Monday, January 9, 2017

Casting on the Halo Shawl

Today is my first day back at the office after two glorious weeks off. Usually I'm a good sleeper, but I think I was so nervous about sleeping through my alarm that I woke up at 5am. That's okay though. After lying in bed and staring at the ceiling for an hour, I'm feeling mentally prepared for the 8.30 to five to begin again. And I had time to think about my new project, which has taken up a lot of my spare hours over the last three days.

After ripping out my most recent big project, I figured it was a good time to do a bit of a stash stock-take and get a better idea of what yarn I have, and figure out what to do with it all. In a similar vein to last year, I hope to keep being thoughtful with my stash and not keep adding to it with yarn I'm never going to use. 

For the longest time - I think maybe six years - I've had this divine organic merino four ply in my stash. And I have a lot of it. Three hanks of 200g each. It's undyed and a really beautiful creamy colour. I used the same yarn to make my Funchal Moebius and it was so soft and warm that I knew one day I would find another project for this yarn. (RIP Moebius, you are still lost and sorely missed). 

I'd also been dreaming about my own copy of Woolens by Jared Flood ever since I borrowed it from the library. It would have been great to reissue the book, but the wait list for it was so long that I had to return it before Christmas, and I'd expect to wait another few months to get my hands on it again. 

It's no surprise really; the patterns in it are just stunning. From classic cable scarfs to colourwork, there is really something in here for everyone. I can see a scarf and hat for Mike, as well as several more things for me. I figure the cost of the book will be well worth the amount of knitting I'll get done out of this. 

So on Thursday last week, I ordered a copy from Holland Road Yarn Co. It arrived on Friday morning (seriously, no one can beat Tash and team for service, they truly are amazing) and I decided within 15 minutes that the Halo Shawl was the project to start with.

I'm not a lace knitter at all, if anything, I actively avoid it, but this looked like a good entry into lace. In the past I've started lace projects with lace weight yarn and it's never ended well. But this organic merino, which is a heavy 4ply, is great to work with and easy to see what you're doing. I think using an undyed yarn for this project really shows off the pattern elements.

I've never knitted a round shawl from the centre before, so I've learned a new cast-on method which is always exciting, and I think once this is blocked, it won't look too fussy or girly like lace can do sometimes. I prefer scarfs with structure, so this design is quite feminine for me, but I think the thicker wool will balance that out. 

So far it's going well and I'm really enjoying the rhythm of the six row pattern repeat. The stockinette stitch between each eyelet block breaks up the pattern and gives my concentrating mind a bit of a break, and I'm happy with how much I've done so far. Now that I'm heading back to work, I'm expecting progress to slow, but I think this project will be a nice knit to unwind with at the end of a day in the office.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A frog in the new year

I've read a few new year's resolutions about getting projects done and all WIPs off the needles, and this is a goal I'm quite into. I like starting with a blank slate as I find it easier to plan my upcoming projects and really consider what I'd like to make. 
After posting yesterday, a comment I made really got me thinking.

My quest for the perfect cardigan still continues. I'm knitting my Isla at the moment, and while I like the way it's progressing, I'm not sure if it's the one...

I don't want to start my 2017 of making with doubts. There is nothing particularly wrong with this cardigan. I like the colour, the last ever three skeins of Rosewood Wool's DK in Kimono Joy is lovely, and I like the pattern by Cirilia Rose. It's written really well and so far it's been an easy knit. I've completed the back, and still have the sleeves and front to go.

But it's just not working for me. So I've frogged it.

I know I've made the right decision. It would be a real shame to spend all the time knitting this to have it languishing in a drawer and never worn. It's too similar a blue to some of the other clothes I wear, and a V-neck isn't a shape I wear often. This yarn is destined for something amazing, but I need to find the right pattern. Possibly a cowl for winter bike riding, maybe with cables?

This frog has also got me thinking about other hand-knits I've also finished that are languishing in a drawer. Things I love, but don't wear often. Like my bright yellow cabled crop sweater. I love it, but it's a bit short, so it doesn't get worn often. The options are to undo the bind-off and add a couple of inches to the ribbing, or frog it and make something new, or donate it. 

