Red Feather Spice

Since before we even started dating, I’ve been knitting for my husband. In fact, by the time we started dating I think I had already made him three pairs of socks and a scarf. One of his favorite stories to tell is how we went into the movie theater to watch The Joker and came out with a half-finished sock (I can knit without looking, but I can’t turn a heel without looking!). In my defense, we were really good friends before we started dating and he’s from an area of New Zealand where it doesn’t really get cold. His first pair of handknit socks were such a game-changer that he literally asked when he could get a second pair as soon as he had them on his feet. He took to my handknits so enthusiastically that for our first holiday season together, I knit him a sweater. And then I knit him another one a few months later, and another one a few months after that.

I’ve almost knit sweaters for the men (ok one man) in my life before. In fact, I was working on an octopus embrace sweater when the sweater curse struck and I realized that the work needed to create the handknit wasn’t worth the relationship! After that, I refused to knit anything larger than a sock (just because they’re small doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot of stitches!) for my partners. My husband, who at this point now has 4 handknit sweaters to his name from me, is the first man I have ever given a sweater to. He’s also 100% worthy of each of them and is always willing to oo and aww when I show him progress updates.

Knowing that we had a winter baby on the way, I wanted to make him something particularly cozy this year (after all, there would be a time that he would have to take the dog out on his own). There are about 8-10 sweaters that I’ve favorited over the last few months because I thought he would like them, so I don’t have a good reason for choosing to make a Spice Cardigan other than the fact that my local yarn shop‘s birthday was coming up (they had a giveaway bag if you spent over x amount, which is so easy to do with sweater quantities) and I have been wanting to work with Spincycle Yarns for a while. In fact, it wasn’t until after I purchased both the pattern and the yarn (I snagged some Forge by Hudson + West Co to go with the Spincycle) that I realized the pattern required the cardigan to be steeked. But we’ll get to that in a little bit.

When it comes to sweater construction, I don’t have strong feelings about top-down, bottom-up, or pieces that require seaming. I usually pick a sweater pattern by the design itself and then throw myself into it. Having said that, I’ve never knit the sleeves of a sweater before knitting the body of a sweater. This is not an uncommon technique, many knitters even do it so that they can use the sleeve as a gauge swatch. Andrea Mowry actually wrote Spice in such a way that you knit the sleeves before you knit the body of the sweater. True, it’s easy enough to knit the body of this sweater first and then set it aside for the sleeves, but it was sort of satisfying to have “completed” two parts of the sweater before even casting on for the body.

The colorwork stitches being every other stitch is nice as well, the yarn flew between my fingers as opposed to requiring that I slowed down to pick up a float from time to time.

I suppose this brings me to steeking, that thing I’ve successfully avoided my entire knitting career. Until this sweater. After attempting a few stitches of the crochet reinforcement, I ended up deciding to use the straight stitch on my sewing machine instead. Though nerve-wracking, it was easier than I thought it would be to sew through the knit fabric. Next, I picked up the stitches for the collar based on a suggestion from Tincanknits and tried to knit a row (and put off cutting the fabric a little longer). This method result in a cramped working space, so I ended grabbing my scissors and spending two minutes cutting the knit fabric before continuing the collar.

Now that I have a steeked project under my belt, I can say that it’s honestly not that bad. I don’t see myself seeking out projects just to steek, but I don’t see myself actively avoiding them either. All in all, I would (and probably will) steek again.

An orange cardigan with a shawl collar and five toggle buttons laid flat.

Warp Speed Sweater

My family has a wonderful habit of buying me gift cards to yarn shops for the holidays and 2020 was no exception. Instead of filling my basket with yarn, I ended up using most of the gift card to purchase supplies for my cricket loom (another heddle and a pick up stick). Included in this order was some red valley yarns Amherst — I “needed” a new cowl and headband to match a pair of fingerless mitts that I made last winter — and some superwash merino sock splash by Cloudborn Fibers in black sea (no link, sorry the yarn has been discontinued). My intention with the Cloudborn was to weave a thick and long wrap, so I only purchased 2 skeins. By the time I received the yarn and fell in love with it, Webs had completely run out of the black sea colorway. Womp. Womp.

Body of a stockinet sweater knit to the waistline without sleeves. The black yarn has dashes of bright pink and blue.

The thing is, this yarn screamed to be a top of some kind. Before realizing I couldn’t get any more, I thought it would look perfect as a V-Neck Boxy. After realizing that compromises needed to be made, I began searching for the perfect t-shirt pattern. Spoiler alert: Whatever I was looking for doesn’t exist.

