Improv Sweater. Week 6: Re-Do.

Selfie magic!

So I’ve restarted this pullover (I suspect that will garner a few gasps…) I’m making as a part of Fringe Association’s #fringeandfriendskal2016. I looked at it last week and was kind of disappointed in how it was turning out, and then after a brief bout on Instagram (thanks, Karen, for asking about the raglan depth! Hello, stark reality!!), I decided to rip the whole thing and start afresh. I looked at the original and some of the small details I had got wrong were really nagging at the back of my mind, pulling my attention away from my pullover and into a kind of ennui over the whole thing. I knew that this wasn’t working for me, that I would be unimpressed with the final product, and that I wouldn’t wear it. That obviously completely defeats the entire purpose of this KAL and the product of my labour! So, I’m calling re-do. My heritage musings aside, and my desire for a sportswear pullover, I feel this will serve my wardrobe best, even if it doesn’t appeal to my intellectual vanity. (I can appease that later!)

Here’s what I’m set on:

  • Boatneck, instead of crew.
  • Reversible, instead of fitted yoke (because I’d like to extend the flying geese pattern to the top of both sides).
  • Contiguous neckband, to avoid having to sew it up later, because I don’t know that I care that much about the rounded quality of the sewn bind-off for this.
  • 3/4 sleeves, because I love them a lot.
  • Modified raglan for better fit.
  • Oversized a bit to make it cozy and so that I can layer it if I want.


I’m also switching yarn. The other yarn started to grow on me, but I think it is better suited to be a pullover I gift to a friend than an actual wardrobe staple for me! (Sophie, if you’re reading this, look out, you’re getting something pretty for your birthday/Christmas). So I give you: Madelinetosh-dyed Composition book grey (more purple in this iteration), Valley Yarns Northumbria DK Special Edition. It’s been in my stash for years, and I have decided it needs to be something delightful. Time to shine, guys!

Re-do! Now, in Composition Book Grey.

I spoke briefly on my Instagram account about a challenge to myself to finish this pullover in about a week. That doesn’t seem like it will happen, though I was technically capable and have knit that quickly in the past. I hurt my back earlier in the week, and it’s been screaming a bit more loudly over the past two days. (Last night, I had to have Tom wail on my lumbar area so I could sleep.) So, I’m knitting from the couch today, trying to knit as fast as I can from a reclined position, while searching for job postings. Multi-tasking at its finest! It isn’t a race, but I want to get a move on, anyway. Wish me luck!


FAFKAL 2016 vs. Slow Fashion October: Musings

An imponderable: I have moved to a temperate climate, and I love knitting wool sweaters.

Tomorrow is the last day of summer, and even though the Pacific Northwest cooled down about a week ago, and the rest of the continent seems to be under a haze of heat still, I’m thinking about wearing sweaters and making one, too. I am talking, of course, about my #fringeandfriendskal2016 (FAFKAL) sweater, through Karen Templer and her Fringe Association, as well as Instagram, and all of that good stuff. It got me thinking specifically of the particular quandary I have: I have moved to a temperate climate, and I love knitting wool sweaters. This wouldn’t be a problem but for the fact that I am 1. someone who runs warm on the best of days, 2. a complete fibre snob that doesn’t like cotton or synthetics very much at all, and 3. completely addicted to knitting pullovers.

The weight, materials and overall design of a garment shouldn’t just be based solely on whim or current fashion, but rather the circumstances in which one will wear the garment itself.

The idea that has been bouncing around my head for the last few weeks has finally become coherent. That is: The weight, materials and overall design of a garment shouldn’t be based solely on whim or current fashion (though, to some extent, it will be because of the osmosis of ideas surrounding a person, and the materials available, and one’s dreams about a project), but rather the circumstances in which one will wear the garment itself. Yes, big chunky pullovers done in brioche look fantastic, but do you really need a double-layer of wool in April? Some might, some might not.

…if you will not wear an item, why buy it? To further that, why make it?

