Thursday, 26 November 2015

FO: Twisted Rib socks

Way back some time early in the spring, I cast on for a new pair of socks. I decided to do something a little different, and unvented a little twisted rib pattern (k2 p2 rib, with a little twist on alt rounds*). I got things set up and started to knit.

I knit the cuff and the leg and the heel flap and the heel and then everything 
s t o p p e d. 

I don't really know what or why, but my sock knitting mojo got up and left. In September I decided to just Get On With It and finish the darn thing. I think I told you about the incident with little bean - you know when I was almost ready to kitchener the toe and then he found it and discovered frogging and how to tangle yarn really effectively. 

I recovered my equilibrium after a few weeks of ignoring the socky mess stuffed into my knitting bag. When I got the first sock finished that seemed to break the spell and the second sock flew off my needles. It was helped enormously by spending a day at a conference, with rail journeys to and from the venue and children at home with their dad (thanks dear). In the morning I was at the heel flap, and on the train home I finished the toe. Job done! 

Pattern: top-down socks with a twisted rib
Yarn: I can't remember (Regia maybe)
Started: Spring 2015  Finished: November 2015

* twist detail was worked as follows: k into back of second stitch on 
LH needle, and then front of first stitch. Slip both stitches onto RH needle at the same time. Work all knit stitches in this way, keeping 2x2 rib pattern correct.

It's such a long time since I had an FO to blog. It feels amazing and I have concluded (wait for it: here comes the profound truth) that the best way of experiencing this is to FINISH some of the WIPs cluttering up my life house knitting basket. I'm on a roll, people. 
On a R O L L

Monday, 23 November 2015

Making Monday #10: here endeth the lesson

You will be glad to hear that after all the cursing two weeks ago, I managed to get that scrap hat finished and sent off to my brother in time for his birthday (Happy Birthday, bro!).

After I fell foul of the knitting gods over the whole brim thing, I took a few deep breaths, and possibly a sip of gin, I considered my options. I couldn't see a way of fudging or incorporating the extra stitches into a spiffy new design feature. So, that really only left one option - to detach the brim and then reknit using the frogged yarn. If ever there was a lesson in ultimate yarn thrift, this is it!

Here is the finished hat, with a reknitted brim. 

As is usual for my scrap hats, there was a knitted lining - seen here - , which I also needed to rework. I frogged and reknitted for two reasons:

1. after making that rookie mistake with stitch numbers, I wasn't going to get caught out again (shakes fist at knitting gods), and 

2. because the outside of the hat is mostly wool or wool mix, it has shrunk a bit with inappropriate washing over time. The lining for this hat is made with cotton yarn (a bit cooler than double wool as this is a summer hat, obvs!) and hadn't shrunk, so it was a bit saggy. 

I picked up stitches inside the brim and knitted the innards using a 2x2 rib. 

Nice huh? Remaking and repairing is just as satisfying as making new things I find. What are you mending today? I'd love to hear...

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

How Marie Kondo changed my life (or not)

I caught the Kondo bug a wee while ago, in the middle of a bedroom decorating/sorting project. The timing was perfect: I was already in the mood for getting rid of stuff, and I devoured her book (the magic art of tidying and decluttering) for insights, tips and know-how.

I wrote about my thoughts at the time, and I've been thinking about it all again - since I find myself on the brink of another purge. Did any of it make a difference? Was it just another clutter diet/decluttering recipe book to add to the pile and quickly forget? 

First things first: I have not Kondoed the whole of my home/life in the way that she advocates. I live with 4 other people (one adult, three children) and they have their own stuff, only some of which I have influence over!

I have approached some things (e.g. clothes) fairly systematically in the way that Marie Kondo suggests. Most is hanging in my wardrobe, and the rest is folded - in the Kondo way - in drawers. I really like her approach - being able to see everything easily in one place. It makes it easier to see what you have got; it makes it harder to forget things; it makes it easier to rotate and vary your outfits. 

One of the consequences of placing folded clothes on their edges (in drawers), rather than putting them in piles, is that it allows for effortless rotation. I already did this for my handknit socks, but I now also do it for underwear too: freshly laundered and folded items are added at the back of the drawer, while items to be worn are almost always taken from the front (I do make the occasional exception!) This means that each item is now being worn regularly. There are numerous advantages to this: less time needed for dressing in the mornings; everything is getting worn - so favourites are lasting longer, and old things don't languish for ages before they are discarded.

I have also been working on gathering things into single locations - another of Kondo's central tenets - everything together. I recently found myself looking holding a handbag and wondering where to put it. A wee whisper in my head told me to put it with the other bags - and so I did. I'm working on this with the children's toys too - but that's a rather steeper mountain to climb(!)

