Monday, February 17, 2020

Not Your Boyfriend's Sweater

As daunting as it may seem, sometimes the best course of action is to scrap everything and start over. I learn this lesson repeatedly in my creative process.

The backstory of my latest project is in my last post, so I won’t rehash it here. Let’s move forward!

Woman standing in front of a white porch rail wearing a hand-knit spring green lace sweater, with leafless trees and brown grass in the background.

For the past month, I’ve been slowly knitting the pattern “Not Your Boyfriend’s Sweater” by Vera Sanon.

The slowness, I might add, was entirely on my end as the pattern is clearly written and works up quickly and easily from the top down with raglan sleeves. I didn’t even have trouble picking up the correct number of stitches for the neckband, which may be a first for me.

For the yarn, I re-used some Cascade Yarns Sierra in the colorway 48 Apple Green. It’s a blend of 80% cotton and 20% merino wool that I think is a good fit for a spring sweater. Happily, the light green color and open leaf-shaped lace stitches also work well for the season.

I’m enjoying the loose, comfortable fit of this pullover. I made the three-quarter length sleeves just the right length that I don’t feel like I need to push them up at all. I can see the potential for making other versions of this sweater by simply changing the lace pattern and the lengths of the sleeves.

Close-up of woman standing in front of a white porch rail wearing a hand-knit spring green lace sweater, with leafless trees in the background.

Although it seems that the previous two patterns I knit with this yarn were a waste of time, they brought me here. I learn a little more with each project that I make (or re-make), in terms of technical skills as well as understanding how I like my clothes to fit on my ever-changing body.

As much as I’d like to be one of those people who just makes a little tweak at the end and everything comes out perfectly, that’s clearly not who I am as a maker. I need to remember this next time I hesitate.

Yes, it’s important to think through various options to make the best choice. But it’s also important to remember that sometimes the best choice is starting over.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Cable Collar Top, or Knowing When to Quit

There are a number of decisions that go into every creation.

In the beginning, those decisions revolve around one’s vision for the project and how to make it happen. In the end, it often becomes a matter of knowing when to stop and declare the project finished.

But the decisions in the middle can be the trickiest, in part because they typically go unacknowledged. Like a “choose your own adventure” book — and like life itself — each decision impacts what will happen next in ways that are often unforeseen.

And sometimes one project flows into the next, seemingly turning the process into one long middle with no beginning or end.

About ten years ago, I bought six skeins of Cascade Yarns Sierra in colorway 48 Apple Green. I knit the Bed Jacket pattern from Joan McGowan-Michael. I wore it occasionally over the years, but it never quite fit as well as I’d hoped. As my weight has changed, it reached the point of not fitting at all.

This summer I took apart the bed jacket; in late September, I used the yarn to start knitting the Cable Collar Top by Norah Gaughan. Progress was slow but steady until last week.

I had knit the back, taking notes along the way. I knit the front, which uses the same set of directions except for changes to the neckline. I knit the short sleeves, then seamed the shoulders.

And it became very clear that the armholes for the front are much shorter than the armholes for the back. If I align the bottoms of the armholes, the shoulder seams shift forward.

Knitting in progress of green Cable Collar Top with shifted shoulder seams on a white background

How did this happen? I have the same number of rows for the front and back armholes, and the gauge is measuring the same. Right now the overall armhole size is just right, so I would need to adjust both the front and the back. If one piece is hanging differently than the other, however, will it realign itself with time or blocking — creating more problems if I try to make corrections?

I’ve been in a holding pattern as I try to look ahead to the course of action that will yield the results I want. And because I can’t fully figure out what is throwing off the armholes, I can’t fully figure out how to correct them.

I’ve decided to start over. I have a different pattern in mind and new vision of what I want to achieve. But, at the moment, this feels like one long middle with no end in sight.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Welcome to 2020

This year went by so quickly, but I kept making throughout the whirlwind:

  • 9 hand-stitched flower blocks for The Hexagon Project
  • 1 top
  • 1 throw pillow

  • 5 tops
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1 shawlette
  • 1 purse, knit and fulled
  • 12 sets of four chair socks

  • 8 amigurumi
  • 5 doilies
  • 3 wash cloths
  • 1 bath mat

  • 638 yards of two-ply alpaca/wool yarn

A grid of the nine most-liked photos from my Instagram feed in 2019.
My Instagram 2019 Top Nine features way too much pollen, followed by a mix of fiber projects.

I read eight art-related books, and knit more blocks onto my scrap blankets. I made-then-remade far too many knit tops, although I kept learning along the way and managed to come out ahead.

I gave myself permission to post less frequently than weekly if I didn’t have a worthwhile topic at the ready; play-by-plays of slow progress don’t make the most riveting reading.

And I started a new job, which is kicking my butt. I’m so mentally drained when I get home that slow progress is becoming downright snail-paced. I’ve been enjoying my shift toward knitting more complicated wearables — despite the frustration of the associated learning curve — but need to choose the moments when I tackle them.

The silver lining to my new routine is that I’m working on my English paper piecing blocks more regularly during my lunch breaks.

While I know I’ll be posting less frequently with fewer finished projects, my goal for 2020 is to focus on how I write about those projects. I want to better highlight the creative process, and share more technical tips.

I’m also considering writing some posts featuring projects from the past. Everything I make is built upon what I’ve made before. Why not include more of that journey?

The trick will be whether I’m able to wrangle enough brain cells to pull off that kind of writing change. I hope to keep you interested while I figure this out.

Best wishes to you and yours in 2020!