stack of knitted swaters

Warm weather closet rotation

After a cold and rainy spring, it seems summer has arrived in the Mediterranean area, where I live. Every year, I get overexcited and make the closet swap earlier than I should, and then I end up needing to layer things that shouldn’t be layered. This time I waited longer, and now it’s clear that my cold weather items are ready to go to storage. I always like the joy this swap brings: a celebration of the seasons, a fresh encounter with items I haven’t seen for months and that I can get reacquainted with. I always remake, over dye and rethink my wardrobe this time of year, and it’s the season I get more into sewing.

**Storing my cold weather wardrobe**

This also means it’s time for woolen knits to go into storage.

To keep them safe from hungry moths, I wash them before storing them. Moths are attracted to sweat and other things that might get on your clothes as you wear them.

It’s also a joy to wash woolens in summer, because it’s so warm and sunny that everything dried in a few hours.

I also put little bags of lavender in the same bag I store my knits, and I try to close them as airtight as possible. Those vacuum bags, if you have them, will work well for this and save you some space as well.

I also store turtlenecks, flannel shirts and thicker jeans.

**Bringing in the warm weather wardrobe**

When warm weather comes, I bring out all my summer clothes. I always surprised of how many I have. I have more summer clothes than cold-weather clothes. It’s a mild climate, but also in summer, where I live, you need to change clothes a lot. If you lived in a Mediterranean climate, you know when the season of never-again-having-that-feeling-of-a-fresh-tshirt. Everything is just sticky all the time.

Now, at the beginning of summer, I can still enjoy the warmth without the stickiness.

In the last few years, I’ve noticed that warm weather slows down my knitting and gets me in the mood to sew, while in the colder months I tend to only sew simple things like tote bags, napkins, pillowcases.

Last year, and the year before, I had only sown quite loose, oversized garments. Maybe it was the Pandemic, maybe it was the extra weight… maybe it was that phase. Now I feel like I can have ease and still sew things that fit and flatter my body.

I try everything on and decide what does and doesn’t work anymore. The items in the latter category are then surveyed to see if I can sell them or give them to someone who can give them a better home. Many times I alter them, and turn them into completely new things. As I’m writing this, I am wearing a dress I recut and over-dyed from a failed project. I had kept the fail project and the rage it still contained in a bag until seasons past and the fabric was neutral to me and ready to be given a second, or third or fourth life. I’ve already worn this dress more than ten times, and only made if a few weeks ago.

tiny scraps

I like to reset the fabric by opening seams, washing and when possible, over-dyeing. I have a black embroidered linen top that used to be a dress, then a skirt and now a top. I used embroidery to mend the holes it had acquired in its past lives, and it’s one of my favorite linen tops. Indeed, some of my favorite things are things I made out of repurposed or leftover fabric.

linen embroidered top

I keep the smallest pieces and I try to use them. Lately, I have been making tote-bags using a combination of quilting techniques and sashiko embroidery. I crocheted straps. I love these tote bags. I kept some for me as knitting project bags and some I gave away as gifts.

scrappy tote bag

Why we knit

I’m on a weeklong trip and I forgot to take my knitting with me.

A few days in, I am considering going on an emergency shopping trip and buying something (even though I have enough). So far I missed knitting when in long conversations with family members, in the early morning as I wake up and during lunch-break.

So I am spending some time today to reflect on why I knit and why others do it. In my research, I stumbled upon Ann Hood’s Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting, a collection of essays about knitting. [https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20663751-knitting-yarns](https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20663751-knitting-yarns)

Here are some excerpts from the book:

“But here’s the thing. The lesson in all this, which I did not learn then, is that so much of the joy of knitting is not in the creation of a perfect product. Rather, it is in the act of using one’s own bodily skills to make something for someone else’s body. The gift is not so much in the end result (although the end results are often if not usually spectacular), but in the way that something made with one’s own hands says a few things of utmost importance:
I made this for you.

I thought of you while I made it.

I guess I kind of love you.”

