making

The Cardigan Conundrum

A few years ago I wrote a pattern and knitted a cardigan. 

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The cardigan was part of my ongoing Authors & Artists series, and I rather loved it. I knitted it in a yarn gifted to me by my grandmother (who would later fall very ill). Granted, the colour was not one I would have chosen but I have grown to love it so much over time that I now consider aqua one of my everyday wardrobe colours. 

Trouble arose, though, when I realised that the gift yarn did not behave very well. It is an alpaca/wool mix which is warm and soft - but also refuses to keep its shape and pills quite a bit. Though we did a photoshoot for the cardigan in York, I never finished the pattern because I did not feel comfortable endorsing the yarn.

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Working professionally as a knitwear designer means accepting responsibility. My pattern needs to be error-free, easy to follow, and yet spacious enough for people to add their own modifications if they want to do so. I also need to provide clear photos so people can see the neckline, basic construction, and any particular details. Finally, I am also aware that I am endorsing a yarn when I mention what I have used. 

For this particular cardigan, I am satisfied that I have fulfilled most of my professional duties, but I am uncomfortable recommending a yarn that left me unhappy after a few months of wear. I used the given yarn out of sentimentality (and I think of my grandmother every time I wear the cardigan), but I would not want others to use the same yarn. 

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After my first photos of the cardigan (and wearing the cardigan at events), I have been asked for the pattern several times. This is genuinely lovely to hear. I really appreciate that I can design things that other people will want to make. It is truly, truly one of my favourite parts of my job.

However, part one:

Immediately after I finished knitting the cardigan, This Thing of Paper happened. The next 18 months were spent living & breathing TTOP. The aqua cardigan pattern was shoved to one side. I brought the pattern out of hibernation the other day, and it needs some love. Not only did I learn a lot about writing garments from working on my book, but I also need to finish grading the aqua pattern across seven sizes. I need to reknit it in a yarn I am happy to endorse and we need to do another photo shoot.

However, part two:

In recent months I have begun shifting my personal style. I used to wear a lot of 1950s inspired clothes: dresses with full skirts and nipped-in waists, cute retro coats found in vintage shops, and I'd have red lips & dark hair with a short fringe. A cropped cardigan is perfect for that sort of wardrobe. Yet I am moving away from 1950s inspired clothes towards something slightly more .. well, that is a blog post for another time. I don't really wear cropped cardigans anymore. 

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The cardigan conundrum. I posted something about this on Instagram and some of the comments stated that "it's okay just to have something that is just for you, Karie". It is a nice sentiment, but sadly that is not how I roll.

I am so lucky to have the job I have and nothing - nothing  - I knit is ever just for me. I design and knit intentionally - and part of that intention is always that knitting is communal. I designed the aqua cardigan because I wanted to make something with my grandmother's gift, because I wanted a cropped cardigan, and because I wanted to share my idea with the world. The inspiration for the cardigan is also pretty amazing, I tell you. 

I think the solution is to start from scratch, rewrite the pattern, grade it, and create a cardigan pattern that can be worked as both a cropped cardigan but also as a cardigan I want to wear now. It might take a while (because I'm busy at work on something else) but that is a definite solution.  

Thank you to Helena who wrote to me about the cardigan (and included photos of her dogs). There is always a way.  

On Finding your Way Back to Making

I lost my voice, then I found it again. It is a true story (I had a cold over the holidays) but I think this is also true of most people's crafting. We go through peaks and troughs where we fall in and out of love with making stuff. Sometimes we make stuff that feels true to us, other times we may work away at something but it doesn't feel right.

Thanks to my day job of teaching workshops to creative people like you, I hear a lot of stories about falling in and out of love with making. I view making as a sort of story-telling: knitting a garment allows me to express myself and stitching the hem of a dress makes me imagine every stitch as a word. But sometime we run out of stories to tell and we lose our voices. We stop knitting the socks and squirrel away a half-finished shirt.

This narrative exhaustion is fine. Making will come back to you once you have stories inside of you again. Once you are energised enough to have words that will out through your fingers.

I lost my voice, then I found it again. I slept a lot, drank a lot of tea, wrapped up warm, and made sure I took care of my run-down body.

Practise self-care if you need to nurture your making: read books, go for walks, look at art, jump in puddles, and make big mugs of tea. Making is patient and will be there when you decide it is time to get back to your unfinished projects.

What are you planning for 2017?

Shake & Shift

P1320921 If you backed my This Thing of Paper Kickstarter campaign, you will find a new update for July on the site. If you didn't back it, the lowdown is this: I've been busy making things happen. At this stage I am basically wearing two hats: I'm a creative (designing and writing) and I'm a project manager (doing groundwork for future things). And beautiful yarns are arriving in Casa Bookish!

I have discovered some pretty nifty software to help me with work.

First of all, I have invested in Scrivener. I first heard about it via the science-fiction writer Charles Stross who raved about it on Twitter. Scrivener is a writing software that lets you work with outlines, create order from chaos (because writers don't tend to work from A->B), and view visual research right next to your writing. I downloaded the free thirty-day trial and discovered a tool that I wish I had had years ago. After spending a few days outlining the entire book, setting up templates, and compiling my bibliography, I knew that Scrivener would make my working life a lot easier. Whilst writing a book is still a big undertaking, the project becomes more manageable when you see it broken down into chunks.

