Slow fashion is… really slow

 

We arrived in San Antonio in the summer of 2013 so that V could attend graduate school. I was excited to get away from Portland and from the stresses of work. Though we were only going to be there for a year, we sold a lot of furniture on craigslist, down-sized from a three-bedroom house and moved into a one-bedroom apartment. I was at a crossroads about work and life, and San Antonio offered the chance to get away from the physical and emotional clutter that I felt buried under. I knew no one, and there was something exhilarating that. Just shortly after we arrived, however, Little A had a severe allergic reaction to something she ate. I also found out that someone I had once worked with, a most lovely, kind and good-hearted person, had suddenly died of an undiagnosed brain tumor at the age of 35. Suddenly, the freedom that I had craved made me fearful, exposing a fragility that stress and routine had dulled, and so I turned inward, finding comfort in the tangibility of handwork.

It was there that I started spinning for this sweater, almost three years in the making, spanning time spent in San Antonio, Portland and Washington, DC. I had only just learned to spin the year before and didn’t have any idea of where to buy fiber and what kinds of independent dyers were out there. I was still finding my way through Ravelry and learning the ropes about destashes, fiber clubs and the like. I bought two bags of Portuguese Merino dyed by Hello Yarn through a bulk destash.

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I split each bump into thin strips, and I worked on spinning this, on and off. After a bit, I saw someone destashing another bump of “Silt” and the idea that I might possibly have enough for a sweater began to emerge.

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Fractally spun, I made sure that I did pair the first spin with my last one so that the unevenness of my spinning would somehow even or cancel each other out.  Portuguese merino staples are short, and that made for an uneven rustic yarn with a bouncy crispness.

I finally finished spinning 12 oz this spring. By then, we had already returned to Portland and had also moved twice! All that chaos made it hard to see the project through, and I also found myself with less time for knitting and spinning now that I had returned to full-time work.

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That year in San Antonio had been clarifying. I realized I love my job. I am incredibly lucky I am to be able to do something that is intellectually satisfying and always unpredictable. I’ve also come to grips with aspects of the job that I’m not so good at, and being honest about my limitations and being willing to say “no” has helped scale down the stress tremendously and enabled me to focus more on my writing and research.

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I didn’t know what to knit and I had forgotten to record the yardage. I was going to Washington, DC this summer for work, and I wanted to make sure I had a knitting project to bring along. This cardigan, Praline, by Gudrun Johnston was a last minute impulsive decision. I got gauge and threw the skeins into my suitcase and hoped for the best. I began knitting on the flight to DC, and I worked on it during the evenings, after a long and satisfying day spent at the Library of Congress. I worked on it during the train rides to New York City and Philadelphia, and I finally finished it back at home in Portland.

img_7677So much has happened between when I first started spinning and when I finally sewed those little buttons on.

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Friday Night Light Spins

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I’ve been lax about spinning, knitting, and blogging. Maybe it’s because I haven’t figured out how to balance the two sides of my brain. When I’m working hard, there doesn’t seem much mental space for spinning,  knitting or even blogging. In the past few weeks, however, we have been watching Friday Night Lights after Little A goes to bed, and it’s given me a little time to catch up on some spinning.

When Friday Night Lights first aired, I had dismissed it as a teen drama along the lines of Beverly Hills 90201 meets football. But when my colleagues raved about this show, V and I decided to try it out. Having now lived in Texas, especially near where the show takes place, I feel a personal connection to that cultural landscape in which football is the center of gravity. But, more than that, the writing is really good. We’re only on season two, but I like the compassion with which the characters are presented. On some level, they are high school stereotypes: the jock, the cheerleader, the nerd, etc., but they seem aware that these are precarious roles in the tumultuous high school social order, subject to sudden change.  The two parental figures–the coach and the high school counselor–are married, and despite their strong marriage, their dedication to their jobs means that they sometimes have competing ideas about what is “best” for the students. It’s pretty clever to have a high school counselor as a character. Through her, the show offers commentary and analysis about the characters’ motivations in a way that seems to be a natural feature of the plot and doesn’t sound too contrived or out of place. And, it is very eerie to watch these episodes, which aired in 2006-2007, against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement and the football players’ strike at the University of Missouri to protest against campus racism.

