Planning

2014 was a big year. I had a ton of big life events and changes – mostly positive, but some things (like writing a big professional exam for my real life) took a lot of effort and a lot of stress before I got there. Because work kept me so busy, I also wasn’t the greatest at self-care – I think I caught upwards of a dozen colds – which is something that will be a lot easier to work on now that things are settling on that front.

All of that definitely got reflected in my crafting. I found myself craving really simple things, with miles and miles of knit stitches.

  • I knit four sweaters (although I’ve only blogged two) and knit five pairs of socks, as well as a bunch of shawls and accessories. By and large, the theme was tiny needles and stockinette (I think I only knit one sweater on a needle larger than 3.75mm).
  • I finished handquilting my first full-size quilt, and sewed the top for a second. (Notably, I did not finish my Pony Club quilt top. It’s still marinating.)
  • I sewed a bunch of clothing, but then chickened out when it came to photographing it for the blog.
  • I learned how to darn socks, and used this skill to keep some of my older knits going strong.

When I think about where I want to go with making in 2015, I think mostly about more of the same, but trying to focus myself a little better.

I plan to keep spinning. I made spinning a big part of my day-to-day crafting, and finished a huge handspun project, which was incredibly gratifying. I want to make more yarn that I’m proud of, and develop this skill even further. As part of this, I also need to start doing more knitting with my handspun, both to learn about what I can improve in my spinning (I find working with the yarn gives me a much deeper understanding of this than looking at finished yarn or comparing it to commercially-spun products.) To keep myself motivated, I’m planning to participate in the 15 in 2015 challenge on Ravelry. They have a half-challenge this year, which is 7.5 lbs of spinning in 2015. That’s probably most manageable for me – this year I spun close to 5 lbs of fiber without thinking about it too much.

I’m planning to make more sweaters. I managed to accrue a fair number of sweater quantities of yarn, which I’ve never had in my stash before. I’d like to focus overall on filling gaps in my wardrobe, and making sweaters with an eye to how I’ll wear them as well as how much I like the pattern.

Fabric ready

I plan to sew more clothes. I’d also like to spend more time talking about sewing this space, as well. I’ve actually sewn a fair bit in 2014 – I made two Hawthorns as well as a bunch of tunics that I wear constantly. This year my goal is to sew more intentionally, to fill gaps that I currently see in my wardrobe. I know that I have nowhere close to enough sewing time in my life to stop buying clothes, but I’d like to see how much I can get away with making myself. I’m also going on a pretty exciting vacation in May (Belgium! Scotland! Trains!), and I’d like to make clothing that I can pack with me for that trip. This means buying fabric with thoughts of what kind of garment it’s going to be, and it also means thinking really critically about what I want to sew and planning so that it’s easy to make them. One thing I’m guilty of is getting distracted by newly-released sewing patterns when I read other people’s blogs, and I think having a plan will make that temptation easier to resist.

The other thing I want to do is make 2015 The Year of the Sweaterdress. This is a largish knitting project – the pattern I have my eye on is Still Light – and I’m planning to get pretty intense about it. I’ve ordered some yarns to make swatch projects, so that I can figure out which will give me the fabric I want, and plan to take my time with a lot of the planning stages so that I end up with a wearable dress that stays in my wardrobe for a good while.


Guys, I had this all ready to post on January 31st, and then our internet died. We just got it back last night, but trust me: this was set to go in 2014.

Anyway, before I start talking about plans for 2014 I wanted to take the time to write a proper post because guys, I FINISHED SPINNING A SWEATER QUANTITY OF YARN.

(Well, sort of. We’ll get to that.)

For the last couple years, I’ve sort of fallen into one project each year that ends up being long-term, super intense, and makes me a better maker. In 2014, that project was absolutely this batch of yarn.

Handspun Sweater Project Yarn!

I started 2014 with plans to spin with more intention (I believe my new year’s post phrased it as Spin All The Things). I even bought a notebook to log my spinning and write notes, which actually helped a lot.

I find that what derails my spinning mojo is the feeling that my work isn’t progressing, when really I just haven’t been at the wheel for a while. By taking notes on spinning times, I was able to reframe things, so that I could see how many hours of actual spinning it took me to make yarn – even if those hours were spread into ten minute increments over a month!

The other thing that made a huge difference was a commitment to spinning daily – which of course I am not perfect at, but looking back, there were really only one or two stretches where I went more than a week without spinning. Even five minutes kept my muscle memory sharp, so that I could spin more evenly and consistently.

I think these changes are what made me ready to actually take on a big project like spinning for a sweater, and when Dye Camp rolled around in the summer, something clicked and I knew that I wanted to dye it myself, too.

Dye Camp 2014

Handspun Sweater Project Yarn!

I learned so much by making this yarn, and I’m really really glad that I stuck with it (even through October and November, when I was soooo sick of spinning nothing but the same colours).

  • I learned how to dye roving! This was such an absorbing process, and I was a little surprised by how much I loved it. I want to find a way to do more of this in the future.
  • By spinning with fiber I dyed myself, I learned about what I would like to dye more of, and what didn’t work in the dyeing. I was pleased that I didn’t have very many compacted or felted spots, but definitely the places I found them were in the spots with dark, deep colour. The roving that got more dilute dye spun up much more nicely.
  • I learned that I can plan for a kind of yarn and then consistently spin that yarn over months. I used a control card, which helped a lot, and ended up with the weight of yarn I planned to make.
  • I learned about colour blending, and about plying to make barberpoled yarn that looks nice and thick and squishy.

