Product v. process

I have always been a product knitter – I almost invariably knit because I want the finished object (and since it’s me, because I want to wear a particular sweater). I regularly frog projects partway through if it becomes clear that I won’t wear the finished item, and out of this “the right final product is what I want” mindset, I also frog projects that I’ve finished and worn and have decided don’t really work for me as is. That takes a little bit more resolution, but I’m pretty comfortable with those decisions (in fact, I am considering frogging my Boxy & Buttony pullover – it’s amazingly comfortable but it’s quite a lot of fabric, possibly too much to be really flattering on me, and I think that this yarn would benefit from being knit at a tighter gauge – maybe something like this, or this, or this – or at least something with seams. No rush on deciding, though, since it’s too hot here to wear wool sweaters for the next 6 months again).

Which is why I was kind of surprised recently to find myself pushing the items I want to own and wear to the back of my queue in favor of items I simply want to knit, for the sake of knitting them.

Craftsy had a big sale in the last week or so and it included Malabrigo Rios. I first encountered this yarn when I wanted to make a baby blanket for a friend and their stone-colored gray-yellow-beige colorway was perfect for my friend’s gray and yellow nursery.

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But then I went and made myself a sweater out of the leftovers because I loved knitting with it so much. I don’t normally knit worsted weight stuff, and I haven’t even been able to wear the sweater yet because it got too warm before I finished, but I love having the sweater and I loved making it. This yarn is just so lovely and soft and squishy and yet bouncy and a joy to knit with. It’s probably not as springy-bouncy as your average non-superwash, but it was still amazingly fun to work with, and it created a lovely fabric that had a nice amount of drape without being droopy or draggy. I don’t need super-hardy tough-as-armor sweaters, and I don’t like wearing those kinds of fabrics. This stuff was great.

So there I was, at the Craftsy sale, finding that Rios was on sale for less than I’d ever seen it, and finding myself powerless to resist buying a swack of it. In Teal Feather, because I’m a sucker for a good teal, and a semi-solid seemed more practical than the beautiful but harder to wear variegated stuff.

(I’m also in a particularly labor-intensive, energy-draining, confidence-beating moment at work – which is why I’ve had no time for blogging or even photo-taking – so the yarn was a promise of good times to my future self. Which is a whole other ball of emotional wax, of course.)

And now I just want to make things with this yarn for the sake of making them, not having them. Right now I am obsessed with the idea of making the Waking Tide pullover by Courtney Spainhower.

Waking_Tide1_medium2Photo © PinkBrutusKnits, borrowed off Ravelry; will happily remove if requested.

I just love this sweater. I love the yoke, I love the way the body of the sweater falls from the yoke, I love the minimal eyelet trim at the hem, I love the amount of ease, I love how good the pattern looks in a tonal or semi-solid, I love that it’s knit in the round and in one piece, I love that there’s lots of stockinette but that there’s also the yoke for a bit more challenge, I love that the yoke provides texture and movement but that the sweater is still fairly minimal and not fussy.

And don’t get me wrong, part of why I love it is that I think it would look decent on me – I have broad enough shoulders to hold up a sweater without shoulder seams, my bust is very average-sized so I don’t run into the problems busty ladies face in trying to figure out where a yoke should fall to be flattering, I like having the visual interest closer to my face, I like that it’s not fitted around the waist, and the length and hem treatment should work with my pear shape.

But chances are good I would wear this maybe five times a year. I would only be able to wear it to work on days I don’t have to wear a suit/jacket (i.e. no meetings), and I would only be able to wear it in comfort during our very short winter. It’s not the most practical choice for my lifestyle, is what I’m saying. Honestly, worsted weight wool, period, isn’t the most practical choice for my lifestyle but there are workarounds (I think a cardigan would be more versatile weather-wise than a pullover, especially something short-sleeved or shorter with some lace; or I could go for a short-sleeved pullover).

Nonetheless, I want it. Because I want to make it; I want to see the shape develop under my needles, I want to see how the transition to the yoke works, and what kind of shaping creates the yoke and the neckline. I want to see what this yarn will look like in this sweater. And I want to see what the sweater looks like when it’s done, and what it looks like on me.

