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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?

Looking forward, eyes wide open

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Last night, as L and I rang in the New Year, it snowed and snowed and snowed. So, this morning, when we woke up to 2017, the view from our windows was pristine: perfect, untouched, fluffy snow covered everything. Of course by now the plows have been out and our neighbours have been walking their dogs and the snow has been shovelled and heaped and stepped in, but still, it was a perfect scene to wake up to.

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I started knitting Halligarth in 2014 (!) and its time has come. Before I get going on anything else this year, I am finishing this shawl. It’s going to be a stunner.

I meant to do a wrap-up post yesterday, but I got so overwhelmed thinking about how many things I never blogged, or even took proper photos of, and the idea of catching up seemed too big, and then I lost the light (the days are getting longer, but not quickly). But, that paralysis was, in a way, also a catalyst. I don’t usually make resolutions, but this year I am: In 2017, I resolve to act.

2016 was a lot of things, and while I definitely feel like I accomplished a lot, I also feel the weight of the things I didn’t do — things I thought about doing, but never quite got around to (lots of blog posts that I fully thought out but never wrote; emails planned but never sent; garments planned but never sewn; articles bookmarked but never read, or only partially read; etc.). I never regret thinking about things, but I do regret not following through. So this year, my goal is to follow through. Most of the things in the list above do not actually take very long to do; it’s just a matter of sitting down and doing them or, in the case of sewing, blocking out pockets of time to sit down and do them.

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I love this photo of L and I. It’s from last February, when we had engagement photos taken, and it features both my Karusellen hat and L’s scarf — the first thing I ever knit him. The photo is by Ramya Jegatheesan.

Before I get too down on myself though, here’s a reminder of some of the things I did accomplish last year:

  • I knit 20 garments, including three sweaters, five pairs of socks, and my long-dreamed-of dala horse hat and mittens set.
  • I sewed seven shirts, most of which are in regular warm-weather rotation, and two dresses (none of which I’ve blogged or properly photographed, which also means I may be forgetting something).
  • I travelled to the Bahamas, New York, and Iceland, as well as back and forth to Toronto, Quebec, and Nova Scotia.
  • I read, including audiobooks, 39 books. My top 5 of the year (in order of when I read them) were: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald; All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; Shrill written and read by Lindy West; My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (I am halfway through The Story of A New Name right now and am totally hooked); and Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay, read by Bahni Turpin.
  • I hiked, skied, snowshoed, skated, and swam, making the most of all the seasons
  • L and I got married! (And, relatedly, spent 10 months planning our wedding.)
  • And, just to make things interesting, with just weeks left in the year L and I quit our jobs and moved to Quebec!
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The best. (Photo by Ramya Jegatheesan.)

Taken on its own, it’s not a bad list. 2016 wasn’t all bad, even if it largely feels like it was a really dark year. I am carrying a lot of hope into 2017, but I am also facing reality that some of the darkness of last year is coming with us. That’s a big reason why I want to focus on action this year. It would be easier to hunker down, look inward, and try to focus on only the positives (all of which are good and valid things to do), but I want to enter this new year with my eyes open. I don’t want to be blindsided by the world like I was last year — it hurt too much — so instead I am looking at everything. The view isn’t all good, but you can’t do anything about the parts you don’t like if you can’t see them.

To start with, I set up a recurring donation to Plan International’s Because I Am A Girl program (I also have recurring donation set up for MSF. I like not having to think about it). I did it today, while L and I looked over our budget (New Year’s Day is a good day to check-in on your finances, actually) and it took almost no time at all, which is a good little reminder to myself that these kinds of things actually happen really fast when you just do them. Anyway. We’re still finding our feet in out new town, but I will be looking for local volunteer opportunities and organizations to support as well.

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I cast these on sometime in November and they are an immensely satisfying project to have in the background. Even knitting just a couple of rows in between working on other things is a delight. How had I not knit self-patterning yarn before this?

Of course, I am also making lists of all the things I want to make this year. I tend to make big plans and then get sidetracked, but this year I really do want to focus on building out my wardrobe. My main focus this year is sweaters, particularly ones that I can wear to work (in theory, all my sweaters are fine for work, but I’m working on refining my office look and part of that is allowing for a more defined work/weekend split in what I wear). I have updated my Ravelry queue, focusing mainly on the sweaters I have yarn for already, and while I’m sure things will change a bit, I’m feeling good about this as a starting point.

Sewing-wise, there are three garments I want to tackle this year: button-down shirts (I have both the Grainline Archer and Cashmerette Harrison Shirt patterns in my stash), a simple every-occasion dress (I have the Colette Laurel pattern, so that’s where I’m starting, but I also really like the By Hand London Zeena Dress), and t-shirts (I’m still kind of afraid of knits, but I need to get over that and have the Grainline Lark Tee, Deer & Doe Plaintain and Seamwork Jane patterns all ready and waiting). I have fabric to start all of these, and once we get a bit more unpacked I’m going to give myself time every week to sew (if I’ve learned one thing it’s that knitting might “just happen” but, around here, spontaneous sewing never does. Likewise, I’m going to give myself blogging time, because if I don’t schedule it, it won’t happen).

