Summer break, so I’m knitting and thinking about clothes

I did something today that was simultaneously unusual and utterly in keeping with my most ingrained habits and tendencies.

I cast on for a new project.

I’ve been at my job just over a year now, and I truly love it. I recently got a very nice promotion, so apart from the few weeks where I rarely left the office before 8pm, it’s going swimmingly. The downside is that its demands plus my still very long commute leave me with little time or energy to do the crafty things I used to enjoy so frequently at home. My company is closed for the next two weeks, so I am trying to take advantage of the time off to get my home life back in order.

While ordering Roman shades for my bedroom (I’ve been living with the vinyl blinds my landlord provided when I first moved in back in 2010… which I’ve since broken) I also did a little bit of online clothes shopping for some summer pick-me-ups. I’m pretty picky about the value of clothing, especially after working in retail and coming to really understand the vast difference between fabrication, wholesale, and retail pricing.

I bought two more pencil skirts just like the dozens in my closet, and while they were seriously marked down, I kept thinking, “These things have three, maybe four seams and a zipper. Why do I routinely spend so much money on something I could so easily make?!” I have owned a sewing machine for years (it may or may not still be in working order). Back in 2007, I bought two patterns and fabric (which has all since been lost or wrecked) with the sincerest intentions to learn to sew skirts and dresses. But I never sealed the deal, and I have no idea why not.

Another thing that occasionally troubles me when buying clothes (especially at such discounted prices) is that I can’t really know if they were produced in ethical labor conditions. I try to shop only from companies with solid reputations, but unless you are making the clothes yourself, you can’t actually be sure that no one was exploited or mistreated for your super cute new sundress (not that this qualm has stopped me from buying anything lately – but it does hover in the back of my mind). It is my hope that I can learn to sew basics like skirts and dresses, maybe even blouses, and that in addition to benefitting from custom sizing and choosing the fabrics of my dreams, I will no longer have a closet full of morally ambiguous textiles.

But I’m getting quite a bit ahead of myself. That aqua-blue yarn you see above? It’s cheerily on its way to becoming this:

The Viennese Shrug, from Interweave Knits Summer 2005. I’ve been wanting to make this lacy shrug since 2007 (I had a lot of good ideas back then) and just like my intended sewing projects, somehow never quite got around to it.

But that good-intentions-poor-follow-through habit is precisely the one I plan to break, starting now.

Whispering and Ribbing

It would be a lie to say I’ve been knitting monogamously since starting this sweater, since I’ve actually finished two other sweaters while working on it (I know, right??), but for the most part, I’ve been obsessively focused on it, and it’s showing.

I’ve reached the “long rows” or skirt portion below the ribbed waist/collar, nearing the finish line on what has been an intensely enjoyable and lovely project.

The amount of time I’ve spent doing 1×1 ribbing in laceweight yarn this week is a bit staggering. It made me realize that on my last Whisper Cardigan, I stopped the ribbing half an inch short, with no memory of why I did that. I also noticed something about my 1×1 ribbing itself.

This is the outside, which frankly, looks a little cruddy. This photograph is obviously pre-blocking, so presumably the unevenness and sort of wonky appearance of the stitches should sort itself out.

But look at the backside. The knit stitches are so much more even, tame, and nicely spaced. These photos don’t show it, but the back looks much nicer when stretched too. Why is the wrong side of my ribbing so much nicer-looking than the right side??

When I accidentally picked up stitches backwards on another ribbing-edged project, I thought I could test an idea I had, that knitting my ribbing with the backside as the right side would result in a nicer edging. At first, it had the intended tidy, attractive appearance and I was very pleased with myself. But after stretching it a little in trying the garment on, the two sides are indistinguishable. So much for that theory.

I’ve always knit English (yarn in my right hand, throwing over the stitches), in part because it’s how I was taught and because I’ve read that it typically results in more even stitches and consistent gauge. I’m starting to wonder if I wouldn’t benefit from switching up how I do my 1×1 ribbing, not only for improved appearance, but for what I imagine would be a dramatic increase in speed.

Nevertheless, I’m thrilled with where this project is going, and I’m glad I soldiered through all that ribbing. I can’t wait to share some FOs with you soon.

What’s new is new, too.

Lately I feel consumed with “catching up.” Perhaps a symptom of end-of-semester restlessness, I am suddenly intensely interested in finishing old projects, photographing and blogging what I’ve forgotten, working through my WIP baskets (yes, they’ve become plural), and in general, getting back in touch with my knitterly self.

Of course, I still like a new cast-on just as much as the next knitter.

It’s laceweight wool/silk, green, and one of my all-time favorite patterns.

You know I’m already in love.

Flashback FO: Whisper Cardigan

I recently realized that over the years I’ve finished a number of projects that I either never photographed or never blogged, and in my desire to no longer be the worst and most delinquent knitting blogger that ever… didn’t blog, I’d like to remedy this circumstance.

So here is the first in a series of Flashback FOs, which happens to be one of my most-loved and most frequently worn hand-knit garments.

Pattern: Whisper Cardigan by Hannah Fetig, from the Spring 2009 Interweave Knits. My project page is here.
Size: between a M and L
Yarn: Knit Picks Palette 4-ply fingering weight, 100% wool, in Twig; I used about 3.5 balls, approximately 174 grams, which was 804 yards/ 735 meters
Needles: Size 7 (4.5 mm) and Size 4 (3.5 mm)
Modifications: Used fingering weight yarn instead of laceweight, customized width across back.

Started: April 10, 2009
Finished: August 15, 2009

If I had to guess, I’d say I was planning to take more flattering photos, but I hope you get the idea.

Smile, 2009 Vicki, you have a lovely new sweater.

From the moment I saw this design, I was taken with its clever seamless construction. Cast on at one sleeve and worked across the back to the other, it has a similar anatomy to many shrugs. But instead of simply leaving ribbed edges, this cardigan goes on to short-row panels that make surprisingly fun little flaps that tuck in right around the ribcage. It’s strange how much I enjoy that detail, but I find I want just a little more coverage than most cropped cardigans and shrugs offer in that area.

The flaps also give it a more breezy, casual attitude, while gliding over more of one’s back and sides. In person, of course, that faux seam at the back is straight and I don’t usually get the sweater all bunched up at my back like this.

I used a fingering weight yarn instead of the laceweight the pattern called for, both because it was in my stash and because I wanted something a little more substantial. This pattern is easy to customize to one’s desired length and width anyway, so I found it was effortless to follow as written using a substituted yarn weight. At the time I knit this sweater, I was working in a lab that was much too enthusiastically air conditioned, so having something wooly yet fluttery was just right over my summer dresses and blouses. I’ve continued to get a genuinely impressive amount of wear out of such a simple garment, perhaps specifically because it is so simple and easy to wear.

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The slightly flared sleeves and tendency for the short-row flaps to roll and curl gives this sweater a pleasantly casual, easygoing feel, while its trim ribbing and seamless construction keep it looking elegant and graceful.

If there is such a thing as a perfect pattern, I’m inclined to believe this is it.

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