Last year, I wrote reviews of 2015 in books and sweaters and firsts. It's so interesting to look back at all that has changed in just a year.
In 2016, I left my job right after getting a big promotion to travel and help my husband run our business, which had finally grown enough to support us both. Leaving my job was simultaneously the hardest and most exciting thing ever - it meant that I could really spend more time doing what I wanted to do, but it also meant jumping in the deep end and really having to figure things out (which I'm still working on).
I have to admit that I didn't read nearly as much in 2016 as I did in 2015. The Artist's Way describes reading as an ultimate escape for creative people, a way to dream about changing reality without having to really run away from it, and reading was certainly an escape for me. But in leaving my job and taking a dream vacation, I could take charge of my life. Escape was no longer necessary. I do still read, but not nearly as much as I did when I was looking for a way out of the grind.
I suppose all of that is to say that I don't have a long list of books to share with you this year, though this one and this one were big favorites for me.
Since we lived out of our RV for two months, I learned important lessons in minimalism. I did upgrade my camera on our trip, and love playing with all the things that are so much easier with a fancy camera.
My favorite purchase of the year, though, is that mug you see up there. It's from The Herdy Company, which supports sustainable rural farming in the Lake District of England. They're "made to make you smile," and the smiling little sheep on my mug does indeed make me smile every morning.
And I can't forget that 2016 is the year I opened my shop, with new items being added every week. Your support means the world to me, and I can't wait to see what the new year brings.
Of course, 2016 wasn't all sunshine and roses and fun new things. Brexit and the U.S. presidential election brought out nasty, divisive, and downright hateful feelings and actions. We're still wondering what the exact outcome will be. We watched as atrocities were committed in Aleppo, terror attacks took place worldwide, we had the hottest year on record, but still have to contend with people who believe that burning fossil fuels doesn't harm the environment...the list goes on. The New York Times "Year in Pictures" is a good start.
For articles that make sense of this mess, Barbara Kingsolver wrote, "But politeness is no substitute for morality, and won’t save us in the end. We only get to decide who we are." And Sally Kohn said (I'm paraphrasing) that political correctness is not enough, and it's the wrong enemy - we should try emotional correctness instead. And Adrienne Martini always shares the right blend of think pieces and corgi pictures. Marie Forleo always has the right blend of humor and advice to deal with life's troubles. Then there's the activist knitting that takes up more of my time these days.
I don't know quite where to end, but as life goes on, so will I. It's my sincere wish that in 2017 we can bring about real and positive change for this world, and I mean to be a part of that.
And I wish all of you a Happy New Year. I hope it brings you new adventures, new discoveries, and lots of love.
Ever since I saw it, I wanted a cardigan like Velvet Morning. It checks all the boxes for me - gorgeous, cozy-looking, simple but with lovely colorwork details, and of course, it's a cardigan, which is my favorite kind of sweater.
I'd make a few changes though. I'd knit it in a lighter weight yarn, since I don't live in Canada like the pattern designer. I'd give it some V-neck shaping, because that's my neckline of choice, and I'd knit it in the round and steek it instead of knitting it flat and seaming it. Oh, and I'd make my own colorwork patterns inspired by my travels.
Basically, I'd design a whole new sweater with Velvet Morning as the inspiration.
This is not that sweater. I meant for it to be, and then all of a sudden I had sailed right past the place where the colorwork needed to start. And being the type of person who would rather plow ahead instead of rip back, plow ahead is what I did.
As I knit the body, I was a little sad that I was making "another boring sweater" and wondered how I could spice it up. When I got to the ribbing, I had the bright idea to try cables. The classic cables were still too boring for my taste, so I pulled out the new Knitted Cable Sourcebook by Norah Gaughan. I ended up with cable pattern #112 "Fusion," which fit neatly into my stitch count and is based on a 2/2 rib. I'm hoping those ripples between the body and the ribbing block out - I do think they will, since the swatch stretched pretty considerably after I washed it.
Knitting the cables in dark brown wasn't quite as difficult as I thought it might be, and I'm happy that I'll have a subtle bit of texture on this sweater after all.
p.s. -- My Velvet Morning-inspired sweater is totally still in the queue!
There are just some lessons you know in theory, but have to learn in practice. In weaving, you're told to check your yarns to make sure they're suitable for use as a warp.
What yarns are suitable for warping? Generally, you want a strong yarn. It's going to be under lots of tension on the loom, and subject to lots of friction from the heddles and reed. One way to test the strength of a yarn is to try to break it with your hands. The harder it is to break, the better. If it drifts apart easily, you're probably out of luck - your yarn is underspun, and not strong enough for warping. Another test is to rub the yarn against a hard table edge about 50 times. If it holds up, it will probably be able to stand the friction of the reed beating against it as you weave.
These are very useful tests, if you use them.
Last weekend, I was searching around for something to use as a warp. I was low on my current favorite, an alpaca lace, and needed a creamy color. My eyes landed on this handspun Finn wool, a laceweight yarn that's really too fine and fuzzy for me to want to knit anything with.