Noni, by Megan Nodecker is a beautiful short sleeve pattern that had been sitting my queue for at least six months. There is beautiful texture along the neckline and it seems to look good on everyone who made it. Combine that with it was the correct gauge and yardage and we had a winner!

Body of a stockinet sweater with the bottom ribbing being knit. The black yarn has dashes of bright pink and blue.

Now I tried, in good faith, to knit the pattern exactly as it was written. The lace would have been beautiful if I hadn’t gone cross eyed while knitting the first row. Then I decided to knit the body shorter (12 inches instead of 17) and add ribbing along the neckline. There were fleeting thoughts of adding sleeves with any extra yardage that were thrown out the window when I decided that I needed to wear the garment asap. Honestly, I think I’ll be making it again with the texture and love this top so much that I don’t feel bad for the changes that I made.

In the end, I made myself the top that I was hoping to — even if it wasn’t my original plan. This project also helped me come around to the way that drop sleeves look (I always thought the style would make my shoulders look extra broad).

A young woman wearing a short sleeve black knit sweater. There are dashes of bright blue and pink throughout the sweater.
Warp Speed Noni

On deciding to crank out a few hand-made gifts after all

An in progress photo of a baby sweater with both sleeves set aside on stitch markers. The body of the sweater is just about ready to be bound off.
Harvest, knit in Rohrspatz & Wollmeise Pure held double

A couple weeks ago, my sister announced that she was pregnant with her first child. As I eagerly await the gender reveal*, and hope that they don’t change their mind on learning the sex of the baby, I realized there was no reason I couldn’t cast something on my needles to add to their Christmas gift. They’re excited, I’m excited, I have some yarn that looks like a rain forest, new born sweaters don’t take very long…. so it looks like I’m taking back what I said about not knitting for anyone. (Remember that post I wrote about it’s ok to change your mind?)

Naturally, as soon as I said that the flood gates opened and I started to think about whether or not there was anyone else I should be knitting for for the Holiday season. I’ve had my loomed warped for a month or so with a table runner I’ve been working on for my mom, it now has an end of December deadline on it. I found this interesting/simple sewing pattern for handmade hand warmers and have a handful of friends that spend their time ice fishing or generally suffer from cold hands. In other words, I made it less than a week before caving and creating a spreadsheet of projects to complete before the end of the holiday season.

I can’t help it! The desire to keep people warm is in my DNA, as is the desire to create. So on that note, I have some last minute gifts to crank out. Here’s to my sanity!

Completed Harvest with matching Barely hat

*I’ve read a few articles discussing how gender reveal parties are inconsiderate to future transgender children. I will love this baby no matter what, but will also enthusiastically knit little tutus if it’s a baby girl (unless she’s anything like me, then she’ll stop wearing them in favor of outfits more equip for climbing trees). I can’t help it, they’re so stinking cute. To be fair, I would also knit them for a little boy, without judgement, if he wanted them.

On expectations

Viking combat demonstration

I went to my first renaissance fair this past weekend, a small newer fair that just completed its fourth year. It was a lot of fun — there were combat demonstrations, an archery contest, food trucks, handmade items, a mermaid and so much more. We spoke with a variety of vendors and touched finely crafted practice swords. I even had my first Scottish Egg.

Yet as we left the fair, four hours after arriving, I couldn’t help but feel a little cheated. Yes, I had had a great day. The weather was perfect. The people were friendly. The good was tasty and the demonstrations were informative. That being said, I had been expecting more. In my mind, I was going to be out of place by dressing in jean shorts and a sweatshirt. In my mind, I was going to be immersed in a culture that I would not be able to experience elsewhere. I had been expecting a theme park and was underwhelmed by the demonstrations that supplemented a craft fair, something that wasn’t really fair to the event (again it was fun and I had a great time).

Expectations are complicated and it doesn’t help matters that people often compare things to exceeding or failing to meet them. Is it possible to have realistic expectations? Can someone be truly open-minded whilst having expectations?

As I prepare myself to DM for a friendly game of Dungeons and Dragons, I find myself grappling with these questions. What are my expectations for the game? Will my players feel as though I’ve met their expectations as a DM? Will I exceed them? How does one compensate for expectations and how they are often unrealistic.

Completed Alaska Sweater

Over the past view weeks, I’ve been aggressively working towards the completion of The Loopy Ewe’s first camp challenge of the year. The challenge for the month of June (besides requiring that the project uses more than 400 yards): Since 2019 is the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk, pick a pattern that was published in 2019 for your first project — A pretty reasonable feat considering how many new patterns have been published that I’ve been head over heels for. Thinking that my SO was heading to graduate school for the entire month, I opted to attempt to make an entire DK weight sweater in the month of June. In this case, my expectations of myself were reasonable. I finished with several days to spare and didn’t let the process completely consume my life.

