The Perks of Making Your Own Clothing

One of my favourite things ever about knitting is that I can re-do a lot of my old projects. Because I know how it’s constructed, I’m able to adjust. “Frogging” is a term for when you unravel a garment, I think because the yarn makes a funny “rrrrrrbbbbbb” sound when you yank on it.

Some people may hate the idea of frogging a project, but I’m kind of okay with it. For example, this bad boy was a cardigan I made a few years back:

Amiga

It was one of the first sweaters I had tried with a seed stitch, along with a few other modifications. It was a great sweater to learn on.

I had also splurged a little on the yarn and bought my first handful of SweetGeorgia Yarn’s Superwash Worsted. I still recall walking into the yarn store for the first time and feeling so excited to purchase “legit yarn.”

But every time I wore it, part of the neck and shoulders didn’t sit right. Perhaps I had modified it too much, or I had missed a few structural elements, but it kept sliding off my shoulders.

I researched all the ways I could possibly fix this; including reinforcing the back neck with single crochet stitches, as well as lining the edges with thicker hemming. I even thought about just knitting the cardigan shut and turning it into a pullover.

In the end, I realized that I was beginning to hate wearing this sweater as much as I had enjoyed making it.

And the very cool thing I realized is that I could just start over.

I didn’t have to give it away to some poor sod who would have to deal with the shitty construction. I didn’t have to feel bad and stuff it in the back of my closet. Best of all, I didn’t need to throw it away.

Another thing to note is the quality of this yarn. Because of my little splurge, the yarn itself held strong over the years, even after a few trips to the washing machine. It didn’t break apart when I frogged it, and neither did the colours really change.

It was like I went yarn shopping inside my closet and found a new addition to my stash.

Awesome, right?!

I Was in a Room Full of Warm People and Yarn

Guys, I totally had a blast going to Knit City this year. I was unable to attend last year, but I’m so glad I was able to make it this time around.

The second Trung dropped me off and I saw that THERE WAS A GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH STAND outside in the parking lot, I knew it was going to be a good day. And then I got inside and there were Girl Guide Cookies. Oh man.

Beautiful yarns and fibrework, wonderfully warm people and just the most positive ambiance. I don’t want to say “energy” because that sounds really annoying. Maybe it was because it was a knitting thing, too, but the Croatian Cultural Centre that weekend just had this awesome toasty blanket-by-the-fireplace kind of feel to it.

Actually, yeah, that was probably because it was a knitting thing.

It was so inspiring to see everyone walking around in their sweaters.

I recognized a ton from my Ravelry queue and favourites, and it was so cool to see the same patterns on different people. A garment totally changes with the smallest of nuances. Even though it comes from a single pattern, it always, always comes out differently for everyone. That’s what I love so much about knitting. You really never know how it will turn out.

You know it.
You know it.

I also was lucky enough to sign up for a class with Kate Atherley, who is adoraballs. I love that her background is in mathematics and that she is able to bring that nerdiness into her knitting.

It’s a great example of integrating all sorts of divergent things into a big ball of what you love. You find the common themes and threads and fantastic things happen.

It was tough not to blow all my cash on… everything in there. But I went with Jane and she held me down a few times, which is a good thing.

It’s important to have a good wingman/yarn-partner/hand-slapper when you go to these things.

Awesome shirt
Awesome shirt

I went home right away and organized my Ravelry queue. Now I have three projects cast on, and the only thing stopping me is that I don’t have enough needles. Holy shit.

Indigodragonfly's booth felt like a really colourful cloud you want to jump on. I held back.
Indigodragonfly’s booth felt like a really colourful cloud you want to jump on. I held back.
The Cascadia line-up
The Cascadia line-up

Fiona and Amanda had done an amazing job with Knit City. I am so excited for the next one. Next year I shall be strutting around in my own hand-made sweater.

Dudes I totally saw that poncho and the Peasy sweater on Ravelry.
Dudes I’ve totally seen that poncho and the Peasy sweater on Ravelry.

Arbutus Scarf

Right after publishing that last post, I ripped out the Gemini pullover and immediately started looking for another project that would make me feel like a bit more capable.

Since I was still in a Jane Richmond kick (Who can deny or resist those large doe eyes of hers?!) I decided to cast on the Arbutus pattern from her book, ISLAND.

Excuse the cat hair on this scarf.
Excuse the cat hair on this scarf.

Sometimes I think I just really need a break from all the pressure I put on myself, and take on projects that are more at my level.

I love how it’s turned out. I knitted two types of yarn together to give it a bit more depth. Super glad that the green and purple played nicely with each other. I knitted it while watching Breaking Bad and Cheers on Netflix.

While it’s a slippery, sloppy slope to constantly improve ourselves and our personal standards, sometimes it also really helps to remind ourselves of where we are and how far we’ve come.

