back of my mind, and I just need to get over it. My life has changed, this year is going to be nuts, and I need to adjust my expectations accordingly. Even if it takes me a month to knit a pair of socks now, I need to remember that I am still knitting and am still producing, and when your time is limited things take longer. I’m sure I’ll still struggle with it, but I hope I can get better at practicing patience with myself.
  8. Be a better blogger! This is something else that stressed me out last year, for absolutely no good reason. Last year I worried too much about having the time to write a long post, or getting up-to-date photos, and lots of other (in retrospect) silly little things that kept me from actually sitting down and writing. This year, I’m not going to let those things get in the way. Blog posts not happening in the order I had arbitrarily planned? Who cares (hence this post coming so late). Photo not a 100% accurate representation of where I am in a project? Oh well! I have come to realize that, in order to blog during the week, I need to take the photos one day, write one day, and proofread/post on another day. That obviously means things won’t line up exactly, but that’s okay. I’m aiming to post at least once a week this year, so prepare yourselves for lots of in-progress knitting. When blogging was a habit, it was easy, and I just need to get it back into my routine.

So, there you have it! Ten things for 2016, and some of them already in practice. Not so bad, late start notwithstanding. I’m sure you’ve all already written about your own goals/intentions for the year, so please feel free to share them in the comments — either your top picks, or a link, or whatever. Sometimes letting others in on your plans makes them feel more concrete and attainable (at least that’s what I’m banking on).

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Up next for me: The white yarn on the left is a gorgeous skein of 100% alpaca that my almost-sister-in-law (and her husband) gave me for Christmas. It’s from a local farm and the name of the Alpaca the wool is from is on the label! It is incredibly soft, and I can’t wait to turn it into a cozy cowl. The two right-hand skeins are Classic Elite Fresco (in Greystone and Superman Yellow) and they will be my Dala mittens.