Finally ripping out my black cabled sweater opened my mind to the idea of turning disaster into triumph. Making is one of my passions in life and I believe it’s okay to spend money on the things you love. However, I’m also aware that I have a lot of cash tied up in unloved handmade items; wasteful both financially and in terms of the raw materials. I feel ready to stop carrying around an archive of mediocre knits and start ripping and reusing.
This change in my attitude got me thinking again about how my creative life might reflect what’s going on for me internally. I hope it means I’m getting ready to let go of emotional habits that do not serve me, changing to something more positive.
One thing that put me off making the Humboldt sweater when I first considered it two years ago was the cost of the yarn. Even using some recycled yarn, I would have to buy at least two skeins of speckled yarn (around £20 each) as the contrast colour.
As well as harvesting some yarn, unravelling took me on a trip down memory lane. I looked back on some of my old blog posts and tried to track when I started documenting projects here and on Ravelry. Seeing my Bay and Blue Ivy sweaters side-by-side on Ravelry got me thinking.
I remember spending a small fortune on the Rowan yarn during my first trip to Liberty of London when I was doing my doctorate. Though I loved the raw materials, the finished sweater was never me. I’ve probably worn it twice.
The navy cardigan got a lot more wear when I first made it. However, it was never quite the garment I hoped it would be. When I was younger, I was obsessed with designing things myself. I think I got this from my mother, who cannot even stand following a recipe. Now, I prefer to leave the hard work of designing to someone else, adding my own twist in smaller ways.
I think this cardigan was the fourth or fifth knitted garment I ever made and I managed to convince myself I was ready to take on a design project. Although the cardigan is okay, it has been unworn for the past couple of years. One of my quirks as a knitter is that I hate semi-solid yarns. I like things to be a uniform, saturated colour.
The juxtaposition had me. What about making a marl with the navy blue and a faded effect created with the kidsilk haze? I had a slight reservation about how the sequinned yarn would fit in, but I loved the idea.
As well as being less wasteful, I have been thinking recently about how I can downsize my stash. I am moving house soon and, as always, I have too much stuff. However, when I was planning this project, a massive advantage was the fact that I keep all my scraps. I had enough leftover yarn from both sweaters to make a gauge swatch and play a little bit with effects.
When I was working on the swatch, I initially preferred the stocking section (a happy accident). However, looking at it now, I think the garter stitch adds to the soft, dreamy effect of the mohair. I’m so happy with this swatch! The fade looks beautiful. The camera doesn’t really capture it, but there’s a lovely lustre to the yarn too.
Unblocked gauge (5mm)
20sts x 31rows = 10cm
18sts x 29 rows = 10cm
Even though my gauge is off, I don’t think it makes sense to go up a needle size. I want a slightly more fitted version of this sweater anyway, so I will just be very careful when calculating the size I am going to make.
I’m thinking that my mermaid Humboldt could be the perfect project for the Upcycle challenge being hosted by #craftblogclub on Twitter. I think the deadline of 25th June is a little ambitious but it still gives me something to work towards. I took part a couple of years ago and made my Cateralls, so I like the idea of doing something very different.
Original cost of navy yarn: £39
Original cost of Kidsilk: £50-60
Pattern: Humboldt by Anna Maltz
Over the Easter holidays, I took some time to finally unravel one of the first sweaters I ever knit. I’ve vacillated about whether to frog it for a long time. Even though I’m sure I’ve worn this sweater less than ten times, it can be hard to accept that something you spent such a long time making simply did not turn out the way that you had hoped.
Unravelling was a lot more enjoyable than I expected. There is a significant problem-solving aspect to it. You have to remember the order in which you knit the pieces, locate the ends you painstakingly wove in, and sometimes take a leap by yanking away on a piece of yarn that could potentially make your job a lot harder. The sweater had a few areas of moth damage, which is why there are so many little balls of yarn. Wherever there was even one broken ply, I split the yarn.
Since I made this sweater before I started blogging or using Ravelry consistently, I thought I would write a bit of a memorial piece.
I can’t remember how I came to own the book Custom Knits, but this pattern stood out for me straight away.
I remember buying the yarn from Knit With Attitude, back when I lived above a dry cleaner’s in Stoke Newington. Though I had very little disposable income (I was working in a school as a support assistant), I believed even then that it was worth investing in raw materials to match the investment of time in making garments. At that time, KWA was located in a teeny tiny unit on a back street next to the amazingly named Sell-Fridges (a discount refrigerator outlet).
The proprietor was really lovely and suggested this gorgeous alpaca yarn. I have moved house about four or five times since my Stoke Newington High Street days so I’ve long since lost the ball bands, though I’m sure I managed to keep hold of them for quite a few years. I remember even popping back into the shop for advice a couple of times.