I'm not sure what to do with it, but I'm sad that I don't wear it as much as I once did. I'd say my style has changed a fair bit over the last two years - less vintage, more modern, and that definitely impacts on what hand knits I wear. I'll keep thinking about the yellow sweater, as it's a good reminder to really choose projects and yarns well, and think about about what will still work with an evolving personal style.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Making plans for 2017

Happy new year, lovely people. I hope 2017 has been amazing so far. I can happily say that mine has been restful, and I've finished making a thing! 

I've been taking the time to come up with some making goals for the upcoming year, and I must say that it's getting tricky. Since I refocussed my making to line up with what my wardrobe needed and what works with my personal style, I'm finding that I don't need to make as much as I used to. This isn't a bad thing though, and I've got a couple of ideas to sustain my need to make.

1 - Makes for Mike. The husband needs more clothes. I think I'm at the point where I'm willing to risk the Sweater Curse, so I'll be looking into that. He also could do with a new scarf and beanie for the winter. 

2 - the Iceland plan. My baby brother (read, 28 year old) and I have decided that we want to go to Iceland. Next winter. When it's cold. I mean, really cold. So I need a nice warm jumper. I've decided that my challenging project for the year will be the Botanical Yoke Pullover from Purl Soho. I've just downloaded the pattern and I just need to find the right yarn. I'll probably need some warm layers, too, so I'm thinking I'll need a few metres of merino fabric to make some tops. 

Otherwise, that's kind of all I've got so far. My quest for the perfect cardigan still continues. I'm knitting my Isla at the moment, and while I like the way it's progressing, I'm not sure if it's the one...

And the finished thing I mentioned earlier.

Here is my Darling Ranges Dress, probably the most challenging thing I've made without supervision. It was good to have a couple of free days to really get into this without having to rush, and make sure I took enough care with different elements.

This is the first time I've sewn set-in sleeves without any assistance, and the first time I've made my own bias binding, which looks so good. I'll definitely be making it again for other projects. 

While the pattern was pretty straight forward, I did find I had a few fit issues through the bodice. Typically, I only figured out how to fix this after I'd finished the bias binding around the neckline. My solution was to take up the shoulder seams by a couple of centimetres, but that meant putting a seam through the binding. Sure, I could have spent a while unpicking the whole thing and finishing it all really nicely, but I just wanted to wear it.

I really like the little details in this project, such as the elastic in the sleeve hems and the ties at the back. Overall, pretty happy with this summer project.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Holiday makes and 2016 in review

I hope you're all having a great festive season and a bit of a break. I've done a lot of sleeping over the last week, and half way into my holiday, I'm finally feeling relaxed. It's been a bit quiet on the blog for a few weeks, and I don't know where the time has gone. There's been a lot of work to finish before the holiday, and lots of catching up with lovely friends before everyone vacated the city for the summer break. Which pretty much equals zero blogging time. But that's okay - it's been quite nice to be away from the computer for a while, and spend time with family and friends. And spending time making things!

These socks are finally getting finished. They've been on the needles for a few months now. This is sock number two of a pair, and I've suffered a severe case of Second Sock Syndrome. I've turned the heel and I'm rapidly heading towards the toe. I won't finish them by midnight tonight, but they will be done before I go back to work.

I've also just finished my Darling Ranges dress - photos to come - so I'm feeling quite productive over this holiday break. 

As for 2016 overall, I probably haven't been as productive with my knitting as I have in the past, although I've made a cardigan that's being worn to death and lots of little accessories. I published my Storm Shawl knitting pattern and upped my sewing game with a new overlocker and more challenging projects. I've been getting much better at only buying the yarn and supplies I need for a particular project, and the de-stashing has carried on all year.

And outside of making, for me at least, 2016 has been pretty good. I had my amazing trip to Paris where I was able to be just me without any other context. The job is going well, and I seem healthy enough.... I also turned 30 and it wasn't as scary as I thought it might be. 
But also, good friends haven't had it so easy this year, and I'm always in awe of their resilience, which is very inspiring. And then there's the very inspirational people we've all lost this year.... still for some of these, like David Bowie and Carrie Fisher, I don't have words. 

Worldwide events, namely Brexit and a certain election, have scared me, but I plan to remain hopeful and do more for my community - good can be found in the small things. I'm not sure how I'll do this yet, but I hope to figure it out over the remainder of my break.  Maybe this will be through making. Sometimes I find it hard to reconcile small things like knitting with big changes. Sometimes I can't see how this small act can make much of a difference, but I'm determined to be positive and hopeful. 