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I swatched for Oda before Christmas and cast on last week, right before picking up Halligarth. Once the shawl is finished, I think this will be a relatively quick knit, and a really good winter-wardrobe staple.

Since a bunch of stuff I made last year never made it on here, I’m thinking I might still try for a top-5 makes of 2016 post. It’ll be photo- (and, thus, light-) dependent, but I’m going to try to make it happen.

Happy 2017 to you all! What big (or small) wonderful things do you have planned for the year?

What happens now

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The Internet — at least the part of it I turn to when I need distraction or comfort or inspiration — has been quiet this week. I am Canadian, so I was unable to do more than watch as events unfolded in the U.S. on Tuesday. But I cried on Wednesday morning, sitting at my desk at work, as I watched Hillary Clinton give one of the most gracious and devastating speeches I’ve ever witnessed. Every time I have seen lines from that speech quoted in the last few days, I have cried again. All the stories about parents bringing their daughters to the polls make me cry, as do the stories of the little girls who stayed up late to watch the results.

All of those stories made me realize that I never had that moment as a little girl and so, in many ways, I was just like those little girls who woke up on Wednesday and felt the true crush of a dream. The difference, I guess, is that maybe I should have known. But I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t believe it was possible. I live(d) in a bubble, and on Tuesday it popped and the air was sucked out and on Wednesday I couldn’t breath.

I am breathing again. Tears and gasps are fine, but they don’t accomplish much aside from catharsis (which is in itself important, I think). As I said, I’m Canadian, but I know better than to be smug. The U.S. President has huge influence in this country, and the politics of hate and superiority are a kind of whirlpool that sucks people in because it’s so much easier to go along with them — provided, of course, that you’re not a person of colour, an immigrant, LGBT, a woman (even a white woman), and/or disabled.

This week, Kellie Leitch, who is running to be the leader of our federal Conservative Party, invoked Trump and his politics as a model to be followed. Canadians, don’t fool yourselves into thinking that rhetoric couldn’t catch on here. It could, and most of us wouldn’t even see it coming.

So, what do we do now? That is the question I keep seeing as I search for help understanding what has happened and what will happen and what I can do to, if not change it, make it better. I don’t yet have an answer, except that as a start L and I will be putting our money where our mouths and values are, and making regular, sustained donations to organizations that fight for what we believe in: equal rights, reproductive rights, safety for women and LGBT people who need shelter, etc.

If you too are searching for understanding, or a lens that makes the future feel less dim, here are some essays and articles that I found particularly helpful:

  • “The sky is not falling. It just feels a little darker right now. She is out there. I know it in my core. In some school. On some playground. In some boardroom. She may not even know it yet. And our collective job is to light the path so everyone else can find her.” — from Thank you Hillary, now women know retreat is not an option by Marie Henein
  • “My plan is to make hot sticky love to my martyr’s complex. All. Night. Long. My plan is to become someone who brings up the Holocaust at every opportunity and not say stupid things like, “Well the good thing about this is that it started a conversation about respect/rape/assault/pariahhood/anti-Semitism/xenophobia/ racism.” My plan is to go home and cry while I type.” — from My plan for making peace with President-Elect Trump by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
  • “Things are going to be, uh, different without her in the White House (sorry, understatement of the decade), but our fundamental task is unchanged. The call to action is the same, but so much louder.
    So listen to it.” — from Finish your ugly-crying. Here’s what comes next. by Ann Friedman
  • “What do you say in the moment of your child’s disillusionment? You tell her what you hope to be true, and in so doing you remind yourself of the parents, the citizens, you hope to be.” — from My daughter grew up believing she could do anything by Lisa Miller
  • “I live in a progressive bubble and this election has forced me to acknowledge that I cannot comprehend what has happened because I will never wholly understand what is happening. And that is something I need to work on. Hard.
    America, we are NOT better than this. We are THIS. And we have work to do. In and OUTSIDE of our communities.” — from This is where we begin by Rebecca Woolf (emphasis hers)
  • “We have been weathering this hurricane wall of doubt and violence for so long, and now, more crystalline than ever, we have an enemy and a mandate. We have the smirking apotheosis of our oppression sliming, paw-first, toward our genitals. We have the popular vote. We have proof, in exit polls, that white women will pawn their humanity for the safety of white supremacy. We have abortion pills to stockpile and neighbors to protect and children to teach. We have the right woman to find. We have local elections in a year.” — from Her loss by Lindy West

This is not usually an overtly political blog and while regular knitting and travel content will continue after this, I do feel increasingly that any public space occupied by women and minorities is a political space. I am struggling right now, but I know I’m not alone in that. You can respect democracy and not respect its results, so if you are scared, or sinking, or feel like the hope you felt has been dashed, please know I see you. I feel you. I am here for you. We are stronger together.

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.

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.

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.