I’m hesitant to take this thought to its logical conclusion because it seems a bit deterministic. If you want to make that chunky sweater and wear it for a muggy May in Seattle, then by all means go for it. A person’s imagination shouldn’t be stymied by practicality, but getting to the overall theme of my writing today, and touching on an issue Karen Templer brought up tangentially in preparation of Slow Fashion October: if you will not wear an item, why buy it? To further that, why make it? Even if you love it, and it makes your heart sing, if it’s too warm or too cold for your living situation, should you make it? It’s a bit of an imponderable; I am admittedly guilty of knitting pullovers that I love love (love!) but that I cannot wear more than once or twice a year. Is that frequent enough to justify their existence? Only I can answer that for myself, as others will feel differently about their own projects, but I do know that I’m trying to create clothes that are wearable in my new living circumstances. I’ve gone from blazing hot summers and freezing cold winters, to a kind of moderate climate without too (too) much temperature swing. How do I change my wardrobe to accommodate this? I plan to pay attention to how I’m feeling through the next year, and make a few items I’m sure of, while adjusting the rest of my wardrobe to suit my needs. This KAL, as will be the case with this SFO, is about transitions.

Mindfulness is the most important aspect of this intellectual exercise. It doesn’t matter if you arrive at an opinion on whether to tend towards making for art or practicality, but rather we all need to be aware of the choices we make when we create.


fullsizerender1A reason I’m enjoying this KAL so much is that I’m able to experiment with new techniques, and this now includes playing with new sleeve and body lengths, too. While I had done some tweaking on body length before now, with my sweater being entirely of my own creation, I have nobody else’s projects with which to compare my own. I’m working on the first sleeve right now, and I’m not sure I like how it’s coming out; I’ve designed it to be cropped, but I’m afraid I’ve decreased too quickly and directly; I’m going to try it on this afternoon, once I’ve got it a bit longer, and see how I feel about the fit. I’m planning on stopping with adding a good length of ribbing to about the elbow, or just past (thoughts?). I like that I’ll likely be knitting a sweater that I can wear when I’m a bit chilly indoors, without sweating my socks off. Open wrists, for me, mean that I’ll be able to wear a chunkier weight (i.e. worsted weight) sweater without wanting to keel over in a hallway. This project is a creature of whimsy, but is also practical and suited to my daily needs.

How can I honour a life focused on reducing my personal waste and increasing my love of my clothes and surroundings with this stash?

This line of thinking also has me considering my stash. I am only really allowed to knit from stash at the present (a self-determined state of affairs), and will not have purchased yarn for myself for an entire year as of January (creeping ever closer…). I want to go in for all kinds of new yarns, and old ones, too (I need Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter Marls in Newsprint in my life, like, yesterday…. but I am virtuous, and will wait), but I do not want to be wasteful of the materials I already own.

I am obsessed with Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter Marls in Newsprint especially, but I will have to wait for my stash to shrink before anything like buying yarn will happen

My tastes have changed, as I discussed in my last (brief! manic!) post on my dreams of becoming stashless. I want to wake up one day to a single tote of yarn on the go, and no other crafting commitments beyond what I have in my imagination. How can I honour a life focused on reducing my personal waste and increasing my love of my clothes and surroundings with this stash? I think the answers are there, but I’m working on deciphering them. Knit more for others, surely, and maybe knit for charity, though I am a bit selfish with my handiwork. Regardless of the answers, I’m confident I’ll find equilibrium in my stash, in my life, and in my future project plans. This pullover is steering me down the right path. It’s aptly named (“Migrating Birds”), as it points me in new directions both in my life and my crafting. Is there a difference between the two, really?

Working towards stashlessness

This morning I woke up and things felt a bit off. I suffer from anxiety (who doesn’t, it seems?) and today’s point of worry was the fact that I feel like I have too much stuff. I stare at my yarn stash, and it is throat-lump-inducing. I wish I hadn’t developed it, but now I’m saddled with it, and I can’t imagine anyone wants to buy it off me. I might try selling some of it this winter once I get a bit more settled into a routine, as well as selling some shoes I don’t wear but that are pretty collectible and in perfect or near-perfect condition.

Back to: stash.

My ultimate dream is to go stashless

I haven’t bought yarn in over half a year, and I’m planning on holding onto that plan for at least 12 months, if not longer. I want to knit from my stash, as I’m compelled to knit, but I’ve outgrown it in many ways. The things I want to knit right now don’t match the things I wanted to knit a few years ago. My tastes have changed, and (I’d like to think) refined a little. My ultimate dream is to go stashless, to not have this horde of yarn to lug around every time I move. I am therefore slowly cataloguing my yarn, deciding what I can use, how I can use it, and what I need to sell or donate. It’s a shame because the money I used to buy it was hard-got, but my mental health wants simplification, and damn it, I’m giving it that at least.