See you in 2017. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Finished objects in time for the sunshine

My poor Adventure Tank. You were started almost as soon as the pattern arrived in the mailbox, fabric washed, all ready to go. And then all the things happened and you sat for two weeks without the arm bands or a hem. So I'm glad that today I had absolutely nothing to do except get out the sewing machine and the overlocker, and finish you.

But that's not all! Given I had hours home alone with no one to annoy, out came the other pre-washed fabric and scissors for my second Kielo Dress.

I do love a stripe, and I found this lovely knit at Fabric-a-brac. I knew it needed to be a summer dress, as nothing beats nautical stripes in the sunshine. I've modified the pattern a bit - instead of making it full length I chopped it at the knee, and I narrowed the skirt to make it a bit more fitted. 

I'm really happy with how these have both come out, and shows just how much I can get done if I A) have no plans, B) do all the chores early, and C) stop being lazy!

Hope you've had a good weekend of making!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

On the last few weeks...

I'm sitting here wondering where the last three weeks went. The election happened. Then the earthquake happened. And the days after became a blur with multiple trips out of town to help with the emergency response. Not much knitting or sleeping was done, and I felt stress in a way I hadn't really experienced before. My day job is generally a reactive one, but this was another level. But I learned a lot, and have a huge amount of respect for all the teams working on the ground as Kaikoura, North Canterbury and Wellington transition into recovery. Then I got back home, worked a week, and celebrated turning 30. 

 For my own sanity after getting home, buying yarn was the cure. I was very lucky to get back to Auckland for the Handweavers & Spinners' Guild Pop Up Market on November 20. I finally got my hands on some Rosewood Wool! I got the last three hanks of this lovely grey/blue/purple colourway, and I'm hoping it will be just enough for my Isla Cardigan, which is now underway.

I also got a lovely pink skein of Happy Go Knitty's Kashgar silk merino, in pink, which although an odd choice for me, it is starting to become a bit more common in my wardrobe. I plan to combine this with some other skeins of silk merino I have lying around.

And while I haven't had as much time as I'd like to really focus on knitting, I have been getting lots of knitspiration from Jared Flood's most recent book, Woolens. All of the accessories in here are just perfection. There's a round lace shawl in this that I'm so in love with, I might be tempted to try lace knitting again - something I haven't really tried since I decided knitting myself a really hard shawl for my wedding was a good idea.... 

There are some beautiful cable scarves and beanies in here too, and I think I'll return this copy to the library and order my own. Given so many of the patterns are so classic, and unisex, I think buying a copy would be a good investment. Christmas present to myself?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Taking a breath

I'm probably not the only person thinking about how strange this week has been.
Generally I'm pretty optimistic. I have faith in the good of people, and always hopeful that everyone just wants the best for one another. 
I guess this week though, with the world's events, I'm feeling less optimistic than usual. I'm worried about our little planet, and the efforts people have made to make it inclusive and welcoming being undone. 
I'm worried about the climate, and the Paris Agreement and other big climate change policies being disregarded and ignored. And I feel that from here, at the bottom of the world, the efforts of an individual to reduce, reuse and recycle, shop ethically and waste less, won't ever make a difference. 

I know this is something I will shake in a few days, because what we do as individuals does matter. Being kind matters, tolerance matters, and being welcoming matters. I realise that there are many people who don't share the same views as me, so I'm making an extra effort to be tolerant and kind to people who might not agree with me, and listen more to voices that aren't always heard.

And I always have making to make me feel optimistic. Cardigan plans. Dress plans. Summer t-shirt plans.

Thanks to some very well timed parcels from Fancy Tiger Crafts and Miss Maude, I've got a few things to be getting on with, using my Fabric-a-brac Fabric. I've been looking for a good tank top pattern for a while, but ones for woven fabric never really did it for me. In summer I like comfortable knit tops, so I'm pleased that I've found the Adventure Tank.

And then there's the skirt I've been dreaming about for ages - Arielle from Tilly and the Buttons. I've been planning on getting a fitted skirt pattern for a long time - good for work, the mini versions are great for summer and I love the shape. I think this will be a good challenge, as it's a lined skirt and I've never made anything with a lining before. 

These will be a welcome distraction to the events of the past week, and I hope optimism and kindness will eventually prevail.