Saturday, April 30, 2016

When you lose the hardest thing you've ever knitted

It's taken about three weeks to post this. I think because posting it means that I've acknowledged that the hardest thing I've ever knitted is gone, and that the chances of finding it again are very low. 

The weather is finally getting cold enough here to start thinking seriously about knitwear. A few weeks ago I was looking for my Funchal Moebius, and she wasn't in any of the usual places. Not in my scarf drawer. Not on top of the dresser. Not on the floor (yes, I know, I'm a terrible person, but my floordrobe functions well) and not in any other drawers. She wasn't under the cushions on the couch, in any of my craft drawers, or on any coat hangers in the actual wardrobe.

I turned the house upside down. I rang my parents and my in-laws. Grandma is very concerned. Friends checked to see if I'd left it at their places. No sign of it anywhere.

This is not the first knitted item I've lost. Last year I lost my first Storm Shawl, but that was very straight forward to recreate. This is another matter entirely. 

The Funchal Moebius was a really big challenge for me when I made it. This was over five years ago; I'd never knitted anything of that size before, and I don't think I have since. I'd never tried stranded knitting, and I'd never dyed yarn before. It took me over six months to make, blindly trusting in Kate Davies' pattern writing skills, and painstakingly grafting the two ends together having never done a Kitchener Stitch before in my life.

I'm still trying to find a bit of a way forward from this. Part of me thinks "Jo, this is okay, it's just a scarf" and the other parts are more like "How the hell could you be so careless, don't you remember that six months of struggle??". I'm a bit mad at myself, but do realise that at the end of the day, if I really want to, I could make another one because it's not the end of the world and there are much more important things for me to be worrying about.

The idea of making another one feels incredibly daunting, and I'm not sure that I can bring myself to do it. Maybe I need to find another pattern that's a little bit classic / will go with everything /  a bit of a challenge. Maybe that's the way forward. And maybe she will turn up! 

Have you ever lost anything that took a lot of time or effort to make? What did you do?

Monday, April 25, 2016

A beanie for Fashion Revolution Week

This year I took a quieter approach to marking Fashion Revolution Day. For one thing, it's no longer a day, but a whole week to challenge brands and fashion producers about where our clothes come from. Earlier in the week I asked a few brands who made my clothes, and I didn't hear back. I wasn't really surprised by this, but a little disappointed at not hearing back from one New Zealand designer label that had until fairly recently made most of its garments here. 

Yesterday, on the third anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster where over 1000 garment workers died, I finished knitting a Boyfriend Hat. This is a great pattern for doing a bit of thinking. It's 1x1 ribbing until you get to the crown shaping, so it doesn't require a crazy amount of concentration.

While finishing this off yesterday, I was thinking about the items in my wardrobe that I've made, or have been diverted from the landfill by buying secondhand, or supported ethical producers and local makers. While I think it is really important to be challenging what clothing manufacturers are doing and how they are treating their workers, I also think that part of the revolution can start even closer to home - by making.

A lot of consideration went into making this hat. For one, I had to find a pattern that was pretty versatile and could be worn by a guy who tends to shop on the high street, so it couldn't look too "homemade" if you know what I mean. There are so many ribbed style beanies in the shops at the moment, and Purl Soho have a great eye for classics that are also on-trend. And free patterns are always good for my stash busting.

Winter is coming, so it needed to be warm. And I really wanted it to be made of a local yarn, that's been well looked after. He's fussy with colours, so I figured I'd knit it with undyed wool and we can dye it later if he decides the nice creamy colour isn't for him (and he'll be a bit of a weirdo if he does decide that - I mean, how awesome is this cream!). So I picked Naked Skeinz Organic Merino 4ply out of my stash. New Zealand Merino, organically grown, milled and spun in Napier - a mill that I've actually been inside and met the owners, and treated so gently that it retains so many of it's great natural properties.

What I'd love for more and more people to discover is that they can learn to make their own cool clothes at home. I'm definitely still a bit of a knitting novice, and even more of a sewing novice, but I have enough basic skills to make jumpers and hats and scarves and skirts. Not all of them are perfect, but they are made to fit me, with my style in mind. Learning to make helps you to appreciate the amazing skills that garment workers have, which should be treated with so much more respect than the fashion industry currently does. Keep challenging the designers and the big chain stores, but give making a go too, it's so rewarding and the basics aren't too hard to master.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Knitographer interviews Rosewood Wool

There is a lot happening in the New Zealand yarn scene; so many indie dyers and pattern designers creating beautiful things. Every so often though you find a couple of people doing things a little bit differently. Vicky and Nicola from Rosewood Wool aren't doing the usual Kiwi merino wool thing. They are in love with Romney wool, after getting a good quantity of locally sourced wool and dyeing it with a mix of natural materials like cochineal, flowers and indigo, as well as traditional dyes.

How did Rosewood Wool begin?

We had the unique opportunity to buy a reasonable amount of Romney lambswool from a couple who bred their own small flock of sheep and had it processed here in New Zealand. They were retiring and we were lucky enough to be able to purchase their remaining wool.
We had bought wool from them over the years and had enjoyed the quality of their pure wool, and were excited at the prospect of being able to dye it ourselves and share it with others. We set about playing with colour. First with natural dyes, and then with traditional wool dyes.