Instead of this being primarily a boring venting/complaining post, I would like to offer my present and future self a list of goals and methods to keep the stash down where it belongs. I give you:


Aja’s Stashdown Tenets 2016

  1. No buying yarn until that anxious feeling subsides (better than a tangible number of skeins, or projects, as this point — I trust my gut on this).
  2. If buying books or patterns, they must be able to be used with the present stash as it exists. This having been said…
  3. Try to knit from already-purchased patterns in your library. If you don’t like them anymore, someone else will, so get cracking on those gifts (see item 6). As an extension:
  4. No buying online patterns unless you plan to cast on directly. No exceptions.
  5. Get rid of any and all acrylic or unnatural fibres. No exceptions. (This is quite gratifyingly easy as I have a very limited amount of acrylic).
  6. Knit presents for people, if possible, to get rid of stash. Start as early as possible.
  7. Put unwanted stash up for sale on Ravelry. Don’t think twice about it.
  8. Try to enjoy the freedom of taking hold of a situation that makes you uncomfortable and getting through it! This is great!

Improv Sweater. Week Four: Changing Course a Bit

“Come outside, Aja!” say the pumpkins and the ‘mums. Yes, I think I will. Thank you for the invitation.

I am in the midst of making a dark grey heathered Moneta by Colette Patterns. However, it’s an absolutely beautiful day, so I feel compelled to go outside before the door to summer slams shut and we in the Pacific Northwest have to deal with dark drizzle for a few long months.

(Not to mention, I have keen hearing and the burbling of the cidre as it ferments is driving me insane.)

I am not a pen-and-paper artist. Sorry, folks.

Consequently, I am back on the trail of my #fringeandfriendskal2016 Top-Down Pullover, Migrating Birds. It’s a portable thing to do on a beautiful afternoon, and I’m quite pleased to have the privilege and time to get at it. I think it is evolving a little in my mind. I am happy to pay homage to my heritage, but I’ve been thinking about how I actually want to wear it. A few weeks ago, I did a mini wardrobe round-up to figure out what kind of style I was aiming for with this project. I think now that I think about it, I have many workhorse pullovers, but few stylized ones. I got to thinking: what if I go in a slightly different direction? Nobody is in control here, but me. I started doodling (albeit poorly; forgive the furtive pen strokes and smudges! My book nearly blew away this afternoon, it got so windy).

I love this project so much. I wish I was a bit faster on this one because I want to wear it NOW!
Isn't this fabulous?
Isn’t this fabulous? Total coincidence that it’s very much like my own drawings and ideas; I found it after dreaming up the new plan.

I think that I’m going to make the sleeves to the elbow in a kind of nod to mid-century sportswear, so I can wear this with high-waisted skirts and feel vintage but in a kind of updated way. I’ll finish the bottom with a long swathe of twisted ribbing (as the cuffs will be finished, just as I have done for the neckline). It’s actually a compete coincidence that the above photo looks like what I’d like to do (mostly). I found it after I made my decision to illustrate my thoughts a bit better. Mid-century sportswear is great for my body type, and the best part is that I don’t have to make it kitschy by being too vintage. I can make it modern and my very own.

I’m changing directions, trying something new with this. The point of this creation is to explore a bit. If it doesn’t work, I’ll pull it out and see what happens next!


Autumn Making: Part One

I have been job-hunting for about a week, and this past weekend was a whirlwind punctuated, this morning, by a bit of an ague (i.e. a tiny, fatiguing, but annoying cold). Please pardon the silence!

What have I been up to? Well! Let me regale you with an increasingly autumnal tale.


Tom has had the idea in his head for a few months that, when the time came, we would drive down to his parents’ house in Enumclaw and pick their apples to make apple cidre.* I thought he meant apple cidre, the delicious if cloudy juice drink. He thought he meant hard cidre. We arrive now at an impasse: while I like hard cidre, I’ve yet to have a homemade variant I’ve really enjoyed, and so much prefer to have the soft stuff. He, on the other hand, is really very curious about creating alcohol from apples. He has experience in brewing, don’t you know.


We went down to Enumclaw last Friday when Tom got off work, and picked about 250 pounds of apples off two trees! This was a serious bumper year for apples in Washington State. We also got about 60 pounds from Tom’s friend Ben, who was planning on helping us when it came time to press (it was his uncle’s press, after all).

For two days, our house smelled almost unbearably of apples, and I was really concerned the acetylene off-gassing into the air was going to turn the rest of our food! Obviously, paranoid.

Sunday rolled around, and while I made an apple Dutch Baby to split with Tom for breakfast, he got busy preparing the Pressing Stage (or, our tiny porch, depending on how romantic you’re feeling).