I made this jumper when I was in a phase of adding bust darts to my knits. Since I also added waist shaping, it ended up being too tight. I also managed to make it too short. So much for being guaranteed a good fit with top-down knits!
I ended up with 16 variously sized balls of yarn, which weighed 260g. I threw away lengths shorter than a metre or so because life is too short. I froze the yarn due to the moth damage, and I will wind and soak before reusing it.
I think I’m going to use the reclaimed yarn as the main colour in the Humboldt sweater I’ve been planning for what feels like aeons. I think I will have some leftover sugar baby alpaca from my She Loves Wool sweater if there isn’t quite enough.
The experience of unravelling has got me thinking about some of the other unloved knits I have taking up space in my life. I’m hoping that reclaiming and reusing can be more of a part of my journey to be a less wasteful maker.
Pattern: Backward cabled pullover
I managed to think about my knitting plans for 2018 already and my sewing needs a similar level of thought. I’m going to take part in the Make Nine challenge again this year. I think nine garments is a manageable number, both in terms of time taken to make items and ensuring that I sew responsibly.
- Stripy Lark
- Ultimate shirt in Liberty fabric
- Third day dress in viscose
- Wearable toile- copy of the perfect pencil skirt I have
- Threadcount 1617- I think I will start out with a toile using a viscose remnant I have.
- I also have my eye on some beautiful viscose with a monstera (my favourite leaf) print for a second version. I won a £20 voucher from Sew Over It’s #SOIshowoff competition, which would buy 1.5m
- Teal anorak
- Dotty Linden
Specific things I’d like to do
Repair pink Macaron Take up mushroom Cleo Finish second day dress
I’m very excited about these projects, especially the ideas I’ve carried over from last year. I still have a lot on my plate, so I find it difficult to find a lot of sewing time. This just motivates me to make the most of the time I do have and create useful and long-lasting garments. I’m looking forward to Me Made May already and one or two more items would be very handy.
I’m also going to start being totally transparent about the costs for each of my projects. While I’m happy to spend money on my passions (why else do I work hard?) I have got into a bad habit of spending thoughtlessly. I know that I spent well over £600 on craft stuff last year. That’s a lot. While I don’t make things with the explicit intention of saving money, it would be good to track how much I do spend.
I haven’t been able to do as much making as normal since I hurt my thumb at quidditch practice a couple of weeks ago.
I actually think I was rather lucky. The injury was absolute agony at the time. I was convinced my thumb was broken. On the way to get it x-rayed, I felt like I was cursed. Images of hand surgery, weeks of recovery and permanent damage to my dominant hand filled my mind. What if my fine motor skills were affected? What if I no longer hand the ability to take a project from idea to reality?
The x-ray revealed no fractures, for which I was incredibly grateful. But that was where the diagnosis ended. My thumb was either sprained or strained, I was told not to play contact sport for at least two weeks, given a splint and sent on my way. I was so worried that I went to my GP on the Monday, but they weren’t able to give me any clearer information, apart from telling me again that soft tissue damage takes 2-6 weeks to heal.
I spent the next few days pretty depressed. You don’t realise how much you use your right thumb until it’s hurt. Everything was an inconvenience, I couldn’t craft or exercise and the splint hurt my wrist. In addition to all of this, our regional quidditch tournament was taking place the week after the injury. How could I lead my team and feel I’d made a contribution if I couldn’t play?
I went to therapy and my analyst asked if I’d seen a physio. I laughed- I’ve never been to a physiotherapist in my life. We spoke about how she kept coming up with solutions and advice for me. Was this a response to my feeling powerless in getting better?
Even though it was expensive, going to see the physio was a massive relief. She carefully assessed my hand and told me what she thought was wrong with it- a strained muscle. The power and movement in the thumb was normal. I was unlikely to do more serious damage if I played at the weekend.
Psychologically, I think that having the input from the physio allowed me to switch from feeling like a victim to feeling resilient. Perhaps I was recovering more quickly than expected because I am strong. I also think it was important that I took action and helped myself.
I rested the thumb for the rest of the week and then tried some gentle throwing and catching on Friday. My hand was okay! Amazingly, I was able to play in the tournament with very little pain or loss of function.
Photo credit: More Quidditch Photos on Facebook
Knitting isn’t too painful, so I’ve been making some slow progress on the last long rows of my Wonder Woman shawl. I think it’s looking great! I’m going to Bristol for a conference this week, so hoping I’ll get to finish it up.