Overall, I am incredibly pleased with the yarn that I made, and with having a hand in so many steps of its journey. However, the one sour note to all this is put-up.

First Handspun Sweater Skeins

I dyed 800g of fiber, and planned to spin for a sweater that needed 1100m of worsted weight yardage. This would mean about 140m of yardage per skein – much less than commercial yarn, but realistic for handspun. I ended up getting about 760m from 760g, which is absolutely not enough to make the sweater I wanted, and barely enough to make any sweater in my size. It’s also much, much less put-up than I’ve been getting in general.

I think that what happened is that I started spinning short-draw instead of long-draw, and ended up making really dense worsted-spun yarn. This happens sometimes when I’m worried about control, as I have a lot more control with my drafting that way, and I did it without realizing what I was doing. On the one hand, my yarn is very consistent, but I think this is the trade-off. Now that I’m working on different fiber and spinning long-draw, I’m noticing a big difference in what my singles look like (more airy and halo-y, less smooth), and I suspect my yardage will get better on future bumps as well.

I’m still going to knit up something gorgeous with this yarn, but it’s going to be a little while before I figure out what I can make with it – I’m thinking a long vest, or maybe a cardigan where the fronts don’t overlap. I don’t think I’ll get much wear out of a bulky-weight pullover, so I’m going to have to ponder things for a bit.

In the meantime, I’m also going to be plotting my long-term project for 2015. I’m thinking of signing up for a spinning challenge, but I’ve also been pining for a hand-knit sweaterdress of my very own.


Empire!

Empire!

Empire!

My sweater is done! After a false start with this yarn, I was really, really pleased to have it worked into a sweater that I love. The pattern here is Empire, with some modifications.

I loved knitting this sweater. It’s exactly what I wanted, and the construction was a bit novel to me, which made it a fun knit. (Basically, you knit the whole body as a vest, and then pick up stitches at each armhole and work shortrow shaping to create the set-in sleeves, so the whole thing is seamless.) I was worried that I would run out of yarn while working the sleeves, so I did the button bands and collar before starting them – which you can do because of the way the body comes together – but I ended up being fine on yardage in the end.

The yarn is epic. It’s Indigodragonfly Octobaa, in “Is The Money Okay? Did They Hurt The Money? (Anya),” one of their Buffy-inspired colourways. I love the colour because it is a really excellent blue-green, and I love it because Anya remains one of my favourite genre characters ever. This base is amazing, and was so good for the textured stitch pattern in this sweater. It’s an eight-ply superwash merino, and what that means is that it’s super round and bouncy and great for anything involving twisted stitches or cables or texture. It was such a pleasure to knit with.

I modified this sweater from the original pattern in a few ways – first, I added 3″ to the length to bring it from a cropped sweater to a hip-length sweater that I could wear with jeans. This makes it a much more practical piece for me, both for work as well as for casualwear. I also added full sleeves, instead of cropped sleeves. This meant extending the length, but also adding some extra decreases at the arm so that they weren’t too baggy at my wrists.

Empire!

Empire!

Doing the finishing, I got super, super intense about the button bands for this sweater. This is hilarious if you understand how many sweaters I have finished that have gone buttonless for – I am not kidding – years.

Anyway. The weekend I finished blocking this sweater, I got my button act together. I was worried about the button bands stretching and getting that scalloped look that nobody loves. One of the ways to combat this is by knitting with either zero or positive ease, so that the sweater isn’t stretching too much. I did this, by choosing a size that gave me 1″ positive ease.

The other way is by reinforcing the button bands with something woven that won’t let them stretch. This is the first sweater where I’ve done that, and I have to say, it is completely worth the extra effort.

I used some plain ribbon (this prettiness, left over from a sewing project) and whipstitched it by hand to each band. A good tutorial to illustrate what this looks like is this one at Lladybird. Instead of doing buttonholes in the ribbon by machine, like Lauren suggested, I decided to do them by hand.

I don’t know why I, Ms Buttons Are Too Much Work, suddenly felt inspired to do ten hand-bound buttonholes, but whatever. It happened. I am very proud of learning how to make them, and they were surprisingly easy and pretty. I will talk about them to anyone I meet, now. Hand-bound buttonholes: the best. I used bright purple perle cotton thread and this excellent tutorial from By Gum By Golly for the technique. I tacked the buttonhole band halfway to the sweater, cut buttonholes and bound them all, then tacked the other side down.

This took a lot of extra time, but wasn’t too labour-intensive – I think the span of a couple movies on a weekend, give or take. And the result is glorious. I keep buttoning up this sweater just so I can quietly revel in how much the button bands don’t pull – it’s amazing!

I’m pleased with this project both as a technical piece and also as a wardrobe addition – I don’t have many cardigans I can wear buttoned up because I haven’t put the buttons on don’t judge me, so this fills a gap, and will get a ton of use this winter.


More Posts


handspun sweater project update
11 December, 2014

handspun sweater project update

empire to empire
8 December, 2014

empire to empire

small things for winter holidays
12 November, 2014

small things for winter holidays

handspun sweater project: update
5 November, 2014

handspun sweater project: update