I kept peeking while cooking to see what he was up to. Sanitizing equipment and apple-prepping, it seems. It seemed to me to be such a tiny press in comparison to the larger mostly homemade one my uncle and I have used every autumn for the past several years. I was skeptical, I’ll admit. I knew it was going to take a long time to get through these apples (and it did).

Hard at work grading apples, and cutting out the bad parts.
Some of Ben’s Honeycrisps were a little wormy, so we had to get creative with the knives. Minimal wasting, here!

It was about then that my camera got lost in the absolute chaos of our tiny cottage. I had to roll the rug up because men were in and out with apple-juice covered shoes on, simmering juice, decanting and occasionally spilling it all over the porch. The wasps weren’t too bad, but could’ve been better. We had the hose at the ready to water down the sticky mess every once in a while.

Cidremaking isn’t glamorous, anyway. I got apple juice in my eyes while we ground it in to pommace in the little hopper sort of visible in the press pictures (attached to the back), and spent most of the day cleaning up behind the guys, and making a really delightful stuffed pumpkin for dinner (of course, six people showed up as I pulled it out the oven…). We low-temperature pasteurized the cidre to make sure nobody gets sick, and then threw in some champagne yeast (though you could use any, this is a personal preference).

Ultimately, this resulted in these carboys filled with apple juice and yeast!

The back one is burbling away merrily, whilst the front one hasn’t decided to start fermenting properly yet. I hope that one works out. Also, it’s really difficult to get a good photo in this kind of semi-darkness. Yeast needs darkness to do its job, so I’d prefer to have potato quality pictures and good yeast activity, than good photos and bad yeast outcome! Ah well!

I did get lucky and go out with Cory to Pacific Fabrics for a bit, amongst other places. I picked up this cute dressmaking book, too (for about half the price of anywhere else I’d seen it, and it’s filled with useful little dressmaking tricks)! It has great little patterns in it that I’m super excited to get making this fall and winter!

*Hello, I’m a Canadian and I spell it with an -re!




Beautiful Tools

I love beautiful tools. They really enhance handiwork, and make what I’m doing a joy rather than a chore, even when something about it is a bit frustrating (I’m looking at you, set-in sleeves).

This past Saturday marked 6 months since Tom and I got married, and it’s almost been 7 since I’ve lived permanently in Seattle. What a time it’s been! We’ve done so much; found our tiny cottage and moved, started to build our lives together properly.

Tom saw me struggling with my inexpensive pair of sewing scissors the other day, while cutting out my first Moneta dress, and he got an idea. He whisked down to Lucca on Ballard Ave. and got me a very beautiful present and tool indeed: these amazing scissors from Merchant and Mills. I’m so lucky and I can’t wait to get going on cutting out more clothes this autumn!

Planning Stage: A Handmade Autumn

It’s Labour Day, and Seattle is grey and a bit chilly. The weather’s weird here this time of year; the early spring flowers frequently get confused and rebloom. I saw crocuses on our walk today. What?

Fresh with some pocket money from dog-sitting (I had no idea dog-sitting was lucrative?), I’m naturally planning on how to blow all of it (or at least much of it?) on some fun new handmade clothes for the fall and winter!

Sewing Plans

I’ve got a few plans for the next month for my handmade wardrobe. It’s getting cooler here, but not so much so that I can’t wear skirts and dresses. I am also considering a more casual jacket that I can just throw on and trundle about in.


I went in to District Fabric in Fremont on Saturday, when it was still sunny and warm. Tom was in tow, and the shop was a bit steamy, so we left before I bought anything as we were too uncomfortable for me to settle on anything. However, with their 3rd anniversary sale on, I knew that I’d want to come back. I texted Cory to see if I could similarly enable her (Me: “At the risk of being a horrible enabler…[sale at District]”, her: “Hehe! What are you doing in half an hour?”), and we struck off yesterday around lunch time for a quick dip into fabric hedonism!

I scored a Colette Ginger Skirt pattern; absolutely stunning (!), beautiful (!!), perfect (!!!) Italian brushed wool in a navy blue check with amazing depth (enough for the Ginger; the picture with the pattern is closest in colour to actuality, but the complexity of the check is obvious in the other photo); and some cotton/spandex dark grey heathered jersey knit for another Moneta (I’m planning an arsenal!). District Fabric was feeling particularly generous on their birthday, so as a part of the purchase, I was given a really cute Ikat napkin set. I chose this green and white ikat print, surprising even myself, as I almost defaulted to my usual black and white preference. I feel like I came out with what I wanted, though of course, I wish I could’ve come home with All the Wool, Shirtings and Silks. Oh my.

