A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

WiP Wednesday: Joy

I loved this pattern for a cute pair of rainbow mitts ever since I saw it on Ysolda’s Instagram well over a year ago. The kits popped up again, probably because it’s Pride month, and I couldn’t resist this time. My good friend Paula’s birthday was coming up and I thought these would make a great gift for her.

I’d also seen some wonderful pins that Ysolda was stocking, so the purchases justified one another and enabled me to get free shipping. I just had to get this pin of a woman with beautiful natural hair. Representation matters! I bought two Joy kits in the end because I can see myself making this project for someone else too.

There are mistakes on both flags, which is a bit of a pity because the flag is probably my favourite part of the pattern. On the first, I misread the pattern and somehow missed that each colour row is two garter rows rather than one. I’ve never done double knitting before, but I’m still a bit mystified as to how I failed so badly at reading. I managed to do the process correctly on the second mitt, but somehow did two rows of red rather than one (facepalm). Maybe I read the same section of the pattern twice?  Another shocking reading failure on my part.

I was on a tight deadline for this project because I wanted to give them to Paula on time. This meant that I did not correct the errors. I didn’t notice the mistakes in the first flag until I was working on mitt 2, though I had noticed that it looked wonky. Paula doesn’t knit and I’d be surprised if she notices anything untoward.

I did, however, manage to make yet another huge error that could not be ignored. I accidentally made two left mitts once I had finished the fair isle on the second one. This was a mistake that I couldn’t really let go so I unravelled.

Weaving in the ends was a slight pain but these mitts are finally on the blocking mat. I should be able to give them away at the weekend.

Pattern and yarn: Joy kit from Ysolda

Ravelry project page

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WiP Wednesday 4: Mermaid Humboldt

Without tempting fate, this should be my last WiP Wednesday about this project. I did quite a lot more work on this sweater after my most recent post about it, which I think is worthy of some blog space.

Finishing the sleeves was quite straightforward and I joined the sleeves and body for the yoke. It was quite fun to work the marlisle pattern again, which was just as well because the first few rounds of the yoke feel incredibly long after the relative speed of the sleeves.

Checking the finished projects on Ravelry, I saw that there was a lot of variability in the necklines. Some knitters (including me) write quite detailed notes on their projects, while others don’t add anything. It was hard to tell how my project was going to turn out. I added a lifeline before working the neck shaping and I’m glad that I did.

A few rows into the neck shaping as written, it became obvious that the pattern is for a boat neck. Boat is one of my least favourite necklines- I just don’t think it suits me. I ripped back to my lifeline before going on holiday.

In the end I decided to tackle changing the neckline in two ways. I added more increases (every other row rather than once every three rows) along the raglan seams in the body on both the front and back. Since I have quite broad shoulders, I don’t like excess fabric  to accentuate that part of my body. I also changed the short-row shaping on the front neckline.

I had to do some more ripping when I accidentally knit the additional raglan decreases before I had calculated the changes to the neckline shaping. I used a combination of eyeballing and maths to work out how I wanted it to look. I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my pet peeves is having a t-shirt showing when I am wearing a sweater. I just think it looks messy. So my aim was a close neck that should cover the layer beneath.

I visually estimated the number of stitches I wanted left and then calculated which rate of decreases would get me closest

I took some pictures of the notebook pages where I did my quick maths. Kate Davies wrote a recent blog post about knitting and creativity. It discusses the idea that knitting is ‘relaxing’ at the expense of allowing knitting to be creative, engaging and absorbing. This relates to the idea that ‘women’s work’ is something straightforward and mindless, or even frivolous.

Even when following a pattern, knitting can involve a lot of processes that are not remotely relaxing. Undoing work can be frustrating. Figuring out how to change a design is a highly creative problem-solving endeavour, bringing to bear all the knowledge one gains through years of practice. It is an engineering project. Part of the reason I write all of these WiP posts is to give an impression of the work that goes on behind the scenes. When you say, “I made it,” most people have no idea of what that actually means.

In the end, I didn’t have quite enough of the light blue kidsilk to finish the sweater, so I had to buy one more ball. Somehow I hadn’t noticed that the balls are £8.95 each last time I went to John Lewis! I will have most of a ball left over.

The neck ribbing is virtually done now, so the final stage will be the finishing. I am using I-cord edging throughout, which I hope will give a very clean finish. It’s currently a bit warm for a sweater, but knowing English weather I imagine I will find an opportunity to get some pics once this garment is ready to wear.

Previous posts in this series

Planning

Ripping out a cardigan

Frogging a sweater

WiP Weds 1

WiP Weds 2

WiP Weds 3

Ravelry project page

Me-made May 2019

I ummed and ahhed about participating in me-made May this year. In fact, I am vacillated all month. I loved MMM the first year I participated. I felt more connected to the sewing community and my handmade wardrobe. However, last year, I did not like it at all. I found it really difficult to find suitable locations for the daily pictures, sometimes walking around for half an hour or more on my lunchbreak, searching for the holy grail combination of a colourful wall with somewhere nearby to rest my phone. I think some of the big Instragram overhauls took place between May 2017 and May 2018 and the engagement with my posts really dropped. It was disheartening to spend so much time trying to get the pictures when no one seemed to care.