Elizabeth Berg

“My grandmother, born in Shanghai, knit brioche turtlenecks for the harsh winters of Wisconsin. She knit mohair cardigans in pale blues and in peach shades with matching buttons. My mother, sisters, and I wore and loved the things she made. Our family was short on money and purchased clothes so rarely that any breath of newness and prettiness in our lives was a treasure. She was a wonderful knitter. She never used patterns, but she had an eye for fashion; she studied the catalogues and newspapers for trends in collars and sleeves. We all knew that she spent every penny she had on yarn for us.”

Lan Samantha Chang

“And I was looking forward to wrapping it and giving it Christmas morning to my Aunt Jeannie down in Fishville, Louisiana. But this feeling of joyful anticipation rarely came while I was actually knitting, for the act itself was too calming for that, the constant sticking and looping and light cinching and more sticking and looping, my fingers moving in a rhythm they’d never known before. It required me to focus, and it allowed me to drift too, the way running a long distance required my feet and legs to do one thing while my mind could do another. ”

Andre Dubus III

I liked these quotes because the two knitting projects I was considering taking with me were both gifts I had hoped I would finish during my trip and gift them to their beloved recipient. But I know my needles are patiently waiting for me at home, and that I will be able to pick them up in a few days.

The Ranunculus sweater that almost never was

I see that my last post was in October, when I made Laura’s mittens and shared the pattern I made up for her. Many things have happened on a personal level, but they say you learn from challenges, right? I am grateful to have knitting and making things as a tool to slow down and heal.

Instead of doing a massive recap, I’ll just slowly talk about the things I made and learned, one by one, as they come to me. Starting with the ranunculus.

The Ranunculus sweater, by Midori Hirose is so popular, that It doen’t need any introduction. Instead, I’ll talk about my journey with the pattern and how it took me no less than 5 tries to get it done.

I initially bought this with the idea of making it from my mom. She chose the color from Holst Supersoft and I wanted to make it for her before Christmas. I tried different needles, holding it single, double, I tried it in a bigger wool, and very time it was huge, or I had made a mistake I couldn’t fix and had to frog it.

First try, holding the yarn single

Third frog, with the yarn held double[/caption]

Then, on a rainy Saturday evening, I started dyeing wool in my stash I didn’t love. Dyeing wool on a rainy day is a terrible idea, so please don’t be like me.

I have this idea in my head that I want to reduce and use my stash. There are yarns I don’t love and don’t use, and yarns I love too much and don’t use. Does this happen to anyone else out there?

So that rainy day, I decided to pick some wool I had in my stash that I didn’t love. A part of it were small and very small cakes of Holst Supersoft in orange, pale yellows and creams. I had some leftover food colorant from a previous dye experiment, so I decided to just go ahead and see what transformations I can bring to this yarn.

(Dyeing wool with food coloring is extremely easy, and you don’t need to buy anything except the colorant. I will tell you more about this in a future post).

Turns out, I loved the colors that I had created from over dyeing the Supersoft. And I love the wool, but only had a small amount, so I thought, maybe it’s time to bring back out the ranunculus. It helped that in the meantime Midori Hirose had updated her pattern to include smaller sizes, so I went ahead and cast on, holding the yarn double, on 4.5 mm needles.

I played extreme yarn chicken with this project, and had to sneak some yarn that I had for another project, but it worked out in the end and I was able to finish it.

This time I took my time and paid attention to the pattern, and it worked, I actually made the ranu culus sweater. It’s true what they say, it’s engaging and quick to knit, especially the short-sleeved version.

I was surprised that, by knitting the smallest size, the sleeves and bodice were quite fitted, the sleeves almost no positive ease, and then the body had maybe 10 if not more centimeters of positive ease. I don’t love the silhouette, but since it’s cropped, it works!

And that’s the story of the ranunculus sweater that almost never was!

easy fingerless mittens

October simple fingerless mitts (with knitting instructions)

I made these mittens for my friend L’s birthday. She’s a writer, the cold season is coming, and I can imagine her typing away at her computer while being cozy and warm.

It was the first time I used Drops Lima. This whole year I’ve been into wooly wools, the more scratchy and rustic, the better.

