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Despite all the fancy apps that claim to improve the modern knitter’s life, this is still my favourite way to track rows and decreases. Paper, pencil. Measuring tape. A sewing gauge with a little red slider is about as fancy as my tools get.

I’ve seen countless iterations of basic knitting tools: measuring tapes shaped like sheep! Square knitting gauges, triangular ones, pink ones, wooden ones! Darning needles in glass tubes, in plastic boxes, in felt sleeves. Square needles, ebony needles, colorful needles, see-through needles.

I’m not competing for the title of least materialistic crafter of the year. When I see gadgets of all types being hawked to makers, though, it makes me wonder: who are these things for, and what are they for?

Surely not to make nicer things. That comes with time, patience, dedication, raw materials. Better tools, sure, but probably not cuter tools. Does a carpenter use a tiny hammer painted with hearts?

Is it for convenience? Oh. If convenience is the aim, I should probably set my knitting aside and head to Uniqlo instead.

Excuse the slight snark. I’m tired of seeing new crafters become overwhelmed by the plethora of tools they think they need, and by the useless, low-quality junk being hawked at them.

I work in tech, where the stereotype employee has every latest gadget and can’t wait until the next Apple announcement. What I’ve found, instead, is a group of people who are as obsessed as I am with craftsmanship, this time of hardware, code, pixels. I never expected we’d have that in common.

When I spotted an Apple Watch peeking from under a coworker’s sleeve, I gently teased him about his latest indulgence. “Yeah, I know, but yesterday, when it was guiding me through the city? It was awesome.” He had the dazed look of someone who lives in the future. The tool worked.

When a knitting novelty can do that? I’ll start buying. Until then, pen and paper it is.

Quince & Co Lark at 18st/10cm, 20st/10cm

A Few Notes on Swatching

It’s past 5pm and I haven’t left the house yet. I have slim hopes of making it out there, but on a cold and rainy Melbourne day, who can blame me? It’s a good day for swatching a new-to-me yarn, Quince&Co Lark.

I don’t understand the dislike for swatching. What could be more gratifying than getting to handle your new yarn right now, without worrying about making mistakes in the stitch pattern, or wondering whether you’ve chosen the right needles? Swatching lets me make all kinds of bad choices at the start: overly-complicated stitches with a multi-tone yarn, bulky cables when the fabric won’t be able to handle the weight, tension “experiments” I wouldn’t dare on a real project.

When helping new knitters choose a yarn, they’re often worried about tension and needle size. I’ve found this to be especially true in Australia, where yarn is sold as four-ply, eight-ply, ten-ply and so on (instead of fingering weight, DK, Worsted and Aran, as we do in North America). Worse, some older magazines and patterns teach that you should select your yarn based on needle size (and not the other way around)!

To a new knitter, swatching is slow. Every stitch takes several seconds, so why waste a decent chunk of time making something that will be discarded later? And why wouldn’t their stitches come out exactly the same as what’s on the label, for a given yarn and a given needle size?

Well, the beauty of knitting is that it’s hand-made, by humans, not by robots. Individual, ever-changing humans, who grip onto the yarn harder when they’re tense, make looser stitches when they gain confidence, and generally have their own way of doing things.

This means that my thirty-stitch swatch will look nothing like your thirty-stitch swatch. That’s especially apparent when working in a group. During my colourwork class, I like to have each person knit a tiny intarsia heart, then lay it next to the others. All different sizes, all different fabrics, each suitable for a different use.

A yarn might make a beautiful, cozy scarf at 18 stitches per 10cm. The same yarn could be knit at 20 stitches per 10cm for a structured pullover, or a tight 22 stitches per 10cm for a stuffed toy. It’s all about the intended use.

Here is how I like to work a swatch, and what I typically learn from them.

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WIP: Chevron quilt

On the blog: early morning sewing. #handmade #quilt #quilting

A photo posted by Ophélie Lechat (@ophelielechat) on


I love solid fabrics. While I can spend hours admiring the beautiful prints at my two local quilt shops, I always walk out with a few solids to add to my growing collection. Muted colours, dusty greys, monochromatic palettes. It’s become a running joke at the office that grey and blue are the only colours I need.

The palette for this project, a small quilt for a friend’s newborn, came from my memories of that friend’s college bedroom. Organic lines, natural wood, bamboo, muted greens and browns. The plan is to make two chevron columns, trim them down, and lay them on a white background.

I found pattern inspiration on Pinterest, in particular this beauty by Tumbling Blocks.

