slow fashion october

slow fashion october: making pieces that i love – and will use – and not too many at that

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How do I make sure I’m knitting a versatile piece of clothing, rather than just knitting to knit something?

I’m only about 4 years into my knitting career, so I haven’t had to actually think much about this yet. It took me about two years to start knitting garments to begin with, as I mostly stuck to accessories while slowly ramping up the difficulty. You know, the tale as old as time: start with a scarf, move on to hats, mitts, then to socks. After socks, you feel like you can knit anything after all, so of course I got started with my true love: sweaters.

When I first started knitting sweaters, I was going crazy with all the things I wanted to knit. I patiently worked through those items until … my queue pretty much dried up. After my Bohus sweater is done, I have nothing left on my MUST KNIT list. It makes sense that my desires would change over the massive amount of time it takes to knit things. I got a little bit more discerning over patterns I want to knit. I want to knit things that spark something in me. I do want to balance that by choosing things I “need”, but I don’t want to ignore it either. I want to love it, rather than knit something because I feel I should be knitting it, to patch up some hole in a wardrobe. Ideally, it would be both something I love and need.

There are some other rules I’ve been trying to follow to reduce my conspicious consumption of yarn/knit things that I’ll get a lot of wear out of.

A) Keep my stash small.
Luckily, I’m fairly limited in space, being in Japan. I will NEVER have “a yarn room” and honestly? I’m glad. I see how some are burdened by the weight of yarn that they will never be able to knit through. I’m also lucky in a way that my LYS doesn’t carry a lot of eye-catching yarn. That sounds bad, but I just mean that their selection is mostly practical yarn in solid colors…or ugly variegated yarn. (Hand-painted superwash yarns are non-existent outside of Tokyo, *sniff*). I’m also a mostly monogomous knitter, and I try to only buy yarn that is earmarked for soon-to-knit projects.

Not that I’m immune to the pleasures of buying a beautiful skein of yarn! I’ve certainly done that… but then I hate the feeling of having to knit through yarn without a clear purpose. What do I use this for? Do I even want that object, or did I just want the pleasure of buying a pretty hank of yarn? No project seems good enough, and I can’t really afford to have yarn sitting in my stash for years. It’s not worth the stress.

Of course, a stash is inevitable, especially since most projects end with leftovers. It’s a challenge to go through it all, to be honest, and I still have balls of yarn from my first year of knitting. It’s nice to have when knitting up amigurumi, though.

B) Keep my queue small
As I said above – I’m trying to practice restraint in selecting patterns for the future. There are a few things I’m thinking of knitting after Bohus is done, but nothing is set in stone yet. I really like this feeling – I feel free! I kind of want to continue on this way, not thinking years into the future with my knitting. After all, tastes and desires change, and recently there haven’t been many patterns that scream “KNIT ME.” It could be that I’ve begun to see it all… Cabled sweaters, striped sequences, lacy tunics – it’s hard to be really original with them.

I feel like I want to move onto something very new to me – like a skirt or a jacket – something that I have to line with fabric (so I can practice hand-lining a knit). If I had a ton of gorgeous sweaters in the queue, it would be hard to choose a more intimidating, technical, practical knit like that.

(I lied that I’m totally queue free, as I’m planning on knitting Alina’s Journey in the future, maybe with some modifications. But I’m actually interested in knitting this with some Iwate Homespun yarn. The issue is that “Homespun” signifies the woven products, and I’m not sure if the original yarn actually exists for purchase…I’ve seen pictures of it in skeins, but it’s not sold online or anywhere in person near me. I’m waiting for a friend to get back to me about this. It would be yarn spun in Iwate by local people, dyed in gorgeous colors with natural dyes. It would be a wonderful representation of my own journey… but it’s on the backburner.)

C) Try some new technique with each project – but also fall in love with stockinette

Progression
Progression

I haven’t consciously been choosing patterns according to difficulty or anything, but I have tried to do something new with each project. This way each knit is “fun” to get through, but is not overly ornate so that it doesn’t go with anything. For example…

  1. Grey shell – This was my first real garment, but it’s mostly just a long scarf sewn together! Pretty easy.
  2. Red vest – My first sweater sewn from pieces, with some fun cables thrown in. Being a vest, it was a lot easier to try, seeing as it doesn’t have any sleeves to deal with. (But this one is kind of a failure, because while I do love it, I have mostly nothing that goes with it)
  3. Bulky sweater – My first “complete” sweater sewn from pieces. Also a saddle shoulder. The bulky yarn made it a quick knit.
  4. Linen striped shirt – My first completely stockinette project, to see if I could deal with the boredom of stockinette. Honestly, this is my most-worn handmade garment.
  5. Cardigan for my husband – First men’s pattern, first time dealing with a project of such monstrosity. Also, first time with raglans, and first time making a vertical button band. (He loves it, but it’s way too big for him)
  6. Snowflake sweater – First seamless sweater knit in the round, first lace sweater.

Then from earlier this year, my smocked linen top was my first experiment with embroidery (and majorly changing a pattern), my Fleurette was my first completely-lace pattern (with decreases in lace that killed me!), and the Bohus sweater is my first yoke sweater. I didn’t include the tank top in this list, mostly because I was pretty confident of every aspect of this one! But even then, I guess it was my first bottom-up tank top in the round, and some tricky bits in the construction.

(Dang, I’ve been prolific this year)

Honestly, plain stockinette produces the most versatile garments. Cables are gorgeous but chunky – you don’t always want a chunky look. Colorwork is also beautiful, but can be unforgiving… and can give too much of a casual look for work (says the woman who fully intends to wear that rainbow-ass Bohus to work). And lace is beautiful and feminine, but you always have to wear something underneath so you’re not flashing someone. So while I really want to knit interesting projects, I’ve also tried to embrace the boring, staid stockinette…and I have fallen in love with the plain knit stitch. It is the best for TV knitting after all.

SO, yeah! I try to be practical, but also cherish that spark that goes off whenever I see a pattern that makes me go -ME LIKEY!- But I definitely would like to be more careful in selecting patterns, because I can’t fit an infinite amount of sweaters in this apartment. Maybe when I get bored of things I can unravel and use the yarn again >:)

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