Apart from these rather practical things, one of the more personal changes has been about joy and enjoyment. Although asking yourself whether a particular book or vase or thing brings you joy seems rather, um, pretentious, I have come back to the idea of joy several times when trying to decide what to do with something. Using joy as a benchmark is good because it cuts through the 'I should keep it because...' dialogues; it's a high hurdle - and it gives me permission to get rid of things. And, you know, I can't think of anything (so far) that I have regretted giving away.

Another by-product of Kondo, has been an appreciation for the fit between space and stuff. I realise (maybe I'm just late to the party here?) that it is possible - to make stuff fit into the space allocated. If it doesn't fit, then the strategy should be to make it fit, not accommodate the overflow somewhere else.  I am slowly coming to the conclusion - thanks to Marie Kondo - that my next step is to deal with my stash. It no longer fits into its hidey holes, and is starting to encroach on and into all sorts of places where it doesn't belong. I have to make it fit into the space allocated. Nibbling away at the edges with a project here and project there is unlikely to do it, and I need to do something a lot more radical. I'm not sure what, but it's going to be my priority for 2016. If you've got any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Has Marie Kondo's book changed my life? Yes, and no. My home is far from clutter free, and far from tidy, but some of it is more organised, and the transformation is gradual rather than radical. Readers might also like to know that my husband now folds and arranges his drawers in the same way as Kondo. That's life changing! 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Making Monday #9: pocketses

Here we go again, some more mending to share. This time, it's of my own creation. See here, a fine pair of enjoyable purpley velvet troosers, I bought a couple of years back. They have quite a lot of stretch (good) but on the downside, the corners of the pockets started to tear quite soon after I bought them. Major apathy and a newish baby, meant I couldn't be ar$ed to take them back (pun intentional) at the time.

As I've been mending my way through these last few months, I picked them out of the mending basket a couple of weeks ago, and zigzagged across the weak points with my machine. Despite having enough thread to sink a small ship, I didn't have anything that matched these fine trews. The upshot - as you can see - is a natty and bold explosion of bright blue across my b u m.

Yay! another quick mending project and a garment restored to full use....


Last week, the bean (age 8) told me I had holes in my trousers. I think he observed them while I was on the floor doing a jigsaw with little bean (age 2). So, despite the repairs holding firm, the fabric -  in combination with my ar$e area and my energetic bending/stretching lifestyle(!) - means that these fine trews are in the unwearable pile. Again.


Monday, 2 November 2015

Mending Monday #8: hat it again (or what knitting taught me this week)

It doesn't seem possible that my house/life has quite so much mending in it, but I am not making it up, people. I live with ruffians I tell you. 

I saw my brother recently and he presented me with a very sorry looking hat. It is one of the three scrap hats I have given him over the years (he wears a hat most of the time, even in the summer. No, I don't understand it either). One of the yarns I had used had started to disintegrate with the result that the hat was developing organised holes in various places. I say organised because the fabric and stitches around was intact, so picking up live stitches seemed fairly straightforward.

Here you can see one of the smaller holes.

This hole was a bit more dramatic. As there was a complete round or two of dodgy yarn here, it soon parted company with the rest of the hat. It looked very scary, but I did my best not to panic. I cant possibly comment on rumours about gin. 

Anywayz, I made a start with some duplicate stitch over the top of some of dodgier areas, and to fill in the gaps in the smaller holes near the top of the hat. 

Once that was all fixed, I moved onto repairing the body of the hat. I ripped out the dodgy yarn and picked up stitches around the bottom of the hat. I needed to add some length back in to compensate for the bits lost through dodgy yarn and felting. It was all going so well. I was bossing it big style. I added a few more rounds and then set about grafting the new live stitches to the old live stitches of the brim. 

Me and old Kitchener are great friends, and I am sure (although I have never tried) that I could successfully graft a sock toe in near darkness. I set about the great graft. I took it steady, working on groups of 10 stitches at a time just to break it up a bit, and allow myself an opportunity to drink tea, wrangle children or put it down occasionally. I didn't think I would be able to guarantee a whole 6 hours of uninterrupted grafting that this would surely involve.

I did half of the grafting and then stopped for some family event (dinner maybe). After bed time, I picked up the hat again. I was going to nail this mother. I grafted and grafted and grafted. I sipped my drink, I admired my work. It was looking so good. I was down to the last 30 stitches, the last 20, the last .... 

Um. Something didn't look right. I looked again. I stopped. The knitting demons laughed and laughed. 