I could go on and on about this show, but suffice to say, this show has increased my spinning output!

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This skein was spun from fiber dyed by Woolgatherings.  They are a regular vendor at my favorite fiber festival, The Flock and Fiber festival in Canby, OR and I bought this 70% oatmeal BFL/30% silk braid last September. I had been waiting a while to spin it and knew that I wanted to make it lace-weight. I didn’t quite expect to get so much–604 meters! I will admit that there were times when I was so over this and wanted it to be done so that I could move onto something else. I think I started spinning this earlier this spring…

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This is my first ever Southern Cross Fibre spin, and yes, it was heavenly. I had signed myself up on the fibre club wait list the spring or summer of 2013, and finally, this summer, I got in!  I must have been needing something different from the lace-weight yarn I had just spun. This corriedale is about 180 meters, and it is squishy and crisp.

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This is probably my new favorite–“Esmerelda” in bond from Southern Cross Fibre. I love the surprise combinations of two and three ply yarns, but right now, there’s nothing more satisfying than plump singles. I am going to be spinning more singles.

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Last but not least, another Nest favorite. This is targhee, and is about 350 meters. I’ve never spun targhee before this and I was amazed but how much it plumped up after I set it. I took this photo a little while ago, otherwise I would have placed it beside the other skeins for scale. It’s only 4 0z, but it’s got bulk.

Handspun Estuary

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Usually, I can’t wait to finish blocking a project, especially one that involves lace. It is so satisfying to watch the lace bloom in water, and for the knit to surprise me with its actual form and pattern. The past few months of living in limbo with our things in storage made it hard for me to block this shawl. I couldn’t find the blocking wires, and frankly, there wasn’t much space to properly lay it out. I finished knitting this Estuary Shawl designed by Tin Can Knits a while ago, and it’s been so long that I don’t remember what size needles I used and when I even started it. I do remember that the beginning wasn’t that intuitive for me and I had to unravel many times. But, look at it now. So totally worth it.

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I fractally spun this yarn, and the fiber comes from Hello Yarn. One of the things about fractal spinning is the way the colors become separated and then repeated. I divided the top into many thin strips and so the color shifts are more frequent.

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This lovely BFL and silk blend is “Slither” and is from the November 2012 club, and I was lucky to have purchased this from someone on Ravelry.  I love BFL and silk blends and spinning them finely to create a thin yarn with a soft haloed sheen. With BFL blends, I’ve learned to relax and let the yarn be loosely plied. It gives a lovely drape that is perfect for shawls.

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Here it is: BLF/Silk “Slither” from Hello Yarn. I love the little bits of light blue hidden in the vortex of this extremely poofy skein.

Kidlet Knit Part II (Or, the Gateway Sweater)

I’ve been lax in posting my recent projects. I blame the end of the term grading madness, the beginning of the term disorientation and the deeply satisfying and lazy holiday break in-between.

This project, which I made for a certain Little L, is made from my go-to-pattern. I’ve now made three of these sweaters, and it was also the first sweater I made that got me back and knee-deep into knitting. This is probably the easiest sweater to make for those looking to dip their toes into knitting garments. It’s a top-down construction, seamless and easily adjustable. Prior to making this, I was knitting scarves and all I knew were purl and knit. But the ease of the garment and the realization that sweaters need not be so intimidating hooked me in. If ever there was sweater that is the equivalent of a gateway drug, this would be it.

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And while comparing this sweet little sweater to banned substances might be a bit inappropriate, especially as I imagine adorable Little L, with her plump rosy cheeks sporting this sweater in the natural beauty of Vancouver Island, my husband V–in looking at our bank account, the neglected state of our home and my constant distracted state as I count my stitches–might find the comparison completely apt.

Now that I’ve taken up spinning, it’s opened up a whole new world of things to learn and obsess about.

Below is my first ever hand-dyed and hand-spun skein, which I used to knit Little L’s sweater. I’ve wanted learn how to dye fiber ever since I started spinning. In fact, that was one of the reasons we drove as quickly as we could to San Antonio last year. I needed to get there in time to take a percentage dyeing class for fabric (which was one of the most informative and amazing classes I’ve taken!). It was a nice bookend to our time in San Antonio that in the last couple of weeks we were there, we drove to Austin so that I could take a fiber dyeing class at Hill Country Weavers, an amazingly stocked yarn store.