For maybe the first time, that’s enough. Maybe I will make this sweater and try it on. Maybe I will love it, and keep it, and treasure it for those few times a year I can wear it. Maybe I will love it, and put it in a drawer, and nonetheless frog it a year later to make something else with the yarn. Maybe it will be meh, and I’ll decide right away to frog. But whatever I decide, I will have had the pure pleasure of making, which seems to be what’s hooking me now, more than the pleasure of having.

(Or maybe instead I’m hitting my annual discontent with the desert and want to knit this as an expression of homesickness for places that have what I think of as a normal climate. With winter. And cold. And a legitimate need for wool sweaters. That, too, is a whole other ball of emotional wax.)

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Finished object: dilute torti sweater

Do any of you have sweaters you love almost despite yourself?

I just finished one of these. It’s Heidi Kirrmaier’s Mountain High, which I had seen but never been drawn to until I saw IADJW’s version and became slightly obsessed. (Now that I look at the pattern page, I love the mauve version in the second picture down, too.)

I shouldn’t love this sweater so much, for lots of reasons. Frankly, I don’t think it looks very good on me. It’s worsted weight, and I never knit in worsted weight, because I am bulky enough as it is; I don’t need added bulk. The gauge is tight enough, and the yarn springy enough, that the fabric tends to hide my bustline (which isn’t that prominent anyway). It’s an a-line sweater, with a wide garter hem, which doesn’t do my bottom-heavy shape any favors. The yarn is pretty variegated, which looks busy. I alternated skeins, which kept the pooling to a minimum, but resulted in lot of horizontal striping, which doesn’t make me look any narrower.  And it’s an odd neutral shade mixing cool gray and warm pale yellow, with shades of beige along the way; I look positively haggard in beige and yellow (even light gray can be dicey).

It’s also by far the warmest item of clothing I own, which means I’ll probably be able to wear it maybe three times a year here if I’m lucky.

But.

I love this sweater. Love love love love love.

First, it fits! I absolutely didn’t swatch for this at all – and I’m not sure why, since I usually try to – just cast on and forged ahead. But it worked! (It’s actually kind of big at the moment – I hadn’t realized how the added weight of worsted weight yarn means that superwash worsted stretches even more than superwash fingering; I think it will spring back eventually, though, or I may try throwing it in the dryer briefly). In any case, it’s super comfortable and cosy.

Second, I loved this pattern. It’s yet another seamless top-down sweater – and I know I should try something with set-in sleeves – but Heidi Kirrmaier’s patterns are so much fun. I always find myself a bit baffled to start – this pattern begins with short rows shaping the neck, and I’m geometrically challenged enough that it took me a while to figure out how it all fit together. But if you follow the pattern, everything comes together like a beautiful puzzle. (I’ve knit her Summer Solstice pattern which is even more so like that.) I know some people hate the slog through the body of a top-down sweater, but as long as I can see what it’s turning into, I can knit stockinette for days. Knitting something bottom up and in pieces doesn’t look like a sweater, it looks like a bunch of flat pieces, and my product-knitter self just isn’t motivated by that.

Third, I love that it’s a-line. I know it’s not really conventionally flattering on me, because I have no waistline in this and it emphasizes my hips. But when I’m hanging out at this end of the scale, I HATE having anything fitted at the waist – it’s uncomfortable and makes me super self-conscious. As some fashion bloggers say, I surrender the waistline. Similarly, I like a-line shapes right now because they don’t catch on my hips and ride up, and I never have to tug them down. I get that all the fashion rules say that covering up your body with acres of fabric is less flattering than more fitted garb, and I promise that my more formal work wear is more tailored. But for causal wear I really love having stuff that makes me comfortable in my body, which right now is stuff that doesn’t remind me exactly what the contours of my body look like.

Fourth, I LOVE the feel of the yarn. It’s Malabrigo Rios, and it’s so satisfyingly soft and springy. Yes, it’s superwash, and yes, we’re not really supposed to like superwash, because it’s unnatural and strips the yarn of its natural scale and coats it in plastic. But from the time I was a tiny child I hated wearing wool because it prickled like mad, and superwash doesn’t do that. I finally get to enjoy the lightness and warmth and temperature/moisture regulation of wool in comfort. (Admittedly, there’s only so much regulation can do, and this is going to be too warm for 90% of the time here. But one of the things I’ve realized is that while it seems a waste of money to buy/make cold-weather clothes here, on those few days when it does get cold here, I have nothing to wear. So I can treasure this for cold days for years to come.)