After knitting and frogging and reknitting and refrogging an albeit sleeveles, full sweater, I’ve realized the problem was the yarn. I had bought it from a local mill, last year, when the shops were closed, it was superwash wool, but the superwash treatment made it look and feel more like acrylic yarn than wool. It was too floopy and shiny.

Last month I found a local knitter who likes superwash on freecycle and gave her my superwash part of the stash (it rhymes!). That felt so good, after months of trying to use these yarns into the sweater above, slippers and shawls that would end up frogged.

So now I steer away from superwash and synthetic blends.

I had used Drops Karisma in the past to make a scarf for a family member, because I needed that garment to be easy to care for. It was okay, but you know… what I said above. So then I had this feeling that most other Drops yarns had some synthetics in them and I disregarded for a long time. But when I went a few weeks ago to my local yarn shop to find new yarn for making L’s mittens, I was surprised to see Lima and Nepal who are both a wool and alpaca mix. They’re really soft and warm. And not shiny!

Now to the mitten instructions, created with the spiritual guidance of Mrs Zimmerman. My friend has small hands, so they mittens look very small, but they were tested on big, manly hands, and they fit as well. If I made this for bigger hands, I would increase the original cast on (CO) with 2-4 stitches.

Fingerless mittens pattern

Yarn: Drops Lima (which is a DK weight)
Gauge: 20 st in stockinette stitch (ss) = 10 cm on 3 mm double pointed needles (DPNs)

Gauge is personal, make a swatch before to see which needles you need for this yarn!

CO 36 st on DPNs

Cuff

Knit the cuff in 1&1 rib (knit 1, purl 1) for 9 rows
K2, ssk to the end,
Knit 4 rounds
K2, kfb to end of round
Knit 15 rounds (keep the purls that you have created from the kfb and knit in pattern)

Afterthought Thumb (we will put in and afterthought thumb, which means we will keep the stitches we need to pick up and knit the thumb, on a spare piece of thread, while we finish the mitten).

K2, insert temporary thread, k7, move back to your main yarn, continue knitting 4 rounds in pattern. When you get to the spare thread stitches, just knit them normally.
Knit 9 more rows in 1&1 rib, then cast off loosely. You can use a bigger needle for your cast off.

Picking up thumb stitches

Now you have 6 st above your spare thread and 7 below, Pick up the 6 st and one on each side, from your knit, 8 st.
Knit 5 st, change needle
Knit 5 st, change needle,
You have 5 st left on your third needle.
Knit 4 rows
Rib 1&1 for 4 rows, cast off in pattern.

Abbreviations:

CO cast on
DPNs double pointed needles
SSK slip slip knit, slip 2 st onto your right needle and knit them together (decreases 1 stitch)
KFB knit front and back into the same stitch (makes 1 stitch)

Enjoy!

September forest wool hat

September Forest Hat (with knitting instructions)

Even though it’s still hot where I live, you can feel autumn in the air. It was a hard summer, so I am looking forward to the slow melancholy of the season.

In this mood was that I started feeling the itch to knit something to celebrate the coming of the new season. I wanted to knit something that reminded me of the forest as it is now, of tree bark and pines, the forest just starting to turn darker and wetter as the year gets older.

It was fun to me to rummage through my stash and play with a few Holstgarn Supersoft leftovers and marl them together. If you want to make this, the knitting pattern is below.

September Forest Hat knitting pattern

Yarn: Hostgarn Supersoft, held double
Gauge: 18 stitches (st) for 10 cm in stockinette stitch (ss)
Notions: circular needle, double-pointed needle, sewing needle.

This is a one size pattern that has enough ease to fit different sizes of adult heads.

Cast on

Cast on 96 st, then join the round without twisting your stitches.

Hat rib

Knit in one by one rib for 10 rounds or 4.5 cm (or until you’re pleased with the height of your rib). One by one rib is knit by alternating between knit and purl stitches. So row one is K1, P1 to the end.

Hat body

Knit in stockinette stitch (so knit every stitch, each round) for 14 rounds (or another 6 cm). Your knitting piece is now 10.5 cm from the cast on.

