Handmade Wardrobe Pipe Dreams

I have been following lots of excellent bloggers’ post about planning handmade wardrobes, and I have been following enviously, because I rarely apply that level of thoughtfulness to planning my own knitting projects. But it makes sense, right? Handknits don’t live in isolation, and they should be dream garments that integrate easily into our wardrobes and lives.

So, in August I will be returning to school, and that means back to school preparation, one of my favorite reasons to both craft and consume. With the exception of two, I have the yarn for all of these in my stash, so all that’s really left to do is knit. They are, from left to right, top to bottom:

1. Amanda 2. Emelie 3. Cardamom
4. Bellows 5. Gable 6. Exeter
7. Quadrillion 8. Cordova 9. Nori

A little ambitious, for sure. I am actually currently knitting Amanda, and just have one front panel and the yoke left to finish it up. Obviously, I’m looking toward mostly oversized cabled pullovers and cardigans that have the feel of a jacket. My Ravelry queue is literally over 20 pages long. There are hundreds of projects I want to knit. But these are the ones that have the most immediate appeal. My eye is definitely wandering toward garments that are incredibly easy to wear, and sweaters that look a little more square than rectangular, with lots of positive ease. It makes sense – starting in on a new and challenging academic and professional adventure, I want getting dressed to be as simple and stress-free as possible. The above dreamy selection of sweaters would certainly accomplish that.

Sadly, all of this sweater planning does come with one casualty: the Stonecutters cardigan that I let languish for three years, and finally picked up to finish this spring, is officially too small. It technically does fit, but a little more snugly than I want (see previous note about positive ease), so rather than let it sit unworn on my sweater shelf, I’m going to frog and repurpose for the Nori cardigan.

Yarn Horoscope

I just saw Lion Brand’s 2015 Horoscopes for the Yarn Lover and mine is downright uncanny:

Leo (July 23-August 22)

The ascendance of Jupiter brings with it the urge to “knit down” your yarn stash. If you must capitulate, do so in moderation. I’m not saying that a worldwide wool embargo will extinguish the global supply of reasonably-priced worsted weight; but I’m not saying that won’t happen, either.

Finished Hela

I stole some morning light before work today to snap a few quick photos of my finished Hela cardigan. In current freezing temperatures, I am wearing this almost every day, and I love the way the Lopi yarn is wearing in.

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The button band could be a little bit neater, and of course looking at the photos I can see that the top button is a bit heavy and pulls at the neckband. But these are pretty minor complaints, and otherwise, I think this is my favorite thing that I have ever knit.

At some point I will knit a pullover lopapeysa, but for this sweater, the steek was definitely the right choice.

Steek Peek

For several years now, I have been saying that cutting a steek is the knitting technique I would really like to tackle. In that time, it went from being a sort of curiosity to becoming my knitting Mt. Everest. Every January when knitting-world began to talk about new year’s knitting resolutions, I would tell myself that this would be the year, I would be bold enough to slice up one of my precious sweaters. As I became increasingly drawn to colorwork knitting, the drive got even strong. But when I actually thought about taking scissors to my knitting, I shrank back every time.

Last spring I knit my Hela sweater – intended to be a short cardigan, but according to Ravelry projects, often kept as a pullover. And it looks good that way. So when I began knitting my version, I had a cardigan in mind, but told myself that it would still work as a pullover in case I chickened out. Which of course, I did.

hela

As the weather got colder, I got a lot of wear out of Hela as a pullover, and I still loved it, but in the back of my mind, I knew I would like it more as a cardigan. Had I intended it to be a pullover, I would have knit it a size larger, and added more length to the body. In a nutshell, I could tell that this sweater wanted to be a  cardigan. So not long into January, I went home from work, pulled up Kate Davies’ steek tutorial, tried it out on a practice swatch, drank a little bourbon, and cut my favorite sweater in half.

Here are a few process photos that I took on my phone while I worked – pardon the poor image quality.

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Do I get extra points for doing this with a cat on my lap?

Rather than a zipper, I knit vertical ribbed button bands, which I seamed onto the steeked edge. I ordered some black leather buttons online, but was so excited to wear this that I attached some large shell buttons while waiting for the mail to arrive, and I have been wearing this cardigan nonstop. Now that my permanent buttons are here, I’ll sew them on and take real photos of the finished product.

