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.

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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):

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

Knitting

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!

Improv Sweater. Week 3: Musings on knitting, personal histories, and maritime heritage

Knitting is my connection to who I was, where I was, and also who I am, where I am, and whom I will become while here.

I was born in Toronto, Canada, but when I was a child, my parents moved me to their childhood home: the coast of Lake Erie, to somewhere between Simcoe and Port Dover, Ontario. It’s the shallowest of the Great Lakes, but is peculiar in that, historically, it had a vibrant fishing industry. With warm waters (there’s the benefit of that shallowness), the fish were populous, and people prospered off catching and selling them in their own modest ways for the better part of two centuries. Unfortunately, like the fishing industries on the East Coast of North America (I’m thinking, in particular, of our maritime provinces’), the Great Lakes fishing industry began to collapse in what I believe was the 1980s. Slowly, surely, fishing tugboats retired, were ghosts in a shipyard for awhile, and, without hope of resale or renewal, were scrapped for their valuable steel.

Port Dover’s fishing industry is slowly scraping by, bolstered a tiny bit, year by year, by the new demand for perch and Japan’s taste for smelt. The smelt is a tiny little fish, not very interesting, and rather unassuming; you certainly wouldn’t easily make a meal of it, but these are flash frozen, and sent to the other side of the world for frying and fermenting.

While my family was not a fishing family, many of my childhood friends came from fisherly backgrounds, and the local economies were highly dependent on this. I feel like I cannot help but be bound to this theme; large bodies of water, spreading out in expanse, at once welcoming and foreboding. Fishing, as many things in life, is a dangerous business, and frequently a cold one, too. Cold enough for sweaters, certainly.

It seems that knitting maritime sweaters is in my blood; wool, textiles and fisheries part of my heritage in some small way.

What a happy coincidence that Simcoe’s primary industry until the 1970s was the wool and yarn trade. There used to be wool mills up and down the lazy river that runs through it, and fields filled with sheep. Since the advent of the aggressive globalized economy, this trade has died out, but you can still find remnants of its success in books, in local crafts, and in some of the old mill stores that still exist in southwestern Ontario. It seems that knitting maritime sweaters is in my blood; wool, textiles and fisheries part of my heritage in some small way.

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Fisherman’s rib on my front porch in the sun. The colour variation of the yarn is very obvious in this photo.

As a teenager, I developed an interest in fishing ganseys and the oft-associated, though largely mythical “fisherman’s aran” (though, if you’ll take Alice Starmore’s opinion on it, arans weren’t used for fishing, which makes sense as they’re too delicate and prone to pulling). I began to be fascinated by knitting. I tried for years to develop skills, but my dexterity wasn’t there, and it wasn’t until I moved to England for the second time for graduate school that I really got the hang of it. I was in-land, in Durham City, but the water and the history was still in the back of my mind. My first project was a now-frogged scarf that was intricately, if a bit clumsily, cabled. Boom. Hello, fisherman’s sweater obsession.

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“Didn’t exactly work out, did it?” Or, learning not to use busy colourways with textural patterns the hard way.

 

 

I have knit a fair few cabled projects since then, and tried my hand at a gansey or two, with limited amounts of success and satisfaction. Cabling is fine. Gansey patterns are, for some reason, less easy for me. Even so, I’m deeply committed to challenging myself.

I recently moved to another place with a huge fishing heritage, though of Scandinavian rather than British heritage. Ballard is a neighbourhood in Seattle, Washington, with a still-vibrant fishery. I love seeing the freshly painted, loved fishing boats going out onto the Sound, knowing some of them are destined for as far away as Alaska. It’s amazing to me that they’re going so far, when my Great Lake is still comparatively so tiny. I feel more at home near water regardless of whether it’s salt or fresh. I love that I can continue this theme in my life; living near fisheries, near Big Water. Still, I’m expanding my knitterly interests; I actually see ganseys worn here, though more frequently micro-fleece and rubber rain suits. I’m broadening my knitting repertoire, and the accompanying history, to encompass this ever-evolving community. I love that I’m carrying on a tradition, and evolving this tradition; knocking on gansey utility through the 21st century.

I love… evolving this tradition; knocking on gansey utility through the 21st century.

The reason I’m telling you all of this isn’t just because I like to wax romantic about my past. I really do think that my integration into this community hinges on my understanding on where it’s come from, where it is going. By knitting this sweater, with its gansey motif, and its fisherman’s rib, I’m staying in touch with my past while welcoming my present and future. Knitting is my connection to who I was, where I was, and also who I am, where I am, and whom I will become while here.