Here we have yet another instance of craft reflecting life. Being able to bounce back from an injury and lead my team in the tournament has helped me to feel like a strong and capable woman. A bit like a certain superhero.
I froze some grated courgette because I wanted to have another go at making the chocolate courgette cake that I baked a few years ago. It’s based on a BBC Good Food recipe. I think I made a few errors when I was plagiarising it (slap on the wrist to past me), so maybe go from the original! Here’s a picture of the second attempt.
Something that’s really nice about having this blog is the ability to look back on my previous makes, and my thoughts about them. So interesting to see me describing myself as a ‘lifelong loather of the courgette’ when just over three years later, I am eating it on a daily basis.
I felt that the cake turned out a little bit dry this time- I think I shouldn’t have squeezed the courgette. I also think I over-baked the cake slightly. However, my colleagues seemed to enjoy it and one even asked for the recipe, so it can’t have been that bad.
Dabbling in indoor gardening during the winter whetted my appetite for a larger project. I soon found myself asking my landlady if I could tear up her garden, hoarding compost and ordering seeds online. I even bought a gardening-themed necklace.
Here are a few of the seedlings taking over my house.
- Various seedlings in my mini greenhouse
- Tomatoes and Brussels sprouts
A mistake I made when I tried to grow pumpkins was not preparing the soil. To be fair to the me of two years ago, the only tool I had was a hand trowel. However, it was ludicrously optimistic to think that I could just chuck the plants into the ground and be rewarded with an abundance of fruit.
This time, I spent a lot of time digging out my vegetable patch. I picked stones and I yanked roots. I dug in organic matter and two types of compost.
I realised the other day that I have only become interested in gardening since beginning intensive psychoanalysis. Something that I especially like about psychodynamic theory is its links to literature, and use of association and metaphor. I could hardly think of a more apt metaphor for analysis than taking the time to transform rough earth into something that can bear fruit.
I’ve written before about how my psychological state can be seen in my creative pursuits, a very obvious example of art imitating life. When I tried gardening before, I was unsuccessful due to a lack of preparation. I didn’t have all of the tools and equipment that I needed to turn my sandy London dirt into a garden that allowed my seedlings to thrive.
Two years on, I find myself researching and making plans to give myself the best chance at success. I took the time to observe my garden to put the vegetables in the best spot. Could this represent..growth?
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, my obsessive passion for knitting has taken a nosedive over the past few months. I think that this is partly due to becoming a highly competent knitter. I don’t feel particularly challenged by prospective knitting projects. Another part is dissatisfaction with some of the garments I have created. Since you are creating shaped fabric as you knit, once an item is finished, it’s finished. If there’s something you don’t like about it, often that’s a case of tough luck.
There’s also a limit to the number of knitted garments that a wardrobe can take. Realistically, I don’t wear knitted jumpers that often. They are a bit casual for workwear, and if I’m looking for comfort, I usually reach for a RTW sweatshirt or hoodie rather than one of my creations.
I think this is why sewing has started to interest me so much more. You can create a much wider variety of clothing, and home-sewn items are less radically different to shop-bought than handknit to machine knit.
However, the experiences of knitting and sewing are vastly different. For me, sewing is highly immersive and addictive. I fly through the steps, desperate to discover the result of my fevered work in front of the machine. I scarcely breathe. This is partly my personality- being outcome- rather than process-oriented (something I try to work on). It’s also a side-effect of my being a relative novice. When I first started knitting, I would occasionally stay up all night working on a project. However, I also think it’s partly due to inherent differences in the two activities.
This is a very long-winded way of saying that I miss knitting. As an attentionally impoverished millennial, I am basically incapable of sitting still. I’ve noticed that I’ve started playing stupid games on my phone while I’m watching TV. This used to be knitting time.
I haven’t forced myself to do any knitting during my fallow period. But recently my interest in yarn has started to pick up. After reading a very interesting blog post by Tom of Holland, I picked up a copy of Indigo Knits, a wonderful book about working with denim yarn.
I also bought Inspired by Islay, Kate Davies’ most recent publication.
This jumper is everything to me. I’m holding off on starting because I need to consider whether there is a gap in my wardrobe for her. I would like a cropped sweater to wear over skirts and dresses, but I’m not sure whether this is the right candidate.
I also bought some of Kate’s Buachaille wool. I’ve been wanting to try it ever since it was released. So far I’ve just made a swatch.
So, some stirrings of wanting to knit, and a small project to work on are positive signs. I think that even holding off on starting Port Charlotte represents progress. A mistake I’ve made over and over is starting projects without sufficient thought and research. Knitting a garment is slow, labour-intensive and expensive. I owe it to myself as a craftsperson to put in the legwork to have the best chance of ending up with something I love.