How good is Pinterest when you have a new hobby? I hadn’t used it for months, but now I can spend hours trawling through the various inspiration boards I follow. True love. I’m over here if you want to take a look.




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Finding a Uniform

Dream workwear uniform: Stella McCartney suit

Dream workwear uniform: Stella McCartney suit

At lunch with a friend yesterday, the topic of a daily uniform came up. This friend probably cares the least about his clothes out of anyone I know (and I work in the tech industry!), but the appeal of a daily uniform was clear.

My mornings are stressful. I’m pretty energetic after 9am, but the moments between first waking up and arriving at work are my least favourite hours of the day. This is only compounded by the daily task of picking something to wear. I have fond memories of my high school uniform: scratchy poly-cotton blouse, staticky skirt, polo shirts with curled collar points and baggy short sleeves. Okay, it didn’t look great, but it was so nice to simply pull a shirt and a skirt from the pile, smear on some sparkly eyeshadow and be done with it.

When this story made the rounds a few weeks ago, I felt like I’d met my style soulmate. Wearing the same thing, every day, even though I work in a creative field, even though clothing is meant to project something about my personality, my work ethic, my level of respectability. How refreshing.

Now, of course, comes the task of actually finding that uniform. And because I’m now reluctant to buy ready-to-wear clothes that aren’t of exceptional quality, I think I’ll need to make this uniform myself. So what should it look like?

One option is what I posted above: slim stretchy trousers, fitted blazer, silk crêpe button-down. I’d do without the heels, of course. I’ve always wanted to learn how to properly fit pants, and this sure would give me the occasion…

Black shirt, stainless steel watch, tan pants

Another option, much more casual: soft solid button-down, tan pants. This is perfect for most seasons in Melbourne, and would work well in my laid-back office.

I started sewing a cream silk blouse last night (a short-sleeve Aster, Colette Patterns’s latest!). Unfortunately, I was so distracted by thinking of pretty seam finishes that I stitched the side seams inside-out… with a tiny stitch length. While I brace myself for the unavoidable date with my seam ripper, I’ll start thinking about the next few versions, and maybe about finding that elusive pattern for perfect trousers!




Morris Blazer x2

Grainline Morris blazer in black ponte, by Ophelie Lechat.

Grainline Morris blazer in black ponte, by Ophelie Lechat.


Oh, I love this one.

This is my second Morris blazer in a month. The first one, in a blue merino-nylon sweatshirt blend ($8 a metre!) is in heavy rotation in my autumn wardrobe. I’ve been meaning to make a matching skirt, to complete the comfiest suit in the world. Stretchy fabrics in pulled-together shapes are perfect for my casual office.

Zero alterations to the pattern.  Made in black ponte knit from Tessuti, worn with StyleArc Elle pants in the same fabric (more on those later). I didn’t interface the front facings. Had I had lightweight knit interfacing on hand, I probably would have, but after tearing out the interfacing from my first Morris (it made the lapels stick straight up!) I opted for a simpler, softer shape. I cut a size 10 (my standard Grainline size) and the fit is perfect.

I’m already dreaming of a third Morris: longer, in a hunter green woven viscose or cotton blend, with either in-seam or patch pockets. I’ve worn a similar Club Monaco blazer into the ground (the pocket seams are fraying apart!) and it’s time for a me-made replacement.

Worn with a handknit ribbed cowl in Shibui Knits’s gorgeous, amazing Maai.

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I’ve been busy

A few overdue finished objects, in no particular order:

Purl Bee Toddler Tshirt

A Purl Bee toddler t-shirt made for Kirsta‘s little one. Jared and I babysat this weekend. One year-olds have so much energy! We were worn out by naptime.

Dotted Chambray Archer Shirt

An Archer button-up in the same dotted chambray. I made a size 10 with slimmer sleeves. My next Archer (this is the second, and there will be more!) will be a 10 in the shoulders and the bust, grading down to a 6 for the rest, and with much slimmer sleeves. I love how adaptable this pattern is, and the instructions (including the sewalong) are phenomenal.  Highly recommended.

Rock Island Lace Eding

I can’t show finished pictures of this one just yet, so here’s a peek at a Rock Island shawl in the world’s most luxurious yarn, Superior. Cashmere! Silk! Lace! It’s for a friend’s wedding, and (if the postage gods smile down on me) it should arrive safely next week.