The funny thing is that I wore me-made items most days in May. I wear me-mades all the time. I would say it is quite unusual for me to go a day without wearing something I have made, no matter the month. But because I wasn’t documenting it, I didn’t feel like I was taking part. That definitely says a lot about my unhealthy relationship with Instagram.

I will continue to participate the way I always do in my daily life, capturing photos as and when I am able. Perhaps next year I will be in a better place for the challenge to serve me again.

Less trash Tuesday: Decluttering

I have to move house again at the beginning of July and I am finally confronting the fact that I own way too much stuff. I am trying to de-clutter in the most brutal way possible. I am tired of having to move this stuff around with me. I have been trying to follow some broad green principles that I’ve picked up from various Instagrammers during this declutter. I know that the whole ‘sparking joy’ thing has become a bit of a meme, but honestly I think it’s a good baseline for deciding whether something is worthy of space in ones life.

I am dividing the things I no longer need into what can be given away to people I know, sold, given to charity or discarded altogether. This requires me to balance different priorities. I have some things that I have been hanging on to because I don’t want to waste them. For example, I have a bag of old t-shirts that I might one day turn into jersey yarn. I am aware that sending old clothing to charity shops isn’t necessary the green solution we would like it to be; apparently some companies still send a lot of items to landfill, while on a broader level second-hand clothing has damaged the textiles industries in some developing nations. On the other hand, I don’t really want to take a bag of t-shirts (which I have already elected to discard) to my new house.

When selling items, I have to balance whether it will be worth the time and effort required. Selling is better from an environmental perspective because you know that the item is going where it is needed or wanted. However, photographing, listing (and often re-listing) and posting items is very time-consuming. In a lot of cases, I have donated saleable items because I am happy for the charity to take on the burden of selling them.

Some of the declutter has been great fun. I decided to donate (pretty much) all of the books that I have read. I posted some stories on Instagram and asked if anyone would like to take the books off my hands. I had a great response and it feels great to be sharing my books with friends. The rest were donated. I buy the vast majority of my books second-hand so I’m glad to be adding titles that aren’t old Dan Brown novels and copies of Fifty Shades of Grey to the shelves of charity shops in the local area.

One of the more brutal decisions I made (that I’m proud of) was to get rid of my old guide books. I have hung on to many of them for years as souvenirs of my travels, but it’s time to let them go now. I am old-fashioned enough to still like physical guidebooks, but it seems unnecessary to hang on to them as they become increasingly out-of-date.

So far I’ve got rid of a couple of big boxes and several bags of items. I plan to list the items above for sale soon. I also need to decide how and where to sell some larger items, including the stand mixer I won several years ago and my saxophone.

Dropping a Clanger

Decided to make a little post about this toy clanger, that I never finished knitting, in case it helps anyone else considering using this pattern. Overall I think the pattern is good and would produce a lovely finished item. Here is the Ravelry project page if you would like more information about the pattern etc.

I got quite a way into making this toy a good few years ago. I think I originally started it because my boyfriend at the time liked the Clangers. We split up about ten years ago now so I’m not sure that’s right. But I do know that I’ve been carrying this WiP around for a long time.

I think I got stuck on the pattern because I was a relatively inexperienced knitter at the time. I always thought I would finish it one day, hence bringing it with me on several house moves.

I had a moth problem in one of my previous houses and I’m sure that I froze this project to kill the larvae. However, when I picked it up again recently, I realised that both the yarn and the knitting had quite bad damage and evidence of infestation. I initially planned to keep what yarn I could salvage before realising- if I haven’t finished a project in a decade, when am I going to get to it? Even if I did finish it, do I actually have any need or want for the finished item?

I finally threw poor half-finished clanger the bin. I will now need to freeze the basket it was stored in as well as my mermaid Humboldt sweater, both of which were in the vicinity of the infestation.

Discarding the clanger is part of a wider attempt I’m making to de-clutter. My mother and aunt, probably the biggest female influences in my family, are enormous hoarders. While I felt that I have done my best to avoid following in their footsteps, I can’t deny that I own a lot of stuff (edit: I have denied this many times but I have now accepted the fact). Way more stuff, in fact, than it is reasonable for someone who does not own property to have. Moving the stuff between rental properties every couple years (an unfortunate but necessary part of living in London without familial wealth) is an enormous burden, both literally and metaphorically.

I have set myself a target of getting rid of half my stuff. Basically I am the Thanos of my own possessions. I’m not quite sure how I will actually quantify whether it was actually half, but I will know in myself if I have met my target. I will probably write a separate blog post about the de-clutter, but I will say that the project reflects an attempt in my life to get rid of things that no longer serve me. My relaxed hair, my burdensome possessions, and hopefully some psychological habits too. To the left, to the left.