After I'd finished measuring out the warp, I thought it might not be strong enough. Parts of it most certainly failed the warp strength test. But I thought I'd already gone too far, and I might as well see what happened.
I sett it at 24 ends per inch. I beamed all eight yards of my warp. And I just love the way it weaves up with Noro Silk Garden Sock as the weft. Still, the wool was just too soft and underspun to be a warp. It was literally dissolving in the heddles as I wove with it. So, even though I loved it, I knew it would be terrible to weave with, and had to change gears to a different warp.
The weft I'd been using, Noro Silk Garden Sock, scores better on the warp test. It's still not a beginner-friendly warp, but I find determination also goes a long way. My mistake with the first warp was just that I was too determined, and now I know the limits.
The Noro was much thicker than the original warp, so I sett it at 12 ends per inch, though I think 15 ends per inch would also look great. I also switched to a new weft, a 100% yak yarn that is absolutely the most luxurious thing ever. An early Christmas present to myself, to finally weave with it.
The final product will be a binding for my Noro Log Cabin Blanket. The knitting is done, and I've decided to put a backing on it like it's a "real" quilt. The whole thing is big and heavy and will be wonderfully toasty warm, and I can't wait.
I have to admit, I’ve never been much of a gift knitter. It makes me feel a little guilty to say it at this time of year, when knitters everywhere are hurrying to finish knitting gifts for loved ones. But that’s just not me. Sure, I do make the occasional baby blanket for a new arrival, or a scarf for Mom, but Christmas knitting isn’t really my thing.
Maybe it’s because most people aren’t so interested in handwashing their knits, and the yarns I’m interested in using need to be handwashed. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a few too many times where I worked hard on a project only for it to go unworn. Or worse, where you promise a gift knit, and something goes horribly wrong in the knitting of it. There are just so many variables to gift knitting that make me shy away.
Knitting for charity is another one of those things that never quite caught on for me. I love to read the stories of the Red Scarf Project, or Knitted Knockers, or any of the other worthy and wonderful causes people knit for. Though I dabbled with knitting blankets for foster kids when I was in law school, charity knitting has always been one of those things that I feel a bit guilty that I don’t do more of.
I’ve called myself a “selfish knitter” for so long that I’d assumed that’s just what I was. But perhaps I’ve been looking at it all wrong.
There’s Slow Fashion October, which seeks to revolutionize the fashion industry by promoting slow fashion over fast fashion. That’s a cause I can get behind. Even though my participation thus far has been limited to my own wardrobe, I think that talking about it contributes to the greater conversation, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
There’s Wovember, which follows close on the heels of Slow Fashion October, and seeks to promote wool as a fiber that has immense benefits. And it promotes understanding of heritage sheep breeds that in many cases are on the edge of extinction – another worthy cause.
Lately, there have also been a number of worthy pop-up knitting events that have me excited.
There’s the Fibershed Knitalong, which aims to promote local fiber, something that is near and dear to my heart. My own project is slowly chugging along – like all great things, it takes just a little longer than popping down to the shop for a quick scarf, especially when you’re starting with fiber that needs spinning and finishing before you can knit with it.
There’s the Project Peace Knitalong, which is a 21-day knitalong that started on December 1. Each day there’s a tip for how we can be agents of peace, and December 21 is a worldwide “knit for peace” day. It’s a gorgeous idea, and while I haven’t exactly been knitting the cowl, I’ve savored every single post.
Last, but certainly not least, there are PUSSY HATS. The Pussy Hat project is a movement in visibility for women’s rights. On January 21, the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. will take place, and the idea is to help marchers stay warm and visible in bright pink hats. I’ve already knit three hats (the first got frogged because it was too big) to send to the march. Hot pink yarn isn’t exactly my thing, nor is the synthetic yarn I’m using, but this was just too important for me to pass up.
So, if you find yourself like me, feeling guilty that you’re not a gift or charity knitter, perhaps it’s time to look into “craftivist” knitting. It can be a form of gift knitting, or charity knitting, but it doesn't have to be. Perhaps that's what I like about it so much - finding the thing that's too important to you to pass up.
What's your stance on gift/charity/craftivist knitting?
When you spend all that time knitting a sweater, you need every little detail to be perfect. When I started knitting sweaters with steeks, I read that it's good to close up the steek with a ribbon - a pretty detail that also protects your cut ends from unraveling.
But why couldn't I find the perfect ribbon? I wanted something gorgeous and luxurious, but also in natural fibers. No polyester for me. And why were the prettiest ribbons also the scratchiest?
So I started weaving them. And I started putting a ribbon in all my sweaters, steeked or not, to help stabilize the neckline and give me a feeling that there was a luxurious secret detail on the inside of my sweater. And then, I got a little obsessed and wove more, faster than I could knit the sweaters to go with them.
And so, now I'm open for business.
Want a handmade ribbon? I've got you. Don't see the color or width you need? Again, I can help out. Just mosey on over to my shop and check it out!