The remaining numbers of stitches did not match. It wasn't a fudgeable 1 or 2 stitch discrepancy it was EIGHT - 8! Eight whole stitches had somehow disappeared between the brim and the rest of the hat. 

I should have counted my stitches. I should have counted my stitches. 

There endeth today's lesson. 

to be continued... 

Monday, 26 October 2015

Mending Monday #7: pyjamarama

No patches this time (phew), but just a straightforward seam repair on some pyjama bottoms. 

Overlocker to the rescue!

What are you mending today? I'd love to hear about it - so please leave a comment!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Kids Clothes - sizes, sustainability and consumption

I've been thinking about kids clothes recently - it's kids clothes week again - and then there is Slotober and all of the stuff on the tinterwebz about capsule wardrobes, and project 333, and slow fashion and self-made fashion. 

One of the things that strikes me is that much of the discussion around ethical fashion, fast fashion and capsule wardrobes focusses on adult clothes. There seems to be little of this discussion directed at children's clothes. Why is that? 

We all need clothes, and arguably, children need more clothes than adults, because (in my experience anyway - your children may be different!) they tend to get their clothes dirtier, more quickly, and their clothes need washing more often. In addition, because they are growing, clothing a child necessarily involves an on-going process of discarding and acquiring items, as things become too small and bigger clothes are needed.

The prevalence of supermarket clothes for children - cheap and plentiful and often v e r y cute - make the temptation for parents, and grandparents and others to add something to their baskets when they do the weekly shop.  As ever, this sort of mindless consumption is problematic  - creating demand for low price items which are often produced at great social and environmental cost in communities far away, and adding to an already bursting wardrobe rather than filling very specific needs. And then, all the fabulous childrens clothes available from indie designers and presented in Stylo and other places, just seems to add to the feeling that kids need to have lots and lots of stuff. 

On the other hand, acceptance of hand-me-down and thrifted childrens clothes seems to be greater than for adult clothes. I have received, and given, many bags of clothes to friends, colleagues and neighbours with new babies, or smaller children. Then there is the in-family recycling that goes on when clothes are passed from child to child. And, I have been to many nearly new sales which give parents the opportunity to buy and sell baby clothes and baby equipment.  So, should I feel guilty about the clothes my children have when a good proportion of them are not new?

I might fairly smug about the things I have made or upcycled for my children, and the things that I have been mending (like this, and this, and this) but should I, if its in the context of overflowing drawers and wardrobes and no attempt to curb consumption? 

Zoe shared some thoughts related to this recently, particularly in relation to charity-shops. My advice to her was to identify things that she really needs (for her daughter), and be fairly ruthless about not picking up lots of other cute stuff which simply duplicates existing items/sizes. For example, I know that my 8yo doesn't need ANY short-sleeved t-shirts, but has only 2 or 3 long-sleeve tops, so if I'm browsing anywhere then that's what I focus on.  

I am also ruthless about passing things on when they are too small. However, one note of caution here - some things can have a longer life-span than you might think, so my other tip: don't believe the age labels! Baby leggings are one example, once nappies are abandoned they can find further use as toddler shorts/capris. Some dresses also work well as tunic or top as girls grow, and shirred sun dresses can easily become skirts later on. If you have slim kids, then baby/toddler trousers can double as shorts for older kids. As a case in point, earlier this summer I noticed my older son (aged 8 1/2) wearing a pair of grey shorts I didn't recognise. They looked great - but seemed just a little bit neat around his backside. He had been wearing them all day - so they obviously were comfortable enough for summer camp. I asked him to take them off, and we checked the label. They weren't his shorts, they were his 2 yo brother's trousers, and were labelled 12-18 months (little bean has REALLY short legs and all my kiddos are slim around the waist/hips)

I don't really have a conclusion about all this - but I think bloggers and designers and parents need to think and talk as much about the sustainability and ethics of childrens clothing and fashion as we do about adult clothing/fashion. Children aren't in a position to think about all of this. We need to model the behaviour and habits we would like to see them adopt (e.g. conscious consumption and a recognition that we cant have ALL the things), but we cant expect them to weigh up the options - we need to do it - accepting of course that children should be able to influence what they wear and be given the agency to choose for themselves.  

In addition, I would really like to see some indie designers producing garments which are designed to be long-lasting - with features that make them adaptable over several seasons for growing children. I love making things for my kids, but when they grow fast, I want to invest my time in making items that will last for more than a couple of months. Has anyone got any links/advice to share about building a coherent/capsule wardrobe for kids? 

I'd love to hear what you think. Do share your thoughts!