At least that’s how I’m looking at this. A year ago I had no idea what half this knitting shit meant, let alone how to put together a garter stitch swatch. And now look at me, mum. I’ve made my share of terrible scarves and half-mittens and am now super obsessed with this new yarn ball winder I got. I’ve been winding yarn balls all month, guys.

I've been winding yarn cakes like nobody's business.
I’ve been winding yarn cakes like nobody’s business.

And of course I asked Trung to wear the scarf so I can take nice photos, and this is what happened:

I hate Trung
I hate Trung

 

What Knitting Has Taught Me About Quality and Patience

For the last two weeks, I have been trying to knit this Jane Richmond pullover.

Jane Richmond Gemini
Even this picture of Jane Richmond seems unimpressed with my shirt.

So far, it has not gone well.

All in all, I’ve totalled over six attempts at this damned thing and it’s really started to feel a lot like pushing a boulder up a fucking mountain. Please take a moment with me to actually understand what I just wrote.

I have knitted the same pullover. Six times.

As in, I will knit to a point, realize I’ve made a huge mistake, and then undo all the work I’ve done. And then redo it. Encapsulate this experience and multiply it by six. Times.

Considering that I am still pretty new to this whole thing, I decided to forgive myself for not knowing certain things, like reading or following instructions. Or knowing how to count. Or add. You know, it’s really good to cut yourself some slack sometimes. Hang on let me just make and eat a sad sandwich made of tears and bits of yarn.

At one point, I realized that I had set it up wrong and that I was actually knitting the two sleeves next to each other instead of on either side.

Back when I was even more of an idiot than I am now, I would probably have just gone, “Fuck this I’m blowing through this shit I’LL WEAR THE SWEATER WITH MY ARMS HANGING SIDEWAYS,” and would have kept going until I was done the whole thing. To be honest, I was tempted to do it again. I kept going for a few more rows and tried to fix or fudge my way through the ass-parts of the pullover. And then I stopped being stupid.

The main difference now is that I know what the consequences of this way of thinking brings.

I’ve done a similar lace pattern in the past, and while I knew that the stitches were starting to go to shit, I believed in my heart that my sweater would turn out fine, just like in the picture.

Suffice to say, it did not look like the picture.

Maybe here is a way to describe what it looked like—

Imagine Dorian Gray opening the door to his attic, and seeing the decrepit portrait of his terrible, awful, monstrous soul.

Now imagine his likeness wearing this sweater that I made.

That is how bad this sweater was.

One of the tougher things I find about knitting is that I don’t quite know what it will look like in the end yet. There is no preview button when it comes to knitting. You’d think the picture of the model wearing it would be enough, but those are all lies. LIES.

So once it’s done, and I see a tiny knot or a mistake actually WOVEN into this shit, really, it’s enough for me to flip a table and throw my TV out the window.

The immediate possibility of this scenario happening, as well as thinking about how much I spend on yarn (and how much I spent on that TV)… it all just adds up to me having to suck it in and strive on. Or commit a murder.

Similar to when I am coding websites, knitting can be just frustrating and time-consuming. The little mistakes you make eventually add up and things can spin a bit out of control. And the more you ignore it, the worse it really gets.

I’d say it was also similar to how I was approaching a lot of my projects in school/life. The idea where the end result didn’t matter, as long as you get to the end. While that may be true in some cases, I don’t think we really talk about how the aftermath of that feels. The scene always ends with the sigh of relief, but then after that, what really happens? Right?

If I had gone on with this shitty version of a pullover, I would have probably finished it, for sure, but then I would never have worn it either. That reminds me of another shirt I had just finished. It turned out great. But it’s about twice my size.

While I’m proud of making this awesome top, I don’t wear it because Trung and I can probably fit inside it and do lunges side by side at the same time.

I guess I’ve basked in the glory of finishing the pattern correctly. But now maybe it’s time to undo this sweater and knit it again properly so I can actually wear it, which was the original point of making a garment, really.

(Wait a minute… this means I need to re-do two fucking sweaters. Oh, great.)

Let the payoff speak for your efforts. This way of thinking then keeps me from being lazy. Not just physically, but mentally. It’s way harder to accomplish something when you’ve already checked out.

And I like that I am starting to see things this way. I feel like I am getting a better hold of how I should do things, and I like the idea that when I finish something, I don’t need to accept the fact that it is shitty.

Of course I shall need a few minutes to prepare and eat an angry sandwich and possibly cry into a plastic bag first. But after that, I can do it again, arm myself with the experience, and make it the way I want. Once I recognize the failure and find out the cause, starting back up again is just that much easier, that much faster. The mistake gets recorded in your brain, and muscle memory kicks in.

Suddenly I am not so scared to screw up.

I guess my point in all of this is that sometimes (not always), maybe effort is not enough. I think it’s important to keep moving towards a different standard, and constantly redefine what “enough” is. Because if it’s always judged at the minimum, then we all just go home with participation trophies and drink juice. We never get to change anything or make a difference. And I end up with a shitty sweater with both sleeves on one side.