I’ve been fairly ambivalent about a lot of my knitting lately, and it’s really great to finish something that I love with no reservations. Especially as blizzards and freezing temperatures hit, I just couldn’t be happier that I did a scary thing (that now feels laughably un-scary) and turned a sweater I wasn’t crazy about into a sweater I know I will wear nearly daily.

Does everyone else have these certain knitting techniques that intimidate them? (The vast number of Hela pullovers as compared to cardigans suggests that the steek is a common fear.) It was my biggest one, to be sure. Now that I’ve done it, I don’t know why I was so nervous. I’m curious what other knitters are afraid to try.

New Year Socks

My attention span has been pretty laughable lately. I’ve been starting and promptly setting aside projects steadily for weeks now. In keeping with my goal to relax a bit more, I am trying this radical experiment of not caring about it. I’m just going to let them sit for the moment, and soon I will know whether I want to knit or rip, and I’ll pick them back up then.

Thanks to my commute, though, I’ve still managed to finish one little project, my first FO of 2015.

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These are just basic top-down stockinette socks with a heel flap. Nothing fancy about the construction, but the yarn is a different story. This is Spun Right Round‘s Snappy Socks in the colorway Graffiti. I love this yarn. I think it looks like funfetti cake. It’s so outside of my normal neutral color palette, in the best way. There’s a lot to be said for bright white and bright colors during dreary New England winter.

And because I can rarely avoid including a Felane photo, here is an outtake of her snooping around my camera. I always forget that if I don’t hold her while I’m taking photos, she can’t stay away from the self timer.

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New Year Intentions

Almost two weeks into the new year, and I am still slowly thinking about the ups and downs of 2014 and what I hope to work on in the coming 11.5 months. I don’t make resolutions generally. I always hope to do all of the regular things, like save money, be healthier, read more, etc. I hope to do all of those things this year, of course, but I also have a few other intentions, things that I hope to work on right now.

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Last year I put most of my energy into my professional life. I spoke at professional conferences, collaborated on a paper for publication, served on two professional committees, and transitioned from a position more in the area of public humanities into a new job as an archivist, doing exactly the work I went to grad school to do. I love work, and I love working hard, but this year I hope to work at enjoying more leisure time. More reading for fun, more board games, more coffee with friends, etc.

ETA with regard to reading, I should add that beyond the annual quantitative goal of reading 50 books, my major objective this year is to read more diversely, in every sense.

16072931959_7f8b32210f As for knitting, I have a goal that maybe most knitters have this time of year, which is to knit primarily from stash. I have a lot of yarn. And admittedly, I have a lot of really nice yarn. I have gone through multiple destashes  and am left with only yarn I do truly want to use, and so now the only thing left to do is really knit it. My plan of attack is fairly simple. I know I won’t go a whole year without buying yarn (that’s no fun), but I thought that at least these first three months of the year, I could knit entirely from stash. I have a few sweaters in progress, and projects lined up for a lot of other yarn. While it’s cold out, I’m just going to enjoy shopping my stash and rediscovering some old treasures while I enjoy lots of tea and Netflix. You may have noticed that my goal cutoff is right before the Webs anniversary sale in spring. I’m not claiming to be great at goals. But I hope that working with my stash for a few months without the distraction of new yarn will serve as a sort of reset on my buying habits. My knitting attention span has been pretty bad lately, but going through my stash shelves has gotten me pretty excited about knitting again, so I’m looking forward to these next few weeks. Anyone else have any stash-busting ambitions this year? I’m always curious how others accumulate and work through their own yarn.

Still Here!

Wow…what an extended unintentional break from this site. It’s been a busy fall/early winter and I am just starting to catch my breath.

What is the quick and dirty version of what has happened since this summer? I had a lot of fun participating in Squam in the City, I started a new position as an archivist, I got sick and stayed sick for nearly a month, probably because I can’t ever just let myself rest at the start when I should, and I have been entertaining some thoughts about returning to school again. There is some sample knitting mixed in there, and more recently some secret Christmas gift knitting, and a little (thought not as much as I’d like) reading for fun. Maybe I’ll stick to the simplest little update and mention that I cut all of my hair off and have since been knitting many hats to keep my cold head a little warmer as winter sets in.

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The hat shown above is Skiff by Jared Flood, and it might be my current favorite hat pattern around. Such a quick and versatile knit. My version is in Cascade Alpaca Lana D’Oro, in the Olive Oil colorway. Now that I don’t have a few pounds of hair to accommodate, I could have probably gone down to a size 7 needle instead of the recommended 8, but I am really happy with this unmodified version. I may knit another after the holidays to compare. I’ve been enjoying the instant gratification of hat knitting lately, and it is a nice way to experiment with colors I might not use for a larger garment.