Today, I’m ordering up some really lovely, textured linen and chambray for a Tamarack jacket. I’m really excited about this quilted jacket, but I don’t want to make it as roomy as it calls for because it’ll look like a tent on me. Instead, I might size down. Toile will tell. Anyone have any experience with this pattern and have thoughts? I have been searching online for other’s thoughts, but nothing’s come up that’s too tangible.

Here’s what I’m thinking (photos linked directly from Colette and Grainline Studio websites):

Moneta X 2 (yellow, and grey) by Colette Patterns
Ginger (blue check wool) by Colette Patterns
Tamarack jacket (black/silver linen) by Grainline Studio
Sorbetto (stash buster) by Colette Patterns


To recap without pictures:

  1. Moneta X 2 (yellow and grey) by Colette Patterns.
  2. Ginger skirt (blue check) by Colette Patterns.
  3. Tamarack jacket (I’m thinking black/silver linen) by Grainline Studio.
  4. Sorbetto (a few in some fabric remnants I have kicking around, to wear with cardigans) by Colette Patterns. Did I mention it’s free? Yay!

Are you excited? I’m excited. Yes, it’s Colette-heavy, but that’s fine with me this season. I’m going to post pictures of my fabric choices when I can sometime this or next week. Depends on when the rest of the fabric comes in.


I’ll have this #fringeandfriendskal2016 pullover done in a few weeks, if I keep picking away at it like I’ve been doing. I try not to have too many projects on the go at once, thought that’s been a problem the last year. Consequently, I’m going to try to finish up projects I’ve had in hibernation for a bit.

  1. Deco. I am almost done the entire body, but need to finish a bit of the front first.
  2. Faroese pullover. I’ve had this in my bag for ages, and I only have to finish an arm for it to be complete. It’s on!
  3. Ebba. I need to decide whether or not this is going to bleed on me, and if I decide it will, I’ll frog it. I love it, but the dark blue yarn is a serious bleeder.
  4. I’m sure there’s at least one more I’ve forgotten.


It’s going to be a busy autumn!

Oh hey, there! I was gifted a pretty thing!

You guys! Imagine my surprise when my #fringeandfriendskal2016 pullover was mentioned on Fringe Association this past Friday! How wonderful to have such a great nod! I’m excited for the Woollelujah tote. It’ll be a fun one to tote around my woolly things with. Ok, dad jokes aside, it’s really flattering. Apologies for the delay in my acknowledgement. I had a really busy weekend starting Friday, and have only just had time to sit down and write!

Thanks, Karen!

Improv Sweater. Week 3: “Show me yer gussets!”

I’ve been knitting along on my Migrating Birds for #fringeandfriendskal2016, and I’m about to get to that point where I can separate the arms and body. I’m, maybe, a day off, because I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to knitting right now.

Anyway, I’ve been looking through pictures of ganseys throughout history online, and it got me thinking. Really, the defining characteristic of the gansey, beyond the knit-purl motifs, the dense knit, and the frequently salty characters wearing them, is one particular detail: gussets!* Yes, gussets. A little extra stretch of fabric in the underarm to make sure the wearer can actually move! It’s not a gansey without a gusset, just a prettily patterned sweater. The point of a gansey, after all, is to keep the working wearer warm and moving!

So what I really am thinking is that I should add a small gusset — nothing baggy, but a really serious nod to it. Maybe in a contrasting colour? What do you think? It’s a bit odd to most perhaps, but people who know ganseys will appreciate it, and if I’m anything, I’m a stickler for historic accuracy (even if this is already a bit of a franken-sweater**). Which I say in the most loving way possible!

Do you think this is dated or do you think it’s a cute idea? It would give me something new to learn — I’ve never done a gusset before! It could be a neat way to add a pop of colour and also use up a bit of scrap? I’m knitting from stash only, these days, until I can get some worthwhile employment and some space in my house! It might feel good to hit both targets.

Maybe navy blue? I have a good solid navy, same weight, and it wouldn’t be so loud that it would be offensive like, say, red, but it would be a neat little detail I’d be aware of. I also have this greeny blue. It’s a bit more green than I can capture with my camera today, specifically, it’s Forestry by Madelinetosh.

*A quick search on Pinterest. I’m afraid I don’t have a picture available to me without license right now!