Secondly, I've finally embraced Evernote & Mendeley. When I worked on Doggerland, I used an unwieldy combination of physical notebooks, bookmarks, and Pinterest to organise my source material. It never really worked for me and I spent a lot of time searching for things I knew I had already saved.

It feels very apt that I am using 21st technology to write about 15th century technologies that altered how we interacted with writing and reading.

Outside of work, the world has been rocked by shifts and shake. I read this short, smart piece about modernity, time & seismic cultural shifts. Then I read this very depressing opinion piece about the events of 2016 seen from a historian's point-of-view (I have issues with its narrow geopolitical scope). And I revisited Frank Cottrell Boyce/Danny Boyle's Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in London 2012 - Cottrell Boyce recently wrote an extraordinary article about culture in contemporary Britain.

And I respond to an unsettled world by making stuff. This weekend the delightful Sonya Phillip is 'hosting' the Summer Stitch Fest:

During the last weekend of July, makers are invited to participate, using any or all methods of making a stitch, be it sewing, knitting or crocheting and then sharing their handmade clothes on social media.

I have plans already, but I might try to make myself a quick (and awesome) skirt. Join us?

Almost Time: This Thing of Paper Wraps Up & An Everyday Make

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Behind the scenes work may already have commenced on This Thing of Paper, but the campaign still has a few hours left. If you want to pledge your support, be aware that one reward level has gone and only a few slots remain on others. People have asked me how I am feeling - it is difficult to explain but I will try once I have summed up what a most extraordinary community has achieved.

Thanks to people:

  • This Thing of Paper will go into print!
  • I will have a small, awesome team of people working on this project.
  • The overall quality of the printed book has been enhanced.
  • Sample knitters will help me cut down the production time of the book.
  • I am able to apply to be a vendor at key UK knitting shows.
  • We will have book launch parties in Central Scotland and in London, UK with periscope feeds.
  • We will have a trunk show with Q&A in Manchester.

Isn't that incredible? When I launched the campaign, I hoped we could achieve the first two action points, but we've managed seven!

Answers to a few queries:

  • LYS owners will be able to preorder This Thing of Paper approximately one month before publication.
  • I already have a small army of sample knitters assembled, but thank you for thinking of me!
  • I already have a technical editor and a copy editor onboard, but (again) thank you for thinking of me!
  • You will see me less over the next six months or so, as I have a book to make! I am currently fully booked in terms of events and workshops until April 2017.
  • If you weren't able to pledge support for This Thing of Paper, the book will be in print next year (estimated date: April 2017).
  • Unfortunately I am not able to accept pledges outside of Kickstarter.

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So, how do I feel? I keep going back to that word: overwhelming, but it fits. The whole experience has been very overwhelming. People have been so kind, so supportive, so generous, and so lovely.

The financial side of things is obviously fantastic (as you can see above!) but the emotional support has been equally amazing. And I think that's what you get from a crowdfunding effort: you get the emotional support too. And the emotional support is equally important to creatives like me who forget sometimes that we are not working in a vacuum. We are connected to a community of extraordinary people who like what we do - and something like this campaign has really brought that home.

Thank you so, so much. It means a lot as you will be able to tell by the next section.

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One night last week I sat up late reflecting. The world has been a terribly bleak place of late, and my thoughts were swirling around the fact that my tiny, tiny corner is filled with the most extraordinary people: you are makers, knitters, writers, artists, lovers, dancers, thinkers & doers. And so I asked myself : how can we spread the goodness and kindness I experience in my everyday life? I don't pretend to have any answers, but I believe that we need to carry on being good, kind and open-hearted people. We need to challenge hate and fear when we see it - and to do so with love and compassion.

And then I went off to make myself a dress because I needed to create a space where I could refocus and recharge. Making stuff means that to me.

dressaThe dress is New Look 6262 - pardon the awful photo! It's a very straight-forward make, and I added pockets plus lengthened the sleeves. I used cotton lawn I had purchased from Abakhan when they had an excellent post-Christmas sale. I had three yards  but despite longer sleeves and pockets, I found I only used around 2.5 yards - with the fabric costing me around £3 per yard (I've seen it for sale elsewhere at triple the price!), that must be said to be quite a bargain!

Having said that, I don't find my lifestyle lends itself particularly well to cotton lawn dresses. Scotland is probably a bit too cold for this dress to be entirely practical and I nearly had a tear in the fabric when the brooch in the photo caught the fabric. I tend to get caught on stuff, so I'll be wanting to use slightly heavier fabric in the future.

The dress itself is fine, though I'm not crazy about gathered skirts. It was a quick make and it went together without a hitch. I opted to make fancy-pants facings, but that only took about fifteen minutes extra.

Would I make this pattern again? Probably - it is easy to wear, easy to make, and doesn't take much fabric. It is not the most exciting project ever, but that's okay. Sometimes you just want to make stuff and lose yourself in the process.

Cardigan is Hetty by Andi Satterlund knitted in Cascade 220. Everyday wardrobe for the win.

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