These last few weeks of 2014 will continue to be busy ones, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now, and I’m looking forward to a January of chipping away at some much-anticipated selfish knits, making a dent in my to-read list, and drinking lots of coffee in bed with my little cat friend.

I hope you are all wrapping up your year without too much holiday chaos, and are looking forward to similarly pleasant winter months!

A Little Knitting

I have been keeping pretty busy wrapping up work, taking on freelance projects, and searching for my next permanent position, on top of going home to visit friends and family in Pennsylvania. There is always knitting, but sometimes it is slower going. I am also fighting the urge to cast on new projects when I have pieces in progress that I do desperately want to wear this fall and winter.

I did finally block my Hela lopapeysa, which I decided in the end not to steek (for now). Though I may knit something similar and snip it into a cardigan.

hela

And though I have not blocked or added buttons to my Larch cardigan, I am happy to have finally finished knitting it – this was my oldest WIP, stretching back to 2010. I think this started as a stockinette grad school lecture project. I’m not sure why I set it down after I finished the body. But I am very glad to have picked it up four years later. Also thanking my lucky stars it still fits. I’m ready for cooler weather so I can wear this every day.

larch

While staying at my mom’s house, I came across these oversized knitting needles, which I believe once belonged to my great-grandma, the only other knitter in my family. While I tend to enjoy life below worsted-weight, I have been really admiring chunky giant-gauge blankets, rugs, etc. lately. I also like a knitting needle that (as friends were quick to point out) you can kill a vampire with.

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Maybe I’ll dive in headfirst and rewatch Buffy while I knit up something really fat with these this winter.

With any luck, I’ll be reporting back soon with job news and a few more finished objects.

Why Running?

I usually run alone, but fairly recently I went running with a coworker and friend, and he invited a running friend of his along as well. Somewhere around mile five or six, she asked me, “So why running, for you?” That’s a hard question to answer, for me, and I have been thinking about it since then.

I’ve been running off and on for about twelve years; this is the first time in about six that I’ve pushed through my three-month/three-mile threshold. For the past year I’ve been running increasingly long distances, trying to get out and run at least three times a week, with varying levels and styles of cross training. I don’t drive, so I do all of my daily commuting/traveling by bike, and I plan to get back to longer rides now that the weather is turning. I do yoga and lift weights when I can muster up the energy, and try to stretch a lot every day, even if I’m not doing any other exercise.

The internet would have us believe that running is like this:

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Would that every day was gray and misty and there were never any other humans around and I actually invested in stylish running outfits. If running was like this, no one would ever ask why you do it; everyone would just want to do it.

More accurate portraits of my current running life would include me shuffling in circles around the city of Providence trying to rack up a few more miles; me pouring Listerine over my broken toe so the nail doesn’t become fungal as it grows back in; me blowing my nose into my shirt because my allergies are terrible and I can barely breathe; me averting my eyes and turning the volume on my phone up so I can block out creepy dudes as much as possible while running in the city; new leg muscles rendering most of my pants too tight- do I need to buy new pants now, on top of everything else? It doesn’t sound so good. So there is still that question, why do it?

I guess in spite of all of the above, this is how I relax. It feels good to be outside and moving, and to be in a kind of imagined isolation. I feel like my brain works better when I’m covering some physical ground. And because most of my day is spent at a desk, I feel especially grateful for the literal change of pace.

 

Let’s be fair. There is a running advertisement that speaks to the very core of me. Running is a time out, where none of these things can catch me:

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Put simply, maybe there is a reason it is called running away from your problems. A special bonus is that when you’re done running, all problems are put back in perspective.

This past Sunday, I ran my first half marathon. I say first because, although six months ago I registered for the event unsure that I would actually push through the mileage and feel ready to run 13.1 miles, but now, instead of feeling like I’ve reached a goal, I feel like I’m just getting started. I feel lucky that I’m able to do this because I can’t imagine being able to lose myself this way in anything else, and it feels good to see how far I’ve come in just the last six months; I can’t wait to see where I am in another six. It’s different, but I feel somewhat about running the way I feel about knitting. They share a meditative quality, and the potential for constantly overcoming new, small obstacles. In both cases, I feel like I’ve reached a point where these are things that I crave as a part of my day, and know to factor into my daily routine. It feels good.

