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Knitting for other people

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Blue Sky Fibers Endless Wrap | on Instagram 

In 2011 we moved to Melbourne with two suitcases. Five and a half years later we have a house full of stuff: camping gear, bikes, books, craft supplies, cookware, clothing. So much clothing. It all feels claustrophobic, and I dream of being able to take off with a few  bags again.

This year I’ve also changed my body shape pretty drastically (through some medication changes, falling in love with cycling, and my unlikely new hobby, weight lifting), so a lot of what I bought and made in previous years just doesn’t fit anymore. When you spent a hundred hours on a gorgeous cable-knit sweater, it’s easy to hold on, to shove it in storage and think you’ll deal with it later.

(Luckily my good friend Kirsta runs Mutual Muse, a secondhand shop in Thornbury, and I’ve been making regular stops there to sell my clothes for a fair price. Yay for creative friends!)

Making new things for myself doesn’t feel right when I’m simultaneously selling and donating clothes by the bagful, and I’m closer to what Felicia describes as the feeling of “enough’. I still love making, though, and have a hard time resisting new yarns, new projects, keeping my hands still.

So for now, a nice middle ground: I’m knitting for other people. This lovely, massive scarf is the Endless Wrap in Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok. I’m not keeping it — it’s going to be a sample for a local yarn store.

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Two New Things!

Hi everyone! The last few months have been busy, busy, busy: first the Craft Sessions, then a few health issues that took way too much of my energy, and more recently some travel. It’s good to be back to normal life!

I’ve decided to challenge myself and make a few YouTube videos to talk about projects, yarn, techniques, and other knitting. In this first video, I talk about my current project: a massive scarf that’s headed to Canada. I don’t miss the days when I needed three-metre wool scarves just to head outside!

After chatting with some friends, I’ve also started a new mini-community for crafters on Slack. If you work in the tech industry, you’ve probably heard of Slack: it’s a fantastic messaging app for teams. Since I spend most of my days with Slack open on my laptop, on my phone, or both, I thought it would be nice to have a space for crafty discussions. You can join us via this form.

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

[Read more]

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WIP: Chevron quilt

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

A post shared 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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Simple shawls are the best shawls

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I am lucky enough to have a job that requires a lot of reading and thinking, leaving me with many hours of mindless knitting time while my brain tries to work through problems.

This WIP shawl is perfect for deskside knitting: portable, light, time-consuming (thin yarn, small needles) and, best of all, utterly mindless. 10 rows of stockinette, one row of eyelets bordered by some garter stitch. Increases on the right side only. Finishing off with a generous garter stitch edge. The end.

On Ravelry: A Shawl for Jess