This time, I got to just play with color and focus on how to prep my fiber so I don’t felt it. Luckily, I also had some blue-faced leicester top which doesn’t felt as readily. And so I just used whatever color combinations were provided. What I ended up with is the color of a Disney Princess, a connection I didn’t make until we went to Disneyland on our road trip back to Portland.

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Dyeing my own fiber has made me also realize the importance of color placement in a way that I didn’t quite appreciate. As you can see the dyed colors of the top are more distinct, and after I spun the top, the colors became slightly less vibrant. The fact that the yellow was next to the gray/blue resulted in a slightly green tint to the yarn. I am going to be more mindful next time about how I spin as well as what color combinations I will juxtapose against each other.

In any case, I can’t wait to try my hand at more fiber dyeing. Next up for me is working with natural dyes!

 

 

Pulling out the knits

We had a nice sunny but cold spell in Portland recently so I took advantage of this anomalous weather to take photos of knits I finished back a while back. (As a side note, we’re back to wet, cold and grey so everything is right in the world again.) I tried cajoling Little A to stay still. Taking photos of this little ham is a crap shoot. One minute she’s smiling, laughing and pulling out her moves. The next minute it’s meltdown. IMG_4725

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The top-down cardigan, Hibbis, is a test knit, but the testing process was less about pattern modification and suggestions so much as it was about identifying grammatical errors in the translation from French to English. I was really drawn to this pattern because I liked the simple lace flowers at the yoke. But now that I’ve knitted it, I would definitely recommend modifying this pattern. The collar is too wide and keeps slipping off Little A’s narrow shoulders. Not only would I cast on fewer stitches for the collar, but that would have allowed me to raise the collar and give me space to have another row of the lace pattern. For Little A’s sizing, there were only two rows of this lace, which which seem a bit off balance to me. I like my patterns to fall on odd numbers. Despite the loose collar, Little A loves this sweater, which is knitted in Cascade 220″Fuschia.” This just goes to show at the end of the day, the wearer’s opinion counts the most.

The squishy cowl she is wearing is knitted from handspun superwash merino from Nest Fiber Studio. The colorway is “London Jupiter.” This was a fun and easy knit to show off handspun yarn. It is an easily adaptable pattern for children and adults. And as the name of this pattern highlights, it is really squishy. I got these darling buttons from Mom’s Buttons.

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What can I say? I love Nest Fiber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could totally knit that…

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Ever since I started knitting more regularly, my relationship with store-bought knits has taken a nosedive. We were already having some communication issues, namely their refusal to be loose in areas I need them to be loose and tight in areas I need them to be tight. Now that I have more in my knitting repertoire beyond stockinette and garter stitches, we are no longer on speaking terms.  Whenever I see knits on display, my smug response is, “I could totally knit that.” Mass-produced sweaters seem more flimsy and poorly made. Plus, they’re cold and impersonal. Why buy something I can make myself? I could totally knit a warm, colorful and durable sweater that has the distinction of being made with love. Yes, I could totally knit that and do it better.

This attitude, however, does have a down side.

The truth is, though I have the ability, I don’t necessarily have the time. Now that the weather is colder and V and Little A are forced to venture out hatless or mittenless while awaiting prophesized knits, my DIY, anti-consumerist, mother-earthing ethos is starting to look like stubborn idiocy and misguided cruelty.

I have been promising V a hat for weeks. He walks a good mile from the bus stop to work in the chilly morning hours. But, with my current piles of grading, I have only been able to knit a few rows or inches a night. I had bragged that I could finish this brier toque in two days. Caught up by my over-confidence, he even assured his bus driver, a sweet maternal older lady who pays attention to these things, that he will be warmly dressed soon. And yet, each morning, when she pulls up and he comes running up into the warm belly of the bus, she asks, “When is this hat going to be ready?”

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There’s nothing like the mild disapproval of a bus driver to spur on your knitting. All I can say is that this hat is going to get done. Even if it kills me a little.

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The other day V asked about mittens, but I told him that he was going to have to wait. There’s a queue. My fingers are freezing.

Fiber: Nest Fiber Club, “Fernweh” October 2014 (organic polwarth), worsted spun 2-ply.