Blackwork embroidery zigzag

A bit of blackwork (navywork?) embroidery on linen cloth. I have sixteen squares of different patterns, started on a whim. These might become a quilt, or maybe a pillow cover? I enjoy the process of needlework but never know what to make with the finished product.

Purl Bee linen robe detailIt’s already been several months since I made this (a Purl Bee robe in a gorgeous linen from Tessuti) and I can’t believe how far I’ve come in my sewing already. This project (basically made up of rectangles stitched together) was positively daunting back in January, but I learned so much making it. It’s one of my most-used makes, and I’m already planning a cozy merino version for the upcoming winter.


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Now Also Addicted to Sewing


I finally purchased a decent sewing machine a few weeks ago, after pushing the limits of the IKEA model I picked up two years ago. After a few cushions, pot holders and pillowcases, I finally made a garment — the ever-popular Scout tee in Nani Iro double gauze.


Setting in the sleeve nearly drove me nuts, but I got it in the end. Now I’m planning my next four or five projects. Not quite as portable as knitting, but so much faster!


2014 Review: Knitting Projects

Knitting Roundup 2014 - 1

I know it’s likely the same for everyone, but 2014 was a huge year for me. Settling into a new role at work, seeing that role expand midway through the year, a bit of international travel and a lot of goals met. Teaching knitting classes at the Woolarium, falling in love with the knitting community on Instagram, finishing more projects than ever before, and finally knitting some fun things for tiny people.

Here are some of my favourite projects finished in the last 12 months. Above, clockwise from the top:

1. Channel Cardigan in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. This was the thickest layer I needed during the chilly Melbourne months. It took forever, but the details on this one are incredible. Highly recommended.

2. Banana Leaf Shawl in Handmaiden Lino. Loved, loved this one… and then I lost it the second time I wore it out. Someone in Melbourne now has a lovely handknit linen/silk shawl!

3. Laminaria in Shibui Cima. Triangle shawls get me every time. They look too small, so I add another repeat, and wind up with something enormous. Totally worth it with this one!

3. Elijah in Debbie Bliss Rialto, made for a coworker’s baby. Awesome pattern, I already have a second one on the needles.

4. Hitofude Cardigan in Shibui Linen. The whole cardigan is knit in one continuous piece, with a single piece of yarn (this is where my beloved Russian Join came in handy). I learned so much while knitting this one.

5. Storytime Scholar cardigan in Spud and Chloe Sweater and Fine. Made for the lovely Clementine, to match her mommy’s sweater.

Knitting roundup 2014 - 2

1. Garter stitch baby blanket in Debbie Bliss Eco Baby cotton. I love the colour range in this Debbie Bliss cotton.

2.  Chance of Showers cardigan in Shibui Staccato. I knit most of this while flying to Los Angeles — so glad that knitting needles can (usually) make it through airport security.

3. Blocks of Colour scarf in Blue Sky Alpacas Metalico. The best kind of mindless knitting: uses one stitch, is delightfully soft, and looks way more complicated than it is.

4. Grettir in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. This one didn’t see much wear, unfortunately — it’s much too warm in Melbourne for thick turtlenecks.


Knitting roundup 2014 - 3


1. Storytime Scholar in Spud and Chloe Sweater. A tiny one for my baby nephew Nolan.

2.Saco Stripes in Quince & Co Sparrow. Oh how I love this smooth linen yarn…

3. Camilla Blanket in Sublime Extra Fine Merino DK. This was a really enjoyable knit, very easy to memorise!

4. Improvised baby pullover in Spud and Chloe Sweater.

Knitting roundup 2014 - 4

1. A summery version of Natsumi in Manos del Uruguay Serena. Meant to be knit in a fingering weight wool, I made it instead in a light fingering cotton/alpaca blend, resulting in a drapey, summery sweater, perfect for Melbourne.

2. Reversible hat in Classic Elite Vail. I purchased this yarn with Marika and knit this little hat on the plane.

3. Biston shrug in Brooklyn Tweed Loft. This pattern is a lot nicer than my awkward photo shows!

4. Hari in Malabrigo Sock. Loved, loved knitting this one. Super simple stitches with a huge payoff — look at those spikes! I’m already planning to knit another one this autumn.

5. Improvised top in Shibui Linen, held double. This has definitely been the Year of Linen, and I’ve learned to love linen’s simplicity and versatility.

I already have a long list of projects for 2015, including at least one cabled jacket, a few big lace pieces, and more baby knits.

What’s on your list for 2015? What was your favourite project last year? I’d love to know!