Finally, the color makes me happy. It really doesn’t flatter me at all, which I knew from the start; it began with leftovers from the baby  blanket I made last summer, and I chose the color based on my friend’s nursery color scheme, not on whether the color flatters me. But I have had two beloved dilute torti cats in the past, and this color almost exactly matches the color of their coats. In fact, I was knitting this over the holiday season when we had to put the second of these very special ladies to sleep. So I love that this is a dilute torti sweater, and I can wear it to honor them.

One of our sweet dilute torti girls adoring her papa. See? Sweater color!

I see a lot of discussion in fashion blogs (and on Project Runway!) about whether fashion has to be flattering in shape and color, and I’ve always been someone who tried to wear clothes that flatter my shape and skin tone. But there’s something satisfying and maybe liberating about abandoning that here. It’s not like this is a crazy, hideous, avant-grade kind of garment; it’s absolutely not. No one is going to stare at it for how hideous it is, and I suspect most people won’t even give it a second glance. But given how much women’s clothing normally seems intended to get that second glance, to make people – usually men – look at you, ignoring that feels kind of like freedom.

24028402086_72de9dd6cc_oProgress picture showing the sleeve stitches held on waste yarn. Mostly because I love the look of the pink waste yarn against the neutrals, and kind of wonder if I should have trimmed the sweater with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Au revoir to 2015 in knitting

It’s year-in-review time! I didn’t have any more specific goal this year than “knit stuff when I have time,” so that I certainly accomplished. But I think I’ve also come a long way in thinking about what I like (and need) to wear, and identifying ways that I can make garments that fit those needs.

I finished three sweaters, two adult and one baby:

IMG_0972Dalyla by Cecily Glowik MacDonald (I don’t know why more people haven’t made this; I LOVE this sweater. It’s much less square on the human body than it looks in this [bad] picture. Also, I swear the switch-to-new-skein lines are less obvious in real life. But I should have alternated skeins. The tragedy of this sweater is that it seems to have attracted moths and it has a hole in one sleeve, which I MUST darn before it gets bigger.)

IMG_1910Boxy and Buttony by Joji Locatelli (and I realize I never blogged this – I made it as part of Joji’s Fall KAL this year. The yarn is The Plucky Knitter‘s Plucky Single in Green Goddess, and it’s wonderfully light and soft. I knew going into the project that a single-ply yarn probably isn’t the best sweater yarn, at least in terms of durability, which is true – the sweater isn’t pilling so much as it’s developing the tiniest wee halo of fuzz everywhere – but I don’t need hardy outdoor winter sweaters, and the fabric is wonderful to wear. Am amused at how the last skein – at the bottom of the sweater – turned out “stripier” than the others, though.)

IMG_0240garter yoke baby cardi by Jennifer Hoel (Cascade Ultra Pima Fine in Chartreuse – love this yarn. Buttons from yumyumbuttons on etsy.)

I also knit a scarf, and a winter hat (not yet photographed) for a road trip we ended up having to cancel, womp womp.

I still have some unfinished projects that I will be carrying over into 2016. The ones that I started this year are the Havra shawl from Gudrun Johnston, a Talavera by Amanda Collins, and a pair of Tabi Mittens by Olga Buraya-Kefelian (these are for my husband and I am wracked with guilt because I have no. desire. at. all. to work on them – the needles are so tiny and uncomfortable; maybe metal ones would work better than wood, which feels like working with toothpicks?).

Then there are the long-term lodgers, started before 2015 – my StratumRelax, and Grey Goose Cardi. I’ve been working on the Stratum and feel confident I can get that done this season. And don’t want to give up on the others yet (though I’m a little bit terrified I’ll never figure out where I’ve got to on the Grey Goose Cardi).