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I’m learning new things on this KAL. I’m also really pleased with being able to see everyone else’s progress. All so different, yet variations on a theme! It’s inspiring to see how we can all take the same notion (knit a top-down sweater in one piece), and run with it. Being given encouragement, offering encouragement — what a feeling of community. Imagination is so powerful, and I believe really quite healthy, too. Amazing!

Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about an idea that’s been bopping around my head for a little while now! Stroke of genius or dated and silly? You’ll find out what it is, and you can feel free to tell me what you think!

A Moneta Dress, or Adventures in Jersey Knits

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A mustardy rayon spandex blend I got at District Fabrics, in Fremont.

I haven’t sewn in a good long while. This is mostly because my sewing machine was in Ontario, while I’ve been in Washington state! My personal effects arrived about two months ago, and I’m only just getting settled enough to start sewing again.

I’m not a highly skilled seamstress. I can do basic things, and even try slightly more advanced techniques, but I haven’t taken lessons, or anything. I try to find good tutorials online, and I have a few books. I try very hard, even so. I even sewed my own wedding dress (horrible wedding pictures, but the dress turned out ok.)

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I’ll be sewing version 3 of the Moneta dress.

Today, I’m working on the Moneta dress, by Colette Patterns. Everyone under the sun who knits from indie patterns seems to have done this one. Here’s another, I guess? I’ve used several Colette patterns before, and they usually fit well, but never worked with jersey knit. Maybe it’s my naivety, or my general luck with sewing purportedly difficult patterns or fabrics, but I’m not too nervous. I’ve picked up some tracing paper in a roll, and I have almost all of my necessaries (acquiring a walking foot for my Janome mechanical machine tomorrow, for good measure — it frequently eats lighter fabrics if I’m not careful).

I’ve chosen this mustardy yellow, a colour usually outside my colour range and roundhouse. I’m excited because it’s so autumnal! Yes, it’s a bit of a blatant rip-off of the Moneta 3/4 sleeve sample on their site, but… I don’t care! I foresee me making a lot of these dresses for ease of wear this fall and winter. Why not start brighter than normal?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI even managed to find thread to match,despite the abysmal light in the store making my swatch look, well, puke green. Yay! I’m usually a Gütermann girl, but this was the only thread that matched well. Coates, don’t fail me now. I also took this opportunity to pick up a few tools I don’t have. Lefty scissors were on sale, which was very exciting. I won’t get hand fatigue as easily if I use correctly handed scissors. I also picked up ballpoint needles, a hem gauge, clear elastic and ballpoint pins. I still need that walking foot, and a ballpoint twin needle. Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, so I’ll trace it all out and see how I feel!

Even Tension in All Things

I’ve seen a lot of change in the last year.

My visa process to move to the US started in October, and still isn’t complete. I was finally able to move here in February, and married my partner, Tom, in March. I’ve moved countries, surroundings (I’d lived in the country for a few years before coming here), changed my entire lifestyle. I am having to restart entirely. I have also felt slightly (if I may, from my perspective of otherwise comfort and privilege) demeaned; I’ve had to prove my relationship is real to countless governmental employees, I have been fingerprinted for the FBI database like some sort of dangerous criminal, endlessly examined, re-examined. I have had to justify myself, my relationship, my very existence frequently in the last year. Still! I have finally been granted permission to seek employment, which is a great relief. After 6 months of ups and downs, I am permitted to set down roots beyond functioning as a bad imitation of a homemaker (which I am, mostly, not at all) and living in a sort of madness-inducing stasis.

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A small glimpse of my new home, the Pacific Northwest.

Knitting has helped me through a lot of the loneliness. When people talk about Seattle, they talk about the Space Needle (which seems to perturb locals), the mountains, the water and ferries, the cafe culture, the art culture, the laid-back neighbourhoods, the good food… and when they’re done with the pleasantries, they talk about the Northwest Freeze. I’ve heard a lot of locals to Seattle disparage others for deigning to claim that this exists. “Go out and join a club! Actually try to meet people and make friends!” It’s really not that easy if you haven’t grown up in a built-in social circle, as those who grew up or attended school/university around here have done. It seems that making friends around here is a multi-month, if not -year, endeavour. I’m sure there are thousands and thousands of people in this city that I could learn to be friends with, that are warm, welcoming and interesting. Still, regardless of how wonderful these hypothetical people are, in my experience, most residents of this city initially shy away from the kind of sincerity and friendliness I try my utmost to project. It’s hard to keep them captive long enough to establish a rapport. It’s been a frustrating process. So, I turned almost all of my attention to knitting.

Knitting has been my warm, bright spot in a sea of uncertainty. Tom is a wonderful, supportive partner, and his friends are very nice people, and maybe I’m even starting, very slowly, to be friends with them (after three years of talking to them relatively regularly). Yet, knitting has provided me with a means to meet new people whom I can relate to, and to branch out.