Decrease row 1: knit 7, k2tog, until end of row
Next 3 rows, knit
Decrease row 2: knit 6, k2tog, until end of row
Next 3 rows, knit
Decrease row 3: knit 5, k2tog, until end of row
Next 2 rows, knit
Decrease row 4: knit 4, k2tog, until end of row
Next 2 rows, knit
Decrease row 5: knit 3, k2tog, until end of row
Next row, knit
Decrease row 6: knit 2, k2tog, until end of row
Next row, knit
Decrease row 7: k2tog, until end of row

This is how the decreases will look if you fold the hat

Now cut off the thread, leaving a hand-to-elbow long tail, thread it through a needle, and then thread the needle through the remaining stitches, pulling the hat closed. Pull the tread towards the wrong side of your hat and weave in your ends. Weave in any other ends and wear with joy.

This is how your hat will look from above

Variation for straight needles.

You can knit this hat in the same way on straight needles by knitting on the front side and purling on the wrong side. Make the decreases, as the pattern suggests, on the front side only.

A summer in photos

As I chronicled the arrival of spring in my city, this year, it was interesting to me to see how my surroundings have influenced me in my making, the following months.

So I made a collection of photos that represented the colours and textures of summer.

Rich Mediterranean foliage in full sun.

Getting lost in a forest in search of an icy river.

Collecting the crop of windowsill gardening.

Morning sun on a freshly washed piece of linen, waiting to be made into something new.

Taking a bite into a piece of traditional pastry from your hometown.

What did your summer look like?

A year of colourful outliers

When I make garments for myself, I always choose fabric in a limited palette of colours, mostly blues and greens, some black and white. This year has been a year of many firsts, and the area of my life that’s dedicated to sewing and knitting has not been any different.

At the beginning of the year, I knit myself a red cotton t-shirt. I sent a photo to my mom, who promptly responded: “You, in red? I don’t know you”.

knitted red t-shirt

Then, I saw a lavender purple Holstgarn Tides, which I wanted to try for a long time, to see how it would knit up, and I felt I needed to knit with this colour, which is one of my mom’s favourite colours. I started making her a shawl, realized I had bought too little yarn, and, after one more yarn purchase, proceeded into completing a shawl in many shades of purple.

With the beginning of spring, for the first time in my life, I bought and made myself a yellow garment. It’s a lounge top in double gauze, a top inspired by the Harper Tunic, from Elizabeth Suzanne. This is the first time I have ever owned a yellow garment.

That’s not all, this year, I started obsessing about knitting a yellow garment as well, so I bought myself a cone of Holstgarn Coast in Cantaloupe. I made a short sleeve crochet cardigan, and now I am figuring out how to knit a round yoke, using instructions from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting without tears.

Summer came, and I found myself dying a second hand white linen bedsheet and making a red linen dress.

In summer, I also made a top in Nani-Iro gauze in purples and pinks. I had seen this fabric months ago and loved it, and I resisted buying it, being afraid that I won’t wear these colours. A few weeks ago, I saw a remnant of the last of this fabric and decided to get it.

Not, autumn is coming, and I’ve started feeling the itch to knit something in brown and natural shades. What is going on?

What is your relationship with colour in your making? Do you have a favourite colour? Do you wear the colours you choose for making? Do you also have temporarily colour crushes, like me?

First time crocheting a garment and a pair of Clyde shorts

This post documents two adventures at once: my first crochet garment and first time using Holstgarn coast and the make of a linen pair of Elizabeth Suzanne Clyde shorts.

The crochet short sleeve cardigan

I wanted to love crochet for a very long time, and with every piece I started or every sample I tried, I just felt that it’s not me, don’t like it, what can you do about it? I made some amigurumi pieces before, but that was about it.

I was surprised by this pattern recipe by Santa Pazienzia, in which she described how to make a raglan sweater with crochet. Once she explains everything, it’s very simple actually, you just increase at the raglan seams, just as you would do for a knitted raglan. As a note to self, I should modify this recipe to add more stitches to the front pieces to make a C cup fit better.