ETA: This post popped up in my feed via Fit and Feminist (highly recommended). It’s always worth reiterating that thinness is one of running’s top PR problems. As alluded to above (re: my pants), running hasn’t made me thinner, and it hasn’t given me fitspo muscle definition. But has it helped me conquer body issues by reminding me what my body is capable of doing? Yup. And that is certainly another thing that makes me glad to be a runner.

My Ears are Burning

Thanks, Jennifer, for including me in this project! It’s fun to work from a prompt, and to think about things in a different way than I normally do. Written a bit on the fly, as everything seems to be these days.

What is your dream project? The one thing that you want to complete no matter how long it takes?

Dream project! I don’t know if there’s just one. I’d love a closet full of fair isle sweaters and a Beekeeper’s Quilt on my bed.

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With whom would you want to collaborate on any sort of project?

I honestly love working collaboratively. Outside of knitting, reading, and running, I think most of my life (especially my professional life) is about working with others. And even my independent activities have at least a social element. I can’t think of just one person I’d want to work on a project with, because I think the answer is everyone I know.

What’s the reason for your blog name? Why did you begin blogging?

“Figs and Things” is one of the names of a magazine in this Kate Beaton comic: sweater issue

A friend once sent it to me, joking that this was a panel about my then-boyfriend’s life with me. Dating is not a thing I’m currently interested in, but I like to imagine that any/all boys in the world perceive me this way. “Blase Sweater Issue” might be my other favorite detail from this strip.

Why did I begin blogging? I don’t always know. I’ve probably been writing about crafts online, in various blog incarnations, for about 8 years. Periodically, I’d feel self-indulgent or self-conscious about putting things out in a public forum and delete the blog, only to start a new one a few months later. I think what keeps me around are the other people who are doing this too. Knitting can be very solitary if you want it to be, but it can also be wonderfully social. I think a solid majority of my friendships have begun because of a common interest in knitting or textiles in general.

What meal can you make with no recipe, hands tied behind your back, one eye open (you get the idea)?

I mentioned in my last post that I’m not much for cooking. That said, I can make many varieties of fancy grilled cheese, and inappropriately extravagant banana splits.

What world city do you feel is your true home?

My family lives in Meadville, PA, north of Pittsburgh. To me those two cities always feel the most like home. I’ve lived in Providence for six years now and I really like it, but when I think of home, I always think of western Pennsylvania.

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Describe a time when blogging/crafting helped you through a stressful time in your life.

I feel kind of like it always does. Granted, when I’m really stressed or going through a hard time, it’s difficult for me to sit still, so I tend to go running more during those times. But once I go for my run and have exhausted enough energy to sit down for a while, there is nothing better than playing with yarn. I like heavy cables, textures, or colorwork when I’m stressed.

Name something that you wish you could do or something that doesn’t come easy, and admire others for being able to do so?

This could easily become an endless list, but I suppose off the top of my head, I wish I was better at spinning yarn and sewing. There was a time years ago when knitting would have been on this list, so I know that becoming good at something just takes time and practice, but I don’t know if there will ever be enough hours in the day to become skilled at all the things that interest me. I’ve also recently been giving an electric knitting machine, and hope to become even remotely skilled at using it. But it’s a very different kind of beast.

What are you reading right now?

I’ve just wrapped up a few books, and am trying to decide what I feel like reading now. One of the books I just finished was David Sedaris’ When You are Engulfed in Flames, which was, like all of his collections, equal parts funny and touching.

What movie’s lines can you recite by heart?

Wayne’s World, Troop Beverly Hills & Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. I’d add television to this because my real media obsession is Golden Girls, and I think I can actually quote every episode of the complete series. Test me on it sometime.

If your life were a movie/album, what would it be named?

I joke about this a lot. A few favorites: “Party Hardly” and “Life in the Cats Lane.” People who hate puns don’t tend to love spending too much time with me.

At what point in your life were you the most impressed with yourself & your creativity?

Is it really arrogant if I say that I’m frequently kind of impressed with myself? I don’t mean it that way. What I mean is that I’m constantly attempting to do new things that I don’t know how to do yet, and feeling really good when I manage to grasp new concepts. I just started knitting my first Lopapeysa, and this will also be the first time I cut a steek into a sweater. I am actually so nervous about it that it makes my heart kind of race. It’s something I’ve wanted to attempt for years, but the idea of cutting into my knitting is (understandably) stressful. So I can preemptively say that if I cut the steek successfully, that is when I’ll be feeling most impressed with myself.