Knitting has been my warm, bright spot in a sea of uncertainty.

I have made a friend in a local yarn shop, and she’s been great to hang out with, welcoming, warm and supportive. How wonderful that the knitting world could provide social avenues? It’s a tricky thing, making friends. Even tricky among knitters. It’s a matter of figuring out a rough sketch of who you think you are, how you interact with the craft, and then finding like minds, or realizing truths about yourself you hadn’t previously struck on. I have tried out a knitting group or two since I’ve moved here; nice people, all. Still, I haven’t found my spot yet, but I’m working on it. It’s hard, but making things with my hands provides for me an outlet that is sorely needed when I’m anxious and alone, and frankly, a little bit scared of the future.

Like all of the fears and challenges I’m facing right now, it’s all about keeping even-keeled, even focused, keeping even tension in all things.

Right now, I’m putting my “all” into a KAL pullover, relatively simple in construction, but an absolute sanctuary for my mind. I’ve never free-styled a sweater before, though I’ve knit (and frogged) plenty. It’s a raglan, as I’ve mentioned before, and I’ve never thought to shape the back of one, but it’s turning out really well, I think. It’s beautiful, really. It’s really helping me. Like all of the fears and challenges I’m facing right now, it’s all about keeping even-keeled, even focused, keeping even tension in all things.

Next time: I’ll be writing about the funny connections that run through my life with this particular sweater. I’ve moved from fishing community to fishing community, freshwater to salt, and yet my projects frequently have that nautical flavour to them. What’s new is the Scandinavian preoccupation I’ve developed over the last year or two. Funny that I should have moved to an old Scandinavian fishing neighbourhood with still-strong roots! You can now read about it here.

Improv Sweater. Week 2: Yoke Progress

The Sweater Itself

Not knitting at least half an hour a day feels wrong for me. I picked up my Fringe and Friends KAL 2016 raglan again this morning, after a slew of chores (including repotting our 30 year-old mother-in-law’s tongue), and I feel more at peace. It’s coming along beautifully, I think. I’m almost done the yoke. I’ve been trying to feel my way along, rather than plotting every bit out mathematically. Despite this “touchy feely ” approach, I did do some calculations for the increases not just for size, but also to make sure I would be able to join up the front and back in the flying geese pattern. It’s working out! Yay!

The sleeves will likely go largely unadorned as the body is so textural already. I’m thinking of not doing too much shaping in the body, rather blocking it out to be a bit A-lined, to keep it casual. That, or I’ll make it a cropped pullover. Still toying!

Other Things

I haven’t had a lot of time to knit in the last week. Things have been busy around here. Saturday, we made pickles with a friend and his family out in the town of Snohomish. We used an old family recipe, handed down to them via their grandmother, a Polish farmer. Apparently, the trick to a crunchy pickle is to remove the jars from the canner (read: large pot of boiling water used to sterilize and seal) just as the vegetables start to dull out in colour. Nobody likes a limp pickle! Sunday was similarly busy.

Monday night, after some seriously delicious Kao Soi at Pestle Rock (excellent Thai food!), we were able to pick the pears in our yard! Reaching up with the basket was difficult but worthwhile; I sent Tom up the ladder. No heights for me, thanks!

Tuesday night, we made pear butter. We are now practically swimming in it. I can’t wait to try some on toast this weekend, when it’s had time to rest!

Improv Sweater. Week 2: Thinking Ahead, or, I Love Autumn!

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I wear sunglasses all year round, which confuses the residents of Seattle to no end. One of my most coveted pieces in my entire wardrobe are my Prada sunglasses, which I bought on a self-indulgent whim around my birthday at 5am in Heathrow several years ago.

Participating in the #Fringeandfriendskal2016 has really got me thinking about how I want to wear the product of my efforts this autumn and winter. It may be early days yet, but I’d like to hold onto the momentum I feel by looking ahead!

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My favourite bottle green boots, with a slightly higher heel than my new black chelsea boots! Yes, I have a thing for cuban-heeled pointy boots. Let’s see how I can incorporate them…

I like to keep things simple. I don’t go in for things that are too trendy, rather I like basics that I can reinvent as trends change, or else unique pieces I have no chance of seeing elsewhere and that scream “me”. As well, autumn and winter in Seattle are not particularly cold, but this knit is a loose enough fabric that I should have breathability without sacrificing texture. I thus have some flexibility when choosing items from my wardrobe.

For this sweater, I foresee black tights, my favourite tulip-cum-pencil skirt, the fabulous pair of black chelsea boots Tom gave me for my birthday last winter, a simple cami underneath. Maybe a high messy bun, or my favourite not-quite-cat-eye sunglasses.