7

The Holstgarn yarn, a mix of cotton and wool, is more stringy, less bouncy than their Supersoft quality, which is 100% wool. I ordered two cones of this, and I felt that this Cantaloupe yellow one was stringier than the Harbour blue one. I am yet to use the Harbour in a project, but the swatches look a bit different. I held it double for this project, and it was quite quick to make.

The Clyde shorts

I always admired the Elizabeth Suzanne pieces, and I was so happy when she released her patterns on her new website for home sewers to sew their own. I am very inspired by her business model, and she’s done a lot of things people haven’t done before, from being transparent about cost, her business, reframing her business plan after Covid, selling fabric remnants for a zero waste manufacturing process and the list goes on.

The shorts were easy to make as the instructions were clear. I was surprised that different sewing allowances were used on different part of the pants, and then I realized how genius that is. You can purchase her patterns here: https://elizabethsuzannstudio.com/collections/fabric-patterns-kits/Digital-Sewing-Patterns

The fit is ok, the linen I made them in is quite sheer, the bum gets a little saggy after a few hours of wear, but with working from home this year, who cares.

I am not entirely convinced by the length of these, maybe a tad shorter would have been better. And in the future I should alter the pattern a bit to allow for the cuff, this way they’ll be more comfortable to wear biking.

That’s about it. Happy to make these things and happy to share them with you.

denim jumpsuit

A denim chambray jumpsuit, copied from an RTW piece

I made this jumpsuit around this time of year, last year. We all know how that summer was, so I won’t get into it right now.

denim jumpsuit

I had never made a jumpsuit before, but I owned one, and I was a little obsessed with it and the knowledgeable mechanic vibe the jumpsuit was giving me. I had this fabric for a long time and I received it as a gift from a special and kind person, so I wanted to use it for something I would wear, even though the floral pattern is not what I usually wear. Furthermore, I thought that the boxy shape of the jumpsuit would tone down the girlishness of the florals.

denim jumpsuit

I didn’t have quite enough for all pieces, so I used a piece of blue-grey cotton I had in deep stash for the back and lining. I used metal snaps that I already had. Not only that, but I also made a fabric belt from the same cotton material.

All in all, I think it looks quite OK, except the florals don’t look less girly, they just make the jumpsuit look like fancy pyjamas (silent sob).

denim jumpsuit

red linen dress

A midsummer night, red linen dress

For as long as I remember I always wore the same colours: mainly blues, some green, black, some grey, some white and that’s about it. Every few years or so, I get inspired to make something red. This year was surely a strange year because the inspiration to make something red stroke twice: one in knitting a red cotton t-shirt (post soon to come) and the second in this red linen dress.

I don’t feel comfortable in red. I very rarely wear red. Furthermore, I often put a red item on and take it off swiftly.

And yet, I made myself a red dress.

red linen dress

It started as a second hand bedsheet that I dyed it in my washing machine. It’s probably the first time my home dying experiments turn out without visible flaws.

To make the bodice, I used the Seamwork Catarina bodice that I’ve sewn many times. I really need to start taking better notes on my patterns because after I’ve sewn it I again noticed that the bodice is too long for my torso and the straps make the cleavage way more revealing than I’m comfortable with. This time, I wrote the perfect strap measurement on the pattern itself.

red linen dress side view

For the skirt part, I used a tutorial from the amazing Jess Dang, a sewist from Hanoi, Vietnam, who make tutorials for sewing or altering clothes. I love the way she creates the pattern based on body measurement directly on the fabric. And she makes construction so simple. Forget the bodice blocks, with a few simple measurements and angles, she makes really complicates things quite simple.

I’ve never sewn a skirt with a side slit before, and it worked out well. I particularly liked her method for adding an elastic casing to the waistline – so easy!

red summer dress

After making this dress, I started wondering where I’d wear it. This wasn’t a closet need, obviously, but rather a “need to make”. I decided it would be perfect for Midsummer Night festivities and the rooftop party I was going to.

Let me know in the comments if you think I wore the dress or changed into something blue : )

Catarina dress sewing pattern by Seamwork: https://www.seamwork.com/catalog/catarina
Jess Dang dress tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8fNHNwTWRo