Yarn for July’s Challenge

Enter July’s challenge: The challenge is to knit a pattern from one of the designer “stars” on Ravelry. Any designer who has three or more pages of patterns listed on Ravelry gets into the “star” category for this challenge (They are prolific stars!). This challenge failed to meet my expectations, why not challenge us to find a “rising star”? Why push us towards patterns that we’ve probably knit before? Not to mention every time I thought I had a good idea I couldn’t find the right color or amount in the shop, but that’s a different type of frustrating. Despite this, I feel as though I can still meet my expectation of completing a project over 400 yards in July. Especially considering the project is about half of the size of June’s.

So are expectations bad? I don’t think so, especially when you use them to drive yourself towards a goal. Other times, I think you need to check your expectations at the door and be willing to run with the punches, sometimes the things you weren’t expecting are just as good as the ones you were.


On the sweater curse

String Theory Colorworks; Exotoxin

Well, it finally happened, a skein of yarn sitting in my stash informed me that it wants to be a pair of socks for a guy I’ve been seeing and, because I listened to it, I measured his feet. When we started dating I jokingly told him that I wouldn’t be knitting him anything until we were married because I liked him and I was worried about the sweater curse. He laughed and asked me if I seriously believed in “all that”, I awkwardly pointed out that any boyfriend I had ever knit for previously was not in my life anymore. Yet here I am, listening to a skein of yarn and dutifully measuring his feet so that I can cast on a pair of socks.

So what exactly is the sweater curse? To put it simply, it’s the idea that if you knit something (a lot of debate has gone into whether or not the item has to be a sweater in order to activate the curse) for your significant other it will doom the relationship because of one of the following:

  1. You will realize the relationship is the right one.
  2. Your partner will leave you because it’s too big of a gesture
  3. Your partner will not react “correctly” to the knitted garment (see On handmade items should be used for my response to people’s reactions to hand-knits)
  4. Your partner will meet the person they are meant to be with while wearing the handmade object

Do I really believe in the sweater curse? Yes and no. Yes, I believe that spending a lot of time making something for someone is going to give you a lot of time to think about how you feel about them. In some cases, as with one of my exes, you decide that they’re just not worth the fuss of the project and then you have to start thinking about why they aren’t worth it. In that case, it was an eye-opening this relationship is not meant to be. Other times I’ve knit for someone I’ve been seeing casually, and thought, you just need something to keep you warm. In this case, it was not the garment that lead to the downfall of the relationship.

So perhaps, I will make something for him, without worrying about the sweater curse. I will knit for him because I care about him and I want him to be warm. To me, knitting is an expression of friendship and love. It’s a way to give someone a physical memento of your time together or to give someone support when you can’t be there. So if all he does is look at those socks while working on his graduate degree, at least he knows someone in another state is rooting for him and cares for him. That, for me, would be enough. This, of course, is assuming that I have deemed him knit worthy, which is a discussion for another day.

My Alaska Sweater

I’m not ready to cast on just yet, my crafting time is currently being taken up by The Loopy Ewe’s Space Camp. June’s challenge? A pattern published in 2019 that uses over 400 yards of yarn. Which means I’m finally knitting the Alaska Sweater for myself. With a longer body and sleeves because I’m not a cropped sweater type of gal, so naturally that means I underestimated how much woolstok I needed (should have ordered an extra skein of each color, but optimistically ordered the last of both colors). 12 days left to go and I’m well over halfway done with the sweater, just the neckline and a sleeve left. Nothing like knitting a project that’s over 1000 yards in a month, I’m still waiting for the deadline stress to hit me.

This is the second summer in a row that I’ve taken on Camp Loopy, which means it’s the second summer in a row that I’m not starting my Holiday knitting in June. While this goes against a pledge I made to myself after going cross-eyed with Holiday knitting, it’s forced me to cut back on the number of people I knit for during the Holidays and the size of the projects that they receive. Or rather, it means I’m not trying to make my mom a pair of socks for Mother’s day, her birthday and Christmas (which maybe isn’t completely fair to her because she has small feet).

I have mixed feelings about these knitting challenges, they put a lot of constraints on the knitter. That being said, what you loose with constraints you gain in a virtual community. Unlike holiday knitting, these are deadlines you chose to take on and so did everyone doing the challenge with you. You get to agonize over projects together, grumble about the store not having enough yarn in what you thought was the perfect color, and then race to finish the project on time. Sure you get points and discounts along the way, but after the amount of time you put into picking a project it all comes down to community and a desire to create. In other words, I have time to decide whether or not this guy is truly knit worthy (which is not as terrible as it sounds).