Before it gets too dark, and The Rains come, I think I’d pair it with my slowly-washing-out pair of soft blue jeans, cuffed a little, with my bottle green ankle boots that have more of a heel. I have a cognac brown hobo bag that would look darling with it, too.

For something a bit louder, but still quite relaxed, I’d wear it with my cranberry chinos, and these really darling two-toned wingtip brogues I have been working on breaking in (they are made of such stiff leather!).

It almost makes me want to get bangs (or, as my UK friends say, a fringe) again. Almost.

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Improv Sweater. Week 1: Migrating Birds

Planning, and sometimes not planning…

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I am usually a huge planner. I feel compelled to fill in details, to know what I’m doing, to not look like I’m lost even if I am. This is my raglan pullover for the Fringe and Friends KAL 2016, and this is not planned to the nth degree.

With this sweater, I wanted to create it organically, to put design into the very basics, but to simply feel the flow of the sweater, and adjust course accordingly. I have a basic work-through with some arithmetic, but I am otherwise keeping it simple and plotting the next few moves as I go along instead of having from beginning to end totally worked out.

 

I’m working in Ella Rae Lace Merino Worsted, in what should have been “grey”, in that it is the colourway “light grey”, but instead is some kind of taupe-pink-grey melange. At first I wasn’t sure I liked it, and didn’t send it back because I was living in Canada and I had ordered it from the US and didn’t want to pay another international postage fee. It’s been sitting in my stash, a point of confusion, for about three years. Something about this project made me pick it up, and look at it in ways that I hadn’t done before. I’m starting to really love it, and get very excited about getting to wear what comes from it. It’s beautifully soft, and I’m aiming to have a gentle combination of boat- and scoop-neck, as I have wide shoulders and fairly pronounced clavicles.

Inspiration

I have been reading a lot of Scandinavian design blogs. I like mid-century modern designs, brought up to 21st century functionality, and I wanted to project that current interest into the motifs on this sweater. The light colour and relative chunkiness and bounce of the yarn make stitches pop, so I knew I wanted a lot of texture. However, I have just finished a swathe of cabled projects, and wanted something different. There is something to be said for simplicity. I have been reading about gansey/guernsey sweaters for awhile now, and seeing Brooklyn Tweed’s Gansey book come out this year doubled down my belief that the gansey motif in purls and knits is probably one of the more elegant patterning methods in modern knitting. They are easy to execute (if you’re paying attention to what you’re doing, as in all things), and have a subtle yet dramatic effect that I absolutely love. Enter: the flying geese motif.


This motif is mostly found in the quilting world, as far as I can tell, and is usually only found in knits that comprise of colourwork. These sideways equilateral triangles in endless gridlock are also a common aspect of Scandinavian design — the obsession with geometric pattern. Executing the flying geese pattern in knit/purl on this raglan sweater was therefore a perfect marriage of texture, Scandinavian theme, and a nice nod to gansey history (though, of course, all over).

Shoes

If I wake up early enough, I see a series of faint lines trail across the room which I find quite visually appealing.

I make a further nod to the gansey with the garter stitch rows at the top of the front of the yoke. These three rows in a sea of stockinette offer a sort of inverse to the traditional gansey, with plain bodies and patterned yokes, while still providing design interest. I take inspiration from these “stripes” of garter also from the shadows on my wall in my bedroom at home. If I wake up early enough, I see a series of faint lines trail across the room which I find quite visually appealing. This is a sweater based on threes, really: 3 garter rows, 3 inches of stockinette in front (7×3=21 rows), the motif on the back began as a repeat of 3 at the top, flying geese are in patterns of 12 which is divisible by three…

      I like that kind of harmony.

What’s in a name?

I’m calling this “Migrating Birds” for (surprise!) three reasons:

  1. The motif is called flying geese, and that seems like a no-brainer.
  2. While there might be a heatwave on in Seattle right now, fall is most definitely on its way. I’m really looking forward to wearing more autumnal clothes, including all of my sweaters that have been languishing in my closet for months! (I’ll be writing a post on how I’m going to pair my new Migrating Birds sweater probably early next week).
  3. I am only a recent migrant to the US; I’ve been coming to Seattle for ages, but I’m only officially a resident as of this year.

This project just feels right. I wasn’t sure I was going to bother to give this KAL a try, but it’s been so good for me, and cathartic. Just so much fun! I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes!

Find me elsewhere…

If you’re interested, you can check out little updates on my progress on my Instagram: ajamakesthings.

You can also find me on ravelry: palaeopath . I’m really horrible at keeping my ravelry updated, though.

Of course, you could also use the links at the top of the page to take you directly!