A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Tag Archives: ethical fashion

Since first dreaming up the idea of this sweater over a month ago, I have finally managed to cast on!

I decided to use the finishing treatments from Paper Dolls, particularly the i-cord bindoff. I know it looks really good with corrugated rib and I think it will help with the overall effect I’m trying to achieve. I love the finish it gives so much that it’s worth the extra effort. I did a provisional cast-on with some yellow scrap yarn using this method. I will finish with i-cord once the sweater is all done.

It’s hard to knit marlisle quickly! I tried the method Anna suggests in the pattern but it didn’t work for me so I’ve been holding the main colour in my right hand as normal and the additional colour in my left as I would for fair isle. FYI I’m holding the Kidsilk Haze double.

I had decided to be lazy and knit the navy yarn without soaking it. However, you can see in the picture above that it looks really uneven. I mean, I guess it’s understandable given how curly the yarn is.

I wasn’t confident that the knitting would even out enough with blocking so I took the time to soak the yarn to stretch it back out. The knitting is looking much more even now.

I’m feeling a little uncertain about how the sweater is looking so far. The swatch was a little square of perfection but somehow I’m not sure how it’s translating onto a larger scale. The sweater also seems a little bit big but from both measuring and trying on I think I’m on track. I’m going to continue on and just hope for the best since I’ve already put so much work in.

On the plus side, I’m finding this project enjoyable and stimulating to work on. I just really hope that I will feel the final product was worth all the labour.

Pattern: Humboldt by Anna Maltz

Yarn: Recycled Malabrigo sock and Kidsilk Haze

Ravelry project page

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There’s more work to do before I can even start my exciting mermaid Humboldt project. I was on a bit of a roll when I finished harvesting half of the yarn from an old sweater so it wasn’t long before I started trying to figure out how to unravel the second jumper I am upcyling, my blue ivy cardigan.

Unravelling is a bit like detective work. Since you can only unravel in one direction, you have to figure out (or remember) how the garment was constructed. I find it quite addictive. There are nice sections of long, uninterrupted mindless frogging. Then you get to something like an underarm or collar and you have to work a lot more carefully. I tend to sew up using yarn tails, which adds another layer of complexity. I see it as a challenge to have the yarn in as few sections as possible- that’s what prevents me from getting frustrated and cutting it!

I’m going to freeze this yarn before I work with it. My old house had moths, and I want to make sure that the final sweater is larva-free. I’m feeling quite laissez-faire towards soaking and winding the yarn before I use it. I’m currently leaning towards just giving it a thorough wash when I block it instead.

My She Loves Wool sweater is very much on the back burner at this time. I think mermaid Humboldt feels much more like my creation in comparison to making something from a kit. I feel quite up for creative challenge at the moment, whereas at other times I want mindless crafts to work on.

Harvested yarn

Malabrigo Yarn Sock in Cot D’Azure

Total amount: a little over 300g

Original cost: £38.97


I was so excited about my latest knitting idea that I started to unravel my Bay sweater pretty quickly.

Just taking the pieces of the jumper apart was several hours’ work. Mohair is very sticky and I quickly realised that seaming using sequinned yarn had been rather stupid. Oh, past me who didn’t know I would one day rip this sweater out! I started to wonder whether this had been such a good idea after all. I worried that separating the sections where two strands of yarn are held together (the light blue) would prove impossible.

Fortunately, things got a bit easier once the sweater was back in its constituent pieces. Unravelling just takes quite a lot of patience. I had to undo each stripe, separating the strands on every other one, and then carefully wind. The yarn isn’t too kinky (quiet at the back, please) so I’m thinking I probably won’t bother with soaking it before I reuse it.

Light blue Kidsilk Haze: 16 balls, 44g

Kidsilk Haze Glamour: 8 balls, 50g

Turquoise Kidsilk Haze: 14 balls, 44g

Ravelry project page


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.

Sketch in my bullet journal

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

Blocked

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

Ravelry project page


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

Ravelry project page


Being into making clothing definitely makes me notice textiles wherever I am. In London, I often use the proximity of the tube as an excuse to stare at strangers and try to work out how their clothes are made. When shopping, I check labels for the fibre content of the fabric and turn garments inside-out to see how they are finished. It’s an obsession.

I found myself doing the same thing on a recent trip to India. I looked at my taxi driver’s kurta and wondered whether it was handmade. I videoed men making alterations in the back of market stalls.

Since labour is so cheap in India, tailoring is much more commonplace. I had hoped to bring some fabric home and noticed some lovely silk in the shop where some friends were having dresses made.

Mukesh, the owner, quoted me the price (the equivalent of around £4/m if I remember correctly) but then said that it would only cost 200 rupees (around £2.50) for him to make something up for me. In the end, I asked him to make me a reversible wrap skirt.

In a single night, he made three Indian style outfits, two pairs of trousers and a top as well as my skirt. Plus he may have had other commissions to work on. The skirt alone would have been a huge source of stress for me, so it was nice to have someone else take that on.

My skirt is such a fun souvenir of the trip, even though I’m pretty scared of destroying it.

A taxi driver in Mumbai mentioned that Zara has a big factory there. Having an experience of the low cost of labour only adds to my growing sense of unease about the fashion industry. It’s hard to have another big thing to worry about, over which I have little control. Even if I made all my clothes, I have no idea of the conditions under which the fabric is made. Growing, spinning and weaving my own cotton seems like a bit of a stretch.

What I do feel I can do is renew my pledge to try and avoid the lure of fast fashion. I want to be mindful with my purchases and try to buy investment pieces where possible. I will continue to purchase second-hand when I can. I will also try not to have a ‘fast’ attitude to the things I make. I only want to create items that I know will be worn a lot, and try to waste as few raw materials as I can.