500th blog post spectacular

I was just checking over my scheduled posts when I noticed that I have published 499 blog posts. I don’t know why I never get notifications about WordPress about milestones, but 500 posts seemed like kind of a big deal.

I’ve been blogging for nearly seven years now. The landscape around online presentation has changed a lot in that time. I think I started out when blogging was at its zenith, whereas now it has declined in favour of (mostly) Instagram. While I love Instagram an unhealthy amount, this blog gives me something different. I like the way that the long form lets me keep notes on my previous projects, as well as reflect on what the crafts I am focusing on tell me about the priorities in my life.

I have heard that it’s better to keep your blog to a specific area, but I’ve always wanted mine to reflect my life. I like the way that it demonstrates how my passions and pursuits have developed over the years. I used to have a heavy baking and cake decorating emphasis (indeed, I initially called my blog ‘crafty little baker’). I would never have envisaged that, half a decade later, I would have gone vegan and become so interested in sustainability.

It’s also nice to be reminded of how far I have come as a maker over the years. My knowledge and skill in knitting has increased steadily over the years and my sewing is coming along really nicely. If you’re wondering whether I’m exaggerating how much things have changed, feel free to check out the first knit and first sewn garment I posted about.

My output has declined a little over the years, which I’m happy about. In part, this is due to my increased focus on taking the time to make a few high-quality items rather than bashing things out that I may or may not be satisfied with. In fact I made a cheeky graph to show how my knitting output has changed over the years.

Projects graph 2

As I’ve said in my previous posts reflecting on the blog, it’s great to have a record of the things I have made over the years, especially since I make quite a few gifts, or upcycle previous makes into new ones. Who knows whether this blog will make it to ten years or 1,000 posts, but I will continue it until it is no longer a net positive in my life.

WiP Wednesday 3: Mermaid Humboldt

This sweater has been in my WiP basket for several months now. Shortly after my last blog post (and taking this photo), I ran out of turquoise yarn.

I was also a bit uncertain about how to do the ombre on the sleeves. All in all, I was not feeling so inspired by this project, but fortunately that gave me the impetus to finish my She Loves Wool sweater that had been similarly languishing.

Looking at this photo with fresh eyes, I felt that it probably was time to start changing colours soon. I think it will make sense visually to have the colour change over my elbow.

Another complicating factor was the yarn. I had hoped that I had salvaged enough from my Bay sweater for this whole project but, alas, that was not the case. Even worse, I wasn’t sure which colourways of Kidsilk Haze I was working with.

I’m sure Stitch’n’Bitch, my bible in my early years as a knitter, recommends that you never throw ball bands away and thus avoid these problems. I know I followed that advice for quite some time, but old ball bands are a super annoying thing to have lying around the house. I’ve discarded them all in various house moves.

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What would make sense in the modern world would be to record this information on Ravelry. Now-me generally does that (I would like to be more fastidious about including all info, including dye lots), but unfortunately the Monique of 2013 did not. I have the colour recorded as ‘blue-green.’ I was fairly sure that the colour was ‘peacock’ but when I checked the Rowan website, there are two other shades that fit the bill. I had hoped to buy the extra yarn on eBay, but in the end I made the pilgrimage to John Lewis, praying that they had the right colours in stock. I took my swatch with me to compare.

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Not an exact match, but perhaps it is unreasonable to expect the colours to be a super close match when you buy extra yarn over six years later.

I wasn’t sure whether I would have enough of the lighter colour either, but I decided not to buy more at this stage. What I will do to try and circumvent that problem is make the section with the sequins longer than originally planned. I also wanted to use up the Kidsilk Haze Glamour.

I spent quite a bit of time knitting over the May bank holiday weekend. I was coming off an incredibly stressful week, and I needed the time to myself.

I finished the second sleeve and realised it made more sense to use up all of the turquoise yarn in the sleeves. Hopefully this will mean I have enough of the pale blue to finish the yoke without having to purchase any additional yarn.

I tried my best to make the sleeves match by weighing the yarn as I went along. Unfortunately I only have digital food scales that measure to the closest gram. Not especially helpful with mohair, which is incredibly light. Hopefully a local drug dealer will donate a more precise scale to one of the charity shops I frequent.

I have now ripped the first sleeve back to the turquoise area to insert the remaining yarn. The sleeves are lovely and quick to work so should be on to the yoke soon.

Before unravelling the first sleeve

I really really hope I am going to come out with a sweater that I am happy with. I have put a lot of work into recycling two old garments into this piece so I will be quite heartbroken if I don’t like the way it turns out. That being said, I am having a cropped sweater moment so it should slide seamlessly into my wardrobe as long as all goes to plan.

Previous posts in this series

Planning

Ripping out a cardigan

Frogging a sweater

WiP Weds 1

Ravelry project page