Tell us a bit about Romney Wool.

It’s good honest wool that does as it’s told!

We’re delighted to be part of the resurgence of knitters appreciating pure untreated wool again and designers such as Kate Davies and Ysolda Teague are spearheading this and we are excited to see more people coming onboard to appreciate and see the true value of real wool.
Romney wool wears very well, the fibres bloom and fill after washing and this means your garment keeps you extra warm. Romney wool pills very little and softens with wear. 

Have you both always been crafters?

Yes. We have both always dabbled in one form of craft or another and are both self-taught and learn through experimentation, conversations and questioning.
We have raised our children alongside each other and found the nourishment in pursuing and completing creative projects has kept us sane at times.

What is the philosophy behind Rosewood Wool?

Keeping it real.

You have a really lovely colour palette. What's your process for choosing and producing colours?

We are both very observant and know what we like. We see how colour works in nature, and sometimes it works in surprising ways. We only produce colours we find very hard to part with. If we’re unhappy with a colour we over-dye it to get a more complex colour that was more what we were aiming for, and are then happy to sell it.

You sell at markets, online, and I see you've also hosted some knitting events as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival recently. How important is your local community to your business?

It’s a real pleasure working within our community as we get to see our wool out and about in beautiful shawls, hats and jerseys. We enjoy chatting with people about knitting, and inspiring people to pick up their needles again and delight in seeing their projects come to life. Through Instagram, Ravelry and Facebook however we have also built a rapport with people and enjoy communicating that way too. We have sent wool to Ireland, the Netherlands, the USA and actually the woman who has bought the most wool from us lives in New South Wales!

Being independent dyers must keep you busy. Do you find time to get some knitting done? If so, what are you making at the moment and what are your favourite materials to use?

We do prioritise making time to knit, but yes, sometimes we feel like we should be winding those 30 skeins into cakes; or washing that indigo wool for the 17th time!

Nicola- I am loving knitting myself a top in our 3 ply as I absolutely love knitting in fine wool, and have knitted the last 3 projects in our Aran weight wool.

Vicky- I am knitting a cardi in our Aran weight, and sewing a linen dress; both for myself. 

As for favourite materials, it is imperative you use the right material for the purpose. This is essential with all projects. It makes or breaks them. So our favourite materials are the ones at the time that work best for whatever we are making.

You can check out Rosewood Wool on Facebook, Instagram or visit their Felt Shop.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Back to basics with a beanie

I scrolled through some of my most recent blog posts today and noticed the overwhelming amount of sewing that I've been doing. Since the beginning of the year I've finished a dress, three jumpers and a bow tie, double the amount of knitting projects I've completed. 

That's not a bad thing. Sewing is often quicker than knitting, especially when you're sewing simple shapes like I've been doing. But sewing isn't really something I do to relax. I tend to panic that I haven't cut the fabric accurately enough, and worry that my sewing machine is going to chew everything up, and that all of my seams are eventually going to unravel because my overlocker is evil and I just won't risk it.

But knitting. Knitting is generally much more soothing. Doesn't matter if you make a little mistake, you can just unravel it. You can't screw up the cutting, because there isn't any (no, I haven't tried steeking, because cutting...). There is rhythm and repetition that doesn't require too much concentration, but enough to keep you being present.

My current project is an attempt to be more mindful in my craft. I've dipped into the stash to knit a friend a beanie - he keeps nagging and I've relented after about five years - and I've picked out the most bare yarn I own -Naked Skeinz Organic Merino. It's undyed but it's a beautiful light cream. It's so soft to knit with, but not in an overly-processed way. The ply is quite loose, giving the ribbed pattern a bit of air and breathing room. There's still a slight sheepy smell and it's perfect to sit with and think about why I craft. 

I craft to destress. To be more present, and to make simple things that go with everything using materials that reflect certain values I hold dear. This beanie will be a perfect embodiment of all of those things. And luckily I have so much of this yarn in the stash, I'll be able to make one for me too.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

New Linden + Long Lovely Mittens

You know those days when you've totally convinced yourself it's winter but its 24degC outside? Today is one of those days. With the help of the long weekend, this week I finished a new Linden Sweatshirt with some fabulous polkadot fabric from Drapers Fabrics, and the second completed knitting project of the year (how bad is that...) some new Long Lovely Mittens. 

The mittens are in Happy Go Knitty BFL sock yarn in the Merry Christmas colourway. I've made these before for a friend in Happy Go Knitty silk alpaca, and it's a great pattern if you want to make a one-skein project that's not socks.  The pattern, by Purl Soho, is free and very easy. Sometimes the simple designs make the best items!

I'm also at the point now where I can make raglan sleeve tops without reading instructions. Husband will certainly be getting some more - he's been getting lots of comments on his Paxon Sweater, and the shapes are so classic that I don't think I'll be needing to get any more sweater sewing patterns.

It's got me thinking about what I need to make next. I've decided I don't need anything for me right now, although another cardigan would be nice but there isn't enough yarn in the stash right now. I've just cast on a Purl Soho Boyfriend beanie with some Naked Skeinz Organic Merino that's been sitting in the stash for about three years, but that's for someone else. Right now though, it's too hot for any of these knits! At least daylight savings ends today - winter is coming!