I did admit defeat and frog my Adrift and Frost at Midnight. I decided that neither was going to flatter me very much or be very practical for my lifestyle, and that there were other things I’d rather do with the yarn. And I haven’t yet frogged my Worsted Boxy, but I think I am going to, so I can use the yarn for a Tsubasa.

That’s one of the things I adore about knitting – nothing is permanent; mistakes, whether in execution or judgement, can always be fixed.

I wish I had finished more things, but having two sweaters that I adore and wear all the time is a decent outcome.

I will talk about goals for 2016 another time, but must also admit that in the last days of the dying year I’ve cast on something new:

24028402086_72de9dd6cc_oMore about that, as well, another time.

Stratum part 1: escaping the tyranny of choice

I feel like color knitting is a big thing right now – partly because I see it showing up frequently in new patterns and books, and partly because I find myself drawn to it for the first time, ever, and I’m not really creative or independent-minded enough to pick up this kind of interest on my own.

(A while back the husband and I had a long conversation about what we’d name our hypothetical sprog, should we ever produce any, despite not intending to do so. We both agreed that we loved the name Isobel and would definitely name a daughter that, and congratulated ourselves on our originality. We didn’t know anyone named Isobel or with kids named Isobel. Neither of us had heard the name Isobel in popular culture. We were genius baby-name-pickers. We then looked at the then-current top 10 girls’ names and Isobel was number 3. I mean, it was spelled Isabelle, but really, same name. At that point I stopped worrying about being unique and accepted that I am entirely a creature of my time and place.)

However, while I’d like to give colorwork a shot, that’s a pretty big leap from my usual practice of knitting miles of stockinette. I figured it was safer to make a few, smaller jumps, and begin by knitting stripes:

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Stratum by Karolina Eckerdal, published in Brooklyn Tweed’s Wool People 8.

Apart from the stripes, I liked the lovely wide neck and the graceful A-line skirt, and the way the sweater has ample positive ease without looking shapeless or sack-like. (Why yes, this does sound like all the other sweaters I like.)

But then I had to pick colors.

I was determined to use yarn I already owned for this (I do not need to buy more yarn; someday I’ll show you how much I have kicking around). In fact, that was one of the reasons the stripes were so attractive to me: I have a number of random skeins of fingering weight yarns, none of which are enough to complete a solid sweater on their own, but can combine to make a striped one.

Stash diving is interesting, though. On the one hand, you have that feeling, “Do these yarns really go together, or have I just decided that they go together because they’re what I have? Am I really just letting my desire not to spend money disguise the fact that I’m making an ugly sweater?”

On the other hand, if you’re like me, it can be hard to get to yarn stores in person. It’s absolutely, utterly worth it, when you can. Local yarn stores are fully of pretty things and knowledgable people and it’s important to support them. But the few lovely yarn stores around here are open almost exactly the hours that I work, and sometimes you just can’t wait till the weekend to look at yarn. It’s often easier to trawl the internet tracking down yarn online.

So if you decide, “No, I will buy new yarn! I will choose the perfect colors that go together perfectly!”, but cannot get to the yarn store, you find yourself staring at swatches from about 17 different online sources at once, trying to line them all up on your laptop monitor at the same time that you weigh their fiber content and qualities and price, and simply end up stymying yourself into immobility.

(Or that might just be me.)

(Of course, I do this in yarn stores, too. If you’d like to kill a few hours doing nothing, come to a yarn store with me when I have the intent to buy yarn and also a budget. I’ll probably pick up and put down the same 5-6 skeins of yarns at least 62 times. It will be scintillating, I promise.)

So despite the little voice whispering in my ear, “But do the colors actually work together, or are they just convenient??”, it was actually a relief to limit myself to choosing from the few things in my stash that go together closely enough to be worth a shot. It’s not really surprising that I could come up with some plausible combinations, given that my stash is full of things that I’ve chosen, and I tend to like the same kinds of things over and over. (See: purple yarn; taupe nail polish.) But this is the first time I’ve really managed to make it work.

Besides, I don’t need another handknit wool sweater in the least – so there’s no pressure on this. If it turns out hideous, I’m no worse off than when I started, and I’ll have got some entertainment out of the process at least.

So soon I’ll talk about swatching for this sweater.